Reflecting on the Cuban missile crisis, President John Kennedy once warned that nuclear powers “must avert those confrontations which bring an adversary to a choice of either a humiliating retreat or a nuclear war. The showdown with Russian President Vladimir Putin over Ukraine does not yet mirror the one-minute-to-midnight brinkmanship that brought the Soviet Union and the West to the cusp of Armageddon in October 1962. But, Kennedy’s superpower logic is resounding poignantly as Putin gets backed into a corner by the strategic disaster of his war,
Ukraine’s heroic resistance and an extraordinary multibillion-dollar allied conveyor of arms and ammunition. JFK was warning against a nuclear war which is what he didn’t want to happen but Putin could be instigating one. Senior national security officials are trying to not escalate the war and keep it at bay to keep both sides at peace. Biden has asked Congress for $33 billion to send military and other aid to Ukraine, and the House on Tuesday voted to pass a roughly $40 billion bill. Washington is flooding the battlefield with anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, radars, drones, artillery rounds and howitzers.
It seems like both sides are preparing for the worst because bringing in heavy military combat tools means they want to fight or they are preparing for a fight. Putin’s only exit option right now appears to be a capitulation, and a tacit admission that the Western effort, combined with fierce Ukrainian courage, got the better of him, a position that would be politically impossible to adopt. Putin is running out of options with what to do if he decides to back out from the war.