Tom Jensen is the editor in chief of Berlingske Tidende. He uses a column on its editorial pages as his “center-right” (borgerlig) newsletter. I’ve covered some of his previous “newsletters” in the past.
Have you almost forgotten about the war in Ukraine? Be careful with that
Tom Jensen, Berlingske.dk, April 27
The upshot of this one is his belief that Russia must be defeated within 20 months.
We’ll get into the reasoning behind his timetable in a minute, but first we have to answer the question: how does he define defeat?
He clearly thinks it’s of existential importance to Denmark and the west that Russia be defeated, but what does that mean?
It’s not just Tom Jensen: concrete definitions of our war aims are hard to come by from anyone. Some of that is natural: any peace is going to have to be negotiated, and no one wants to paint themselves into a corner before negotiations have even begun, and certainly not while they’re underway.
Another contributor to the lack of an explicit war aim for the west is the public’s inconsistent support for the war. The Wikipedia page dedicated to peace negotiations has some interesting polling data:
In the poll conducted by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS) between 13 and 18 May 2022, 82% of Ukrainians said they did not support any territorial concessions to Russia, even if that meant prolonging the war. Another KIIS poll conducted in September 2022 found that 87% of Ukrainians opposed any territorial concessions to Russia. A Gallup poll conducted in Ukraine in early September 2022 showed that 70% of Ukrainians want to continue the war with Russia until they achieve victory, while only 26% favor negotiations to end the war as soon as possible.
According to a survey conducted by the Levada Center at the end of October 2022, 57% of Russian respondents favored the start of peace talks with Ukraine, and 36% preferred the continuation of hostilities.
A poll of Germans conducted by the Forsa and published in January 2023 found that over 80% believe it is more important to end the war through negotiations than for Ukraine to win, with only 18% disagreeing. A YouGov poll showed that in February 2023, 63% of respondents in Sweden wanted to support Ukraine in a war with Russia until Russian troops leave all occupied territories, even if it means prolonging the war. In Denmark, the corresponding figures were 56%; in Britain 53%, in the United States 46%, in Spain 44%; Germany 40%, France 37% and Italy 29%.
Those numbers don’t bode well for Ukraine.
The Ukrainians are overwhelming in support of fighting for as long as it takes to get Russia out of their country, and they appear to have the Brits, Swedes, and (god help me) Danes on their side. Majorities in the U.S., Spain, Germany, France, and Italy, however, appear to favor a negotiated settlement, at least if it will shorten the war.
That’s what has Tom Jensen worried. He’s apparently one of the Danes who thinks the complete repulsion of Russia from Ukraine is worth prolonging the war, and he’s afraid that shifting political winds in America could put that out of reach. (I should note that “the great one” Mark Levin, one of America’s most reliably rock-ribbed conservatives, shares this belief.)
He says that the war could still “turn our lives upside down” in ways we haven’t even imagined yet, and reminds his readers of reporting this week about the Russian spy ships snooping suspiciously around the waters around Denmark to drive that point home.
Then we move into this:
…I am personally more and more apprehensive about the situation as the months go by. For one reason in particular. Because the brutal reality is that the west, together with Ukraine, may have less than two years to act before our own reality in the west is changed fundamentally. And that includes the war.
The big news from the US this week was that the most popular American news anchor, Tucker Carlson, is leaving Fox News.
I can’t blame Jensen for saying that was the week’s “big news,” because it’s sort of true, but that just shows how sad and stupid the news business has become.
Tucker Carlson has been a controversial figure in many ways. Both in relation to the case brought by Dominion Voting Systems, which last week ended in a 5.4 billion kroner expensive settlement for Fox, which had allowed hosts and guests to spread the lie about fraud with voting machines in the 2020 presidential election. One of the central figures here was Tucker Carlson.
Tucker Carlson’s only involvement in the Dominion case was as a witness. He was one of the few major on-air personalities at Fox who had not run amok with Sindey Powell’s crazy talk about releasing the Kraken. But we know Jensen gets his American news from sources deeply entrenched on the political left (including his own paper’s ace U.S. correspondents and foreign desk staffers), so he had no way of knowing that.
But he has also been a voice on another front: the Ukraine front. Tucker Carlson has long sounded like he was reading Russian spin manuals when talking about the war. Just look here in a program from last March…
He then embeds this 23-minute video of Carlson from March 2022:
Watch the whole thing and see if you can spot the “Russian spin.” I can’t. The American left decided that anyone even questioning the level of American military or economic support for Ukraine should be smeared as a Putin stooge, however, and Jensen is as usual just going along with the partisan line.
I never agreed with the Carlson’s assessment that America had no strategic interest in keeping Russia out of Ukraine, and I’ve expressed that disagreement on this blog repeatedly. On the other hand, he was always one of the view public voices pushing for answers to important questions about the war—questions that too many American (and other western) leaders and “intellectuals” didn’t seem interested in contemplating, much less answering. He asks most of those questions in that video. He also makes it very clear in that video that he thinks Vladimir Putin is evil and that the invasion of Ukraine was terrible.
Straight out of the Russian spin manuals, says Tom Jensen.
The same applies to the increasingly leading Republican presidential candidate, former President Donald Trump.
If Trump becomes US president again, he has vowed to end the war within one day. This can only be done by giving in to significant Russian demands.
Right or wrong, good or bad, there’s a significant bloc of Americans who don’t agree with the strategy of “whatever it takes and as long as it takes” to completely dislodge Russia from Ukraine. They believe that peace might be worth some concessions to Russia.
Tom Jensen believes not making concessions to Russia is worth a protracted war.
They’re both perfectly legitimate points of view, but that’s all they are: points of view. No one I’m aware of is advocating western support for Russia: we’re just having a conversation about how far we’re willing to go on behalf of Ukraine.
That is why we do well not to forget that war. We could quickly end up in a situation where the will in the west to support Ukraine wanes.
That’s what he’s really worried about: waning support for the war. Which, from everything else he’s saying, amounts to “waning support for the total expulsion of Russia from all Ukrainian territory.”
It therefore means “increasing support for a negotiated peace.”
The decisive date here is the presidential election in the USA on November 5, 2024. After that, everything’s up in the air, and thus also our own security here in Denmark.
The Russians must therefore be de facto defeated within the next 20 months. Ukraine is busy. So are we.
Here’s his logic:
If Russia is not completely driven out of Ukraine, our security in Denmark is jeopardized.
If the American will to keep fighting slackens or ends, it is unlikely Ukraine will be able to drive Russia off their soil.
If Donald Trump (or any other candidate who shares his views on the war) is elected in 2024, the American effort will effectively end and the western cause will be lost.
Therefore Denmark has to keep the war top of mind and work diligently to… what?
Keep America in the war?
Prevent the election of Donald Trump?
This is the editor in chief of a major Danish daily. He’s surely aware that just a few weeks ago a story broke on TV2 News in which the second in command of the Danish army said on the record that the Danish military is incapable of defending Denmark. It was also stated in plain language that the Danish army can’t even muster the kind of minimal forward fighting force required by its NATO obligations. And he’s incensed that Danes and Americans might prefer a negotiated to peace to a protacted war.
I certainly agree that Vladimir Putin and Russia need to be punished for their aggression. And I agree we should all support Ukraine. But if twenty years of war weren’t enough to drive the Taliban out of Afghanistan, what makes us think any amount of war is going to be enough to drive Russia out of eastern Ukraine?
We lost this war the minute the first Russian troops stepped into Ukraine. Our war was the prevention of that invasion, and we lost it because we didn’t want to “provoke” Russia. We were too civilizationally stupid to realize that to a tyrant like Putin (or Xi) weakness is the greatest provocation of all.
Reversing our catastrophic loss is not going to be possible without economic and military sacrifices that a culture of spoiled and easily offended dilettantes is not going to support. Our entire establishment has spent most of the last twenty years (or longer) attempting to persuade us that our civilization isn’t worth defending. What did they expect?
“You fight with the army you have” has been a tautology for thousands of years.
Look around you, Tom Jensen, and ask yourself how hard you’re prepared to fight with the army Denmark has:
This is an emergency call. The situation is extremely critical, especially because we lack soldiers like never before. I have been in the Armed Forces for 40 years, and it has never looked so bad.
(In the event of war) we will go to war with what we have. It’s how we were brought up. But it is not certain that it will be pretty. I am deeply concerned about our professionalism in the Army. It is really under pressure.
Like most of western Europe, Denmark has ignored its military obligations for decades. I admire the Danish military’s willingness to serve—despite its challenges, Denmark punches well above its weight in terms of defending western interests, and that has to be acknowledged—but Denmark is in no position to demand that America do its dirty work.
Nor is it in any position to advocate a war aim as total as that being called for by Jensen—total defeat of Russia within 20 months or bust!—when it’s unwilling even to meet NATO’s minimum requirements for the military preparedness (and financial commitment) of its members.
This is worse than jingoism: it’s faux jingosim meant to plaster over the total neglect of our military preparedness and our lack of civilizational pride.
“We weren’t ready for this war and couldn’t prevent it, but by god we’ve got to win it! And anyone who disagrees is a Putin lackey!“
Okay. Duly noted. We’ll get right on it.
Now tell us what we can do to prevent the Chinese invasion of Taiwan so you don’t have to recycle this newsletter in 2024…
Featured image: ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES, cropped and color washed by the author.