Peter Morici: America must take more risks in Ukraine

America will have to take more risks to achieve its legitimate goals in Ukraine.

We should want the Ukrainian army to push the Russians back to its pre-invasion borders. Take back Crimea as President Volodymyr Zelensky aspireis a terribly remote prospect in the absence of a direct NATO military commitment.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the United States hoped the war would weaken Russia’s ability to pursue more land grabs, but an equally important goal should be to send China the message that the invasion of Taiwan or similar adventures in the Pacific would come at terribly high costs.

Unfortunately, the Ukrainian army is simply outnumbered and outgunned. President Joe Biden has refused to equip Ukrainian soldiers with longer-range rockets, artillery and intelligence to reach inside Russia, hit military leaders in Moscow and cripple its supply chain.

NATO is losing the long game

America and its allies have chosen a white glove war based on economic sanctions and let Ukrainian soldiers suffer unsustainable casualties and civilians suffer indiscriminate shelling and war crimes.

NATO is losing the long game – the sanctions war and the race for European public support.

Western sanctions will reduce Russian GDP by 10% this year and stifle long-term growth. But for a people complicit in President Vladimir Putin’s quest to recreate Peter the Great’s empire, these sacrifices are proving bearable.

Popular support for the war in Russia continues and the invasion enjoys the blessings of the Russian Orthodox Church.

European and American sanctions on Russian oil only partially reduce exports, as these are redirected to China, India and elsewhere in Asia. This process drove CL00 prices up, -1.23% enough to keep Moscow’s oil revenue growing and more than enough to fund its invasion indefinitely.

American and European energy policies are infuriating. The Dutch close the largest natural gas field in the EU, and Biden war on american oil and gas will significantly reduce US LNG exports to Europe.

Calming atmosphere

Meanwhile, Russia’s counter-sanctions – slowly turning the screw by cutting or reducing NG00 natural gas, 0.67% of exports to most EU consumers – promise a cold winter, shuttered factories and unemployment.

The Russian blockade of Black Sea ports is limiting Ukrainian grain exports and driving up European and American inflation. This imposes terrible hardships and creates destabilizing consequences in developing countries forced to compete financially as world markets ration scarce W00, 3.02% grains and other foodstuffs.

Contrary to the solidarity of the Russian people, European popular support for continued aid to Ukraine does not correspond to the feeling of a negotiated peace – polite words for appeasement.

Of course, feelings vary. In Poland, defeating Putin remains a high priority, but around half of German and Italian public opinion favors an immediate peace.

Ultimately, political leaders in Europe are losing the war on the home front.

After the midterm elections in the United States, it could prove unsettling to see how much a new Republican majority or a barricaded progressive caucus in the House supports Biden’s costly and narrowly circumscribed support for Ukraine. And how much opposition is mounting among Republican aspirants to the White House.

In Asia, China increasingly assertive in warnings to US military that the Taiwan Strait is not international waters – something that US policy does not concede. And Beijing could interpret that the United States’ reluctance to risk its army in the Ukraine conflict indicates that the Americans will hardly want a protracted conflict to defend Taiwan.

To maintain popular support and deter Chinese aggression, the war aims and supportive domestic policies must be clear and the strategies must make sense, but Biden offers neither. Simply stating that we will not accept any peace terms unacceptable to the Ukrainians is ridiculous when Zelensky says he wants to take back Crimea.

Europeans and Americans must realign their national fossil fuel strategy on a war footing, while continuing to rapidly develop wind and solar capacity.

Breaking the blockade of the Black Sea

NATO cannot invade Russia and overthrow Putin, but it can break the embargo on agricultural products, increase domestic natural gas production and equip the Ukrainian army with the equipment and intelligence needed to destroy the chain of supplies from Russia and target critical infrastructure and military leaders inside Russia.

NATO could ease the pressure on its economies by organize naval convoys for grain from Ukraine and to ensure the security of Ukrainian Black Sea ports. He could position many more troops in Poland, the Baltics and elsewhere along his eastern flank to occupy the resources of Russian military planners.

And position naval resources for a hellish response – including sinking Russia’s Mediterranean Fleet and blockading its ports – if Russia attacks NATO ships opening Ukrainian ports to trade or threatens to use nuclear weapons.

Such actions would likely lead to a more favorable outcome to the conflict for Ukraine and would send a rather ominous message to proponents of military adventurism in Moscow and Beijing.

Peter Morici is an economist and professor emeritus of business at the University of Maryland.