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The Western Public Should Heed The Former NATO Supreme Commander’s Words About Ukraine
Although writing in a private capacity, he’s still perceived by the targeted Western audience as speaking from a position of military-strategic authority owing to his former role as NATO’s Supreme Commander.
Former NATO Supreme Commander Admiral James Stavridis published a concise piece at Bloomberg over the weekend about “South Korea’s Lessons for Ukraine’s Reconstruction”, which is paywalled for some but can be read in full here. These lessons are to: “find the funds for reconstruction as rapidly as possible; construct real and enduring security guarantees; and be willing to negotiate a land-for-peace conclusion to combat.” All three should be heeded by the Western public as soon as possible.
The failure of Kiev’s over-hyped and ultra-expensive counteroffensive over this summer led to fall’s growing Zelensky-Zaluzhny rivalry over the future of this conflict, in between which US aid for Ukraine was impeded by congressional dysfunction and officials reportedly pressing for resuming peace talks. Zelensky outright refuses to countenance this and even declared that he’ll continue fighting without American aid if it comes to that, but the US is unlikely to allow him to do so in that scenario.
Rather, it’ll almost certainly force him to do their diplomatic bidding or replace him with Zaluzhny if he still remains obstinate. Way too much has been invested in reconquering some of that country’s previously lost territory and holding the Line of Contact (LOC) up until now to risk a Russian breakthrough that could reverse those costly achievements. The US would have to either accept a decisive defeat in this proxy war or gamble that a direct NATO intervention doesn’t spark World War III.
No policymaker wants to be placed in that dilemma, hence why the US is gradually disengaging from the conflict after losing the “race of logistics”/“war of attrition” to Russia and realizing that more on-the-ground losses are inevitable unless it freezes the LOC to safeguard its aforesaid costly achievements. Therein lies the reason why they’re reportedly pressuring Zelensky to resume peace talks, with this emerging diplomatic context explaining the timing of Stavridis’ piece.
Although writing in a private capacity, he’s still perceived by the targeted Western audience as speaking from a position of military-strategic authority owing to his former role as NATO’s Supreme Commander. This imbues his words with outsized weight in reshaping the popular discourse on this conflict away from its previous demands for maximum victory and towards the pragmatic compromise solution that his three proposals – and especially the last one – are intended to advance.
Looking beyond his anti-Russian polemics and his unrealistic prediction that Ukraine will become the next South Korea, each of his suggestions are sensible in their own way. Focusing on post-conflict reconstruction serves to coalesce powerful economic-financial forces into a single lobby that could counteract the military-industrial complex’s (MIC) attempts to indefinitely perpetuate the fighting. More people make more money in peace than in conflict, and this is a compelling argument for a ceasefire.
The second proposal about “enduring security guarantees” is a fait accompli in some form or another since such already informally exist as evidenced by what US-led NATO has already done for supporting Ukraine thus far. The bloc might understandably lack the political will to extend Article 5-like guarantees over the country’s rump territory, but some members might bilaterally or multilaterally negotiate such. The point here isn’t to promote this outcome, but simply to remind folks that it’s practically inevitable.
The last one about freezing the LOC is by far the most important since nobody of his repute and perceived military-strategic authority had hitherto suggested anything of the sort. His anti-Russian polemics and other spin are meant to make this somewhat less bitter for those who were deluded by propaganda over the past 20 months into convincing themselves that maximum victory was imminent. Regardless of however they feel, the writing is on the wall and this conflict might wrap up by next year.