The Atlantic Daily: How the West Can Win in Ukraine

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has thrust America back into a main role on the world stage, complicating decades-old debates about the force wielded by the U.S.

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“Sometimes, unusual and extreme events mark the separation between old and new ways of thinking and being,” our contributing writer Shadi Hamid notes. Russia’s war on Ukraine has already left several such marks: It has upended the West’s assumptions about the world, revitalized the liberal order, and transformed perceptions of both Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelensky.

The war has also thrust America back into a main role on the world stage, complicating decades-old debates about the force wielded by the U.S.

  • Putin proves there are worse things than American power. “In the span of a few days, skeptics of American power have gotten a taste of what a world where America grows weak and Russia grows strong looks like,” Shadi argues.
  • The U.S. needs a profound readjustment of strategy. Eliot A. Cohen lays out three strategic objectives that the West should pursue to defeat Putin, and emphasizes that “American administrations will have to accept the primacy of national-security concerns in a way that they have not for decades.”
  • Ukraine is redefining America’s interests. “In the short six months between the fall of Kabul and the invasion of Ukraine, the triumph of one idea was eclipsed by the appearance of another,” George Packer writes. The notion that “it was time to turn inward and address our own considerable problems” has given way to the idea that the fate of democracy in America is connected to its fate in Ukraine.
  • The strategy of disclosing real-time intelligence could drastically change geopolitics. “Never before has the United States government revealed so much, in such granular detail, so fast and so relentlessly about an adversary,” Amy Zegart reports. “Not vague, ‘Russia may or may not be up to something’ kind of warnings, but ‘Here’s the satellite imagery showing up to 175,000 Russian troops in these specific locations near the border’ kind of warnings.”

Read more of our continuing coverage of Russia’s war on Ukraine here.

One question, answered: Are economic sanctions against Russia’s elites making a difference?

After just a few days of intensified sanctions, some of Russia’s best-known oligarchs began calling for an end to the war, writes the sociologist Brooke Harrington, who has spent the past 15 years researching the wealth of the super-rich. This means that U.S., U.K., and European Union financial measures are working as intended, she explains.

Precisely how much power these figures exercise over Putin is a matter of debate … But the wealthiest Russians are far better placed than the average citizen to communicate to Putin how his invasion is devastating his own country. And the lavish lifestyles that oligarchs and their families lead mean they’re highly vulnerable to external pressure—if Western powers make a more concerted effort to target them than they have in the past.

Read the full article.

Tonight’s Atlantic-approved activity:

FX’s Better Things made single motherhood art. The show’s fifth, and final, season debuted last week.

A break from the news:

Now we’re just throwing trash at the moon.


Every weekday evening, our editors guide you through the biggest stories of the day, help you discover new ideas, and surprise you with moments of delight. Subscribe to get this delivered to your inbox.