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Ukraine, The Boxer?

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP

I want to believe that Ukrainians in time will push the Russians out of their country. We have a prime example of a nation that did just that back in the 1980s, Afghanistan. I see Ukraine being able to do the same.


But, fighting in this manner, going "toe to toe" with Russia, may not be the best approach. A guerrilla-war approach - "hit but do not get hit" - worked for Afghanistan after nearly ten years of Soviet occupation.

The failure of having accurate information and vital statistics about the amount of financial aid and military support Ukraine is getting from NATO countries, as well as support from countries outside the alliance, would allow us to evaluate the true state of this war. It is concerning that we are lacking this basic information. The piling of billions of additional U.S. dollars not only to defend Ukraine but escalate the battle, also warrants a serious review.

I never bought Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's argument that if you do not stop Russia in Ukraine, Russia will continue to invade other parts of Europe. That was former President Lyndon Johnson's argument about Vietnam when he claimed that Communist China would continue to subdue the rest of the region - the so-called "Domino" theory. For years, it was a motivating factor in the West's continued involvement, but it proved inaccurate for a war we would eventually lose.

It makes me think of boxers. Granted, it is an unfair comparison. Boxing is a game. The boxing matches Muhammad Ali engaged in throughout his career were truly classics, especially his bouts against titans Joe Frazier and George Foreman.


Ali, in his early days, was not a traditional fighter. He often did not try to slug it out or go toe-to-toe with an opponent. Instead, he would use a "hit and don't get hit" strategy so he could protect his "pretty face" (as he described it - for those who remember).

After his absence from the ring due to his protest of the Vietnam War, he changed his strategy. He could not just dance around the ring, poking and jabbing, in hope of racking up many knockouts. He had to go more toe-to-toe with his opponents, not his strength. For the most part, he was still great, but maybe no longer the greatest.

Ali's most memorable fight featured his "rope-a-dope" tactic against George Foreman in 1974. Here Ali shocked everyone, even his head trainer. He let the most imposing boxer of his time - George Foreman - hit him relentlessly, one bomb after another (Ali was careful to protect his face from punches).

Everyone in Ali's corner implored him to move around the ring like the old Ali. They encouraged him to fight back. But he would not. He merely covered his body with his arms as best he could.

Ultimately, it was a winning strategy. Foreman, after pounding Ali with everything he had, lost steam. In the latter rounds, as if someone hit the reset button, Ali came out swinging. Poor Foreman was exhausted and bewildered. Ali soon connected with some devastating blows of his own. The fight was over. Ali prevailed.


Back to Russia and Ukraine. Are the Russians getting discouraged or displeased with their leader, President Vladimir Putin, due to their army's struggles in Ukraine? They have not been able to defeat Ukraine despite the unmerciful pounding they are giving the country.

Will Russia eventually run out of munitions? How high of a price must the Ukrainians pay? It is already astronomically high. Millions of Ukrainians have fled the country and millions more are being asked to do the same before the weather becomes another adversary.

By continuing on this path, Ukraine could be doing more harm to its people than good. Once the power grids and utilities are damaged, destroyed, or rendered not dependable, the country should alter its strategy.

In boxing, there are times when the fighter's trainer does the unthinkable - he throws in the towel for his boxer. This is the most distasteful act possible to the fighter who believes he is doing fine. Yet the trainer, mindful of the boxer's future, stops the match before the opponent lands more blows. He stops the relentless pounding to the fighter's heart and soul, not because he no longer cares for him, but because he "does care" for him. The trainer wants the fighter to come back and fight another day and in another way.


It is discouraging to see the U.S. fail to negotiate for the release of two Americans wrongfully detained in Russia. Sanctions against Russia do not appear to have worked.

We may need a third-party negotiator to intervene and usher in a change of direction, hopefully toward the end of this war.

No, this is not because we no longer care for the people of Ukraine. On the contrary, it is because we care deeply for the people of Ukraine.

Gary Franks served three terms as U.S. representative for Connecticut's 5th District. He was the first Black Republican elected to the House in nearly 60 years and New England's first Black member of the House. Host: podcast "We Speak Frankly." Author: "With God, For God, and Country." @GaryFranks

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