President Joe Biden’s remarks before the U.N. Wednesday regarding Russia’s seven-month Ukraine siege conveyed the right moral message.
Bluntly and accurately, Biden stated: “A permanent member of the U.N. Security Council invaded its neighbor, attempted to erase a sovereign state from the map. Russia has shamelessly violated the core tenets of the U.N. charter."
Atrocities against Ukrainians “should make your blood run cold," the president said. He correctly pointed the finger at the Kremlin for food shortages in some nations due to the war and he pledged $2.9 billion worth of aid in response. Biden rebuffed sham “referendums” in parts of eastern Ukraine gripped by the invaders. He encouraged more defense aid from U.S. allies and said: “We will stand in solidarity against Russia’s aggression, period.”
Across Europe, which suffers economically from Moscow’s mistake, a visible consensus remains that the Vladimir Putin regime launched this unprovoked war with no acceptable justification and keeps escalating it. Even committed pacifists in long-neutral Switzerland are reportedly divided over whether arms aid for Ukraine's defense and economic sanctions against Russia should be resisted.
There is no productive way to shrug and balance “both-sides” of this conflict.
In the U.S., Russia's aggression — punctuated by reports of a missile strike near a nuclear plant — seems to have quieted the voices of some Republicans who in recent years expressed a cynical dissident admiration for Putin. Now there is broad, bipartisan sympathy for Ukraine’s resistance. Healthy latitude is given to the positions and appeals of the elected Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Given this scenario, along with recent Russian battlefield setbacks, it would be tempting to believe military "momentum" is heading the right way and thus indefinitely postpone all thought of a negotiated cease fire. But nobody knows in the moment how any war is going to go, or spread, or whom will be killed, or what will happen to throngs of refugees it produces. Do diplomats and analysts see a way out? Or must arms supplies, military operations, the isolation of Russia, and a hideous civilian attrition be left to run their unknowable course?
Concessions to pariah Putin would be premature. But the proper autonomy and fate of the places where Russia may have some uncoerced support from the populace need to be sorted out. Borders are problematic in a region where for centuries, holders of hard power manipulated the lines.
Does the long-term role of NATO shift in light of events? It would help if we knew what those at the Kremlin expect to achieve.
War is chaos. Vague and elusive as the politics may seem, a time will come to talk about resolution strategies. Best for the U.S. and the U.N. to start early, however generally, feeling out the terms on which the war can or will end.
MEMBERS OF THE EDITORIAL BOARD are experienced journalists who offer reasoned opinions, based on facts, to encourage informed debate about the issues facing our community.