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Speaker-in-Waiting Kevin McCarthy recently warned that a Republican majority in the House will be skeptical about continuing aid to Ukraine for its struggle against the Russian invasion. This is just one sign of a decay in the consensus in the United States and its NATO allies in favor of providing massive military aid to Ukraine to enable it to successfully push Russian forces out and reoccupy Ukrainian territory.

The big news of this war has been the poor performance of the Russian forces, and the corresponding ability of Ukrainian forces to blunt Russian advances and to take back territories previously under Russian occupation. The Russians flatly failed to execute a Blitzkrieg attack on Kyiv, and ultimately withdrew from northern Ukraine. But they were more successful in seizing land in eastern and southern Ukraine, where they are now on the defensive against Ukrainian counteroffensives.

The Ukrainian government has made clear that it is uninterested in any negotiated peace that would leave any of its territory in Russian hands. That includes Crimea, which was seized and formally annexed by Russia in 2014. Russia has also quite recently annexed the provinces in the east and south that it had previously occupied. Ukraine and the international community have not recognized any of these annexations.

Ukraine has made remarkable progress in reclaiming these territories, but it clearly will require a long and destructive war to completely oust Russian forces from all Ukrainian lands.

None of these Ukrainian gains would have been possible without massive military and economic aid from the United States and other NATO countries. So the first signs of a breakdown of the Western consensus require some serious thinking. Should NATO aid to Ukraine be completely cut off, even an incompetent and corrupt Russian army could push Ukrainian forces back and even occupy the country, as Vladimir Putin originally envisioned. More likely, paring back NATO aid would force the Ukrainians back on the defensive. The goal of reclaiming all their occupied territory would be out of reach. They would have to negotiate a peace that would recognize the Russian conquests.

How should Biden respond to this threat? Up to this point he has affirmed that US (and NATO) support will last along as it’s needed and suffice for Ukraine to prevail. In practice this has meant providing weapon systems as needed for Ukrainian defensive and offensive capacities, but never quite as much or as advanced as the Ukrainians ask for.

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One possible Biden response would be to accept the new constraints and provide just enough military aid to keep Ukraine from losing. But this would be a terrible option because it would guarantee a long, destructive and inconclusive war. Such a war could end with a negotiated peace recognizing Russian conquests. Failing that, it would probably end with a full abandonment of Ukraine by NATO, and its occupation by Russia.

Instead, Biden should expedite and escalate aid to Ukraine, to give it the means to clear the Russians out of its territory in a matter of months. Such an outcome would amount to a clear victory for Ukraine, and a complete failure for Vladimir Putin.

There are of course dangers in this approach. The most prominent danger is that Putin, faced with defeat, would escalate or broaden the war. Escalation could include the use of chemical, biological or tactical nuclear weapons. NATO would need plans to respond to such escalation, in ways that would be costly to Russia but would not create a spiral of escalations leading to a more widespread war. Such responses, for example, could include conventional bombing of Russian bases and forces, or blockading Russian ports.

Putin might decide to broaden the war by attacking such NATO members as the Baltic states, but as this would necessarily elicit a full-scale military response by NATO, Putin would probably see this as too risky.

Thus the main danger posed by giving Ukraine the means to win the war would be a Russian resort to unconventional weapons, and NATO would have the means to respond to such an escalation without entering a spiral of escalation.

Rather than leave Ukraine to swing in the wind, Biden should enable them to win the war.