War, and a bigger stick, may be the unfortunate answer for the United States and our allies.

A lot is at stake for the free world and keeping the trend line of democracy going up (not down) into the future.

Having served in two wars myself in Afghanistan and the Middle East, it’s terrible to think about this as the solution.

However, if not now, when?

If ever there was a purpose to show American Defense superiority, it’s now. The US capability is like putting the boxer Mayweather in a ring with a redneck beer belly bully.

There’s only one outcome for the Russians if this happens, and it’s worse for them than the free world. Putin’s only bluff has been to go nuclear, which may not be enough for the aging leader who seems to have ruined Russia’s global reputation in a single brush stroke.

The United States needs to step up to protect a free and functioning democracy in Ukraine. As a combat veteran, I’ll choose this war over 20 years in Afghanistan and Iraq with no purpose behind it. Critics will point to Ukraine and say its democracy is flawed and corruption is rampant, but I would just reply, “Can you name a Democracy that isn’t?”

My personal social media is filled with DM requests asking how and where to fight. Most are late-night whisky fueled, but we’ve seen indications that a large number of American veterans are joining the Ukrainian Foreign Legion to fight the Russians.

This will further complicate things for the Biden administration as we get into some tricky ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations) restrictions that seem to have been broken.

With some American firearms manufacturers already sending weapons as private companies and US veterans flying to Ukraine with their government-issue gear to fight in a foreign war,  it gets cotton candy sticky on your fingers real quick.

Sanctions are punishing the people, not Putin

Vladimir Putin during an interview with Oliver Stone. Moscow Kremlin, 2019. (Kremlin.ruCC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Economic sanctions haven’t slowed Putin down. In fact, it seems like he is doubling down on his position. The hardest hit is the general population, whose earning power and savings went down the drain overnight.

So, what is America to do with Putin?

At Harvard Business School, I remember my negotiation labs. You’d map out all parties involved and describe their strengths, weaknesses, wants, and needs. Set a bottom line and top line and have your best alternative next option (BATNA).

A clear map of all parties, their backgrounds, wants, and needs.

Going in, you’d decide to anchor with price or terms or let the other party go first.

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Clearly, Putin has anchored his terms along with war and destruction in Ukraine.

If Biden’s team is doing their negotiation homework, they’d know that Putin respects power over diplomacy and sanctions.

Time for America to lead from the front

Putin continues to see weak political leadership in America. We brought our tea set and fancy clothes to a UFC match. Back in December 2021, we wrote that Putin did not fear sanctions, but he would fear US weaponry going to Ukraine, and events have proven that to be true.  Instead of preventing a war, the unspecified threat of sanctions of this administration probably played a major role in starting it. Even after the war started, the President seemed to be behind the eightball on imposing his own sanctions, playing catch up to private companies that took it on themselves to sanction Russia.  He was practically dragged into banning Russian oil exports to the US by public opinion rather than on his own initiative.

You don’t see the President of Ukraine wearing a polished suit and tie on his internet briefs. He’s in it, down and dirty.

President Joe Biden at Camp David on February 12, 2022. (The White House, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Biden, who is obviously fragile mentally and physically, and our two-party duopoly has been infighting for years and just digging Americans deeper into the landfill.

Like a good chess player who sees weakness to exploit on the board and an opening for an attack, Putin took it. This is what we are now seeing play out in Ukraine.

World War III is here on some scale, but nobody wants to admit it yet. I’ve said this before, but it’s worth noting here again.  The US may have formally entered WWII in December 1941(When Japan attacked the US perceiving weakness on our part) but we spent the previous two years shipping arms and weapons to England which was threatened with invasion by Germany. Something on the order of 20,000 Americans had already enlisted in the Canadian and British army to fight. Does that sound familiar?

China is the Winner in any outcome

China will likely send weapons to Russia at Putin’s request to sustain his war effort, just as he has drawn on Syrians, Chechens and now even Libyans to replace his losses. China’s military is patterned after Russia’s in force structure, and this war in Ukraine will teach them many things.

On the flip side.

America’s spy agency is surely involved, and likely, so is their clandestine Special Ops units.

Both the EU and the US are sending massive amounts of weapons and, along with the UK, have installed harsh economic sanctions against Russians, not just the Billionaire Oligarchs. The ordinary Russians are suffering the most.

Over 2 million Ukrainian refugees have spilled into the countries of Europe, and Russia also sees its own population flee to Turkey, Georgia, and other states with open borders.

China benefits from the distraction this war creates for its own objectives in Taiwan and the South China Sea. This is a great experiment for them, and they will come out stronger regardless of the outcome as they did with COVID.

Whether we want to admit it or not, this is what World War III looks like in 2022.

When do we say enough is enough?

Putin’s Big Mistake was to Underestimate America’s Fighting Spirit

American battlefield command and control is second to none, as is our military hardware. Delta Force or SEAL Team 6 could bag and tag Putin at will if given the green light.

Fighter pilots and aircraft? America has the best in the world.

We could, and should, shut down the sky like a bank vault door thudding closed with heaviness.

From what we’ve seen of the Russian army and air force in the last month, they should fear direct intervention by NATO more than we should fear them.

Putin knows all of this, but he has mapped our leadership, he’s studied the bungled Afghan pullout, our political infighting, and he’s betting America doesn’t have the stomach for war in Ukraine.

His biggest mistake was underestimating Americans’ resolve to stand up for our and others’ freedom.

Maybe it’s time to prove him wrong and close the vault door in the sky over Ukraine.