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Can We Afford NOT To Confront Putin Militarily?

Can We Afford NOT To Confront Putin Militarily?

I will understand that the overwhelming sentiment is that under no circumstances should we risk having American or NATO military confront the Russian military.  The theory – or at least the fear – is that it would kick off a worldwide nuclear war.

As long as that is the mindset, does that mean that Russian saber-rattling paves the way for Putin’s endless wars of conquest?  Is there no time that the free world will stand up to the Madman of Moscow in a more fundamental way?

Would the imposition of a no-fly zone over Ukraine – even shooting down a few Russian planes if they violate the airspace — cause Putin to launch a mutually destructive nuclear attack on Ukraine … Europe … the United States?  If he did, it would certainly be the end of his dream of a pan-world Russian empire – and the end of him.

If we did come into conflict with Russian military, it would not be the first time – and it did not trigger a nuclear war in the past.  It did not even trigger much of a reaction.

There were two incidents in Syria that are revelatory.  You should recall when Russian generals ordered American planes out of Syrian air space – a no-fly zone, as it were.  We rejected the demand and maintained flying.

There was also a time when American forces were attacked in Syria by a Russian unit.  In that case, the American military wiped out the Russian unit.  There was hardly a stir in the diplomatic community – and no threats of nuclear warfare.

We also had an incident when Libya claimed more than a three-mile limit into the Mediterranean Sea.  When Libya sent fighter jets to challenge American ships inside the claimed 10-mile zone, President Reagan ordered the planes to be shot down.  What was significant is that Russian pilots were often flying those jets for Libya and there was no way to tell if they were in those targeted planes.

In a conversation I later had with the Russian ambassador, the fact that Reagan was willing to take out the menace regardless, sent a chill through the Kremlin leadership.  Rather than threats of nuclear war, the Russians became more restrained for a while.

I am not recommending a no-fly zone – or that we should not carefully consider any ramifications of a military confrontation with Russia.  But I do believe that we must do everything possible to ensure that Putin does not win his war on Ukraine – not even temporarily.

In return for giving up their nuclear capabilities – the only nation ever to do so – we promised the people of Ukraine that we would protect their interests from the Russian bear.  Obviously, we are failing to keep that promise.

There is every reason to believe that any measure of Russian success in Ukraine will only embolden Putin’s ambition to re-take more of the old Soviet Union.  At some point, we are going to have to determine that NOT confronting Putin is greater than the risk of confrontation.

That time should have been when he invaded Georgia … or took the Crimea.  This is not his first invasion of Ukraine – albeit his most aggressive.  The world cannot always let the threat – the intimidation – of a nuclear response allow Putin to continue grab of independent democratic nations like Minnesota Fats would run a pool table.

I do not really have an answer to the headline question, but I do think acquiescence under Putin’s threats is not working – and will not work.

So, there ‘tis.

About The Author

Larry Horist

So,there‘tis… The opinions, perspectives and analyses of Larry Horist Larry Horist is a businessman, conservative writer and political strategist with an extensive background in economics and public policy. Clients of his consulting firm have included such conservative icons as Steve Forbes and Milton Friedman. He has served as a consultant to the Nixon White House and travelled the country as a spokesman for President Reagan’s economic reforms. He has testified as an expert witness before numerous legislative bodies, including the U. S. Congress. Horist has lectured and taught courses at numerous colleges and universities, including Harvard, Northwestern, DePaul universities, Hope College and his alma mater, Knox College. He has been a guest on hundreds of public affairs talk shows, and hosted his own program, “Chicago In Sight,” on WIND radio. Horist was a one-time candidate for mayor of Chicago and served as Executive Director of the City Club of Chicago, where he led a successful two-year campaign to save the historic Chicago Theatre from the wrecking ball. An award-winning debater, his insightful and sometimes controversial commentaries appear frequently on the editorial pages of newspapers across the nation. He is praised by readers for his style, substance and sense of humor. According to one reader, Horist is the “new Charles Krauthammer.” He is actively semi-retired in Boca Raton, Florida where he devotes his time to writing. So, there ‘tis is Horist’s signature sign off.


  1. Perry

    Put the democrats on the front lines armed with baseball bats

  2. Ben

    Periwinkle, always the great American. More than willing to sacrifice anyone he doesn’t like.

    • Perry

      Cowards like you wouldn’t show up even with the best weapons

      • Ben

        Wow, Periwinkle doesn’t like me, I am so hurt, I think I have a giant alligator tear welling up in one eye. Hope please don’t call me more names. I don’t know whatever I will do

        Always glad to discuss issues with you. Your level of discourse never ceases to amaze.

  3. Frank stetson

    Old men decide the wars that young men will fight.

    Putin has already issued the nuclear threat twice. He may not be mad, but he certainly sounds less than stable. One nuke and no one wins, there is no world, everything will change. When each side has over 10 times the amount needed for overkill, the resulting fallout will cause unimaginable harm.

    The Russian people in Russian society do seem a little different this go around. The protest in the street lasted longer before they were shut down, it took some time for the news blackout to be affected, Russia seems a little more open to the world than it used to be.

    Soon the body bags will be heading home. They are in the thousands. The Ukrainian media war quite clearly shows the war crimes and aggression of the Russians and I am hopeful that much of this if not all of this is leaking into Russia.

    The ruble is crushed, their stock market is crashed, yes they still have the oil to ship, but everyday Russians are facing economic woes.

    I, for one, am ever hopeful that Putin will just be replaced. Sure, the next guy may be similar, maybe worse, but given Russia’s slow but steady entrance into the entire world, I stand ever hopeful that the next guy might be a little better. It may turn out that they like McDonald’s burgers in Starbucks coffee better than Putin’s diatribe.

    There are many triggers for an automatic war, nato being one. As one of the main reasons that pruden started this war was that he felt ever enclosed by NATO and if Ukraine joined they would be on his doorstep. But that’s one way a war starts instantly. Or, Putin may just start calling us aggressors because we provided arms, aid and other stuff. I do not think we will start a war.

    But I would rather that the Russian people made the right choice and clearly attacking Ukraine is not that and never will be. It’s too late for the Russians here, they can’t have the country, it’s Ukrainian. They can take it over, but they can’t have it.

    It’s just too bad that Putin had boxed himself in and has no offramp really to extract himself from the situation with what he thinks is his dignity. It’s a tough road to hoe. You still may stop at the land surrounding the Black Sea, but that is certainly on certain now with her that’ll be enough for him.

    And to make matters worse, it really looks like the Russian military is a clown car. I’m sure the US military is learning all sorts of things. To that end, Larry, you might be right that sooner is better. But I still hope the Russians will do the right thing and stop this war.

    FYI: Larry, I am not sure that that nuclear disarmament agreement included an automatic protection clause for any incursions Ukraine sustained. I am not sure that we are in violation of said agreement.

  4. Joe

    Putin has got himself into a hornets nest, and he will not be able to get out, without thousands of caualties, on both sides. Being he started this genecide and war on a peace loving people,in fact many russians are being slaughtered,children,woman,elders, trying to flee and being targeted, by the military, and war crimes. Putin, u and your evil,annilation of these innocent,people, will make u a marked man by your own people,u wll pay with your life, and the humilation of your country that didn’t want this to happen and blame u. All hell, from the heavens will reign down on u, if u don’t stop this carnage, hitler thought he could get away with it too, how did that work out for him,same for u.

  5. David English


    Whether or not Republicans or Democrats in our government like to admit it, we did a LOT to encourage Ukraine to “bait the bear” over the years since we agreed not to expand NATO. Whether or not that was wise foreign policy is a debate that will go on for decades to come. The fact is that both Republicans and Democrats intervened in Ukraine’s domestic and foreign policy to further their own interests and now the US, the EU , and NATO are cheering on the Ukrainian government and people against Russia, but not willing to put any “skin in the game”. They won’t even assist in the transfer of 40 MiG 29s to the Ukraine Air Force for fear of Putin’s retaliation. I don’t want to see one drop of American blood shed in this war, but it’s time to call Putin’s bluff on rattling the nuclear saber over the heads of the US and our allies. He does NOT want to see Article 5 of the NATO pact implemented, and he’s on the ropes militarily, politically, and economically. While we cower in fear over his nuclear capabilities, we forget that the US and our allies have equal or superior capabilities, and Putin knows it. He’s not going to start a nuclear war over NATO transferring obsolete Polish fighters jets to Ukraine any more than he is for the US and allies sending MANPADS and anti-tank missiles. A no-fly zone is more complicated. The least we can do is support the transfer of the MiGs.

    • larry Horist

      I agree totally. In past and future commentaries, I have said that we need to call his bluff. If we are always going to respond to his threats by standing down, Putin will continue his empire building. Why would he stop with Ukraine if the west always is intimidated by the threat?

  6. David Dutra

    We can’t afford a military conflict with Putin but there may be a time in the near future that we won’t be able to afford not to do so…

  7. John Hewett

    Putin has taken a page from Kim Jong-Un’s saber-rattling playbook. Instead of just firing off some missiles ( he’s keeping them in reserve for his nuclear threat ), he’s inflicting as much pain as possible on Ukrainian civilians as he can hoping they will cave and knowing because the world is being run by politically correct snowflakes who melt when the kitchen gets too hot.

    • Ben

      Yeah, let’s just drop the big one and be done with it. Let’s just call his bluff and be done with it. Let’s just send our boys in and be done with it. He’s showing that his military is not as effective as ours although he’s willing to sacrifice them, civilians, and anything else that gets in his path. So let’s just get it over with, drop the big one, enter the nuclear fallout age, and then we won’t even have to worry about global warming. Another problem solved. We can even hold back and only fire off nine times the amount of nukes that is needed for overkill. After all, that’s 10% better than 10 times.

      • Chris

        Only idiots worry about global warming.