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Clive Crook

An Off-Ramp for Putin Is Repugnant But Necessary

Russia’s defeats on the battlefield create an opening to bring the war to a close without risking catastrophe.

The goal should be to bring this to an end.

The goal should be to bring this to an end.

Photographer: JUAN BARRETO/AFP

From the outset of Russia’s war on Ukraine, the crucial question hasn’t changed: Can Vladimir Putin be defeated at an acceptable cost? Despite all we now know about Russia’s military incompetence and the courage and skill of Ukraine’s forces, the answer is still uncertain.

This leads to an uncomfortable conclusion, one that President Joe Biden showed no trace of understanding in his speech at the United Nations on Wednesday: Planning for the end of this conflict needs to weigh outcomes that are disappointing, even disgraceful, for the sake of avoiding those that are catastrophic.