What is at stake for the U.S. in Ukraine must be made clear

January 24, 2024

As reported in the earlier FOUN blast on January 18 - Biden wants Ukraine to “win” – therefore, policies must change – our President has finally stated that our objective in Ukraine is for Ukraine to “win.”

That was a critically important and long overdue statement, but more is needed.

The President and his entire team need to make it a priority to explain to the American people – and a few thick-heads in Congress – why Ukraine defeating Putin is in our vital national security interests. What happens in Ukraine will not stay in Ukraine.

Any look at American Presidencies shows what each thought was a priority.  Priorities are defined by all-out effort on the part of the president, the cabinet, the press offices, the legislative affairs offices.  A genuine priority dominates until victory is won.

This President and his team need to explain what is at stake, refute the misinformation being spread on the Hill and in the media, and crush the ever-present Kremlin propaganda.

United States’ national security must be a priority – Ukraine defeating Putin is a national security priority and must be treated as such.

If Ukraine wins, not only will Putin’s ravenous thrust for seizing the freedom of neighboring people be halted, but thugs around the world who have been salivating at the signs of American and Western weakness will have second thoughts. And the otherwise inevitable need for American “boots on the ground” to defend NATO will go away.

But if Putin wins – if he ends up with any Ukrainian territory – all of the above will be in play.  At best, there might be a pause, but Putin and others will be on the road to seizing the freedoms of more and more people and critically will believe the risks of war favor them.

In the Medium article below Shankar Narayan discusses Putin’s objectives and methods – some of what is at stake.


Navigating the Suwalki Tightrope: Putin’s Geopolitical Gambit

NATO is fearful, rightfully so

Shankar Narayan

Close-up at the Suwalki Gap (Lithuanian-Polish border highlighted in orange):
Image is in the Public Domain

The Institute for the Study of War, based in Washington, D.C., is my primary source of reference. It holds significantly more weight in my research than any media publication headquartered in the democratic world.

My loyalty to them stems from their commitment to substance over sensationalism. Unlike media outlets seeking reactions, the Institute for the Study of War produces thoughtful, meticulously researched statements. The singular statement I’ll share, recently published by ISW, serves as the basis of this article, underscoring the depth of their research and the effort required to dissect their insights.

ISW continues to assess that Putin invaded Ukraine in 2022 not to defend Russia against a nonexistent threat from NATO but rather to weaken and ultimately destroy NATO — a goal he still pursues.

The Russian President’s path to dismantling democracy lacks a clear path (Democracy Destruction Life Cycle) as long as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) remains intact. The revival of the old Soviet Union hinges on the weakening and eventual destruction of the NATO alliance.

We are still in the testing phase of Putin’s DDLC.

Why do we test anything in our life? Why do we test fire missiles? Why do we test software? Why do pharmaceutical companies have such a long drawn out process of development before launching a product? Testing allows you to check your product under development. Your ability to deliver the objective. To find bugs and fix them. To improve your performance. To identify the side-effects and adjust your product to suit the response. To build internal structures and processes to improve your delivery.

In the geopolitical chess game, Putin’s fantasies are vast, almost comparable to evil incarnations like Adolf Hitler. Yet, becoming Hitler 2.0 is not an instantaneous feat. Reincorporating former Soviet states that declared independence requires direct engagement with NATO, the world’s most formidable defensive alliance.

Between 2008 to 2022, the Russian president put his military to the test: invading Georgia, diving headfirst into the Syrian conflict, experimenting with separatist movements along Russia’s borders. At every turn, he gauged the global reaction, amping up his actions whenever the pushback fell short. The annexation of Crimea in 2014 is a major victory for his testing phase.

In this period, he deepened the West’s reliance on Russian commodities, bolstered Russia’s forex reserves to over $600 billion, and poured significant effort into global right-wing movements. Simultaneously, he skillfully sowed the notion that NATO is a burdensome drain on resources for individual nations. If you scrutinize right-wing movements worldwide, you’ll find this imperceptible yet prevalent Anti-NATO undercurrent linking them all — a thread subtly weaving its way to Moscow.

If Ukraine had succumbed in a swift three-day blitz, as Moscow anticipated, Putin’s testing phase would have concluded, propelling him to the doorstep of weaken NATO phase.

Two prominent spots on the map inevitably draw your attention. One is Kaliningrad, the solitary red block wedged between Lithuania and Poland at the map’s top. The other focal point is Moldova, a region President Putin has been strategically navigating for an extended period. Transnistria, recognized as the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic, asserted its independence from Moldova in 1990, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Russia has its favorite separatist problem in the region as there are Russian speakers in the region.

As usual, there are Russian speakers. As usual, they want independence. [I add – the “as usual” is a reference to Putin’s tried and tested suggestion that people who speak Russian are Russian and want to be in Russia.  He used this line, and many bought it regarding his invasion of Ukraine.  Of course, those who have suffered the most from Putin’s “liberation” have been the ethnic Russians who speak Russian in eastern Ukraine – those who now are steadfast Ukrainians by choice.  RAM] As usual, Putin will rescue them from their misery. Capturing Moldova has its utility, yet securing a link between Kaliningrad and the Russian mainland (via Russian vassal Belarus) through capturing the Suwalki Gap stands out as one of Russia’s optimal choices for a direct confrontation with NATO forces.

The Suwalki Gap, once dubbed one of the most perilous spots on Earth due to its potential for igniting a major conflict between Russia and the West, is a threat well understood by the three Baltic states — Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

Lithuania’s Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė says it is extremely important to protect the Swaliki corridor:

“Of course, this is a point to watch. This is something we pay close attention to. It’s important not to lose this corridor in a situation of military aggression.”

NATO cannot afford to lose the corridor because it will disconnect Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania from Europe.

“The area has long been viewed as “the Achilles’ heel” of NATO’s eastern defenses, owing to the relative ease with which Russia could seize it by launching a pincer assault between Kaliningrad in the northwest and its client state, Belarus, in the southeast. The creation of such a land bridge would effectively isolate the Baltic states (Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia), which are all members of NATO, from the EU. Until recently, it was only Russian hawks on “state television” who advocated such an assault: it would, after all, risk starting a war between Russia and NATO. Yet now, there are growing fears that war over the Suwalki Corridor is precisely what we’re heading for, ” the Week warned in July 2022

I agree with them.

Given the various options available to Putin after capturing Ukraine, the Suwalki Corridor emerges as the strategic choice, providing a higher potential yield compared to directly attacking other NATO countries in the region, like Poland.

Russia has packed a lot of power in Kaliningrad. “It’s studded with radar systems providing surveillance of central Europe and is Russia’s only Baltic Sea port that is ice-free all year round.”

If the Swaliki Corridor is so vulnerable, then why did Putin not go after the corridor first before attacking Ukraine? The reason is that Putin started his Soviet resurrection project with the following map.

If Putin had targeted the three Baltic states before Ukraine, Europe would be in a more secure position. Let’s imagine NATO yields, allowing Putin to take the Baltics. The logical subsequent move would be for Ukraine to join NATO, reinforcing the Poland-Russia-Belarus border with substantial military power. With naval presence in the Black Sea, a robust Ukraine under the NATO umbrella would have acted as an insurmountable barrier, preventing Putin from extending his reach into Europe.

But the other way around, works: Putin seizes Ukraine, probing Western determination and discovering it falls short, as has often been the case. If they prove incapable of halting my advances in Ukraine, then I possess the license to explore the Suwalki Corridor. Perhaps they’ll resort to the familiar pattern of initiating discussions with the phrase ‘In exchange for Peace.’

How real is the threat today?

It is very real. The threat level hinges entirely on the borders that Ukraine will ultimately have at the war’s conclusion.

  • If Ukraine gets all its territory back and goes back to the borders of 1991, Putin’s fantasy is done and dusted.
  • If not, he will regroup and try his bite and negotiate strategy again.

This is precisely why Baltic leaders emphasize the imperative of defeating the Russian army. Without their defeat, the threat persists, and the risk of further aggression looms.

Russia’s annual artillery shell production stands at approximately two million. North Korea supplied them with one million shells in 2023, and a similar number is anticipated in 2024. Despite not boasting an extensive pool of highly trained soldiers, Putin, during the testing phase, has effectively addressed a substantial issue. He has devised a means to enlist a thousand soldiers daily for the ongoing war, leveraging the support of ultranationalists and propagandists. Russians are being told every day that this will be a long conflict, with Putin presently gauging the extent of pain he can impose on his own citizens while ensuring their compliance and silence. He has recruited Iran and North Korea to join his mission destruction.

Retired Brigadier General Kevin Ryan told MailOnline: ‘In 2024, Russia’s defence spending will grow to $140 billion — a third of the national budget. ‘These changes do not make sense if they are aimed solely at the current adversary — Ukraine — a country one-third the population of Russia and barely holding its own.

‘The changes only make sense if Russia is preparing for a war against a major foe, like NATO.’

Putin is building a war machine. He does not care about Russian lives or any human life. But we do.

Currently, he does not appear to have the capacity to fully occupy Ukraine. He is gearing up to settle down with the current frontline. Putin recently dismissed the possibility of negotiations as “an attempt to motivate us to abandon the gains that we have realized over the past year and a half. But this is impossible. Everyone understands that this is impossible”.

If allowed to keep the occupied Ukrainian territory, he will stop, he will reorganize, and he will address the shortcomings he discovered. After a few years he will open the map with at least two options. Redo the Ukraine conflict or trigger a conflict with NATO by entering the Suwalki Corridor.

If the United States elects Donald Trump, then he can really chose what he wants to do and when he wants to do. Because his Anti-NATO buddy in the United States has already told Europe that he will not help them if they come under attack.

“You need to understand that if Europe is under attack we will never come to help you and to support you,” Trump told European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in 2020, according to French European Commissioner Thierry Breton, who was also present at a meeting at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

“By the way, NATO is dead, and we will leave, we will quit NATO,” Trump also said, according to Breton.

[I cringe when Trump speaks on foreign policy, NATO, Ukraine, and Putin and fear the possibilities he mentions.  However, I do not necessarily assume as absolute what he says indicates what could/would happen.  Supporters of Ukraine and our national security interests in Ukraine have in the past and will in the future have to deal with whoever is elected.  We cannot give up.  RAM]

only hesitate to buy what Trump says as what he would do.

Putin’s aspiration is for NATO to be rendered ineffective or defunct, and if there’s anyone who could potentially make that dream a reality for him, it’s Donald Trump.

Protecting the Suwałki Corridor isn’t about establishing credible deterrence, deploying garrisons, or enhancing air defenses in the area. It’s straightforward: defeating Russia in Ukraine. A strongly armed Ukraine alone has the potential to deter Russia from harboring dark ambitions.