We Can't Save Russia From Itself - Or Ukraine - Nor Should We

AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda

This last weekend’s prematurely-halted coup attempt aside, Russia seems to have plenty of problems to go around. Each move by Moscow seems to be dumber than the previous one, yet they manage to stumble along and may, in the end, create quite a mess in Eastern Europe.


Commentator Peter Juul writes a lot on international affairs on his Substack page as “The Liberal Patriot.” A recent article by Mr. Juul agrees with this assessment of Moscow’s action while also making the point that America owes Ukraine some support to help them win the fight against Russia. But is that the United States’ issue to deal with? I’d say not.

These sorts of arguments tend to assume it’s America’s responsibility to deliver Moscow from its blunders. They lead to policy recommendations that the United States and its allies should limit their aid to Ukraine to keep it from winning the war and humiliating Putin, or otherwise condition it to force a settlement that would be favorable to the Kremlin—never mind that Putin continues to reject even diplomacy heavily tilted in toward his own war aims.

But it’s not our job to save Russia from the fallout of its own foreign policy decisions—nor is it even possible. It’s an echo of the pre-war view that it was somehow up to the United States to enforce a Russian sphere of influence in Eastern Europe, as if Moscow did not need to make itself an attractive partner for its close neighbors. Similarly, there’s no reason for the United States to bail Putin out of his calamitous Ukrainian land grab.


I quite agree; it’s not our job to save Russia from the consequences of their (and by “their,” I mean Putin’s) decisions regarding Ukraine — or anywhere else — unless the United States is directly affected. On the point of Ukraine, I can’t see how the U.S. is directly affected. Oh, I know, NATO, the Nordstream pipeline, Russia’s oil as a strategic resource, and all those arguments for creating a new pipeline, a “Cashstream” pipeline, one dedicated to sending an unlimited flow of American taxpayer dollars to Kyiv. And that’s the real issue:

Today, moreover, America’s own endgame in Ukraine ought to be nothing less than the restoration of Ukrainian sovereignty over the entirety of its internationally-recognized territory—whether that causes heartburn in Moscow or not. It simply is not our responsibility to shield the Kremlin from the consequences of its own decision to launch and perpetuate its war against Ukraine, much less reward its aggression. It’s America’s job to help Ukraine win its war, not preserve Russian power.


Ukraine US
Genya Savilov, Pool Photo via AP

Why is it our job, America’s job, to help Ukraine win this war? The various European nations are sending some armor, some guns, and so forth, but as usual, the United States has been doing all the heavy lifting. As in, several times the number of beans, bullets, and cash as the entire EU. It seems like whenever a crisis has erupted in Europe since 1917, the various nations of Europe have made impassioned statements on the order of “someone has to do something,” and then looked across the Atlantic at the United States. This seems to be no different. Oh, and I’d also point out, as far as the Cashstream pipeline is concerned, that we can’t afford it. We’re broke.


At least, so far, it’s only been beans, bullets, and cash. The day may come when the U.S. decides to send some advisors, of course, which we’ve tried before, and it tends not to work out so well. Russia (Putin), apparently worrying about this possibility, has warned against sending NATO troops into Ukraine.

I’m in favor of the United States having a strong military. I served myself, as did my wife. She and I are both Desert Storm veterans. I was re-activated for Operation Joint Endeavor. I’ve got some idea of what it’s like to be in the field, in the danger zone, and can tell you that nobody wants to avoid war more than the soldiers who fight it.

Even so: We were all willing and ready to do so back then, and I sure hope our soldiers are willing to do the same today. But our forces should not be sent into the field unless a clear and compelling U.S. interest is involved. When they are sent, they should be so well-trained and so well-equipped that the bad guys should be wetting their pants in terror the moment the first Private steps off the first airplane to arrive in theater. I’m in favor of fielding an army of unrepentant badasses whose sole purpose is to close with and destroy the enemy by fire, maneuver, and shock effect. But there must be a compelling U.S. interest involved in our sending these men out.


In the case of Ukraine, I just can’t see what that interest is. I can’t see why it’s America’s job to ensure Ukraine wins this war.


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