Ukraine's way out

First, the longer the war continues, the greater the death, destruction, and dislocation it will reap. Russia’s invasion has already taken tens of thousands of lives, forced some 12 million Ukrainians to flee their homes (about 6 million have left the country), and destroyed some $60 billion of Ukraine’s infrastructure. Sanctions against Russia and the war’s disruption to supply chains are fueling rising prices in many countries and could spawn a global food shortage.

Second is the risk of escalation. If Russian forces fare well in the east and the south, the Kremlin could eventually decide to enlarge its own war aims and seek to swallow more of Ukraine. Alternatively, if Russian forces falter in the coming weeks and Vladimir Putin faces a further defeat, he could well look to use weapons of mass destruction, or to trigger a wider conflict to change the course of the war. Accidental escalation is also a real risk, with Russia already carrying out strikes near NATO territory and Russian and NATO forces operating in close proximity.

Third, even though the West has demonstrated impressive unity in supporting Ukraine and standing up to Russian aggression, the West’s solidarity may wane over time. Inflation is spiking on both sides of the Atlantic, fueled in part by the knock-on effects of the war. Rising prices are weighing down President Joe Biden’s popularity—despite his strong handling of the war—and his earlier focus on improving the lot of working Americans has effectively been sidelined. Bipartisan cooperation on standing up to Putin could erode.

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