Helping Ukraine win is the best option for the West, allowing Russia to win would cost too much, – Institute for the Study of War

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The United States has a much higher stake in Russia’s war on Ukraine than most people think. A Russian conquest of all of Ukraine is by no means impossible if the United States cuts off all military assistance and Europe follows suit. Such an outcome would bring a battered but triumphant Russian army right up to NATO’s border from the Black Sea to the Arctic Ocean. The Ukrainian military with Western support has destroyed nearly 90% of the Russian army that invaded in February 2022 according to US intelligence sources, but the Russians have replaced those manpower losses and are ramping up their industrial base to make good their material losses at a rate much faster than their pre-war capacity had permitted.[1] A victorious Russian army at the end of this war will be combat-experienced and considerably larger than the pre-2022 Russian land forces. The Russian economy will gradually recover as sanctions inevitably erode and Moscow develops ways to circumvent or mitigate those that remain. Over time it will replace its equipment and rebuild its coherence, drawing on a wealth of hard-won experience fighting mechanized warfare. It will bring with it advanced air defense systems that only American stealth aircraft—badly needed to deter and confront China—can reliably penetrate. Russia can pose a major conventional military threat to NATO for the first time since the 1990s in a timeframe set to a considerable extent by how much the Kremlin invests in its military. Since Moscow has already committed to an ambitious post-war military expansion program the US cannot be confident that the timeframe will be very long.[2]
The overall military potential of the United States and its NATO allies is so much greater than that of Russia that there is no reason to doubt the West’s ability to defeat any conceivable Russian military even assuming that Russia fully absorbs Ukraine and Belarus. But as Americans consider the costs of continuing to help Ukraine fight the Russians in the coming years, they deserve a careful consideration of the costs of allowing Russia to win. Those costs are much higher than most people imagine.
To deter and defend against a renewed Russian threat following a full Russian victory in Ukraine the United States will have to deploy to Eastern Europe a sizable portion of its ground forces. The United States will have to station in Europe a large number of stealth aircraft. Building and maintaining those aircraft is intrinsically expensive, but challenges in manufacturing them rapidly will likely force the United States to make a terrible choice between keeping enough in Asia to defend Taiwan and its other Asian allies and deterring or defeating a Russian attack on a NATO ally. The entire undertaking will cost a fortune, and the cost will last as long as the Russian threat continues—potentially indefinitely. Almost any other outcome of the Ukraine war is preferable to this one.

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Helping Ukraine keep the lines where they are through continuous Western military support is far more advantageous and cheaper for the United States than allowing Ukraine to lose.

“Freezing” the conflict is worse than continuing to help Ukraine fight—that would simply give Russia time and space to prepare for a renewed war to conquer Ukraine and confront NATO.

Helping Ukraine regain control of all or most of its territory would be much more advantageous, as it would drive Russian forces even further to the east. Best of all, supporting Ukraine to its victory and then helping it rebuild would put the largest and most combat-effective friendly military on the European continent at the forefront of the defense of NATO—whether Ukraine does or does not ultimately join the alliance.
In all these scenarios Americans should keep in mind that Ukraine is not Afghanistan. Afghanistan in 2001 was one of the poorest countries in the world with no industry to speak of and a poorly-educated population. Ukraine is highly industrialized with a modern, urban, and highly educated population. Restored to its 1991 borders Ukraine’s economy is large enough to support its own military. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has recently committed his country to establishing its own military industry including by establishing joint ventures with Western firms to benefit Ukraine and its partners.[3] A victorious Ukraine would not be a permanent ward of the West. It can instead be truly independent and contribute greatly to NATO’s security and the West’s economy.

Original article ‘The High Price of Losing Ukraine’ >

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