For Washington, it was just another day in the war that has become the primary focus of American foreign and defense policy. But May 3 brought another reminder of the potentially catastrophic nature of the open-ended U.S. commitment to Ukraine.
As The New York Times was forced to admit, the drone strike on the Kremlin, the historic building that is the center of power in Russia and where its authoritarian President Vladimir Putin works, was “real.” Many people witnessed the two explosions over the famous fortified complex that dates back to the 14th century and whose iconic walls and bell tower are more than 500 years old. But, according to the Times, “the rest is hazy.”
Like much of the corporate media, the Times was eager to buttress Biden administration denials of involvement in the incident, despite the angry Russian claims that the United States had “dictated” strikes inside their country. And if the allegation is that the White House or Pentagon is directly responsible for shooting missiles at the capitol of a nuclear power, that’s probably right. Surely, not even President Joe Biden would do something so patently insane as that.
But as the documents leaked from the Pentagon last month confirmed, U.S. intelligence is neck deep in Ukraine’s war effort. Indeed, a year ago, the Times was already reporting that the American military was providing “real time battlefield intelligence” to the Ukrainians, including in efforts to help them kill Russian generals. And since we also already know that Ukraine is willing to operate inside Russia to assassinate figures associated with the Putin regime, it’s not really that much of a reach for Moscow to link Washington to the strike on the Kremlin.
Nevertheless, outlets like the Times were seeking to muddy the waters about the incident by claiming that perhaps it was a false flag operation conducted by the Russians or the work of rogue operatives who could have been working for either side in the war.
That is possible. But, like the claims that were endlessly repeated by the administration and their media cheerleaders last year about the Russians blowing up their own gas pipeline in the Baltic, which were eventually quietly debunked, it’s not terribly likely.
As much as Putin’s flacks are doing everything to demonize the Ukrainians and impart a sense of alarm to the Russian people, the idea that he would go along with such a display of weakness is to betray complete ignorance about the mentality of his regime. The most reasonable explanation was that the Ukrainians were seeking to embarrass Putin on the eve of Moscow’s annual military parade celebrating their victory in World War II.
If so, mission accomplished.
Another Wake-Up Call
Yet, like the false alarms about Russia striking targets in Poland last year that turned out to be Ukrainian missiles that fell on a farm and killed two people, this is another wake-up call to Washington that it is playing with fire. At a time when the United States ought to be doing everything possible to end a war that has turned into a bloody stalemate that offers neither side a pathway to victory, Kyiv is escalating the conflict.
To note any of this is to invite accusations of peddling Russian propaganda from Bush-era Republicans who think the Cold War never ended and from liberal Democrats who, thanks to Kyiv’s involvement in the efforts to impeach former President Donald Trump, have finally found a war they can love.
Putin’s invasion was illegal, brutal, and resulted in war crimes against innocent people. Yet one can acknowledge all that and still point out that, now that his chances of total victory are nonexistent, continuing a war that is being fought to reassert Ukrainian sovereignty over every inch of territory it controlled in 2014 has nothing to do with the national interests of the United States or the well-being of people in either of the countries that are doing the fighting.
Even more to the point, the longer this madness continues, the more likely it is that something will happen that will potentially involve the U.S. in combat against Russia. Doing everything to prevent the start of a nuclear confrontation ought to be the priority of sane American leadership. But that’s not what we’re hearing from Washington.
Biden and Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell agree that backing Ukraine “to the hilt” is the “most important thing going on in the world.” The GOP branch of the D.C. uniparty has lined up happily behind spending more than $100 billion in support of the Ukrainians. And there appears to be a bipartisan majority in favor of authorizing Biden to go on spending that much on a yearly basis for “as long as it takes,” for Ukraine to “win” the war. Yet no one in either party seems to be able to define what exactly victory over a nuclear power might be, short of fantasies about deposing Putin that might lead to an even worse outcome.
West Must Move to End Fighting
The Ukrainians won the sympathy of the world when they thwarted the Russian invasion of their country. But as the fighting in eastern Ukraine over areas with significant ethnic Russian population has devolved into trench warfare, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is getting more or less a blank check from Washington and NATO. The continuation of the war is both sides’ fault, but the West should be moving to end the fighting. Another year of it will only lead to more casualties and raise the price of the country’s reconstruction — which everyone knows will be paid by U.S. taxpayers — whenever the two sides get around to agreeing to the compromise that will end the war.
Instead of doing that, Biden is not only doubling down but is also clearly not using the considerable leverage he has. Nor are the American forces in Ukraine that are helping direct Kyiv’s intelligence efforts preventing Zelensky from engaging in actions like the Kremlin strike that might have unknowable and disastrous consequences.
If Biden and the Democrats in power won’t do that, then it’s up to the Republican congressional leadership to point out that they should. But, of course, they aren’t, since it is only the populist wing of the party, for whom former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speak, that isn’t compromised by pro-war policies.
Sooner or later, we’ll find out more details about the Kremlin drone attack, and the odds are it won’t be reassuring for those who worry about Biden’s encouragement of Zelensky’s recklessness. Americans will just have to pray that the next such mad escalation by the Ukrainians isn’t the one that will spark a crisis that the Times and the administration won’t be able to talk their way out of.