The Grim Situation in Ukraine
This past week Putin claimed that the transparently sham referendums he conducted justied his declaring that he has annexed four eastern provinces of Ukraine. Accordingly, he says, any attempt to retake parts of these provinces currently occupied by Russaan forces or to defend parts of these provinces currently occupied by Ukrainian forces will be treated as an attack on sacred Russian soil. This is madness, and that may be Putin’s intent, as New York Times columnist Tom Friedman puts it — to “out crazy the West.”
By means of this stratagem, Putin has made it almost impossible for the West to enter into a peace agreement that allows him to save face. That has to be his loss, not the West’s. We must continue to give Ukraine what it needs as long at it wants to continue to defend itself against Putin’s aggression. The West has a weak point — Europe’s dependence on Russian oil and gas. This must end if the West is to prevail. What’s needed is for the West to go on a war footing as far as oil and gas is concerned: institute rationing, price controls, tax and subsidy nudges, including windfall profits taxes. We can’t frustrate Putin’s aims without determination and sacrifice. That would be hard to achieve in any circumstances, and at present all the more so because the United States and several key European countries are only semi-functional because of internal political turmoil.