A Long Twilight Struggle

Perry Aw
21 min readOct 29, 2022
A Ukrainian solider on the front lines, February 2022.

Just a few months ago, I wrote a rather long piece on the state of the war in Ukraine — its origins, objectives, ramifications, and some possible overarching policy responses. In clarifying the nature of the struggle on the ground and what it meant for world order, I hoped to illuminate our present circumstances and inspire a return to a constructive realism, a revival of sound strategic thinking in an anarchic, dangerous, and dark new world

Since then, much has changed, both on the ground, and in the political scene. This is an attempt to update some of that analysis to the present — to shine some new light on developments in the war, and to make some policy proposals for the coming months and perhaps years. Chances are, I’ll likely produce a follow-up to this in the near future, perhaps another few months down the road — and the strength and quality of my analysis will be judged, in hindsight, by how much my predictions for the future have come true.

For never in our lifetimes have we been witness to such a crisis — the greatest foreign policy challenge of our time, unfolding before our very eyes. And it is our task to preserve and defend world order, at a time when it seems to be rapidly unravelling— a task, without which no other objectives, domestic, political, or otherwise, can be fulfilled, and to which we must dedicate ourselves, if we are to avoid another repeat of the nightmare of 1939–45.

Part I: The Story So Far

Putin announcing the partial mobilization on September 21st, 2022.

Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin has had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year. Astronomically bad. So bad that it has completely shredded Putin’s reputation as a master strategist and a canny player on the global chessboard.

As former Russian foreign minister Andrei Kozyrev recently put it, Putin made two fundamental miscalculations in invading Ukraine:

  1. Ukraine could be defeated in two or three days
  2. The West would not (substantially) aid Ukraine

Both assumptions were radically and disastrously incorrect. As for the first, Putin seems to have expected that the ‘Special Military Operation’ would be just as it sounds — a quick sweep into Kyiv to install a new pro-Russian regime headed by ex-president Viktor Yanukovych, meeting a welcome with open arms by its grateful people.

The problem is that not only did the Ukrainians resist, but that for the Ukrainian people, this is a total war — the sort of war of national annihilation that we thought relegated to the past. Accordingly, since February, the entire country, not just the government, has mobilized the sum total of its resources towards fighting off Russia’s invasion.

As for the West, as soon as they realized that a) Kyiv was not falling, and b) the Ukrainians had the will to resist (in spades!), it became clear that funnelling arms and aid to Ukraine was the right course of action. Unlike last year’s disaster in Afghanistan, the Ukrainians had both the will to resist and a realistic chance to push back the Russian onslaught; military and economic aid would not disappear into a black hole, but would actually be useful in fighting off Russia.

And so began a massive inflow of aid to Ukraine: since January 24th, more than €90bn has been send to Ukraine, of which more than €30bn has been military in nature. Compare that to the Russian defence budget (although it may not seem like it now, Russia is supposedly a great power — with the global and regional responsibilities, commitments, and presence that implies) of $66bn in 2021 — that is a lot of weapons sent to Ukraine.

Which bring us to the most important feature of the current war in Ukraine — this is no longer a war of Ukraine against Russia, but rather, of Russia vs the West. The way in which Russia sees the West and vice versa has been fundamentally shifted. Russia was once seen by the West as a malign global actor, but one that could be reasoned with, while Russia saw the West as a serious rival, but one riven by internal conflicts (see the Salvini Scandal and Le Pen the Second [Hey, that rhymes!]) that could potentially see at least some parts of the West turn into a future partner. Now, the rhetoric on both sides is apocalyptic and monolithic in tone. Russian state TV talks of “NATO vs Russia” and the return of a new Cold War, while in the West, we are justly horrified at Russia’s indiscriminate bombing of civilians, use of torture, mass executions, and myriad other war crimes — and we are (mostly) resolved to stand up to it.

The problem, however, for Russia, is that this is not a contest of equals — and this war has exposed just how unequal it really is. We already knew before the war that Russia’s GDP is 3% of the world economy, while the US and EU combined make for around 40%, and that their defence budget is a tiny fraction of the $1.17tn combined NATO defence budget. But what we didn’t know is how ghastly the once-vaunted Russian military really is — riven by corruption, incompetence, poor morale, little or no training, and supply shortages of every type.

That’s why despite the many billions of dollars sent to Ukraine, the effort required to keep the Ukrainian military going is tiny relative to the resources and capabilities of the West — the $60bn that the US has committed to Ukraine amounts to just 0.2% of its GDP. And in the hands of the very capable and crafty Ukrainians, that 0.2% goes a very long way.

In the last two months, Ukraine has retaken almost all of Kharkiv Oblast in a lightning offensive, and is on the verge of cutting off 40,000 Russian troops in their offensive on the west bank of the Dnipro River in Kherson Oblast. The Pentagon estimates that at least 80,000 Russian troops have become casualties in Ukraine, with 20,000 of them killed in action. Russia has lost nearly a thousand tanks, out of an estimated pre-war battle-ready stock of 2,000; the flagship of the Black Sea Fleet, the Moskva was sunk in April; at least ten Russian generals have been killed in Ukraine.

In the face of stunning battlefield reversals, an unravelling domestic productive base (due to Western sanctions cutting off critical elements of Russia’s supply chains), and mounting criticism of the military situation back home, Putin decided to throw more men at the problem. This leads us to a third miscalculation Kozyrev identified: Putin’s disastrous decision to implement a ‘partial mobilization’ of 300,000 military-age males. Met by a storm of protest and popular opposition so strong Putin had to acknowledge on state TV that “mistakes” were made, the draft truly brought home the war’s impact on ordinary Russians. (In the end only 220,000 were actually taken, in another sign of the draft’s immense unpopularity.)

And as if that wasn’t bad enough, Russia has alienated a great many of its friends (and supposed friends). China has not been willing to risk US and EU sanctions just to tie itself to a sinking ship, and has stuck largely to buying Russian energy and resources as opposed to selling weapons or serving as an intermediary buyer for Russia’s sanctioned industries. India has condemned the killing of civilians in Bucha and voted against Russia’s refusal to allow Zelensky to speak (virtually) at the UN; when Prime Minister Modi met Putin in Kazakhstan this September, he pointedly mentioned that “today’s era is not the era of war” — a sharp rebuke if there ever was one. Russia’s ‘Near Abroad’ in Central Asia is horrified at the level of violence Putin has been willing to inflict on a fellow post-Soviet republic, and Russia’s near-total subsumption into the war in Ukraine has left it unable to serve as the region’s de facto policeman.

So, all in all, an absolutely terrible situation for Putin. The problem, however, is the question of how Putin is responding to this disaster of his own making. It’s to these efforts to salvage the Ukrainian fiasco that we now turn.

Part II: Your Move

A battered street in Kyiv after Russian strikes, October 10th, 2022.

The chief problem that the West faces stems fundamentally from the fact that Putin has only bad options on the table. If he withdraws from Ukraine and makes a peace deal, he looks weak and becomes a loser at home, an unacceptable proposition for an autocrat. If he doubles down, committing more forces to the field, he will only see more battlefield defeats, as the balance of the industrial war tilts further and further in favor of the West, defeats which can only erode his domestic position against all — hawks, doves, and the ordinary Russian.

Putin, however, is no fool. He is very keenly aware of this dynamic, and has been searching for an out since the summer, when it became apparent that Russia had not only failed in its initial bid to take Kyiv, but in its plan B strategy of slowly gaining territory in the east, as the front lines gradually stabilized.

What Putin has realized is that the only way he can exit this war without excessive humiliation (possibly resulting in his downfall) is if his military can win some battlefield success, sufficient to sell a “victory” to the Russian people, never mind the human, political, and economic cost. But in order to win some measure of victory, he must overcome the massive disparity in morale and matériel between Russia and Western-supplied Ukraine. He cannot sufficiently raise Russian morale, and he also cannot bridge the gap in matériel — Russia, once arms dealer to the world, has taken to buying equipment from North Korea. That’s how desperate they are.

However, what Putin can do is attempt to lower the morale and matériel of Ukraine and the West. This has been the driving force behind essentially everything he has done since Ukraine retook Kharkiv Oblast in September.

Putin’s strategy revolves around three fronts: nukes, energy, and infrastructure. Let’s go through them one by one.

i. I Dream of (a Nuclear) Genie

Putin has been threatening various types of nuclear action since the very start of the conflict. On February 21st, just three days before the start of the invasion, he stated that in response to NATO intervention in Ukraine, “Russia will respond immediately, and the consequences will be such as you have never seen in your entire history” — an implicit nuclear threat.

However, recently, as battlefield defeats have mounted, Western analysts have become increasingly alarmed to the possibility of a tactical nuclear weapon or a dirty bomb being detonated. Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu has gone around to various top international defence officials accusing Ukraine of preparing to deploy a dirty bomb, accusations repeated by Putin on October 26th.

The idea here is simple. If Putin can credibly threaten nuclear war, then Ukraine will surrender, and even if they keep on fighting, the West will not be willing to arm Ukraine if the cost is mutually assured destruction. Russia will be free to use its remaining military arsenal to run roughshod over Ukraine, which depends on Western military and economic assistance to stay afloat.

But are Putin’s threats credible? Could Putin really use a nuclear weapon? Almost certainly not. A tactical nuclear weapon, such as one airburst over Kyiv, would certainly cause widespread devastation, and potentially induce Ukraine to surrender. However, the cost to Russia would be massive. The international order post-1945 has implicitly hinged on the presumption of nuclear non-use. That’s because nuclear weapons are so devasting that if we set the precedence of their use, the gloves come off — every single nuclear power will interpret the nuclear standard of use differently, completely changing the structure of the international order, in ways that no one can know. Once you take the nuclear genie out of the bottle, you can’t put it back in.

That’s why if even a tactical (not a strategic) nuclear weapon is used, the cost will be massive. To defend the standard of nuclear non-use, NATO would likely prepare a non-nuclear response so devastating that it would completely destroy Russia’s enfeebled military and economic capabilities. One possibility has been suggested by former CIA director David Petraeus, who speculated that NATO might strike every identifiable Russian asset in Ukraine and the Black Sea, effectively ending the war in Ukraine’s favor. And as for Russia’s few remaining friends, China and India, both nuclear powers, will be aghast at the destruction of the international structure within which all operate— the Chinese in particular, since they crave stability and predictability. Putin will lose any and all support from them — permanently.

And as for a dirty bomb, the costs would vastly exceed the benefits. While the detonation of a dirty bomb would likely not meet such a strong NATO response, the international condemnation and associated response would still be immense. Furthermore, they would be militarily counterproductive. If Russia detonated a dirty bomb over some territory, they could never hope to capture and hold that territory again, as the lingering radiation would prevent any side from occupying that area.

All this leads us to the conclusion that Russia will almost certainly not use a nuclear weapon or a dirty bomb. Barring any radical misunderstanding of Putin’s rationality or state of mind, he stands to gain very little from their use, even within the confines of his mental framework. Indeed, as Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin reported on October 27th, the US intelligence community (which has been mostly right on all the major developments of the war so far) has no indication that Russia is planning to use a dirty bomb.

So why bother with these threats? Simply put, talk is free. If Putin can bluster his way into Washington believing that nuclear war is a significant likelihood, then he will have effectively won the war in Ukraine without having to sacrifice anything more. But since Putin is still rational, and definitely does not want to rule over a smouldering radioactive ruin of a country, his threats of all-out nuclear retaliation are not credible — credibility would require such a willingness. And given the likely costs to Russia stemming from the deployment of a tactical nuclear weapon or a dirty bomb, these threats aren’t credible either. But since talk is free, if there’s even the slightest chance that Putin can make the West believe that nuclear war is a possibility, then why not?

ii. Winter Is Coming

Nuclear winter might not be coming, but normal, ordinary, run-of-the-mill winter most certainly is. On December 5th, the EU is set to cut off all Russian oil imports, while maintaining some gas imports. However, the fear is that Russia will cut off gas flows, making for a cold and dark winter across Europe. The ripple effects of a gas cutoff would spread throughout global energy markets, and not just between regions — oil markets are tied to gas markets.

The idea here is that high energy prices will stoke popular discontent. If the choice is between Italians being able to afford heat or eat, it’s not entirely clear that Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s government will continue its support for Ukraine, given Putin pal Silvio Berlusconi’s presence in her coalition. And if high gasoline prices bring Republicans into office this winter, there is a real chance that they would put a dampener on aid to Ukraine. After all, for the frontline NATO states, Russia is is an existential threat; for the European NATO heavyweights (France, Germany, Italy, the UK) Russia is a strategic threat; for the US, merely a theatre-level one. If the flow of Western aid to Ukraine is significant reduced, the Russian army could potentially pull off a successful spring offensive, producing front lines that would see the war ended on reasonably acceptable terms to Putin.

Now, whether Putin’s efforts will succeed is an open question. European leaders have spent the entire summer frantically buying up oil and gas, resulting in nearly-full storage on the continent (94% across the EU). President Biden is said to be seriously considering large releases from the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve over the next few months to stabilize oil and gas prices should they spike. On the other hand, on October 5th, Saudi Arabia and OPEC announced cuts to oil production by two million barrels a day (though only one million will likely be cut), largely in response to the threat of global recession and consequent low oil prices— of which lockdown-wracked China is a significant unknown and risk factor. Russia could deploy its vaunted cyber capabilities as well, potentially taking European energy infrastructure down, causing blackouts and higher prices in the West. Whether oil and gas prices go up or down, therefore, is unknown.

But what is clear is that Putin (probably) only has one shot to do this. The longer the war drags on, producing ever more Russian war crimes and inflicting cruel devastation on civilians, the more the psychological conception of Russia as an essential partner in the European security infrastructure degrades. Countries that have thus far been willing to countenance a negotiated settlement reasonably acceptable to Russia (case in point: Germany) will no longer be able to do so once public sentiment sees Russia once again as the ‘Evil Empire’.

That means that politicians across the West must find ways to blunt the impact of the coming energy shock this winter and the next. And Western citizens must understand that whatever costs they have to pay now are nothing compared to the long-term benefits of stopping Russia’s aggression. After all, it’s not Italians or Germans that are doing the fighting and dying — not a single NATO life has been lost in Ukraine, yet the benefits of aiding Ukraine keep on piling up. I’d say that’s a pretty good return on investment.

iii. The Strength of Our Experience

In response to the bombing of the Kerch Bridge on October 8th, Russia has launched multiple waves of missiles and drones directed at civilian energy infrastructure across Ukraine. Aside from the fact that this could potentially constitute a war crime, Russia is largely applying the same logic to Ukraine as it has been to the West.

There are two parts to this: the raw death and destruction, and the destruction of Ukraine’s civilian energy infrastructure. Dozens were killed in the strikes, but the Ukrainian will to resist remains strong. In fact, the more indiscriminate strikes seem directed towards the Russian pro-war party, like Chechen leader Ramzan “I am 100% satisfied with the Special Military Operation” Kadyrov, who are always urging escalation.

However, the targeted destruction of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure is the more insidious threat. Up to 40% of Ukraine’s total electrical system and up to half of its entire generative capacity has been knocked out in the most recent wave of strikes. Ukrainian deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk has even called for Ukrainians living abroad to “stay abroad for the time being”, as Ukraine “needs to survive the winter” — “the situation will only get worse”.

The risk is that by targeting civilian infrastructure, be it electrical grids or water supplies, Russia will be able to demoralize ordinary Ukrainians and reduce their support for the war. Since Ukraine is at least something of a democracy, if pressure builds on Zelensky to relax Ukraine’s total war posture and seek peace with Russia, Russia will be in a better position to potentially see battlefield gains, allowing Putin to negotiate a reasonably acceptable peace deal, and with it, some semblance of victory.

Will it work? To some extent, we may already have evidence it’s working. While all parts of Ukraine have been hammered by the strikes, the east has been hardest hit. Accordingly, while national support for continued military action against Russia despite the strikes is at 86%, in the east, that figure plummets to 69%. Granted, the east has always been more pro-Russian, so this may be a case of a post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy, but it seems at least plausible that the Russian strategy may be working.

Whether it succeeds, however, depends on three factors. Firstly, how will Ukrainian resolve hold out against the bitterly cold winters of Eastern Europe? Secondly, how soon and how effectively can Ukraine restore its infrastructure after every strike? And finally, what percentage of future strikes can Ukraine intercept and destroy? Something like 70% of recent strikes have been intercepted by Ukraine, but that remaining 30% is still a lot, given that according to Zelensky, more than 4,500 missiles have been fired at Ukraine since February. This interception rate not only depends on the tactical ingenuity of the Ukrainians, but also whether top-grade NATO air defence systems, like the US NASAMS or German IRIS-T, can reach Ukraine soon enough to staunch the bleeding.

Only Ukraine can act to preserve and maintain its infrastructure, but NATO military aid can greatly help in sustaining the war effort. The sooner these air-defence systems can be transferred, the better, both to prevent civilian death and suffering, and to further the strategic objectives at play here in the war against Russia. For because of the strength of their experience in this terrible war, the Ukrainian people still intend to carry on the fight, uncowed by the prospect of death and destruction, willing to overcome fear, fatigue, and sorrow, until every single inch of Ukrainian territory is liberated. It is our task to help Ukraine preserve that will to resist, as both the fates of Ukraine and global order are inextricably tied to it.

Part III: Endgame

Ukrainian artillery in action in Kharkiv Oblast, August 2022.

So much agony, bloodshed, and suffering. Yet the war drags on, now into its eight month. How does this end? What will the world look like after it’s all finished?

Much of it, as discussed, depends on whether Western and Ukrainian resolve can hold up — on whether the air defence systems reach Ukraine in time, on whether Meloni maintains her pro-Ukraine stance, on whether the Republicans take the House, and how large their majority is.

Nonetheless, the strategic elements of the confrontation seem tilted towards the West. The West has a reasonably strong consensus in favor of aiding Ukraine, and has the resources — the military and economic might — to make good on that resolve. And the more Russia continues its war of aggression in Ukraine, the more war crimes it commits, the more civilians it kills, the more the West will come to see Ukraine as a noble cause, not just the moral equivalent of Russia.

But if, and I reiterate, if, Russia’s near-term strategy based around weakening Ukrainian and Western resolve fails, which seems at least reasonably likely, then what next?

Numerous observers have commented on the possibility that the war will, in effect, be won or lost within Russia itself. With the immense popular discontent stoked by the partial mobilization and the increasingly severe battlefield defeats, the sharks are circling around Putin. Players like Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the paramilitary Wagner Group, and Ramzon Kadyrov, leader of the Chechen region, have been making very public bids for position, while FSB chief Alexander Bortnikov and Viktor Zolotov, head of the National Guard, have been rather conspicuously silent.

Putin cannot withdraw from the war he himself started and poured so much blood and treasure into, in terms of justifying himself to the public. If a popular revolt or a palace coup removes him, whoever succeeds him might be politically able to disentangle Russia from the war, the thinking goes. Observers such as former Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasnayov have speculated that within the next three or four months, Putin could find his support slipping amongst the siloviki (literally “people of force” — strongmen), as the number of discontents amongst the selectorate reaches critical mass.

But upon analysis, this is pure wishful thinking. Putin has kept his throne for more than two decades by being a master at playing off various factions against each others; there’s no reason to think that he can’t hold off the various warring parties aiming to replace him with the same divide-and-conquer tactics. And even if he were to be replaced, who would take the throne? The hawks seem to represent the most serious threat to Putin, given that they seem to be given the most leeway on state media and online, and Kremlin policy appears to follow their demands. (See Putin’s response to the Kerch Bridge bombing.) If someone like Yevgeny Prigozhin or former Prime Minister Dimitri Medvedev, a former pro-Western moderate now turned rabid hawk, were to take the top spot, we cannot expect an end to the war, but instead its escalation, Russia’s continued strategic predicament notwithstanding.

But if a moderate or even someone like pro-democracy campaigner Alexei Nalvany were to come to power, there is no guarantee that he can seek an end to the war, even if he wanted to. The state apparatus will endure, and the ‘organs’ of state security are filled to the brim with hawks; whoever runs the KGB runs Russia. Whoever comes to the throne next will face much the same pressures as any hawk — just like Kerensky in 1917.

More insidiously, the mode of confrontation and the violent reality of war has fundamentally polarized East and West. Even if Putin’s successor is able to control the war party, the fact is that the Russian conception of the West may have already become too antagonistic for ordinary Russians to accept a humiliating peace a la Brest-Litovsk in 1918, barring any major structural changes (i.e. revolution).

Regardless of whether Putin stays or goes, the Russian state appears committed towards continual conflict in Ukraine and continued confrontation with the West. The shape, however, of that ultimate conflict is yet to be determined.

A hostile Russia will turn to China as a natural partner in maintaining its grasp on the ‘Near Abroad’, propping up its economy, and elsewhere. Yet while China is what the US describes as a ‘near-peer competitor’, Russia is a power in decline. If Russia cannot be pried from China’s grasp, then it must be weakened to a degree to which it cannot serve as anything but a weak Chinese vassal state.

If all bridges have been burnt, the only remaining move is to batter the other side into strategic impotence. And here we must recognize the brilliant opportunity afforded by the war — instead of trying to degrade Russia through something as disastrous as a direct confrontation between NATO and Russia, Ukraine is doing the fighting and dying for us. Ukrainians have faced bombardment, death, and destruction every single day since the beginning of the war. Many thousands of Ukrainian troops have died on the battlefield, and tens of thousands more wounded. (The Ukrainians keep their battlefield losses a closely guarded secret.) The cost to the West, in comparison, is astronomically low — no ordinary citizen in the West has to do anything more than put up with higher energy bills for a few months, in return for massive strategic gains.

Some will undoubtedly point to the cost of sustaining Ukraine’s struggle against Russia. For a bit of perspective, it’s instructive to compare the US involvement in Afghanistan. The Afghan/Pakistani war zone is estimated to have cost $2.3 trillion, 21,000 wounded in action, and over 2,500 dead over twenty years of US involvement. So far, over eight months of war, Washington has only spent $60bn, with zero American combat deaths, in return for the destruction of Russia’s military, technological, and economic capabilities for at least a decade. That’s some return on investment.

In retrospect, then, US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin’s statement on April 25th that “we want to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine” seems a great deal more prescient than it seemed at the time. Back in the summer, when Russia was advancing slowly but steadily in Donbas and Luhansk, before a stalemate set in, I wrote that there was still some possibility that Putin might call it a day with what he had already captured, in exchange for a strategic rapprochement of sorts that would keep Russia at least arm’s length from China. That possibility has been mooted by his unwillingness at that time to accept anything less than the whole of Ukraine, an unacceptable outcome to the West that has seen, in response, the decision to support and arm Ukraine with the latest American and European weapons systems, such as the vaunted HIMARS rocket launcher. In doing so, the West has passed Ukraine the strategic initiative, in that it is able to conduct successful offensive operations to retake territory — which, in effect, makes a graceful exit for Russia impossible.

So what, then, does an endgame look like? The only outcome consistent with the objective of weakening Russia, the Ukrainian will to resist, Russia’s antagonism, and Western strategic superiority is to push back Russia’s forces towards pre-war lines. What exactly that entails is unknown — Ukrainian public opinion favors reclaiming the Crimea, but that may very possibly lead to nuclear retaliation from Russia since it does indeed regard Crimea as an integral part of Russia (unlike its claims to do so in the four regions “annexed” on September 30th). However, at least a return to February 2022 lines is in the cards — the Ukrainians have the will and the West has the resources to do that.

That push towards February 2022 lines at the least will be a long and difficult struggle, likely punctuated by Russian counteroffensive efforts — one is expected in the late spring, when the fighting season opens again after the winter muds. In the process, both Ukraine and Russia will take on significant losses. The difference, however, is that Ukraine has the will to fight and the manpower and means to replenish losses of men and matériel; Russia does not have either, and will be left severely degraded in its military capabilities.

And when front lines stabilize there eventually, Western support will still be necessary to fend off a looming Russia. There may never be peace, at least not until the mode of confrontation between Russia and the West calms down through the transformation of the active ‘hot war’ for a frozen conflict a la Donbas and Luhansk from 2014–22— which may take decades.

What we in the West must do now is steel ourselves for what John F. Kennedy once called a “long twilight struggle”:

Now the trumpet summons us again — not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need — not as a call to battle, though embattled we are — but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out.

US President John F. Kennedy — “Inaugural Address”, January 20th, 1961

In the dark and dangerous new world we live in, a world of great power competition, technological revolution, climate transformation, and social evolution, we must steel ourselves for such a long twilight struggle against strategic rivals. Especially in cases such as this, where the costs are so modest relative to our means, we must not shy away from this new world we find ourselves in, where sacrifices must be made to ensure the freedom of nations around the globe. I close with another quote from Kennedy’s inaugural address, as eloquent as it was on that wintry day in 1961:

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty.

US President John F. Kennedy — “Inaugural Address”, January 20th, 1961



Perry Aw

Guitarist, cinephile, foreign policy nerd, and sometime intellectual. Join me on a journey through ideas, music, and film as I read PPE at Oxford University.