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War in Ukraine: the United States, again the arsenal of democracy | Business

When Russia invaded Ukraine, the idea that it could be defeated seemed far-fetched. On the surface, Putin had a powerful and modernized army backed by a defense budget a dozen times larger than that of his target. There was no need to swallow the Ted Cruz-style fantasies about the bravery of a military man who is not “neutered” or too “socially sensitive” to foresee a quick victory for the aggressor on the battlefield.

And even after Ukraine miraculously managed to repel the first Russian attack, one had to wonder about the long-term prospects. Before the war, Russia’s economy was about eight times the size of Ukraine’s, and despite the toll that sanctions are taking on Russian production, the destruction wrought in Ukraine probably means that the gap has now widened even further. Consequently, Russia could be expected to end up winning a war of attrition by the sheer size of its resources.

But this does not seem to be what is happening. No one can be sure to what extent Putin is aware of how the war is going. Are his terrified officials willing to tell him the truth? However, the way in which Russia throws here and there dire but vague threats to the West and throws self-destructive tantrums, such as cutting natural gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria on Wednesday, indicates that at least someone in Moscow is concerned. because time does not play in favor of his country. And US officials are beginning to speak optimistically of not just containing Russia, but of an outright Ukrainian victory.

How can this be possible? The answer is that the United States, while not directly engaged in combat, is once again doing what it did the year before Pearl Harbor: with the help of our allies, we are acting as the “arsenal of democracy” by handing over the defenders of freedom the material means to continue fighting.

For those unfamiliar with history: Britain in 1940, like Ukraine in 2022, achieved unexpected success against a seemingly unstoppable enemy when the British Royal Air Force thwarted the Luftwaffe’s bid for air superiority, which was a precondition for invasion. However, by the end of 1940 the British were in dire straits: their war effort required huge imports, including military hardware and essentials like food and oil, and they were running out of money.

Franklin D. Roosevelt responded with the Lend-Lease Act, which allowed large quantities of arms and food to be transferred to the troubled United Kingdom. This aid was not enough to turn the tables, but it did give Winston Churchill the resources he needed to resist, ultimately laying the foundation for Allied victory.

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Now the law has taken on new life, and large-scale military aid is pouring into Ukraine not only from the United States, but also from many of our allied countries. Thanks to her, the arithmetic of attrition acts decisively against Putin. Russia’s economy may be much larger than Ukraine’s, but it is small compared to the US, let alone the combined economies of the Western allies. And with its limited economic base, Russia does not appear to have the ability to make up for its losses on the battlefield. Western experts believe, for example, that the fighting in Ukraine has cost the aggressor two years of tank production.

On the other hand, the Ukrainian Army is better equipped every day and has more heavy weapons. Assuming Congress approves President Biden’s request to increase aid by $33 billion—a sum we can easily afford—cumulative Western support for Ukraine will soon approach Russia’s annual military spending.

In other words, as I have already said, it seems that time is on Ukraine’s side. Unless Russia achieves the spectacular military success that has so far eluded it—such as a blitzkrieg attack that besieges much of the Ukrainian forces—and does so very soon, the balance of power is likely to continue to tilt. in favor of Ukraine.

And let’s make two things clear. The first is that if Ukraine really wins, it will be a triumph for the forces of freedom around the world. Potential aggressors and war criminals will have to think twice, and Western enemies of democracy, many of whom were Putin supporters two days ago, will have received a practical lesson in the difference between being macho and being truly strong.

The second is that, while the credit for victory, should it come, will of course go mostly to the Ukrainians themselves, it would not have been possible without courageous and effective leadership in some Western countries (although, unfortunately, not in all).

Regardless of the opinion that one may have of Boris Johnson in other aspects, in this crisis the United Kingdom has been a rock. Poland and other Eastern European countries have risen to the occasion and stood up to Russian threats. And Biden has done an incredible job of holding the Western alliance together while supplying Ukraine with the weapons it needs.

Past US presidents have delivered moving speeches about freedom: “Tear down this wall,” “Ich bin ein Berliner” (“I am a Berliner”). And it’s good that they did. But Biden has arguably done more to defend it, with concrete acts that go beyond mere words, than any president since Harry Truman. I wonder if and when he will get the recognition he deserves.

Paul Krugman He is a Nobel laureate in economics. © The New York Times, 2022. Translation of News Clips.

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