“At the direction of President Vladimir Putin, Russia has committed staggering acts of aggression against Ukraine. Its invasion is brazened in substance and style. Russia is threatening to overthrow the government in Kyiv. It seems to flaunt the flimsiness of its pretexts. Though always thuggish, Putin once seemed averse to risk. Now he has taken a world-shaking gamble whose ultimate implications neither he nor anyone else can foresee.
“Months ago, US President Joe Biden took the use of force in Ukraine off the table. Still, a nonmilitary confrontation between the United States and Russia likely poses greater risks to the safety and well-being of the American public than did even the recent wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, in which the United States was a direct military participant.
“Over the last two days, the United States, its European allies, the UK, and Australia, announced severe sanctions against the Russian government, banks, and individuals, with more punishments to come. These measures, stronger than many expected, amount to warfare by economic means, and they will effectively be permanent.
“It could mount cyber-attacks that spur cycles of retaliation. In the worst case, conflict could escalate into a hot war. What is particularly challenging is that no number of sanctions would likely stop Russian aggression in Ukraine, and there is no obvious threshold by which American and European leaders can feel satisfied that they have done enough. The demand to “do more” will persist no matter how much policymakers in fact do.
“In Syria, the United States trained and equipped rebel forces, only to lengthen the war without dislodging dictator and President Bashar al-Assad from power. America’s experience in Afghanistan makes for a curious model to emulate. In the 1980s, the United States aided the forces from which al-Qaeda would emerge. For the past two decades, it created a client state dependent on US support and continual violence. If Putin has launched a reckless, poorly calculated military adventure, the United States should hardly follow suit.
“It should press European allies to do the same and mobilise US agencies to help them. “We must have courage and self-confidence to cling to our own methods and conceptions of human society”, diplomat George Kennan cabled from Moscow in 1946. Kennan was writing at the start of the Cold War. It is advice to heed at what may be the start of another.”
From ABC Politics & Religion