Whither Ukraine?

Old conventional wisdom: those doughty Ukrainians are sticking it to the Russians!

New conventional wisdom: the war and resulting sanctions have been an economic fiasco, and the result will be a political settlement that could have been had long ago.

David Goldman (Spengler) writes: “Biden tries to climb down from Ukraine ledge.”

President Joe Biden’s administration faces a double disaster after its Ukraine miscalculation, namely a US recession and a second strategic humiliation in the space of a year.
Washington’s earlier boasts of driving Russian President Vladimir Putin from power, destroying Russia’s capacity to make war and halving the size of the Russian economy look ridiculous in retrospect.

For what it’s worth, I think it highly probable that Putin will be in office longer than Biden.

The world economy is reeling from supply shocks in energy and food provoked by Western sanctions on Russia. …

Russia meanwhile earned a record €93 billion (US$97 billion) from energy exports during the first 100 days of the war, a Finnish study concluded. China and India, which refused to join Group of Seven sanctions against Russia, reportedly are buying oil at a discount of $30 to $40 per barrel, while American and European consumers are paying the full price.

There follows an extended discussion of the oil price shock and inflation besetting the developed world. Then this:

Climbing down off this ledge won’t be easy. It may be impossible. Biden denounced Russia’s leader as a war criminal, averred that he couldn’t be allowed to remain in office and bragged that US sanctions would cut the Russian economy in half. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin claimed that the US would destroy Russia’s capacity to make war.

Such triumphalism does look foolish in retrospect.

A compromise in Ukraine with significant territorial concessions to Russia – the only conceivable way to end the war – would humiliate Washington.

I think that overstates the case. Pretty much all Americans, like Biden, have supported the Ukrainians. And while there has been some criticism of the amount of money we have devoted to supporting Ukraine’s military, I don’t think the administration’s policies have been politically controversial, nor do I think most Americans will be particularly concerned if Russia winds up with the Donbas region, given our other problems.

Goldman notes that Western pro-Ukraine solidarity is beginning to crack, and pressure could speedily mount on Zelensky to negotiate a settlement that would leave Russia as the strategic victor. But given the anxiety Western governments feel about the current economic crisis, that is a price they likely are willing to pay.

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