A FULL EFFECT RUSSIAN INVASION of Ukraine still seems unlikely to us. Border disputes and cyber warfare are possible as this crisis simmers for months to come – but Vladimir Putin faces a major hurdle: the near certainty of fierce resistance from Ukrainian patriots.
REPORTS FROM THE GROUND from Kyiv, particularly by David Ignatius of the Washington Post, are quite revealing. First, the Ukrainian public overwhelmingly rejects Putin’s absurd claim that there is a deep connection between Russia and Ukraine.
THERE MAY BE AN OBLIGATION CENTURIES AGO, but Putin is reviled by the Ukrainian public and even Russian-speaking Ukrainians overwhelmingly oppose him, according to Ignatius. A 1991 independence referendum won 92% of the vote.
SECOND AND MORE IMPORTANT, the heavily armed Ukrainians are ready to resist. Even if the country’s military is overpowered, further guerrilla resistance would inflict heavy casualties on the Russian military. Ukrainians are prepared for thousands of casualties; the Russian public can quickly tire of a war.
AFTER HIS misstep LAST WEEK, President Biden appears willing to impose tough measures, including export bans on computer chips and other technologies needed by Russia’s economy. There is a leak this morning that new export restrictions are coming which could cripple some key Russian sectors – aviation, shipping and high tech.
BIDEN ALSO ENVISAGES a major injection of weapons and even the sending of American troops to Ukraine in the coming weeks. Aggressive sanctions against Russian banks are a virtual certainty.
IS THERE AN EXIT RAMP? We believe the United States can offer carrots – a reduction in Western troops and aircraft in Ukraine, a commitment to limit military exercises and maybe even private assurances – nothing explicit – that Ukraine won’t be joining NATO anytime soon.
IF NONE OF THESE CARROTS OR STICKS deters Putin, he must prepare for heavy losses, which could loosen his fragile grip on Russian public opinion. The public is already agitated in Moscow and St. Petersburg; a bloody war could turn the Russian public against Putin.
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