With the war in Ukraine having entered its third week, the initial euphoric triumphalism that I warned against last week over the West’s surprisingly cohesive and robust response to the Russian invasion seems to be giving way to a grim resignation. Despite the Russian military’s initial ineptness, it seems to have regrouped, with its inexorable advance now marked by the indiscriminate targeting of Ukraine’s civilian population. And although Europe and the U.S. have mobilized to impose punishing economic sanctions on Russia and deliver military assistance to Ukraine, they have drawn a clear line against participating directly in the conflict.
War is inherently unpredictable, but absent any major reversals, that means we are likely to now see an extended period of slow, grinding and horrifyingly tragic conflict.
The debates in the West in the coming weeks and months are therefore likely to become increasingly acrimonious, as the limits of economic sanctions and indirect assistance become clearer and the gruesome consequences of military inaction become more unbearable. The unity so far on display will be hard to maintain in the face of emotional appeals to Manichaean moralism and all-or-nothing absolutism, making clear-sighted and level-headed analysis of the kind we aspire to at WPR all the more urgent to avoid the risk of an escalation to the extremes.