R.D. Hooker, Jr. is someone of whom you most probably have never heard, with good reason. Part of his task as a U.S. defense operative is to stay quiet, getting the most done with the least visible wake. Hooker is former Dean of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Defense College, which is just what you think it is and does what it was designed to do: Make the Euro-American defense alliance as effective as possible. N.A.T.O. and the College are observing horrid Russian atrocities unfolding in eastern Ukraine, hamstrung by the knowledge that Putin is unafraid of war – and the western world is. Mr. Hooker is uneasy; he should be. The United States and its European allies are committing many dollars and loud cheerleading for Ukraine as the war rages on, but not enough aerial guns or long-strike hardware for them to win. Any student of history will see a clear echo of 1940.
There is attrition on both sides. Russia hoped for a quick welcome in Ukraine, but has suffered well over 75,000 casualties, many generals and unwilling fighters, blown to bits. Ukraine, with a smaller territory and finite supply of personnel, is losing 1,000 fighters daily (!) and cannot sustain this. Simple math points to a horrible ending for everyone caught up in this debacle, though Ukraine is fighting with astounding bravery in defense of its land. Putin fantasizes global conquest, as reports of sabotage in several Russian command sectors point to senior field officers’ betrayal. For a price, these combat leaders betray exact battlefield locations of their soldiers and mercenaries, who are then sitting targets for the next hit. Russia can afford this. In an autocracy with a crazed ruler such as Putin, any male over 15 or under 60 is fodder for enforced draft to reinforce Russian/Belarussian lines of assault and all-out destruction of life.
But Putin’s time on earth and tenure as Russian president will each have an end at some point; this short, frightened and enraged man is determined to leave his mark on the world before he leaves it. Dreaming of Slavic glory, he envisions as Oliver Cromwell did a one-system society with a return to the old ways in which the State, and those who rule it, are always, inescapably “RIGHT” in everything they do.
Anyone who disagrees is a threat to the body politic, hence the frozen Russian gulags in Siberia. The Russian state, regardless of who rules it, is at least 1,000 years old, has never been at ease in the world, and has often been a hell-hole, hence the mass Jewish migration to Israel during the last century.
The United States, a fractious, disparate country formed in the 18th century is still, after several global wars, feeling our way in the world, taking far too much international goodwill for granted. Republican presidents, with some exceptions, have been capable wartime leaders (Lincoln). Democrat presidents, called to lead in wartime (Roosevelts) have had spotty success, never more so than now. President Joseph Biden, with all the goodwill in the world, has missed it by a country mile in his approach to aiding Ukraine, a small nation fighting valiantly on the side of the angels. Biden, and our European allies, are giving President Zelensky and his army “just enough” to hold on – but not enough to win this war. Despite notorious greed, corruption and cowardice in the Russian camp, Putin draws on a huge supply of weapons and men. These can wear resistance down, although many Russians have little enthusiasm for the war. UNLESS – the United States wakes up and sees that pulling our punches is giving happy encouragement to the Kremlin and its chief magician, who will never stop, once they have finished destroying Ukraine. BE WARNED – there are secondary targets on their conquest list, and Putin has now seen that the U.S. is afraid of direct confrontation. I recall no similar failure of leadership in my lifetime. I truly pray that something, or someone, wakes the somnolent, dithering White House up.
Linda Berry is a Northsider.