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In this clip, Rand Paul asks a state department official (no name given in the clip) about whether the State Department has a plan for an “off ramp” for Ukraine support. This is similar to concerns about an “exit plan” for U.S. intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan, something everyone thought we should obviously have once those wars went stale, but no one ever seems to think about at the beginning. The same goes for our support for Ukraine in this case.

Around the 2 minute mark, the official says, “My belief is if we don’t stand with Ukraine now, we’ll be spending much more on defense in the future.” This is always the argument of hawks, usually on the political right, but increasingly from people on the left now. Why does he think we’ll be spending more on defense in the future? Hardly any peacetime defense spending is as high as spending during war. I would like to know how the hundreds of billions of dollars being sunk into Ukraine are saving us anything in the future. It is true that Russia’s military has been significantly weakened by the war, but that has already happened. They are now gearing up production and I’m not sure that letting them develope and hone their armed forces is going to make them less of a threat in the future.

I’m also not sure what the official thinks is going to happen once this war ends. Is the accretion of a small amount of Ukrainian territory going to make Russia a much greater threat to the U.S.? A scant 10 years ago, Obama was telling Mitt Romney and the world that Russia was not our enemy. Now his party has reversed itself completely and they believe we need a major military buildup to counter the Russian threat. But I don’t see how the Russian threat will grow any greater by the end of the war in Ukraine, other than the fact that their economy would probably thrive without the extra expense of the war. However, since we are not locked in a life and death struggle with Russia as we were during the time of Communism, we don’t need to do everything possible to weaken their economy; in fact, I would suggest it is cynical and even immoral to try to bleed Russia (and consequently its people) by keeping them fighting a war. Our principle should be that peace is good for everyone that we aren’t actively at war with. In fact, I kind of took for granted that our policy was exactly that, but apparently not everyone operates on that assumption.

At 5:10, the official says, “All wars end with a negotiation.” Really? Is that how WWII ended? The Civil War? More recently, did either Iraq war end that way? Or the Afghan war? That seems like an odd statement to make. I hope this war will end with a negotiation. The alternative is a Russian conquest of Ukraine, which would be a disaster, or a nuclear exchange, which would be even worse.

It is true that the other side has to be interested in negotiation for anything meaningful to happen. The official says that Putin has said he wants to wait until November ’24 to see what happens. I am not familiar with that quotation, so I’m not sure how valid it is. I suspect it is at least partly Putin’s attempt to emphasize that he is serious about obtaining his goals. Who thinks he wouldn’t end the war tomorrow if he could get satisfactory terms? He seems to have little more to hope from the current stalemate. There is a question of whether he is willing to settle for anything that we would accept, or expect Ukraine to accept. But that is exactly the issue at stake! What is Ukraine willing to accept? Have they even made a proposal in the past year short of Russian evacuation of all of Ukraine, including Crimea? Clearly that’s not going to form the basis for a serious negotiation, and if the U.S. is going to back Ukraine until that happens, we might as well prepare to go to war with Russia ourselves. Have we even outlined what a successful settlement would look like? How can we expect negotiations to get anywhere until we begin to adumbrate a position and try to draw Russia into doing the same?

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