Professor Andrew Busch:

As for escalation, Vladimir Putin and Dmitri Medvedev have been threatening it since February 2022. But Putin, no longer a Marxist, is assuredly still at heart a Leninist, and it was Lenin who advised his followers “You probe with bayonets: if you find mush, you push. If you find steel, you withdraw.” The fundamental question in Ukraine has been and remains whether Putin will encounter mush or steel. There is nothing certain in war, and we should be sober about the risks, but it is a bad bet that mush is a safer Western response than steel. What appears as a call for prudence has become a rationalization for the deep imprudence of cutting off aid to Kyiv in mid-war, rewarding naked aggression and bullying threats from Moscow. In the abstract, it means a foreign policy that invites our adversaries to strike our friends and then dig in to outwait us, a foreign policy so risk-averse that we will cede the ground whenever our opponent rattles a nuclear saber. Ukraine might be the first of America’s friends thrown overboard under that policy, but it would not be the last. It should be obvious that there is tremendous risk in that course, though its advocates refuse to see it.