Discord Leaks Are a Foreign Policy Wakeup Call

Discord Leaks Are a Foreign Policy Wakeup Call

The United States foreign policy establishment is not merely supporting an ally. We are prolonging an unsustainable war and risking global security.


As we’ve learned from recent leaks of top secret documents on Discord, the United States is engaged in a direct conflict with Russia. It’s neither akin to covert Russian intervention in Vietnam, nor even the major U.S. role in the Soviet-Afghan War. We already knew American dollars were buying American weapons to kill Russian troops, aided by American intelligence and targeting.

What it now appears—assuming the leaks are genuine—is that American boots are on the ground, too. The media has misrepresented the state of the conflict, covering it as a traditional proxy war, but the reality is patently unsustainable.


For most Americans, foreign policy is not a top priority, especially when almost every aspect of American life has gotten harder in the past few years. Inflation is still issue number one, and its issue number two as well. But something unsettling has occurred amidst that inattention and the free hand we’ve given to Washington’s foreign policy establishment: Europe now faces its first massive land war in seventy years, and our leaders seem content to let it drag on indefinitely, underestimating the risk that a prolonged and direct conflict with a major world power could metastasize into a global catastrophe.

When I ran for Congress last year, I heard very directly from the citizenry of western Pennsylvania a deep concern that we had slipped back into a different era, one in which cataclysmic outcomes were again possible. Voters understood that without America coming to Ukraine’s aid, Russian president Vladimir Putin would conclude that he can take what he wants. But concerns about support for Ukraine were just as nuanced: are we acting in America’s interest, or expending our energy on a conflict that is not our fight? Especially given the crises we face here at home—the economy, the border, and many more. Whose sovereignty matters most?

There remains a gap, dangerous and growing, between the commitments American elites have made and what the average American will support. That gap is our largest strategic weakness, one unaddressed by virtually everyone in the political sphere. With no prospects for a clear victory by either side in Ukraine, and these new revelations that show how our foreign policy is prolonging this attritional war, America must turn its efforts to peacemaking.

We can start by speaking plainly: our own intel suggests that Ukraine’s spring offensive is unlikely to change the tide. The diplomat ideologues and civilian think tankers who brought us to this moment have no plan for a decisive battlefield victory, nor even a sufficient advantage to convince Russia to sue for peace. This is an underappreciated risk: intervention so heavy and so direct near guarantees escalation or dangerous spillover. We are running out of time before this officially becomes a greater, messier international conflict. America cannot rely on Ukrainian or Russian leadership. We must determine the sufficient price for peace and then, quite frankly, as the senior party and chief financial partner to the conflict, impose those terms on all parties.

First, we need to stop dealing in the arbitrary posture that every new development in this conflict is the final front in stopping Putin’s territorial ambitions. Putin began his imperial project in Georgia in 2008 and continued it with little pushback in Crimea in 2014. Over the course of that time, he assumed de facto sovereignty over approximately 2.5 million people, and that can’t be ignored. But resisting Putin’s expansionism must be viewed strategically, not just tactically. The risk we take by hurling American lives and equipment into this conflict until the Ukrainians have what we judge is a sufficient advantage is that this regional conflict boils over into a global one.

Washington’s foreign policy establishment argues for no compromise, no negotiation with Putin. It believes we can work the subtle line between sapping Russian capabilities and preventing escalation. For example, it advocates for limiting Ukrainian strikes in Russia. But by prolonging the conflict and increasing Ukrainians’ and Russian desperation, we guarantee it won’t stay contained. The incentives and impact of an attritional war won’t align so cleanly.

Who will end this war if not us? Russians and Ukrainians just celebrated Orthodox Easter, and for the second year in a row, Pope Francis called for a two-week Easter truce. But there was no truce and there will be no truce. The two countries are engaged in more than a war: they are engaged in a crusade. But even crusades require resources, allies, and hope of victory. The longer we provide these to Ukraine carte blanche, the longer each side will remain convinced it needs to wait for more favorable terms before pursuing peace.

Every week there is more news and opinion about one side or the other’s battlefield advantage. These breathless reports aren’t changing the broader picture. The longer this war drags on, the likelier that leaders in Russia and Ukraine will see strikes outside the immediate battlefield or other destabilizing, asymmetric actions—as desirable and reasonable. And in the fuzzy logic of wars of attrition, they will be.

Right now, the United States foreign policy establishment is not merely supporting an ally. We are prolonging an unsustainable war and risking global security. The free people of Ukraine deserve support, but unless we are committed to running two Defense Departments—American and Ukrainian—then we need to find a solution, and soon. As the Discord leaks showed, we’re committing resources and manpower to prolong a conflict that is only uncovering additional layers of mobilization and escalation, while decimating the lives of the average Ukrainian, as hearty and committed as many are. Instead of being accomplices to this destructive deadlock, we should provide the means of ending it: forcing the parties to negotiate a structured peace, not just for their interests, but for ours.

Jason Killmeyer is a political commentator and national security expert who focuses on defense policy and emerging technologies.

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