The Grimest Dilemma – The New York Times

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The Grimest Dilemma – The New York Times

Ever since Vladimir Putin began threatening an invasion of Ukraine, the West has faced one of the most pressing dilemmas: how to confront a nuclear power like Russia without risking nuclear war.

However, this is not a new dilemma. This inspired modern game theory, which was developed by academic theorists such as Thomas Schelling and studied by generals and top government officials during the Cold War.

The basic principle makes it clear that it is possible to challenge another country with nuclear weapons. Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and other US presidents have done so by threatening force against Soviet troops and, on some occasions, even using it. Yet these conflicts are extremely sensitive, requiring careful measures to reduce the likelihood of escalation.

The Biden administration and its European allies are pursuing a version of this strategy in Ukraine. In addition to imposing tough economic sanctions against Russia, the coalition is arming Ukraine – while also cautioning that it has no plans to expand the conflict by attacking Russia, as Putin fears. Seems like.

“The Balancing Act informs every aspect of American policy regarding war,” a recent Times analysis explained. As Andrea Kendall-Taylor of the Center for a New American Security puts it, President Biden and his allies are “trying to figure out how to get across the line without crossing a way that risks a direct confrontation with Russia.” can.”

The balance includes annoying trade-offs in that almost any move that helps Ukraine defend itself also risks humiliating Putin.

Some observers – including many conservatives, but not just them – believe the US and Western Europe to be too timid. (Times columnist Brett Stephens has made this case.) Michael McFaul, the US ambassador to Russia under Barack Obama, wrote in The Washington Post, “More Western military aid, especially weapons that can kill Russian airplanes and rockets Or can destroy. Artillery is urgently needed to end the war.”

Other analysts believe the US and Europe have been at a standstill. They have imposed harsh sanctions, providing Ukraine with weapons and massive amounts of troops to NATO countries near Russia’s borders. Going too far, these analysts say, could prompt Putin to attack the NATO country, potentially sparking a world war.

My colleague Max Fischer wrote that a nuclear attack at any point since the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 – while unlikely – has already become more plausible. “The prospect of nuclear war,” the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, warned last week, “is now back in the realm of possibility.”

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(“To ignore it,” writes Thomas Friedman, “would be nave in the extreme.”)

Today’s paper sums up both sides of the issue: How can the US, EU, UK, Turkey and others help Ukraine? And how can these countries signal to Putin that they are not seeking a major war?

The guiding principle for which the US is prepared to send Ukraine is simple: weapons that could help Ukraine defend itself but would not be useful in an invasion of Russia.

If you’re confused as to why someone is talking about an invasion of Russia, don’t feel bad. The Biden administration and its European allies are not considering an invasion of Russia in any way. The problem is that Putin doesn’t believe so.

He knows the West wants him to no longer be the leader of Russia, and he knows that America has a recent history of fighting regime change wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria. Putin puts these two facts together and concerns a military campaign to remove him from power.

“It may be crazy for you or me,” Max says, “but is seen within Moscow as highly admirable and has a point of obsession.”

For this reason, the West is sending weapons to Ukraine that are more useful for defense than offense. The list includes shoulder-to-shoulder missiles (such as Javelins, NLAWs and Stingers) and drones that can shoot guided missiles at troops inside Ukraine but lack the range to reach Russia. Eric Schmidt, a senior writer for The Times, says the US and Europe are trying to send large numbers of these weapons to Ukraine before Russia captures such a large part of the country that delivery becomes difficult.

In contrast, the Biden administration has strongly rejected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s requests to establish a no-fly zone over Ukraine. To do so would probably require bombing weapon systems inside Russia that help defend its planes over Ukraine.

The administration has also blocked Zelensky’s request from Poland for MiG-29 fighters that could help Ukraine launch air strikes on Russian troops. The planes will face fears of an invasion of Russia because – as US generals said during a closed-door session with Congress last week – they could reach Moscow from Ukraine in minutes.

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Still, the Biden administration is discussing a new idea: whether to encourage Turkey to send S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems to Ukraine. The S-400 (which is Russian made) travels in the back of a truck and can shoot down planes. US officials are unsure how Putin might react if Ukraine receives him.

Game theory dominates all these questions.

Of course, Putin’s interest lies in convincing the West that almost any real help to Ukraine will anger him. Doing so could help maintain Russia’s military advantage. The Biden administration, in turn, would be acting naively – and effectively leaving Ukraine – by taking Putin at his word.

On the other hand, confronting him so aggressively that he fears for his political career may lead to a major war. This could prompt Putin to attack a NATO country bordering Ukraine, like Poland, through which Western weapons are flowing toward Ukraine.

There are no easy answers. This is a dilemma stemming from the Cold War, in which both cowardice and aggression carry risks. “Brinkmanship,” Schelling wrote“What is thus the deliberate creation of an identifiable risk of war, a risk that one does not fully control.”

The long-running Eurovision Song Contest pits countries against each other for pop supremacy. Acts such as ABBA (Sweden), Celine Dion (Switzerland) and Julio Iglesias (Spain) were all competitive at once. Now, America wants to recreate some of the magic of Eurovision with “American Song Contest,” which premieres tonight on NBC.

Hosted by Kelly Clarkson and Snoop Dogg, the US version features states and territories, writes Elizabeth Vincentelli in The Times. Here is a primer.

May I know a song? No, they have to be new, although the contestants don’t have to write their own stuff.

Who is competing? There are 56 entries in the contest, from Sabeau to Sweet Taboo, representing California (approximately 40 million people) from the Northern Mariana Islands (population 47,000). Jewel (who grew up in notoriously difficult conditions in Alaska), Michael Bolton (Connecticut) and Cisco (Maryland) are among the well-known names.

Who is voting? Viewers will vote on the songs, along with a 56-person jury, with one member from each state or territory.

Eurovision is some crazy performances, Will this be the version? “One person’s cliché is another person’s truth,” said one executive producer. “Some of them are self-aware, some of them are not.” — Sanam Yaar, Morning Writer

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