The reality facing Russia in Ukraine is exceedingly dire: Ukraine now has a larger, more capable military in Ukraine than does Russia, and that situation appears irreversible at this point. The United States and our NATO allies and western partners need to do all that we can to continue to help Ukraine and ensure that the reality that confronts Russia becomes even more dire than it presently is.
I was privileged to participate in the Warsaw Security Forum two weeks ago and to engage in a number of meetings with senior members of the Ukrainian delegation who were there. The week before that I was in Berlin meeting with government and European business leaders. And last week, I conducted a virtual engagement with a key advisor of Ukrainian President Zelensky. These engagements and careful analysis of the War in Ukraine from the outset have solidified my convictions about a number of realities that I believe are central to understanding the situation in Ukraine at this point.
So what does this mean? It forecasts a prolonged war, more terrible casualties, steady Ukrainian liberation of their territory (sometimes slowly, sometimes more rapidly), and much more Russian damage and destruction of Ukraine’s infrastructure.
In turn, our response should be very clear: in my view, this is as clear-cut a situation as can be. It is truly good versus evil that has carried out an unprovoked war of conquest; and democracy, however imperfect, against kleptocracy that seeks to use its commodities, minerals, and agricultural exports as weapons to blackmail European countries and others. The US has done a very impressive job leading the NATO and global response to Russia’s brutal invasion, having now provided well over $18B worth of arms, ammunition, and materiel, as well as over $13B in economic assistance. Other countries have been providing substantial assistance as well. Beyond that, I do believe that NATO and European unity will endure, despite the inevitable challenges of the winter ahead with much reduced Russian natural gas and the domestic challenges that will emerge as energy costs spiral upward, economies around the world slow down, and inflation creeps up.
We thus need to do all that we can to continue supporting Ukraine, with additional arms, ammunition, and economic assistance. And at an appropriate moment, in careful coordination with Ukraine and our NATO allies and western partners, we should help initiate negotiations that can stop the violence and extricate Russia from a war that clearly has been disastrous and has, in its first 8 months alone, already seen 3-4 times more Russia losses than the Soviet Army experienced in some 9 years in Afghanistan. And we will need to do all this while supporting a durable security situation for Ukraine, a Marshall Plan-like effort with our allies to rebuild Ukraine’s battered infrastructure and economy, and a security guarantee that likely includes a path to NATO membership for Ukraine – which the performance of Ukraine’s military men and women in uniform have more than earned by their courage, determination, resourcefulness, initiative, and selfless service in what has come to be seen as Ukraine’s War of Independence.
General David Petraeus, US Army (Ret.) is one of the most prominent Soldier-Scholar-Statesmen of the 21st Century. He is currently a Partner with the global investment firm KKR and Chairman of the KKR Global Institute. Prior to joining KKR he served over 37 years in the US Army, culminating his service with 6 consecutive commands as a general officer, five of which were in combat, including command of the Surge in Iraq, US Central Command, and NATO/US Forces in Afghanistan. Following retirement from the military and confirmation by the Senate by a vote of 94-0, he served as Director of the CIA. He graduated with distinction from the US Military Academy, later earned a Ph.D. at Princeton, and has had academic affiliations with USMA, Georgetown, CUNY’s Honors College, the University of Southern California, Harvard, and Yale.
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