Who is better positioned to win in Ukraine? The person with a Plan B or the person without one? When the war began way back in February, 2022, no one expected the situation which now exists. Russia expected to win fairly quickly. The United States expected Russia to win fairly quickly. Only Ukraine itself expected/hoped that the Russian plan for a quick success would fail. We now know that Ukraine was correct. The Russian military, while big, bad, and ugly, was not quite the lean, mean, fighting machine it had been puffed up to being. Not only did it fail in its original objectives, it failed to hold on to what it had conquered. Time for the Russian Plan B.
RUSSIAN PLAN B
Putin was ready with a Plan B not that he would have called it that. His plan was to hunker and bunker in the eastern provinces and to wait out the West. Plan B did not require any particularly imaginative or creative thinking. It simply drew on the massive forces at his disposal. They would draw a line in the sand and wait. The waiting game was the path to victory not only on the battlefield in Ukraine but on the battlefield in the United States and Europe.
In the United States, Putin’s Russian asset is poised for another presidential nomination. While the election of Trump would not mean the conflict would end in a single day, it would mean the United States would pull the plug on aid to Ukraine effective January 20, 2025. Plus the handwriting would be on the wall even earlier once the vote was known back in December formally and in November informally. So if Putin can hold out for 13 months from now it could be game over.
Depending on how the latest developments in the House of Representatives works out, it could be even earlier. His many admirers there also could pull the plug on American aid long before January 20, 2025. At this point in time, Putin has no incentive to settle for anything less than total victory until he knows the election results.
BIDEN PLAN A
In contrast to Putin, Biden remains stuck in Plan A. It is a measured sober tit-for-tat response to whatever Putin does. The initiative always remains with Putin. Based on what is happening on the battlefield, the United States then responds with the appropriate military equipment. Biden’s response is totally dictated by the actions of Putin and his military forces. The aid is sufficient to keep Ukraine in the game but not sufficient for Ukraine to win. The United States policy lets he war drag on World War I style. Based on the American policy, there is no light at the end of the tunnel.
Even if one supports American aid to Ukraine that is not a winning strategy in itself. There may be no American troops directly involved. However American arms and the military manufacture of those arms are directly involved.
Right now Biden’s Plan A in Ukraine is another forever war.
PROPOSED BIDEN PLAN B
There always is the possibility of a Ukrainian military breakthrough. It has opened a path in the Black Sea. Perhaps the Russian defensive fortifications will break down at a single point and the Ukrainian army will pour through cutting of the Russians from their Motherland. But perhaps not.
Just in case, here are some steps which can be taken if the United States were to think outside the box instead of remaining trapped in a rut.
DECLARE A NO ARTILLERY ZONE
After the first Iraq war, the United States declared a no-fly zone in the northern part of the country. The establishment and enforcement of the zone enabled the Kurds to build back better without having to look over their shoulder every moment and live in fear and insecurity about when they would be attacked next.
Something similar could be done in Ukraine. Roughly 80% of the country remains in Ukrainian control without the presence of Russian troops. Unfortunately, the Russian artillery still targets this area. What we need to do is to make clear to Putin that henceforth the 80% is off limits to Russian artillery.
For the no-artillery zone to be effective, the United States needs to make crystal clear to Putin in no uncertain terms, what the cost will be to Russia for the violation of the no-artillery zone. Some obvious options include the destruction of the Russian infrastructure used to support the Russian soldiers in the remaining 20% of Ukraine. This means bridges, railroads, supply depots and so on. The Russian troops should be notified by leaflets and social media of what is to come so they can prepare as best they can in anticipation of Putin violating the no-artillery zone. Could this lead to direct American-Russian confrontations and nuclear war? While theoretically such a result is possible. But all Russia has to do to prevent this is to stop being “Hamas.” Stop bombing civilians. Stop bombing women and children. Stop bombing old people. Concentrate your military power on the battlefield where it belongs.
CRANES FOR UKRAINE
As I have pleaded several times before to no avail, the time to start rebuilding Ukraine is now. Rubble needs to be cleared. Bombed buildings need to be collapsed and cleared. Designing the cleared areas for the rebuilt cities needs to be done now. The initiation of a 15-Marshall Plan will put Putin on notice that he will not destroy Ukraine. The most he has to fight for is his own forever war in the 20% where the battle still rages.
Somewhere along the line, even the Russian generals will realize that they have nothing to fight for. True, Russia is much bigger than Ukraine and can waste more and more troops on the frontline, but for what? Right now the war is draining the Russian military of equipment and the Russian people of men. The economy is on wartime footing. The prospects of knowing that the best they can do is the 20% where they are fighting now cannot be appealing. Somewhere along the line it will sink in that it is time to go home. And who knows what ramifications that will have inside the Russian Empire when it faces the fact that it has reached its limit. As along as Putin has the illusion of victory, he will persevere. Biden Plan B would take away that illusion as sure as a clanking prison cell would that his American asset is not returning to power.
So far there is no sign of an American Plan B. There is no sign that any thinking outside the box is occurring. All there is publicly, is same-o-same-o or more of the same. No imagination. No creativity. Nothing original. Nothing different. By contrast Putin has a plan. He can wait until after the 2024 American presidential elections. He has a plan at least until then.