National Security

What’s Our Goal In Ukraine?

The endgame will matter.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

It’s not too early to think about what we want to see at the end of the Ukrainian war. It’s going to be complicated. But the goal must be a free Ukraine. K.T. McFarland clarifies the issue.

McFarland: Like many people, I’ve been mesmerized by images coming out of Ukraine. Miles of Russian convoys, Russian missiles deliberately targeting schools and hospitals, Russian troops shooting women, children and old people whose only crime was queuing up for bread. A brave, articulate Ukrainian hero president leading his army and fellow countrymen to defend against the cruel Russian invaders. I know which side I’m rooting for. I know how I want this to end. But can someone tell me how this is likely to end?

America has just fought and lost two wars in part because for twenty years, we never had clear or realistic objectives. It is Ukraine’s opinion that matters, of course, not ours, but it’s worth thinking this through now. At a certain point, things could escalate, presenting the U.S. and NATO with some difficult decisions we would have to make very, very quickly.

What are our goals in the Russia/Ukraine war? Is there anything the U.S. can do now to help achieve them? How can we separate what we might want from what is possible?

Do you support individual military members being able to opt out of getting the COVID vaccine?

By completing the poll, you agree to receive emails from LifeZette, occasional offers from our partners and that you've read and agree to our privacy policy and legal statement.

Is our goal Putin’s utter defeat and withdrawal? But Putin could not survive politically if he brings the troops home in humiliation. Before that happens, he will escalate to weapons of mass destruction, including chemical or even tactical nuclear weapons.

Is our goal regime change in Moscow? A palace coup orchestrated by Putin’s inner circle is unlikely given his paranoic control of everyone around him. The oligarchs are unhappy with Putin, especially because their own fortunes have been confiscated or sanctioned. But they’re not politically powerful in Russia – most of them live abroad. We may hear anecdotal stories of disgruntled Russian citizens, but that’s a long way from hoping for a national anti-Putin uprising. It’s more likely that Putin will launch a Stalin-like purge of his enemies, given his call to strengthen the country with a “cleansing” of traitors and promise to “spit them out like gnats.”

Putin’s goal is to do whatever it takes to bring Ukraine to heel. Would we be willing to sit on the sidelines while Putin levels Ukraine like he did Chechnya in 1999, and bomb Kyiv to smithereens like he did Grozny? If Ukraine becomes a killing field, it would be a stain on the soul of the world. It would also unravel the international system that has kept the world at peace since the end of World War II, the longest period since the fall of the Roman Empire. Biden has called Putin a war criminal and warned that the international community will treat him like a pariah. But that threat is unlikely to have much effect in changing Putin’s behavior. Does anyone seriously think he cares what they say about him at diplomatic cocktail parties?

…The best weapon the U.S. has to stop Putin and help Ukraine, and the other countries Putin might be eyeing down the road isn’t military. It’s economic – unleash the U.S. energy industry. If Biden is willing to end or delay his “war on fossil fuels,” the U.S. could produce more oil and natural gas. That would drive energy prices back down to where they were under President Trump…

I visited Ukraine in spring 2014, a few weeks after the Maidan Square Revolution, when the people rose up and ousted pro-Russian president Yanokovich. The political, military and business leaders I met with were euphoric, but I knew the Russians would be back. As I drove along the Dnieper River that runs through the center of Kiev, I wondered if it would someday be the border between Ukraine and Russia. Let’s hope not.

David Kamioner
meet the author

David Kamioner is a veteran of U.S. Army Intelligence and an honors graduate of the University of Maryland's European Division. He also served with the Pershing Nuclear Brigade and the First Infantry Division. Subsequent to that he worked for two decades as a political consultant, was part of the American Red Cross Hurricane Katrina disaster relief effort in Louisiana, ran a homeless shelter for veterans in Philadelphia, and taught as a college instructor. He serves as a Contributing Editor for LifeZette.

Join the Discussion

COMMENTS POLICY: We have no tolerance for messages of violence, racism, vulgarity, obscenity or other such discourteous behavior. Thank you for contributing to a respectful and useful online dialogue.