For two years Russia has been paralyzing the West with threats limiting Western response to Russian terror in Ukraine. To stop the carnage Putin must be surprised. There are three possibilities here.

The current state of the Russian war is defined by two factors:

  • The painful disparity between the Ukrainian and Russian forces – not only that Ukrainians are running out of ammunition but also in numbers of troops – the loss of the major stronghold in Donetsk Oblast, Avdiivka, may be only the first.
  • The Western allies’ strategy not to let Ukraine fall only leads to a longer war with more people killed.

Experts list remedies – the West must tighten sanctions to cripple Russian capabilities to produce ammunition and weapons, Ukraine needs American aid asap and the West must support Ukraine as long as it takes. 

But it is a part of the flawed i.e. not working strategy. As one of my friends on the social media where we push against Russian propaganda wrote recently: “The problem with the ‘help Ukraine for as long it takes’ strategy is that it doesn’t address how to go about actually giving Ukraine a decisive victory. Do they believe Ukraine can defeat Russia?”

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Element of surprise must return

Vladimir Putin said not long ago that he prefers 'more predictable' President Biden over Donald Trump. ‘Predictable’ is the key here. What the West, including the US, has been doing for the past year – since the successful 2022 offensive of the AFU -- is predictable and thus manageable for the Kremlin.

Ukraine’s success in the first year was possible because it caught the Russians off guard. Everything was surprising – Ukraine’s resistance, Hostomel airport defense, Western sanctions against Russia, the speed with which the West unified behind Ukraine, its resolve to support Ukraine and most surprising of all – a growing, throughout the first 7-8 months of the war, stream of weapons supplies to Ukraine.

Ukraine Regains Position Near Chasiv Yar as Russia Intensifies Offensive
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Ukraine Regains Position Near Chasiv Yar as Russia Intensifies Offensive

The capture of Chasiv Yar could be both a strategic and symbolic victory for Moscow ahead of the May 9 Victory Day, but Ukraine stands defiant in its defense before Western supplies arrive.

Then the stream, instead of accelerating – almost dried up. Kerch Bridge was on fire in October 2022, President Zelensky came to taste watermelons in liberated Kherson in November and then there was his Christmas address that felt like a punch in the stomach – he was forced to plead ! for more weapons. The ensuing battle for Leopard tanks lasted for months, ATACMS, F-16s, we all know the story and how the pause in the Ukrainian offensive enabled the Kremlin to revise their approach.

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The element of surprising Russians was gone. 

To bring it back, the least “nuclear” option would be to admit Ukraine to NATO – to start the process. But we all know how it goes: a choir immediately points to NATO's rule of not accepting states with border disputes. By the way, my 2-year experience with fighting Russian propaganda indicates that this argument was picked up by Russian bots and they spread it most effectively. 

If not NATO trembling with fear, then there are only two centers of power capable of bringing in an element that would knock down Russians – it would be the presidents of the US and Ukraine, Joe Biden and Volodymyr Zelensky.

President Biden’s surprise – what could it be?

America’s status as a global superpower rests upon successful military deterrence of its enemies. This concept protects America’s national security and its interests around the globe. It also keeps up America’s political/security alliances. 

In deterrence, however, it is Vladimir Putin who is winning. He managed to stop the West, the US from responding decisively to his blatant breaking of the fundamental world order rule – the inviolability of the states’ sovereignty. 

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Another friend of mine from social media wrote recently: “How many have to die before President Joe Biden will actually use the American military that I and my neighbors pay $850 billion/year to support? What’s the point of spending all that money if the military can’t be used in a just cause? Personally, I have never seen a more just cause for military intervention in my life…”

My friend has many like-minded neighbors.

I can however already hear all the voices pitying us for the ‘ignorance’ of dismissing the elephant in the room – Russia’s nuclear powers. 

That is exactly how Putin keeps winning the deterrence here - by reiterating all too often - again this week commenting on rumors that the Western European countries are planning to send their troops to Ukraine - that he has the magic - nuclear button he would not hesitate to press.

My response to those voices:

What could he possibly hit with a nuclear missile, and not be hit back? What target could he hit even with tactical nukes and not be hit back? There is also this detail that in Russia, like the US, the process of launching nuclear weapons does not belong to one person alone.

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Here it would be good if the US president was seen as 100 percent predictable – that he would not allow Russian rogue behavior to go unpunished. At stake are other actors – Iran on its path to obtaining nuclear weapons, China and North Korea already having ones. The West cannot afford to show weakness here.

The Kremlin realizes this. But Putin’s bet with the war on Ukraine was that anything below the red line of nuclear engagement is for the West predictably negotiable. The West always recoils at using a terminal means. That feeling of impunity in the area below the nuclear bar allowed Putin to invade Ukraine. This feeling of his should be shattered.

Not only the status of global power – but leaving the Cold War paradigms behind

The need to sustain the status of global superpower should be enough for the US to come up with a more decisive policy to deter Russia than we’ve so far seen. But there is also a bilateral dimension here and not less important than the global stage.

Ukrainians have the right to feel that the US let them down twice already. 

The first time, luckily for Ukrainians the weakness of the collapsing Soviet Union was helpful. Still it is shocking to listen to the infamous “Chicken Kiyv Speech” by President George H.W. Bush, delivered on August 1, 1991, and in which he called on Ukrainians to resign their “suicidal nationalism.” 

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It was a moment when Ukraine had a chance to gain independent statehood! Fortunately, Ukrainians did not fall for this colossal misjudgment and implemented the Act of Declaration of Independence of Ukraine (Poland was the first country together with Canada to recognize the state of Ukraine, the US did it only in December of that year).

The second time – it was the American power of persuasion 30 years ago that made Ukrainian leaders give up and give away nuclear weapons they held after the collapse of the Soviet Union. 

Wouldn’t it be the time for the US now to get out of the Cold War concretely and choose unequivocally Eastern Europe over Russia? To stop walking around Russia as if on eggshells?

Ukrainians will never surrender. It is an utter determination – as President Zelensky said on the second anniversary of the invasion: “We are 730 days closer to victory.”

They will never give up because they are at the next height in their state-building process – they have never before put up a similar fight and never before been as successful as they are now. For any nation, a moment like this war is defining for centuries to come. 

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Is Ukraine’s destiny sentenced now only to waiting for the US to do something? No.

President Zelensky’s surprise – what could it be?

In the late 1990s, NATO was dragging its feet about Poland’s application to join the Alliance. It was also becoming clear that Russia was not heading toward a stable democracy but descending into a corrupt unpredictable entity.

From Poland's security point of view, it was becoming dangerous.

The Poles needed to ensure Poland’s security, if not through NATO membership then by…acquiring nuclear weapons. Scott Anderson mentions this in his chronicles of the CIA in Eastern Europe, “The Quiet Americans,” that the country’s leaders told NATO – unofficially – they would go nuclear if Poland didn’t gain admission back in the 90s.

On March 12,1999 Poland with Hungary and the Czech Republic became the first former members of the Warsaw Pact to join NATO.

Only a few days ago Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski pointed to the potential results of the US leaving Ukraine without the pledged aid:

“If the US allies get the idea that the United States might not be able to help you even if the Commander-in-Chief wants to help you, that will have profound consequences for all America’s alliances around the world,” Sikorski said, adding, “Some countries will start hedging and others will be considering developing their own nuclear weapons programs.” 

The disparity between the Ukrainian and Russian military capabilities, the number of troops, cannot be leveled even if Russia imploded because the remaining Russia, not a federation anymore, but a purely national Russian state – would still have twice as big a population as Ukraine.

And not everything on the front line can be decided by the spectacular shooting down of Russian A-50 AWACS or other aircraft.

Despite what some among Ukrainian leadership might think – Ukraine would have, as always, also in negotiations about any sort of “hedging,” a committed supporter: Poland. 

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Comments (7)

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David
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How could I not love the Poles? A favourite author of mine is Noble prize winning Heinrich Sienkiewicz and I have read most of his historical novels (in translation I am afraid). Many of his books have been made into Polish films, so watchable (English subtitles available for many of them). Who can forget the charges of the famous Polish winged cavalry? He wrote about the great era of the Commonwealth of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which included most of Ukraine and all or Belarus. These latter countries have a different formational history than Muscovy. I for one would like to see an association or commonwealth of independent, free sovereign nations: Poland, Lithuania, Belarus and Ukraine celebrating their mutual glorious history. Is it too much to hope that Ducal Prussia (now occupied by Russia as a trophy of WW2 conquest), join them?

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John
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@BMF, Yes ....sigh.....we we've heard all the above many times from putin's fear mongering trolls. Putin's parrot Medevev reminds the world weekly of russia's unstoppable might....sigh....



The trolls pretend that Putin is only throwing all russia's best conventional military equipment and hundreds of thousands of his best soldiers TO NEVER RETURN in the Ukrainian meat grinder because:



A. He is just a really great guy and does not want to trigger his 'superior nuclear forces that cannot be responded to'.



B. He is too busy emptying his colonoscopy bag to remember that he has a 'superior nuclear force that cannot be responded to'.



C. If he starts a nuclear war, russia as a former entity will cease to exist in an inhabitable state......because his propaganda was wrong.



I am too embarrassed for a few of the 'allies' to say why this war is unnecessarily going on so long. It has almost nothing to do with what you are saying though. A KyivPost article yesterday shed light on the true reason, but most trolls probably never caught the salient point it raised. It will result in the end of putin's regime, albeit not as fast as Ukraine and its supporters here would wish
.

Still, ending putin's regime is also probably what most russians desire as well. Their lives cannot get worse that under putins rule.

So they all smile wryly and give 2 thumbs up for putin's doomed "SMO" plans.

It's all going according to plan.

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BMF
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I will tell you why NATO is walking on eggshells Anna...., they have too. NATO and the non proliferation of nuclear weapons, or to maintain pace in new technology with Russia, China, and even Dork Kore, has left America, France, and Britain (who can't even figure out how to fire their Trident IIs), vulnerable to 1st strike hypersonic missiles fielded and ready to launch from Russia, China, and Dork Korea. To be short, we would all be destroyed before the so called nuclear deterrent of NATO could be launched. A sad fact.....These mostly liberal fools made the same mistakes prior to WWII. They let an insane Dictator build up his weaponry to be the most lethal, but this time, the insane Dictator can take out all of the free World within minutes. European Countries are at fault for this. They swallowed the poison of being protected by the nuclear umbrella that is outdated and will be destroyed. So, they have to walk on eggshells, because they are the ones who placed themselves in the dire position they find themselves in. America, psyche is stuck in the era of useless aircraft carriers, dial it down gravity dropped bombs, useless fighter jets, etc...., while Russia, China, and Dork Korea have been building the biggest, baddest, most powerful nuclear hypersonic 1st strike missiles to crush NATO quickly and survive. The deterrent is gone, there is nothing stopping Putin.

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GregC
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Anna, thank for your article, Western nations need to stop being cowards, stop being Chamberlains, and start to view the world as Churchill would.
I told Ukrainians Putin is pure evil, some felt he was a great leader until he invaded Crimea, then they woke up!
The blind are leading the blind, USA, Germany, Hungary and many more nations are as fools during the 1930’s leading up to WW2.
Putin’s investment in the USA is paying great dividends today, Putin could not be happier to see Repbulicans as part of his Putin Party.
Putin believes he can win a nuclear war, that the West is far too weak to risk such a war… And yet, like Hitler, Putin often hides in bunkers, has personal taste testers for his food, he trusts no one.
A corrupt person views all others as just as corrupt for they cannot accept people have true values of honesty. We see this today with trump and his followers in the USA.

John
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@GregC, Well stated!

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peter
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A typical Polish view, the US should sacrify lives. The Polish Government run away in the second World war after two weeks to Romania. Russia and the US fightet the Germans. The Russians built up Poland and Ukraine spending Billions. To believe a 3rd World War in Europe would help Nato think again. The larger European Country are way behind in the West.
Finland, Sweden and Norway have relatively well Equipped Armys but not that big. Finland's Budget close to 4 Bio. is behind tiny Switzerland with above 5,5 Billions.
Ukraine is important but not that important.

John
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@peter, Your facts are incorrect so your intent is suspect.

Yes the Polish leadership did have to leave Poland during the war as the joint Russian & Nazi German military alliance of 1939 swept through that part of Europe. It was not until Hitler eventually turned on Russia +2 years later in June 1941, that Russia then asked the allies for help.....giving it proved a big mistake as post war, Russia oppressively occupied Poland and so many other eastern EU nations.

The author is not expecting the USA to single handedly save anyone. However the USA is part of the alliance helping Ukraine and their continued aid is now politically stalled by the putin aligned US MRGA party.

As of Jan 15th, 2024 Poland has contributed 4% of its GDP as part of the allied package of support to Ukraine (including refugee costs). The USA has provided 0.32% of its GDP, but also gets a economic kick selling weapons the other allies buy to donate to Ukraine. The USA can, should and even mostly wants to do more to help Ukraine. The MRGA aid stalling efforts in the US House will shortly be circumvented.

Poland and its allies are presently also working on a package to meet their border blockading special interest groups concerns.

Ukraine will not be abandoned.

Anna
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@John, Thank you for your insightful comments and concise history lesson for Peter, Anna

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Anna
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@peter, right now I'm trying to find a way to respond to such obvious xenophobia and not break Kyiv Post's rules about being nice when dealing with hateful commenters...
If you suggest that Poles are cowards, you clearly don't know history at all.
The Poles never fled as you suggest - in 1939 the Poles fought both the Germans and the Soviets - but they were overwhelmed, so in October 1939 they had to save what was left of the September Campaign and the Polish governmet.
Then, during the entire 5 years of the German occupation of my country, Poles - like no other nation - maintained an underground Polish state in which almost all institutions operated.
Poles also had an active underground army - Armia Krajowa - during almost entire German occupation - again - unlike any other nation.

Both were certainly under the death penalty, which the Germans administered in street executions - and prisons after torturinig those they managed to capture for information.

Your contempt for Poles is obvious here. I wonder if it is motivated by nationality or earnings?

peter
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@Anna, I wrote the Polish Government and even you should accept historical Facts.

Tofate
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@peter,

You mean the same Polish Government, which because of that 'run away' , could carry on fight against Nazi from France/UK while Polish army as well as underground were fighting agaist them all the time from day on of WW2 (1 September 1939) - right ?

"The russians built up Poland and Ukraine spending Billions."

If ruzzia had not signed Ribbentrop-Molotov pact, than ruzzia would not had to buid up anything. Easy - isn't it.
And yes - all CEE countries remember that help as good as joining NATO and EU.

So, in general - thanks, but no thanks.

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John
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@peter, It's obvious you wrote no one in the Polish government....your false historical facts were debunked by at least 3 on this forum and in 100% of the probably 1000's of accurate history books covering WWII. As putin oversees / dictates his self serving made up facts in your hermit kingdom, all information (including history books) in your country is suspect, and access to outside knowledge difficult and risky.

It's probably a sad existence in the best of times in putrid's oppressive russia, but it's about to become the worse as the free world now has a full on hate for your thug tyrant and the people that support him. Allies will be looking for full payback for all debts he has accrued to Ukraine and ourselves in this war. We will be looking for the harshest allowable criminal justice against those who perpetrated and supported russia's sick, cruel acts against the Ukrainian people.

But for now you are simply another soul-less, paid russian troll, wasting its dark masters' money; trying to sow confusion amongst those that already know of your falsehoods and nefarious intent.

You have been weighed, measured and found lacking in any redeeming human quality.

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John
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I agree with the author that it is long overdue for better allied support to help Ukraine decisively defeat putrid's invasion. NATO's weapons and troops supporting Ukraine directly tomorrow, would be a wonderful surprise that would thwart putins forces within days.

I have a concern though with the quote the author presents to justify a surprise for putin. She states "Vladimir Putin said not long ago that he prefers 'more predictable' President Biden over Donald Trump. ‘Predictable’ is the key here."

Worded as such that that quote is also pushed by MRGA trolls to promote putinrump 's presidential return. We all know that would be a disaster for Ukraine. The MGRA party has always resisted supporting Ukraine.

We must also recall the the anomalous trait of "Vranyo" which putin so often uses. That is the deviant trait of telling a lie, even when an intelligent recipients knows it's a lie. "Intellegent recipient" rules out most putinrump sheep who believe his +30,500 cited in lies over his 4 year term).

What putin says is not what he means. In fact its generally the opposite. For example when he granted Wagners' Prigozhin clemency.

So why does putin intentionally now feed our media a line his MRGA minions find useful?

It is because Ukraine will get no USA support if putinrump is elected

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passgo2000@mail.com
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Russia as a national state without access to the resouces it steals from its federal republics (including manpower for its military), even if could overcome its corruption, could not afford wars of adventure. Just get them out of Ukraine and the wars (plural) are over.

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