Reality is stronger than "magical thinking"

Călin Rechea
English Section / 20 noiembrie

Reality is stronger than "magical thinking"

Versiunea în limba română

The narrative thread of Ukraine's resistance to Russia in the Western media, especially the one regarding the real chances of the counter-offensive to open the way to Crimea, has broken badly in recent weeks.

All kinds of information taken by the Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Telegraph, Financial Times or The Economist seem to prepare the "ground" for the "discreet" withdrawal of the Western support given to Ukraine, at least from the administration from Washington.

But neither article rose to the level of "brutality" illustrated by a recent WSJ editorial titled "It's Time to End the Magical Thinking About Russia's Defeat."

One of the authors, Eugene Rumer, was a Russian intelligence officer at the National Intelligence Council and is director of the Russia and Eurasia program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The other author, Andrew S. Weiss, covered relations with Russia in the administrations of George H.W. Bush and Clinton, and is now vice president for studies at Carnegie.

The National Intelligence Council (NIC) is a government institution that has "served as a unique bridge between the intelligence and policy communities" since its inception in 1979, according to the organization's website.

"Putin has reason to believe that time is on his side," the authors point out, given that "there are no indications that Russia is losing what has become a war of attrition."

Former American officials appreciate that President Putin benefits from popular support for the war, but also from the fact that "the support of the elites has not fractured".

Although the Russian economy was affected by the sanctions, adaptation to the new conditions was quick, as "the sanctions hindered Putin's war effort much less than expected" and "the technocrats responsible for running the Russian economy proved to be resistant, adaptable and inventive".

On the other hand, "promises by Western officials to revive their own defense industries have run into bureaucratic and supply chain blockages," as the WSJ editorial also points out.

Another reason for satisfaction for Putin is his "balance sheet in terms of foreign policy", against the background of "some investments in key relationships that have paid off". Beyond close economic ties with India and China, "even neighboring countries that have every reason to fear Putin's aggressive tactics, such as Armenia, Georgia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, have profited greatly by facilitating circumvention sanctions".

On the diplomatic level, the president of Russia managed to attract to his side "many countries that are angry at what they perceive as double standards on the part of the US and Europe or a lack of involvement in the issues that concern them" and for whom "the war in Ukraine is not very important".

Under these conditions, "Putin feels no pressure to end the war, nor does he worry about the ability to sustain it more or less indefinitely," as Rumer and Weiss write.

Moreover, the Russian president "expects that American and European support for Ukraine will dissipate, that Ukrainians will tire of the endless terror and destruction, and that a combination of the two will allow him to dictate the terms of an agreement to end the war and claim victory".

Former US officials believe that now is the time to move to a long-term strategy, and Western leaders must give up "magical thinking" about defeating Russia.

In support of this recommendation, Rumer and Weiss recalled the statements of George Kennan, one of the most reputable American diplomats of the last century, according to which the "patient, but firm and vigilant limitation of Russia's expansionist tendencies" must be pursued.

Unfortunately, such a thing requires vision, and the Western authorities, both at the level of the "elected" governors and the diplomatic corps, do not seem to have such a vision. The knowledge and elementary understanding of European history also seems to be lacking.

According to the WSJ article, a policy to limit Russia's expansionist tendencies would now mean "continuing Western sanctions, isolating Russia diplomatically, preventing the Kremlin from interfering in our domestic politics, and strengthening NATO's deterrence and defense capabilities", under the conditions in which "Europe is no longer that devastated wasteland after the Second World War".

The recommendations come against the background of at least curious statements by the authors, who claim that "the Ukrainian army has reduced to dust a whole decade of Russian military modernization", and "keeping Ukraine in the fight and supplying it with weapons and ammunition is not an act of charity , but the most urgent and effective element of the Western strategy".

Do they not also fall into the category of "magical thinking", especially since the authors highlighted the ineffectiveness of sanctions and the failure of the West in terms of Russia's diplomatic isolation?

Colonel Douglas Macgregor, a former tank commander in the Gulf War and a former White House adviser, recently wrote on his platform X account that "we armed the Ukrainians to the teeth and told them we were with them until at the end", but "this didn't work", and now "Russia is incredibly powerful compared to two years ago".

In the opinion of Colonel Macgregor, "the Russians are much better positioned to fight us than we are to fight them".

Is this an unjustified defeatist attitude or just a recognition of reality, a reality in front of which "magical thinking" means nothing?

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