This week the United States Congress passed another $40 billion in military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine, bringing the total to $54 billion since the outbreak of the war. The West’s approach to providing military aid is sensible, but as others have writtenLittle thought has been given to the purposes to which these weapons are put.

Three months into the war, it seems that not much attention has been paid to the effects of this war and the impact that the regional response to the conflict will have in the long term. Washington and other European capitals must think beyond the immediate military campaign to broader geopolitical strategic issues and considerations, one of which is a militarily and economically limping pariah Russian state, something that is being obscured by unwarranted triumphalist rhetoric and narrow focus on the theatrical aspects of this war.

Unsurprisingly, there are far more questions than answers, as the war is not yet over and the post-war environment is just as uncertain. However, contours and problems are forming on the horizon that the West will have to deal with. Sadly, one would be forgiven for thinking that politics and news cycles seem to have moved on. Here, it is not the absence of answers that is alarming, but the fact that questions are not being asked at all that should concern the public.

Ukrainian forces have, in places, pushed Russian forces back to pre-invasion lines of control and borders, commendable progress. There is a risk that emerging triumphalism will be as blinding as (accurate) narratives of Ukrainian heroism in the face of overwhelming odds. This has led to ill-considered rhetoric questions as to whether Ukraine will invade Russia. These questions only illustrate the lack of foresight in policy making and fuel Russia’s information war.

There is also a risk that expectations for Ukraine’s success will be mishandled, that kyiv’s progress will somehow lead to a reversal of 2014 losses and retake Crimea and end the frozen conflict on its eastern border. At the same time, many of the scholarly discussions of the end of the war have omitted the agency of the Ukrainians themselves, as if an agreement was reached between Washington and Moscow.

Washington and others must also begin to think about how the end of the war could set the stage for the next conflict. A militarily weakened and economically limping Russia will not sit idly by, simply retreating to its corner and refraining from responding. This is not a call for narrow goals when it comes to Russia, rather, an acknowledgment that the end of the war will inevitably affect European peace and security in the year to come and the five years after that. The accession of Finland and Sweden to NATO (despite Turkey’s objections) will unequivocally be a network positive for the alliance, but considering how the enlarged alliance will respond to Russia’s post-Ukrainian behavior is critical to its long-term success.

the full effect of Western sanctions on Russia is also to be felt. In the short term, Moscow has artificially boosted the ruble and, at least superficially (and probably temporarily), adapted to economic pressure, due to significant state intervention. Expectations that this should continue to be the case are misguided. The long-tail economic impact is unclear. Shortages of precursor goods and finished goods will increasingly affect Russia’s industrial base and, while autarky is attractive to some within Russian politics, it is likely to be unsustainable for the country.

While Russia’s economic interconnectedness with Europe and the world did not prevent it from invading Ukraine, a totally disconnected Russia would have little to lose by acting in the future, whether under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin or a successor. The West’s willingness to incur continued economic disruption based on disengagement from Russia is by no means guaranteed. Severing energy ties may be politically acceptable now, but as market competitiveness decreases and domestic populations feel the pain, it is not clear if this is sustainable. This is not to mention the fact that the non-Western world (Latin and South America, Africa and Asia) has continued to trade with Russia. a global response to Ukraine, this surely is not.

The cover story of the most recent Economist highlights the critically underestimated secondary and tertiary effects of war, most notably food shortages. Russia and Ukraine are two of the world’s largest grain producers, and as a result of the sanctions imposed on the former and the war on the latter, this production is severely disrupted, if not stopped altogether. This will dramatically affect the Middle East and Africa, which imports a significant amount of their food from both countries. This, in turn, drives up prices, puts pressure on the government subsidies and leads to further instability. Is the West preparing or thinking for the resulting conflicts, whether new or exacerbated? Probably not.

While Europe has responded effectively rhetorically and militarily to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it has not fully seized the leadership mantle of a looming war. That still resides in Washington, as does, so far, the kyiv economic aid and relief bill. Rebuilding and reconnecting Ukraine with the world will not come cheap, and European leadership and investment will be essential. The recent G7 commitment Providing $19.8 billion to help Ukraine’s public finances is a good start. However, will European capitals be able and willing to address the longer-term challenges both in Ukraine and within their own countries as a result of the war?

The military aspect of the conflict in Ukraine probably, in retrospect, seems to have been the easiest and simplest part of the war. It is not enough to focus only on this part of the war. The West needs to think about the impact of the war beyond Ukraine and how ripples will be felt in other parts of the world and the global nature of global affairs.

Joshua C. Huminski is director of the Mike Rogers Center for Intelligence and Global Affairs at the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress and a fellow at the George Mason University National Security Institute. He can be found on Twitter @joshuachuminski.




Reference-thehill.com

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