‘As Long as It Takes’: Biden Adds to Talk of a New Cold War

“At this critical moment in history, this inflection point, the world watching to see, will we do the hard work that matters to forge a better future?” he said at the news conference. “Will we stand together, will we stand with one another? Will we stay committed to our course?”

Buried in the NATO communiqué are the building blocks for the next twilight struggle. There are plans for larger defense budgets, though nearly a decade after NATO set a minimum military spending standard of 2 percent of each member’s GDP, most of the wealthier Western European nations have yet to hit the goal. (The smaller former Soviet republics have done a lot better.) There are plans for a truly integrated NATO military strategy, including specific ways to integrate cyber defenses, and to ramp up the production of conventional artillery rounds, which almost no one thought would ever be needed again in Europe.

But the reality is that those changes are just a beginning — and hardly sufficient if the West is entering years, or decades, of enmity with Russia, officials say. Jens Stoltenberg, who agreed last week to extend his tenure as secretary general of NATO, acknowledged the reality in an article for Foreign Affairs.

“Even if the war were to end tomorrow,” he wrote about the Ukraine conflict, “there is no sign that Putin’s broader ambitions have changed. He sees freedom and democracy as a threat and wants a world where big states dictate what their neighbors do. This puts him in constant confrontation with NATO’s values and international law.”

Like Mr. Biden, he made the case that letting Mr. Putin gain any territory from his military adventure would “send a message to other authoritarian regimes that they can achieve their objectives through force. China, in particular, is watching to see the price Russia pays, or the reward it receives, for its aggression.”

Mr. Stoltenberg’s observation is indisputable. But as several American and European officials acknowledged during the Vilnius summit, such commitments make it all the more difficult to begin any real cease-fire or armistice negotiations. And promises of Ukraine’s eventual accession to NATO — after the war is over — create a strong incentive for Moscow to hang onto any Ukrainian territory it can and to keep the conflict alive.

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