Author: General Mark Arnold
Russia must be defeated in Ukraine now.
Putin chose to make an example of the besieged, now obliterated city of Mariupol. Russian forces have fired on refugee corridors, systemically flattened other cities, and murdered helpless civilians, some by shelling, others by starvation and depletion of medical supplies.
Russia is forcibly deporting hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian citizens to Russia into isolation camps known for their depravity and purpose of erasing Ukrainian culture and statehood. An estimated 7.7 million of Ukraine’s 43 million people are refugees in neighboring nations. Millions more driven from their homes remain in Ukraine.
The Russians will continue this savage bloodletting for months, even years, with suffering extended well beyond Ukraine’s borders– unless western democracies act now. We must take the initiative to bring an end to this humanitarian disaster; otherwise, the West has moral culpability for Ukraine’s continued suffering.
To those who think Western conventional military intervention may result in nuclear war, I argue the West cannot afford to allow aggressive nuclear powers to threaten Armageddon and leave the burden of restraint on Western shoulders. As Joseph Bosco, National Security consultant and Senior Associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) notes, “Nuclear threats should not be permitted to serve as a protective shield for aggressive nuclear powers to pursue their evil ends. Every war carries the risk of escalation, and Putin’s use of nuclear weapons cannot be stopped by further concessions; this only encourages Russia toward further military aggression.”
The danger of nuclear escalation can only be countered by credible deterrence and conventional action against aggression.
First, the United Nations must support the establishment of UN-protected humanitarian corridors and regions from all cities the Ukrainian government deems threatened. These areas must be within UN-defended, no-fly zones, with UN-sponsored troops on the ground to protect civilians. When Russia likely vetoes this, then NATO or another coalition of like-minded Western nations should use conventional air power in Ukraine, including Crimea and the Donbas.
NATO or another coalition’s air forces should augment Ukraine’s efforts to achieve air superiority, amplifying Ukraine’s valorous ground forces to defeat the Russian military in Ukraine. NATO or coalition tactical air controllers will be needed on the ground to target Russian forces while protecting Ukrainians. We also have brave warriors capable of combat air control and aircrew rescue.
The result will motivate Putin to negotiate a ceasefire and withdraw or risk his army’s destruction and forced retreat. A free Ukraine will rebuild peacefully and democratically, with history reflecting a proud moment for democracy.
The alternative is continued soldier and civilian combat deaths, life-changing injuries, and mental health trauma. The horror of more Russian atrocities such as Bucha will emerge; consider Russia’s precision cruise missile attack of Kremenchuk’s crowded shopping mall. An unsustainable refugee crisis in Europe will result in strengthening the political far right. Western nations’ economies will be perpetually unstable under the threat of Russian aggression. Russia will suffer, but endure, under severe economic sanctions while Putin grinds Ukraine to a fine ash.
Arming Ukrainians with modest amounts of HIMARS using short range rocket ammunition, combat vehicles and artillery is insufficient to enable a decisive Ukrainian victory. As the war continues, Russia will mobilize its reserve forces, then dominate all of Ukraine while simultaneously threatening neighboring nations.
If NATO or another coalition and the UN plan what I suggest, then White House-to-Kremlin and military-to-military channels of communication will be critical as well as provide a platform to negotiate the end of the war before it spreads beyond Ukraine.
Without conventional military action and deterrence, Putin has no reason to think he cannot destroy other Western-friendly, democratic nations. And unfortunately, neither will China.
Mark Arnold of Columbus is a retired U.S. Army Brigadier General and Special Forces officer. He served three combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Red Cross chief: Ukraine war ‘nothing short of a nightmare’ – The Washington Post 14 March 2022. Not related to any specific paragraph.