«Escalating military assistance from small anti-tank devices to artillery, Patriot missile defence systems to tanks, is a signalling strategy akin to that of incrementally raising the bet to convey a strong hand in poker. As they cross Russia’s “red lines” one after another, the US and its allies are sending a message about their resolve to provide Ukraine with the support it needs to repel Russia’s invasion.


While western leaders congratulate one another on excelling at this game of poker, Putin and his elites are not even playing at the same table. From Russia’s perspective, its current adversaries in the west are but momentary blips on its way to achieving its military goals. In two years’ time, the US president, Joe Biden, may no longer be there to ensure western unity in its support for Ukraine. And even a small crack may be sufficient to turn the tide for Russia.


Putin’s second advantage comes in the form of policy latitude. With no requirement to answer to the public, who bear the brunt of the war’s financial costs, Putin’s policy range is determined by competing interests in his small inner circle. And those mainly military and intelligence elites are fully on board with the war: to them, the benefit of reuniting Soviet territories far outweighs what they perceive as temporary costs.


What does this mean for Ukraine? It means that Russia will not relent. There’s a Russian folk saying that the first crepe in a batch usually does not pan out – in other words, succeeding at something usually takes some trial and error. The same seems to apply to its military campaigns. From the Soviet-Finnish wars to Chechnya, Russia has a history of initially failed military campaigns that succeeded on the second go.


Even if Ukraine chases every last Russian soldier from its land, Russia’s aggression will not end. Russia will continue to make claims to Ukraine’s territory, and will back them up with threats, intermittent missile launches and border skirmishes. There is no such thing as a decisive victory for the defender. 


The only way Ukraine can achieve lasting peace is by stockpiling the biggest guns it can find.


…and also chasing every last Russian soldier from it’s territory. Including Crimea. Maybe they can enter into a long-term lease agreement with Russia for Sevastopol. 🙂

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