Western peace-mongering risks a bigger and worse war later, security expert Edward Lucas writes in a piece which first appeared on the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) website.
Welcome though the news that key NATO countries have decided to allow Ukrainian pilots to start training on F-16 Fighting Falcons, it has an infuriating tinge to it as well, Lucas argues, given the amount of dithering on the part of many Western countries over the year-and-a-half since Russia launched it full-scale invasion of Ukraine, or perhaps even further back than that.
Particularly since Russia hardly stayed idle during that time, digging in in Eastern and Southern Ukraine and in occupied Crimea, constructing fortifications, laying minefields and putting in place a sturdy defensive line, all while Ukrainians were losing their lives, Lucas goes on.
As for the apparent dominant Western stance, the outline is clear, Lucas says, at least in theory: In it, Ukraine is granted NATO membership, or the equivalent security guarantees, in return for abandoning those of its territories which are still under Russian occupation, at least for the time being.
This may work, Lucas writes, inasmuch as Ukraine could potentially be arm-twisted into acceptance, but it would not work in a broader sense, since Russia would regard it as a victory – it had thus invaded another country and seized its territory.
The West blinked first, in other words.
The West might have temporarily solved its Ukraine issues, but not the far greater underlying problems.
The West has had a choice since the 1990s of confronting Russia either now or later, yet it has always chosen to delay, and subsequently faced a much worse threat as a result of this procrastination, Lucas goes on.
The best alternative to this rather bleak scenario is clear, Lucas states: Providing Ukraine fully with the weapons it needs to defeat Russia on the battlefield, while simultaneously exerting real pressure on the Kremlin.
Victory is still attainable, he argues, but we in the West we have to want it as much as the Ukrainians do.
Key NATO countries have decided to allow Ukrainian pilots to start training with complex F-16s, and the U.S. has greenlit the Netherlands and Denmark to start transferring F-16s in those countries service, to Ukraine.
But in hesitating as a policy, why would the Kremlin believe that NATO was serious about defending post-ceasefire Ukraine or about taking on Russia head on if it were not willing to provide proxy support like training and arms supplies.
The logical extension for Moscow might be to apply this even to NATO's existing member states, particularly on the Eastern Flank.
Russia will need, by some estimates, three to five years to resurrect its pre-war military capacity – which might be followed by attacking Ukraine again, or even one or all of the Baltic states, Lucas notes.
When the next test comes, Europe and the West will likely be weaker, not stronger, while at the same time having a traumatized Ukraine to give explanations to.
The military training being made available to Ukraine will take months, yet it is a decision which could have been made 18 months ago, when the invasion began, or even earlier.
There is also a sense of having been there before, with tanks, air-defense systems, precision ammunition, and more, Lucas notes.
CEPA says on its website that its main aims include fostering a strong and enduring transatlantic alliance rooted in democratic values and to build networks of future leaders versed in Atlanticism.
Edward Lucas is a columnist with The Times and a former senior editor of The Economist. He is the prospective Liberal Democrat candidate for the Cities of London and Westminster constituency, at the next U.K. general election.
Lucas is perhaps most well-known in Estonia for becoming the country's first ever e-resident, when the program launched nearly a decade ago.
Editor: Andrew Whyte