Ukraine’s war still holds surprises
At a time when Americans barely agree on anything, there is a solid majority of them in favor of giving generous economic and military aid to Ukraine in its war, which is twice as surprising when you consider that most Americans do not support Ukraine. could only find on the map a few months ago, as it is a country that we did not have a special relationship with him.
But continuing that support this summer will be twice as important as the war in Ukraine enters some sort of “sumo” phase — two giants grappling with each other as each tries to get the other out of the loop, but neither is. willing to give up or be able to win.
While I would expect some erosion of this support as people come to understand how much this war is raising global food and energy prices, I remain optimistic and hopeful that a majority of Americans will hold their ground until Ukraine can regain its military sovereignty or have a reasonable reach a peace agreement with Putin. My short-term optimism comes not from reading polls, but from reading history, especially Michael Mandelbaum’s new book, The Four Ages of American Foreign Policy.
Mandelbaum, professor emeritus of US foreign policy at Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, argues that US attitudes toward Ukraine may seem entirely new and unexpected, but they are not. Because if we look at it from the perspective of US foreign policy, we see that it is very familiar and predictable.
Throughout American history, our country has fluctuated between two major approaches to foreign policy, as Mandelbaum explains in an interview, reiterating a key theme in his book: “A strength, national interest, and security approach associated with Theodore Roosevelt, and a another that emphasizes the dissemination and promotion of American values associated with Woodrow Wilson.” †
If these two worldviews usually compete with each other, this was not always the case. Because when a foreign policy challenge that aligned with our interests and values arose, it could gain broad, deep and lasting public support.
“It happened in World War II and the Cold War,” Mandelbaum says, “and it seems to be happening again with Ukraine now.”
But the really big question is: how long will that last? In fact, no one knows, because wars follow both predictable and unpredictable paths.
Ukraine’s predictable course is that as costs rise, opposition will grow – both in America and among European allies – who will argue that our interests and values in Ukraine are not working, and will argue that we cannot afford to To support Ukraine economically to the point of achieving an outright victory – the expulsion of the military. The Russians don’t have an inch of Ukraine — and don’t bear the cost of achieving a full strategic victory, because if Putin finds himself facing the possibility of total defeat, he will have a nuclear weapon.
Evidence of this can be found in French President Emmanuel Macron’s statement last Saturday that the Western alliance “must not humiliate Russia” – a statement that sparked protests in Ukraine.
In two of the most important wars in our history, the Civil War and World War II, Mandelbaum says, “Our aim was complete victory over the enemy.” But the problem for Biden and our allies is that we cannot achieve the goal of a total victory over Putin’s Russia, because that could lead to nuclear war – and something like an outright victory could be the only way to prevent Putin from bleeding Ukraine forever.
Which brings us down the unpredictable path: After more than 100 days of fighting, no one can tell you how this war will end. But great wars are strange. And however it ignites, it can end in totally unpredictable ways.
Let me give an example with one of Mandelbaum’s favorite quotes. It’s a quote from Winston Churchill’s book on the life of his great-grandfather, the Duke of Marlborough, published in the 1930s: “Great battles, won or lost, change the course of events, create new standards of values, new ways and new atmospheres, in armies and in countries, that everyone must adhere to.”
Churchill’s idea, Mandelbaum argues, is that “wars change the course of history and that great battles are often resolved by war. And the struggle between Russia and Ukraine for control of the region known as “Donbass” in East -Ukraine has the potential to be that battle.
And in more ways than one. The 27 countries of the European Union, our most important ally, are the largest trading bloc in the world. It has recently taken decisive steps to reduce trade and investment with Russia. On May 31, the European Union agreed to cut 90% of Russian oil imports by the end of 2022. Not only will this hurt Russia, but it will also cause great pain to EU consumers and investors, who have recently started paying astronomical prices for petrol and natural gas.
But all of this is happening at a time when renewable energies, such as solar and wind, are becoming price competitive with fossil fuels, and at a time when the global auto industry is significantly expanding production of electric vehicles and new batteries.
In the short term, all this cannot compensate for the decline in Russian supplies. However, if we had astronomical prices for gasoline and heating oil for a year or two as a result of the war in Ukraine, “we would see a very large shift in investment by investment funds and the sector in electric vehicles, grid expansion, transmission lines and long-term storage, which would The entire market is shifting from fossil fuel reliance to renewables,” said Tom Burke, director of E3G (the 3rd Generation Environment Movement), a climate research organization. “The war in Ukraine is forcing all countries and companies to develop dramatic plans to decarbonise.
Indeed, a report published last week by the Center for Energy and Clean Air Research and Ember, a research center specializing in global energy issues in Berlin, found that 19 of the European Union’s 27 countries “declared their ambition to promote renewable energy.” to use have increased significantly since 2019, in parallel with the planned reduction in fossil fuel generation by 2030 to protect itself from geopolitical threats.
The bottom line is that if this war doesn’t accidentally blow up the planet, it could inadvertently help keep it going. Over time, Russia’s main source of money and power will diminish.
Wouldn’t that be ridiculous?
Published by special arrangement with the New York Times Service.