Commentary on Political Economy

Thursday 4 April 2024


Opinion | ‘A lot of grim realism’: What our columnists heard in Ukraine

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Charles Lane: It sounds like both of you encountered a lot of grim realism. David, you interviewed President Zelensky.

David Ignatius: [I asked him] “what happens if you don’t get the aid from Congress?” And he gave a straight-up answer: We will have to begin to pull back. And he pulls out a piece of paper and he draws me a little map of the battlefront, and he says, “Here’s our line. The only way we can preserve this line is to is to shrink it, because we don’t have enough artillery to protect the whole one, which means we’re going to have to retreat step by step.”

It was really extraordinary to hear him say that and then to hear him say, “The only way we really can protect ourselves is to do to the Russians what they’re doing to us. They’re taking out our energy grid. They’re trying to just blackout our country. We’re going to have to do the same thing to them. They have to feel that same fear, or we have no deterrence against their weapons.”

Opinions on the war in Ukraine
‘A lot of grim realism’: What our columnists heard in Ukraine

Lane: With Speaker Mike Johnson trying to wrangle the far-right anti-Ukraine Republican members, tell us what you were hearing from Ukrainians about that point. How closely are they paying attention, and what is their assessment is of how they would fare, with or without that military aid?

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Jim Geraghty: I got a very direct quote from a woman I spoke to who’s worked as a translator. I asked if she had a message for Americans, what would [she] say? And she just immediately started talking about Mike Johnson and said, “I would want to tell ‘the obstacle’ …” That’s how he’s referred to over there right now. So there is a very clear sense that without American support, this war is going to get a lot tougher really quickly.

There has been an effort in Europe to try to make up some of the slack. The Czech Republic has always been very active in arms sales, and they’re doing everything they can to get as many 155 millimeter shells [as possible]. Apparently, Denmark said they’re turning over their entire supply of artillery shells.

But the hole left by the lack of U.S. support in the last six months or so is a really big hole to fill, and I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect the Danish to single-handedly step in and fill that. And it’s deeply frustrating — particularly you’re an old Cold War kid like myself — to believe that we don’t want to help people fight Russians when they’re invading. Really? That’s what we’re about these days? We live in strange times.

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