Vladimir Putin’s criminal invasion of Ukraine has opened a new chapter in Europe’s blood-soaked history; reawakened the Free World to threats on its doorstep; and raised a number of questions for an America largely preoccupied with domestic concerns.

What caused this war?
Putin believes the collapse of the USSR was “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the [20th] century.” This is evidence of Putin’s commitment not to Soviet communism but to Russian imperialism, for which the USSR was a vehicle. Thus, Putin laments the loss of Russian control over Soviet territories (Ukraine, Georgia, the Baltics), the loss of an East European buffer zone (embodied by the Warsaw Pact), and the loss of Moscow’s international stature. Putin wants to reacquire those trappings of the Russian Empire. Ukraine and NATO stand in the way of that.

While Putin has long been considered a mentally balanced, if ruthless, actor on the world stage, his views on Ukraine’s sovereignty and NATO’s expansion suggest he’s drifted into fantasy.

Putin claims NATO expansion violated post-Cold War agreements. Yet none other than Mikhail Gorbachev counters, “The topic of NATO expansion was not discussed at all” as the Cold War thawed.[i]

Putin blames NATO for “aggressive actions” against Russia. Yet before his 2014 invasion of Ukraine,the U.S. deactivated the North Atlantic-focused 2nd Fleet (2011) and Germany-based V Corps (2012). In 2013, Washington withdrew every U.S. tank from Europe, and Britain began shutting down its Germany garrison. By 2014, Germany had just 300 tanks—down from 2,125.[ii]

This wasn’t enough for Putin. So, he demanded that NATO rewind history and roll back the only institution capable of providing security in Europe.[iii]

 Putin complains that the collapse of the USSR left “historically Russian territories with a historically Russian population, primarily in Ukraine…outside Russia”; claims Ukraine’s government is run by Nazis; believes Ukraine was “completely created by Russia”; and accuses Ukraine of “stockpiling the latest weapons…imagine how Russia must live.”[iv]

These assertions would be laughable if Ukraine’s cities weren’t razed—and people bludgeoned—because of Putin’s fantasy history.

Ukraine’s independence and sovereignty have been internationally recognized since 1991, including by Russia. Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, is Jewish; his grandfather fought the Nazi invasion of Ukraine. And it’s Russia that invaded Ukraine—twice.[v]

After Putin’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and assault on eastern Ukraine, Kiev received defensive weapons (too little and too late, in turns out). What Putin fails to grasp is that trying to deter aggression doesn’t constitute aggression. “Such aid is not an act of war,” as President Franklin Roosevelt said, “even if a dictator should unilaterally proclaim it so to be.”

Russia has a $1.7-trillion GDP, a 1.4-million-man military, a $61.7-billion military budget and 4,500 nuclear warheads. Ukraine has a $153-billion GDP, less than 300,000 military personnel, a $5.9-billion defense budget, and zero nuclear weapons. Ukraine surrendered its nuclear arsenal in 1994 in exchange for Russia’s commitment to respect Ukraine’s “independence…sovereignty and the existing borders.”

Ukraine’s real sin against Putin was daring to expel pro-Putin leaders, planting democracy and turning to the West.

Why is NATO involved?
Ukraine is not a member of NATO, which explains why the alliance hasn’t intervened directly. This is a harsh reminder that there are limits to NATO’s reach and role today, just as there were when Moscow sent tanks to crush Hungary (1956) and Czechoslovakia (1968).

Yet even though Ukraine falls outside NATO’s protective umbrella, Putin’s war on Ukraine threatens what the North Atlantic Treaty calls the “stability and…security of the North Atlantic area.” That explains NATO’s flurry of activity. 

Washington has approved a long-delayed sale of 250 M1A2 tanks to Poland; surged an aircraft carrier to join Italian and French carriers in the northern Mediterranean; sent warplanes to Britain, Germany, the Baltics, Poland and Romania; dispatched attack helicopters to the Baltics and Poland; moved Patriot batteries into Poland; and deployed troops to Poland, Germany, Latvia and Romania. There are now 100,000 U.S. troops in Europe—the most since 2005.[vi]

Britain has deployed troops to Poland and Estonia,[vii]missile-defense systems to Poland,[viii]warships to the Black Sea and Mediterranean, and fighter-bombers to Romania and Poland. Canada and Germany have deployed hundreds of troops to reinforce contingents in the Baltics.[ix]France deployed troops to Romania. Germany and the Netherlands sent Patriot batteries to Slovakia. Denmark dispatched F-16s to Lithuania. Dutch F-35s and Spanish Eurofighters are deploying to Bulgaria.[x]

NATO has activated its rapid-response force for the first time in history, will likely convert rotational deployments in the Baltics into permanent bases,[xi] and could bring longtime neutrals Finland and Sweden into the fold.

Thanks to Putin, NATO is more united than at any time since 9/11—and more needed than at any time since the Berlin Wall’s collapse.

How is NATO helping Ukraine?
Before the war, the U.S. formed an airbridge to deliver weapons into Ukraine. NATO then shifted to overland deliveries. In the first week of war, NATO rushed 17,000 antitank weapons into Ukraine via overland routes.[xii]

The U.S. has shared intelligence and shipped 4,600 Javelin antitank systems, 7,000 light-antiarmor systems, 1,400 Stinger antiaircraft systems, 100 Switchblade kamikaze drones,[xiii] 300 grenade launchers, 6,200 machine guns/shotguns/rifles, and 60 million rounds of ammunition. Britain has delivered Starstreak air-defense systems and 3,615 NLAW antitank systems.[xiv] The Balts have sent antiaircraft and antitank systems, Poland antiaircraft weapons, Turkey ground-attack drones, Germany antitank weapons and Stingers,[xv] Denmarkantitank weapons.[xvi]

Ukraine is distributing those weapons to 209,000 active-duty personnel, 60,000 National Guardsmen, a Territorial Defense Force of 100,000 volunteers, and an army of citizen-soldiers numbering into the hundreds of thousands. Plus, 20,000 foreigners—including U.S. veterans—have joined the International Legion for the Defense of Ukraine.[xvii] 

Though the front appears stalemated at this writing, Putin’s ruthlessness and Russia's sheer mass could secure a battlefield victory, albeit a pyrrhic one. Yet even in a Putin-occupied rump Ukraine, the weapons will keep flowing, and the Ukrainian people will keep fighting in what would be a well-funded guerilla insurgency.[xviii] America has a playbook for such an insurgency: Fifteen-thousand Soviet troops died trying to occupy Afghanistan.

What about sanctions?
NATO, the EU, Japan, and Australia have disconnected Russian banks from the system that enables financial transfers across 200 countries; unleashed sanctions against Putin and his oligarch henchmen; and enacted export-control measures blocking access to high-tech products. Even neutral Switzerland froze Russian assets. Most of the Free World has closed airspace to Russian aircraft. Russian cargo ships and yachts have been seized. And 375 multinational firms and organizations have ceased operations in Russia:the NHL and WWE, FIFA and F1, Shell and ExxonMobil,American Airlines and United Airlines, Pepsi and Coke, FedEx and UPS, VW and Mercedes, Ford and GM, Honda and Toyota, IBM and Apple, Visa andMasterCard, Germany’s DeutschBank and China’s Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.[xix]

This barrage of financial counterstrikes—what France’s finance minister calls “all-out economic and financial war on Russia”—has shuttered the Russian stock market and rendered it “un-investable,” sent the ruble plummeting to less than a penny against the dollar,[xx]and shoved Russia toward foreign-debt default. Economists project Russia’s GDP will shrink 10-20 percent this year.[xxi]

Washington’s decision to block Russian oil was an important salvo in this financial war. Next, Washington should unleash America’s vast energy endowment—264 billion barrels of oil reserves, 327 trillion cubic-feet of Outer Continental Shelf natural gas, 3 trillion barrels of oil-shale—and flood the market. As Gen. Martin Dempsey, former Joint Chiefs chairman, observes, Washington must view “energy as an instrument of national power.” That would require the administration to rethink its rigid commitment to climate-change goals.[xxii]

Is this the beginning of Cold War II?
Putin’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine marks a turning point. While it’s not a perfect parallel, Cold War-type divisions have reemerged, as a bloc of tyrant regimes—Russia, China, Iran, North Korea—openly, violently challenges the international order built by freedom-loving nations. To contain this axis of tyrants—and to keep Cold War II from turning hotter—the Free World must invest more in deterrent military strength.

The U.S. spends 3.2 percent of GDP on defense; the Cold War average was more than twice that. New generations of Americans—those with no memory of cold wars or world wars—will soon learn that government’s primary duty is to provide“security against foreign danger,” as James Madison wrote.

Toward that end, Germany is lifting military outlays to 2 percent of GDP (something NATO has been urging since 2006), almost doubling defense spending by next year, and creating a massive $112.7-billion rearmament fund.[xxiii]Thrust to the frontlines of Cold War II, Poland’s defense budget will jump to 3 percent of GDP next year—a 20-percent spike in just one year. Britain, Italy, the Baltics, the Netherlands, Denmark and France also are increasing defense spending.[xxiv]

America’s Indo-Pacific allies are a step ahead: South Korea’s defense budget is 64-percent larger (as a share of GPD) than that of European NATO. Japan has increased defense spending 10 consecutive years and is deploying aircraft carriers. Australia is boosting defense spending by 40 percent and is deploying nuclear-powered submarines. Taiwan just approved its largest-ever defense budget.[xxv]

Putin’s war offers a glimpse of what lies ahead if Xi Jinping tries to seize Taiwan. Hopefully, Ukraine’s tenacious responsewill give Beijing pause—and Taipei a roadmap. Xi must understand that attempting in Taiwan what Putin has done in Ukraine would lead not to victory parades and an ascendant legacy, but to his soldiers in body bags, his military in tatters, his international standing wrecked.

What lies ahead for Putin?
Putin has catastrophically underestimated his enemies and overestimated himself.

Putin demanded NATO’s pullback from Eastern Europe, Ukraine’s demilitarization and Zelensky’s removal.[xxvi] When NATO and Ukraine rejected Putin’s diktat, he ordered his cold-blooded invasion, expecting a lightning two-day war and swift installation of a puppet regime.[xxvii] None of this has come to pass.

From the Balts to Bulgaria, NATO is bolstering its easternmost members. At this writing, Ukraine has stalemated—perhaps checkmated—Putin. Indeed, the draft ceasefire requires Russia’s withdrawal to prewar positions, leaves Zelensky in power, and concedes Ukraine’s sovereignty and independence. Ukraine won’t be joining NATO, but nor will it be demilitarized. Instead, Ukraine will be neutral in name but not in practice, embracing the bristly self-defense posture of Israel or Sweden—likely within the EU.[xxviii]

U.S. intelligence concludes 7,000 Russian troops have been killed in four weeks[xxix]—more than America lost in Iraq and Afghanistan in 20 years.[xxx]Ten percent of deployed Russian equipment has been destroyed or captured, including 564 tanks/armored vehicles and dozens of aircraft.[xxxi][xxxii][xxxiii]

The Russian military’s disastrous showing—the combined-arms ineptitude, the logistics debacle, the abysmal morale, the beastly war crimes, the failure to achieve air superiority (let alone air supremacy)[xxxiv], the under-fed soldiers, the fired generals, the dead generals—has shattered the myth that Putin is a master strategist two moves ahead of his opponents. He’s a gambler who was on a hot streak, pushed his luck, rolled the dice and lost. Might Georgia or Moldova now move against Russian forces on their territory? Whatever the answer, Putin’s senseless war carries significant military consequences, perhaps as far-reaching as Moscow’s invasion of Afghanistan.

Equally troubling for Putin is the cascade of economic and geopolitical consequences triggered by his war.

As noted, the economic costs for Putin’s subjects and kleptocrat cronies may prove incalculable. Government-imposed sanctions could ease after a ceasefire. But in this era when businesses are highly sensitive to customers’ political sentiments, many corporations will steer clear of a Putin-controlled Russia. So toxic is Putin that Beijing’s ties to his regime have battered stock values of Chinese firms.[xxxv]

As to the geopolitical consequences: Russia faces a level of isolation beyond anything the USSR—with its satellites and proxies—ever endured. Moreover, Putin’s war exposed the dramatic reversal of the Moscow-Beijing relationship. Once the unchallenged ruler and vanguard of a vast communist imperium, Moscow is now the groveling subordinate.

Michael McFaul, former U.S. ambassador to Russia, believes the “invasion of Ukraine marks the beginning of the end of Putin's dictatorship.” Russia’s oligarchs, spymasters, generals and citizens could hasten that end: Recall that Russians killed Czar Nicholas II after the Great War overwhelmed the Russian Empire.[xxxvi]Italians strung up Mussolini after years of criminal war. The Soviets removed Khrushchev not long after his Cuba gamble nearly triggered World War III. Argentines prosecuted members of Argentina’s military government after the Falklands disaster. Serbs delivered Milosevic to a war-crimes tribunal after he turned the Balkans into a graveyard.[xxxvii]

There have been pockets of anti-war protests in Russia; some oligarchs have publicly opposed Putin’s war.[xxxviii]However, the oligarchs’ words have no impact. The protests aren’t large enough to paralyze Putin. And whether the oligarchs or the people move against Putin, they will need help from the spies and the generals.


Ukraine’s Hard History
“Modern” Ukraine traces its history at least to the mid-9th century, when the Kievan state emerged along the Dnieper River. At various times, the region was ruled by Lithuania, Poland, Cossack tribes, the Ottoman Empire, the Hapsburg Monarchy, the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union. These eras were sprinkled with brief periods of independence. Ukrainians endured beastly violence at the hands of the Soviets, Nazis and then the Soviets again. In 1954, with both Russia and Ukraine part of the Soviet Union, the Crimean Peninsula was transferred by Soviet strongman Nikita Khrushchev to Ukraine as a “gift.” Ukraine’s parliament declared independence August 24, 1991. A national referendum was held December 1, 1991, with 90 percent of the country voting for independence. Ukraine’s independence was recognized by Russia (December 8, 1991), the U.S. (December 25, 1991) and European Community (December 31, 1991).
Sources: U.S. State Department, BBC News, Encyclopedia Britannica, Deseret News, NPR

Ukraine’s Churchillian Leader
A comedian-turned-president, Volodymyr Zelensky was widely considered a lightweight before the invasion. But Zelensky has emerged as a heroic leader for his countrymen, an inspiration to the Free World and a skillful communicator. It’s no exaggeration to say that Ukraine held up—and NATO helped out—because Zelensky stood his ground. As Russia invaded, Zelensky was offered a chance to evacuate. His response: “The fight is here. I need ammunition, not a ride.” Indeed, Zelensky sounds positively Churchillian at times. “It will be our faces you see, not our backs,” he declared as Russia invaded. To Britain’s Parliament, Zelensky intoned, “We will fight till the end—at sea, in the air…in the forests, in the fields, on the shores, in the streets.” To Congress, he described living through “a terror that Europe has not seen for 80 years,” invoked Pearl Harbor and 9/11, and explained that Ukraine “experiences the same every day.”[4] Whether Zelensky is killed, leads a guerilla insurgency, forms a government in exile or oversees Ukraine’s reconstruction, he’s secured a place alongside other wartime leaders under imminent threat—Judah Maccabee, Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill.

Ukraine’s Global Contributions
Ukraine—the ninth-largest wheat-producing country and sixth-largest corn-producing country—accounts for 10 percent of global wheat supply and 15 percent of global corn supply. Before the war, Ukraine accounted for an especially large share of wheat imports for the Philippines (15 percent), Egypt (15 percent), Morocco (20 percent), Thailand (26 percent), Indonesia (26 percent) and Tunisia (48 percent).
In addition, Ukraine is the world’s sixth-largest producer of iron-ore, 13th-largest steel producer and 21st-largest nitrogen-fertilizer producer. Ukraine also is a major supplier of components for VW and BMW automobiles; production lines of both automakers have been impacted by Putin’s war.
Sources: Wall Street Journal, NPR, Gallup, Automotive News, Nation Master, World Atlas.

[i] http://www.nato.int/cps/eu/natohq/topics_111767.htm

[ii] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-44014761







[v] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-18010123


[vi]https://www.stripes.com/theaters/europe/2022-03-15/us-forces-record-high-europe-war-ukraine-5350187.html   https://www.airforcetimes.com/news/your-air-force/2022/03/03/us-f-35s-and-allies-conduct-air-policing-operations-out-of-baltic-countries/https://time.com/6150266/troop-movements-ukraine-russia/  https://www.militarytimes.com/congress/2022/03/11/congress-passes-budget-with-defense-boost-136-billion-in-ukraine-aid/  https://www.military.com/daily-news/2022/03/04/us-troops-are-accumulating-europe-pentagon-eyes-putins-ukraine-war.html  https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/us-reinforcement-troops-arrive-romania-more-expected-2022-02-09/






[vii] https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-forces-arrive-to-reinforce-natos-eastern-flank















[xvi]https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2022/03/16/fact-sheet-on-u-s-security-assistance-for-ukraine/ https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-60033012



[xvii]https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10561359/Thousands-volunteer-join-Ukraines-international-defense-legion-army.htmlhttps://www.newsweek.com/thousands-americans-reportedly-join-ukraines-fight-against-russia-1685727https://www.wsj.com/articles/ukraines-new-foreign-legion-takes-the-fight-to-russian-forces-11647083295?mod=mhphttps://www.wsj.com/livecoverage/russia-ukraine-latest-news-2022-03-11/card/some-100-000-ukrainians-join-volunteer-force-pm-says-nAENvKBjKDntilV4HMXt   https://reader.defensenews.com/2022/02/26/what-kind-of-resistance-can-ukraine-mount/content.html


[xix]https://som.yale.edu/story/2022/over-300-companies-have-withdrawn-russia-some-remain  https://www.wsj.com/livecoverage/russia-ukraine-latest-news-2022-03-03/card/beijing-based-multilateral-lender-suspends-russia-related-activities-62Z9MLgC5yhNDWOXX0c4



https://twitter.com/anders_aslund/status/1505247098802954240?s=27  https://www.aei.org/op-eds/sanction-russias-oil-exports/

[xxii] https://abcnews.go.com/Business/american-oil-find-holds-oil-opec/story?id=17536852




















[xxxi]https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidhambling/2022/03/15/how-many-tanks-does-russia-have-in-ukraine-and-how-many-have-they-lost-so-far/?sh=46be5f385682  CNN, https://www.cnn.com/europe/live-news/ukraine-russia-putin-news-03-08-22/h_92af4a94ea8af921cc9ad6ae50d4bfea, CBS Evening News, March 12, 2022, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S9CW6fYbT6Y