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Is this Ukraine’s last chance for peace? There may be an opening for the war's end

Will he be putting his gun away soon? Photo by SERGEY BOBOK/AFP via Getty Images.


March 9, 2022   7 mins

Nearly two weeks into the invasion of Ukraine, observing from a distance, it still feels as if there are two different wars, which barely overlap, taking place.

The first is the war on social media: in this war, a combination of genuine and impressive Ukrainian tactical successes and inspiring but self-evidently dubious propaganda stories meld into a narrative of a shambolic Russian army falling apart after failing to seize Kyiv on the first day of war and sinking into a quagmire it cannot win. Boosted by social media influencers, some online veterans of earlier narrative wars, this is clearly the dominant framework, a heroic David and Goliath story emotionally resonant to external well-wishers.

And then there’s the second war, the one on the ground. Every day, new maps are released by professional and amateur military analysts which make grim reading for Ukraine’s supporters. In the south and in the east, a great pincer is slowly grinding forward to surround the bulk of Ukraine’s troops deployed along the line of contact against separatist (that is, pro-Russian Ukrainian) forces. If these Ukrainian troops do not withdraw soon, and form a new defensive line further to the northwest, they will be encircled, starved of supplies and rendered ineffective. In smaller pockets, like the defenders of Mariupol, they will simply be destroyed by artillery. 

In the northeast, Russian troops have bypassed the near-besieged city of Kharkiv, nearly encircled the strategic city of Chernihiv, and are moving in force on Kyiv’s eastern suburbs. Around a week ago, the first reconnaissance units were seen outside the satellite town of Brovary. Now they have been reinforced with armoured battalion tactical groups (BTGs) and artillery units, which have begun shelling the area around Kyiv’s Boryspil international airport, presumably to soften it up before continuing to tighten their noose around the city.

Both the optimistic and pessimistic interpretations — viewed from a Ukrainian standpoint — are correct, just as both reveal only partial truths. The brave and dogged Ukrainian resistance has definitely caused the Russians greater losses than they were expecting, at a scale unimaginable to far smaller Western European armies, and has surely slowed their advance. The Russians have pursued often mystifying courses of action, barely using their overwhelming air force, and indeed deploying assets they are known to possess like guided munitions and armed drones at a scale far below that seen in the distinctly less existential Syria conflict. 

If the evidence of destroyed and abandoned tanks shown online is any guide, they have preferred to use their older armour rather than their first-line T-90 tanks as the bedrock of their attacking force, perhaps because they are reserving their most modern equipment for a potential military escalation with Nato. On a human level, Russian troops have displayed poor tactical awareness, allowing their convoys to be ambushed by highly-motivated Ukrainian regular and irregular forces, and poor morale, surrendering en masse or simply abandoning their vehicles to capture and destruction and themselves to international derision. 

And yet, every evening the map updates are published, and the Russians are still moving forward and pressing dangerously closer to their objectives. It is undeniable that they are taking heavy punishment, and may not be able to sustain this tempo of movement or of losses for many weeks longer; but, then, it seems possible that this phase of the war will be over by then. We should also remember that a Ukrainian-dominated media campaign does not provide a clear sense of the condition of the Ukrainian army after two weeks of war: it too has been taking heavy losses, and its losses are significantly harder to replace. So while it is of course foolish to pronounce with any great certainty about the outcome of a war that is still less than two weeks old, there are perhaps tentative reasons to think that a negotiated settlement may be closer than it looks from outside.

If the interpretation is correct that Putin expected his Russian troops to be welcomed by Ukrainian civilians, or at least tacitly acquiesced to, then he has been dramatically shown otherwise. The scale of Ukrainian resistance has been revelatory, perhaps to Ukrainians as much as to Putin, uniting even previously opposed factions in what is little short of a Ukrainian war of independence. A new legend, one of the type essential in the formation and consolidation of any new nation state, has been born, and has won the Ukrainians the admiration of much of the world. Ukrainian regular troops and newly-enlisted Territorial Defence units have fought doggedly and courageously to blunt the Russian advance. Similarly, Ukrainian civilians (perhaps sensing that the Russian military police occupying them will not clamp down too hard on them at this stage), have begun a growing campaign of public protests against Russian occupation. 

Watching all this, Putin must surely sense that even if a narrow military victory is visibly in grasp, the result will only be a political defeat. Ukraine will not happily re-enter the Russian World of his dreams in these circumstances. Even previously sympathetic or ambivalent Russian-speakers in cities like Kharkiv have been lost to Putin by their horrific experience of bombardment.

Instead, the invasion has deepened the common sense of Ukrainian nationhood, as well as deepening its emotional and political enmeshment with the rest of Europe. It is difficult to imagine that, even if they should seize the capital and decapitate the government, the Russians will find occupation an easy or bloodless task. Indeed, the opposite may be true: it is likely the case that the Russians will need to employ the moral and political capital Zelensky has acquired over the course of the conflict in selling a deal to his domestic audience. 

If we assume that it is preferable for both sides to avoid the destruction of Kyiv, and the death of thousands on each side during its storming that an assault would entail, then the moment Kyiv is encircled would be a logical moment of pause lending itself to a ceasefire (another such circumstance might be the encircling of tens of thousands of Ukraine’s best troops in the East, but the isolation of Kyiv will likely happen sooner). The Russians and Ukrainians are already negotiating, and Zelensky has at the time of writing begun to hint that the status of the Crimea and Donbas are up for negotiation, and that Nato membership seems unachievable for now: all Russian political goals and not far from the terms Russia initially demanded to stave off an invasion. It would be a difficult domestic sell for Zelensky, after so many tactical victories against overwhelming odds and after forging such a fever pitch of unity against the invader, to sign away what would amount almost to a surrender, but the no-fly zone discourse perhaps points at one way he might.

The Nato summit last week at which the Western alliance emphasised that there would be no no-fly zone created, for risk of escalating into a greater European war, was a very public nudge to the Ukrainians to negotiate in earnest. There simply will be no Nato deus ex machina to dismantle Russia’s superiority in the air or on the ground. Equally, Zelensky’s increasing tendency to lambast the West for not providing enough military support (despite Nato doing everything but engage in open war against Russia on Ukraine’s behalf) can perhaps be setting up the conditions under which he can regretfully sign away control of Crimea and the Donbas and blame it on faithless external patrons. Both regions were probably already gone for good, in any case. It would be a stab-in-the-back myth of sorts, perhaps with unintended consequences down the line, but immediately preferable to a continuance of the war into a second, bloodier phase; these, though, are decisions for Ukrainians to make.

For the Nato alliance, there are two opposing paths to choose between. One strategy would be to force Putin to deal with a long Ukrainian insurgency which would bleed Russia, distracting it to a point where it would pose less of a threat to Nato’s eastern flank. To this end, flooding the country with portable anti-tank weapons and anti-aircraft missiles would, as well as being support for the Ukrainian cause, weaken Russia just as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan weakened America — most probably more so. Yet against this viewpoint, we can also see that prolonging the war in Ukraine over years or decades would, like the war in Syria, be devastating for the country, for its historic cities and for its people. Two million refugees have already fled for Europe in the war’s first fortnight, and though they are more welcome in Central Europe than Middle Eastern refugees, millions more would be a significant challenge to their hosting nations. 

A prolonged insurgency, organised around a rump Ukrainian state in the country’s nationalist western heartland, might not win support for long from neighbouring European states. The prospect of a European Syria or Afghanistan in Galicia and Transcarpathia, where well-armed militia groups who are already a concern would challenge the authority of a weakened, and perhaps exiled Ukrainian administration, from where untraced weapons would likely leak back into the European Union, and along whose borders Nato would daily run the risk of small military incidents with Russia escalating out of control, is not an appealing one to European leaders.

For Ukraine, Russia and the Nato alliance, the next week or so may present a slim opportunity for a ceasefire and de-escalation, introduced by a sudden tilt of the scales in Russia’s favour, such as the encirclement of Kyiv. All sides involved have a clearer appreciation of the facts on the ground than any of us trying to parse the outcome of the war from glimpses of clashes, losses and troop movements on social media’s restricted window. Nato was right to provide Ukraine with the munitions that have made the Russian advance so costly — and which should give Putin pause before ordering the assault on Kyiv. These munitions have enabled the Ukrainians to negotiate from a position of relative strength: yet once Kyiv is besieged, the Ukrainian position will weaken with each passing day.

Nato’s insistence there will be no no-fly zone also puts the already low prospect of a Ukrainian military victory far beyond reach. The alliance has gone almost as far as it can go in supporting Ukraine, and everyone involved knows it. Negotiating a painful peace deal may seem all stick and no carrot for the Ukrainians, who have fought hard and well. The EU should hold firm in insisting on some closer and more generous form of relationship, including membership candidacy status, with postwar Ukraine. 

The situation for Russia, though better than it may seem online, is worse for Putin than he would wish. Economically and diplomatically isolated, Russia is now rapidly approaching a narrow military victory on the ground, beyond which a bloody and costly war of occupation appears to stretch into the future. If Putin entered the war with more expansive dreams, he must surely realise they are now beyond his reach.

A golden bridge away from war may now be forming, very soon and for a very short period of time. If those involved do not take it, it is very likely they will all soon wish they had.


Aris Roussinos is an UnHerd columnist and a former war reporter.

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Vince B
Vince B
2 years ago

I appreciate the realism of this piece. While I am very much wanting the Russians to fail and the Ukrainians to win this war, the mainstream media is so happy to show the plucky Ukranians standing against the evil Russian Bear that they are giving on-lookers false hopes.
A true “victory” by either side is highly unlikely, as Russia will swallow, but be unable to digest, Ukraine. We’re likely in for a very long guerrilla war against the Russian occupiers, with some bloody, sharp battles and some scary altercations at NATO nation borders. Who knows where it will end up, but that’s a realit that the news needs to start talking about. All we get is pro-Ukraine propaganda. Again, I’m very much on their side, but propaganda doesn’t provide clarity.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
2 years ago
Reply to  Vince B

Agreed, and a good analysis by the writer – the Ukrainians need to agree to the loss of those provinces, and then Putin can save face with a ‘victory’. However he’s lost big time and Russia will decline significantly in the next 10-20 years if he remains leader.
A geopolitical win for the west with Russia largely off the stage and China facing western unity.

Martin Logan
Martin Logan
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

Putin could never be satisfied with what he has now. Both his most ardent supporters and his worst critics would drive him from office.

Alan Hawkes
Alan Hawkes
2 years ago
Reply to  Martin Logan

Perhaps, cynically, there is something to be said for a damaged Putin, still in office, but not as fully in power as when he stated his war.

Chris D.
Chris D.
2 years ago
Reply to  Vince B

I agree. The propaganda on social media has been so overwhelmingly pro-Ukraine that I suspect it has made many western observers complacent. if not outright triumphal. However, the neoliberal left/right has worked itself into such a fever pitch that the crushing realization of Ukrainian defeat will cause them to turn on their own governments. They will look to Uncle Joe and Boris and demand to know: Who lost Ukraine? Then the intraparty and cross-party oppositions will pounce.

Richard Parker
Richard Parker
2 years ago
Reply to  Vince B

Agree on every point: excellent comment on another fine piece by Aris. He may pour cold water on fond dreams, but if there’s a time we all really need to wake up, this is it.

J Bryant
J Bryant
2 years ago

This is the most rational assessment of the war I’ve read anywhere. Even the two or three paragraph summary of the situation on the ground is welcome because I struggle to extract that basic information from the mainstream media which is in full propaganda mode.
There have been hints of late, even in the msm, that a negotiated peace might be possible, but Putin will want a lot otherwise he’ll lose face not just abroad but, more importantly, at home. He needs some reliable guarantee that whatever’s left of Ukraine will not eventually become part of NATO, otherwise there was no point to the invasion.
I’ve wondered from the beginning why Putin didn’t take out Kiev’s power and sewage plants. That would render the city uninhabitable within days. The likeliest explanation is he wants the infrastructure intact so far as possible so there’s the possibility Ukraine can quickly return to normal life under a puppet government.
I do hope a peaceful settlement occurs soon otherwise Putin is so far into this campaign he probably has no choice, for his own survival, but to destroy Kiev to achieve his goal.

Martin Logan
Martin Logan
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

No viable puppet govt could exist in Kyiv or anywhere else.

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

There is a lot of talk about what Putin wants, how he wants to occupy Kiev, Poland etc, analysing his body language or how he is a new tsar.

The Russian spokesperson made it clear just recently what they want and which would end the war, and it’s perfectly in line with their key demand consistently over the past decade:

“They should make amendments to the constitution according to which Ukraine would reject any aims to enter any bloc.”
He added: “We have also spoken about how they should recognise that Crimea is Russian territory and that they need to recognise that Donetsk and Lugansk are independent states. And that’s it. It will stop in a moment”

So, no NATO in Ukraine, control over Crimea (a key strategic asset and historically Russian region) and freedom for the Russian majority Eastern regions.

Saul D
Saul D
2 years ago

A realist’s essay. But bigger wheels are turning. The West has weaponised money – SWIFT, Visa, Apple Pay and the petrodollar – not just against Russia, but against truckers and right-wingers. Banks feel it is OK to discriminate against customers based on their political declarations.
Russia, and China, and possibly with other countries like Iran or even India will see the threat of money systems that can be turned on or off from corporate headquarters in the US. That creates a counter-reaction. America may already have lost a war it doesn’t know it’s fighting.
Meanwhile Europe is looking exposed as an empty shell. Gas, oil, energy, commodities and manufacturing are strongly reliant on imports. If Russia cuts off gas and oil, Iran were to close the Persian gulf, and another ship were to block the Suez canal, it would only take disruption to the gas pipelines from Algeria to shut Europe’s energy supply lines. Europe’s power used to be its coal and steel. So does the world still need to look to a Europe of 450m, when Asia has a population of 4.5b?
This then has the potential to be a global reorientation, perhaps to an Asian world, which already has tentacles into Africa, that could easily connect with a neglected South America. The idea is engaging and I’m probably wrong, but are we seeing the end of western supremacy?

Peter Branagan
Peter Branagan
2 years ago
Reply to  Saul D

Yes, I think the US has already lost a war it didn’t know it was fighting.
The ‘exorbitant privilege’ of having control of the world’s reserve currency is coming to an end. The abuse of that exorbitant privilege by weaponising the $ in international relations together with the US trade deficit running at over $1trillion per year will, in the end, break the back of Western hegemony.
……. POWER moves Eastwards………

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
2 years ago
Reply to  Saul D

Nah this event has rejuvenated the west and its traditional values, to my surprise. It’s reminded the world, including Asians, what a military dictatorship can be like.

Franz Von Peppercorn
Franz Von Peppercorn
2 years ago

Ukrainians should be aware that a quagmire would devastate their country for a generation. Or more. And Europeans should be aware that it will cause another refugee crisis, one continually replenishing itself. An agreement to not join NATO is a fairly small price to pay. I wouldn’t listen to Americans who are happy with fighting via proxy armies, far away from their homeland, they will fight to the last Ukrainian.

Neil Cheshire
Neil Cheshire
2 years ago

Well said. Ukrainians should consider the recent history of Finland. The Finns endured the loss of their eastern province of Karelia to the USSR during WW2, have been neutral since 1945 and are not members of NATO. The country is well governed, prosperous and its people happy.
Pragmatism is preferable to devastation.

Last edited 2 years ago by Neil Cheshire
Martin Logan
Martin Logan
2 years ago

An agreement to not join NATO would be a crushing defeat for Putin’s stated goals.
His idea was that Ukraine would eagerly become part of Russia.
Now he feels betrayed and vengeful. The crumbs ingeniously offered as compensation by the writer and others wont satisfy him. Indeed, they are quite ridiculous.
His base will never stand for keeping what Russia already has, with an agreement that Ukraine would not join an alliance it had no chance of joining.
Putin’s head is on the line–so he will continue until he–or the Russian Army is destroyed.

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
2 years ago
Reply to  Martin Logan

“agreement to not join NATO would be a crushing defeat for Putin’s stated goals.
His idea was that Ukraine would eagerly become part of Russia.”

Dear God.

Their statements over the years and even now, during the war, gave been clear.
No NATO in Ukraine, Crimea, independence for the Russianised eastern provinces.
Period.
That’s their own spokesperson saying openly they dint expect or want occupation of Ukraine.

Martin Logan
Martin Logan
2 years ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

Puitn himself has said no such thing. And I believe he remains the ruler of Russia.
The operation was proclaimed to overthrow “the Fascist govt in Kyiv.” If Zelensky stays in power, with most of Ukraine intact, Putin has lost.
Everything else is a negotiating tactic.
How naive everyone is…

Last edited 2 years ago by Martin Logan
R Wright
R Wright
2 years ago

Finally some level headedness. The hysterical mainstream media and wider public seem to be obsessed with seeing events like Return of the Jedi. I’ve been shocked at the Ukrainian army’s refusal to pull back to the Dnieper to avoid total encirclement.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
2 years ago
Reply to  R Wright

They’re trying to hang on to Eastern Ukraine probably. If Putin gets that then he’s got his victory.

Sean Meister
Sean Meister
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

100%. As soon as Kharkov falls it’s game over for the Ukrainians. It opens the way for the entire of Eastern Ukraine to be occupied as well as the gates of Kiev too. This is why the best troops were deployed there and the going has been tough for the Russians especially around the Kharkov front.

Last edited 2 years ago by Sean Meister
Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

No. If Putin gets Eastern Ukraine, he’s got half his victory.

Martin Logan
Martin Logan
2 years ago
Reply to  Colin Elliott

Don’t bother arguing.
Let it come as a surprise.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
2 years ago

It is very difficult to sort out reality from Ukrainian propaganda in the western MSM since they don’t have any troops embedded in either the Ukrainian or Russian armed forces. But from the daily maps, it would appear that the author’s realistic assessment is correct. The question is whether reality sets into to all 3 sides, Ukraine, Russia and just as importantly the western nations. For example, even if Ukraine and Russia negotiate something that satisfies both parties, and results in Ukraine remaining independent but neutral with no possibility of joining NATO, it would seem to me that the West would immediately have to stop all sanctions as well. And likewise, all western companies would have to resume interactions with Russia (including MacDonalds who shut down all their Russian outlets today which seems a little bizarre given that McDonalds are franchises and I’m pretty sure that the food supplies used for Russia’s MacDonalds come from Russia and not the US or Western Europe). If the economic sanctions are not removed, what incentive would the Russians have to stop in Ukraine? IF anything the West may even have to go so far as offering economic aid (a la Marshall Plan) to both Ukraine and Russia.

frmatthewbook
frmatthewbook
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

I do not think they would have to stop all sanctions since the war was started as an attack by Russia. To give them aid would absolutely reward the war of aggression. That seems a ludicrous precedent that would only embolden Putin. The isolation of Putin’s Russia should continue until something meaningful is conceded, and hopefully the foolish Germans will still realize that making themselves beholden to Russia through energy dependence does not count as ‘engaging’ them in a meaningful relationship.

Graham Stull
Graham Stull
2 years ago
Reply to  frmatthewbook

This is what was said by French diplomats in the wake of First World War. It was the justification for the occupation of the Rhineland. Spoiler alert: the French diplomats turned out to be spectacularly wrong.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
2 years ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

If France had invaded Germany when it attacked Poland it could have stopped the war. In September 1939 there were a few battalions on the German French Border. France could taken have encircled the Ruhr. There is an episode in World at war which explain how few German troops were on the French border. France had the troops but not the moral. As someone said France came out of WW1 with the mentality of the vanquished, not a victor.
If Ukraine has the moral combined with training anti tank and aircraft missiles, Russian losses could greatly increase. If I was a Russian general, knowing how sparsely the border with China is manned, I would be concerned at seeing how ineffective was the army. How quickly and how many Javelin, NLAWs and Starstreaks can China manufacture and how many 100ks of troops can they lose and still win a war ? China has far better claim to parts of Russian Siberia than Russia does to the Ukraine. The Russian generals should be aware that Putin has revealed Russian weaknesses to China. Putin is a Chekist who is a military liability not an asset.
Is China happy to see Russia invade Ukraine as it enables them to assess her military capability? By now China will know how to destroy a T90.
I think the Ukraine should say to Putin , “The longer we continue to fight, the greater the weakness we are revealing in the Russian military to China. What is the point of taking the Donbas if you lose the Siberian gas fields to China ?”

Graham Stull
Graham Stull
2 years ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

You may be right about the battlefield tactics of WWII but it’s all kind of missing the point. The point is what happens to a defeated, but still nuclear armed, Russia in five or ten years?
We achieved 75 years of peace in Europe by doing the opposite of what the Treaty of Versailles was about. Now it seems we want to forget that important lesson in favour of battle.
Forgive me for saying so, but you seem a little too eager to hunch over the Risk board with your generals. Only it’s not a game. I would rather a peaceful solution that involves no one fighting anyone, and everyone getting something out of it that makes the peace worthwhile.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
2 years ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

Putin has used violence because he considers it to be to his benefit. Years ago I read a book by Norman Barrymaine , journalist who was in China During the Cultural Revolution, I think it was called “Timebomb”. The Chinese were honest about their desire to retake parts of Siberia which they previously controlled under the Emperors. The Chinese said they could lose 50M and still win a war.
Manchuria is next door to Siberia and Moscow is thousands of miles away. The ethnic people of Siberia are closer to Manchurians than the Rus, people of Slav and Norse descent.
I think Putin has made a mistake, he has revealed the weakness of the military and reduced the restraints on China using force to retake those parts of Siberia formerly ruled by the Emperors, which includes oil, gas and other mineral resources. Putin has also greatly reducing the potential for Russia to be helped should China invade Siberia.

Graham Stull
Graham Stull
2 years ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

Again, I can’t say you’re wrong about Siberia and China. Right now, I’m more focused on ways of stopping this conflict and helping the civilians who have been put in harm’s way.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
2 years ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

The people with the ability to remove Putin are the military. I doubt the FSB will turn on Putin. If they realise that Putin is weakening Russian military capability with regard to China they are more likely to remove him.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
2 years ago
Reply to  frmatthewbook

If I recall correctly, the Western allies applied your logic to the Germans after WWI in the treaty of Versailles. The terms were so onerous that it eventually led to hyperinflation, the rise of Hitler and WWII. After WWII, the allies had a little bit more sense and the sought to bring Germany back into the fold of Western nations through the Marshall Plan. It worked. Now if you maintain sanctions, what incentive does Russia have to stop behaving badly let alone stop taking over Ukraine. Sometimes it is better to have a little wisdom and be magnanimous, thereby reducing tensions between big powers who just happen to be armed to the teeth with enough nuclear weapons to blow us all up to kingdom come many many times over.

Last edited 2 years ago by Johann Strauss
R Wright
R Wright
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

The idea of Versailles being harsh was a postwar myth perpetuated primarily by the Americans. Much of the treaty was never enforced, the Germans flouted vast chunks of it long before the fall of the Weimar Republic and it was not a patch on the Treaty of Brest Litovsk or Trianon. Versailles was both too harsh and yet too weak at the same time.

Graham Stull
Graham Stull
2 years ago
Reply to  R Wright

Occupation of the Rhineland?

Martin Logan
Martin Logan
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

Russia has already taken a fatal dose of economic radiation.
It will default on its debts, and Europe can never trust it to be a reliable supplier. Ditto for the rest of the world. Moreover, the gas can’t be shipped to China. The economy is wrecked–permanently.
More importantly, that means that the losses Putin is sustaining in Ukraine can never be replaced. It’s the end of the Russian military as a significant force.
Time to think about what happens after Putin.
And to face something called “reality.”

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
2 years ago
Reply to  Martin Logan

Perhaps, but then again perhaps not. Recall that in the Peloponnesian wars the righteous and enlightened side, Athens, eventually lost, making Sparta the most powerful city-state in Greece. Be careful what you wish for. The west is very fickle. When those economic sanctions backfire and start hurting the west, let’s see what happens. When the dollar loses its international currency status and is replaced by some other sino-russian standard replacing SWIFT, let’s see what happens.

Martin Logan
Martin Logan
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

Sorry, Russia is caught in the “Thucydides Trap.”
It’s a declining petropower that realizes its adversary is growing stronger by the day. Russia has had almost zero growth since 2014, and even that only comes oil.
With the losses it has already suffered, it will never be able to rebuild its military up to its former status. Stashing one’s cash with one’s enemy was also not the smartest move.
Putin’s maximalist demands from out of the blue last year reflected his fear that Ukraine was moving closer and closer to the West. He understandably feared that Russia would become a marginalized power, ground down between two far larger blocs. This was literally his last chance.
But it was also far too late. Just hope and pray that Russia itself doesn’t fall apart after Putin goes. That is now a real possibility.

Last edited 2 years ago by Martin Logan
Graham Stull
Graham Stull
2 years ago
Reply to  Martin Logan

Do you know, I just finished reading a great compilation of articles written by George Orwell during the second world war.
Orwell, whom we now credit as being a bit of a clairvoyant, made many pronouncements about the state of current politics and the war (e.g. Churchill would be replaced as PM in 1942, the war would continue for at least ten years…). In much of it, he wasn’t just wrong, he was spectacularly wrong.
It’s a humbling reminder of how hard these things are to predict when you are in the middle of it all.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
2 years ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

He also wrote an essay admitting to the fact he was wrong. It is in volume three of his collected writings.

Richard Parker
Richard Parker
2 years ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

Quite. I can’t say I ever thought of him as a clairvoyant, but he strikes me as (so far as one can reassemble the historical figure) honest to the best of his ability, in the light of evidence available to him. A rare beast, but there may yet be more


Franz Von Peppercorn
Franz Von Peppercorn
2 years ago
Reply to  Martin Logan

Why “ditto for the rest of the world”. The rest of the world won’t see Russia as unreliable – it’s the west that has stopped or threatened Russian oil and gas (it’s still flowing).

If anything the closing down of swift and other sanctions on Russian businesses and persons will move countries and citizens from investing in the west. the west overestimates it’s economic importance.

And the gas can be shipped to China. There’s a pipeline. And they liquify it.

Philip Stott
Philip Stott
2 years ago

I am not an engineer, but I do know that an engineer’s job is to design things that perform a given task safely for the minimum cost.
A pipeline for oil would have no need to to account for high pressure, whereas LNG must be kept highly pressurised (and very cold), otherwise it reverts to being a gas.

Last edited 2 years ago by Philip Stott
Matt Hindman
Matt Hindman
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

Part of the reason the German economy was so screwed after the First World War is they “paid” for the war through borrowing and debt, instead of raising taxes like the other powers. Which is fine as long as you win.

Warren T
Warren T
2 years ago
Reply to  frmatthewbook

Please look up the “Marshall Plan”. The precedent has already been set.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

Ukraine can agree a settlement and the west maintain sanctions – that’s happened previously. But in order to incentivise the Russians they could remove some sanctions but keep others. In any case Russia is now done as a place to do business and as a global power.
It’ll depopulate massively too over the next 20 years.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ian Stewart
Francis MacGabhann
Francis MacGabhann
2 years ago

A realistic piece. What worries me is that there don’t seem to be any adults in the room advancing the ideas set out here. Now is the perfect time for a deal. Why isn’t anybody saying so in the halls of power?

Ian nclfuzzy
Ian nclfuzzy
2 years ago

Because the West is made up of simpletons like Liz Truss or neocon bomb-throwers like Victoria Nuland.
But bravo, Aris for the clearest-eyed path to peace that I’ve seen anywhere to date.

Martin Logan
Martin Logan
2 years ago

There IS no deal.

Emre Emre
Emre Emre
2 years ago

I don’t think there’s a clean come back from this. Peace in Ukraine may save people’s lives and so would be highly desirable, but peace or otherwise we’re looking at a new geopolitical system going forward.
It boils down to energy. Russia has access to excess carbon based energy, and isn’t willing to give it away cheaply, without security guarantees, to a West that is planning to slowly innovate its way out of reliance on carbon based energy.
Those security guarantees, even if they came now, won’t mean much as Western companies are pulling out of Russia, and a detachment is happening. The brunt of the impact, will be borne, in addition to Russia, by Europe who will have to import their energy at a significantly higher cost with matching drops in income levels as well as unwillingly turning to coal while relaxing environmental concerns.
This situation will wind down globalisation further, it’ll help energy companies, and be bad for the planet overall.

Last edited 2 years ago by Emre Emre
hugh bennett
hugh bennett
2 years ago
Reply to  Emre Emre

Plants will love it as C02 Levels rise.

Pete Lockey
Pete Lockey
2 years ago

You reference early on, the use of older equipment with view to a future battle with NATO using more sophisticated equipment. If you see this and this is correct, so do NATO. They will keep applying the pressure, providing the weaponry, including eventually the air support via the Migs despite political gamesmanship this evening
 in the coming days the temperature will be between -10 and -20 in the Ukraine and a lot of Russian forces will be outside, every private company is stepping out of Russia – I’ve spent time in Moscow and St Petersburg. They are westernised and this will hurt. It’s not a foregone conclusion they are walking in and winning this battle. It’s easy when shelling; if and when they enter Kyiv and wave after wave get obliterated, any conscripted troop will turn and run. The idea of the Ukrainian forces winning this is no longer fanciful, which means there’s little chance of them capitulating in negotiation. In their view, worst case is they lose and russia exhausts itself, Putin is deposed and they can breathe again. For Putin, this is end game, regardless.

Sean Meister
Sean Meister
2 years ago
Reply to  Pete Lockey

A strange analysis of the situation. What conscript is turning and running when they are attempting to take the enemy capital? Especially as the Russian soldier is pretty famous for coping with cold temperatures. Also, the Phase One deployment was conscript heavy but the Phase Two deployment are mostly regular troops, including large numbers of Chechen battalions. These are all waiting to ride into Kiev as soon as the best troops of the Ukrainian Army are encircled East of the Dnieper.
Giving UA those MiGs was a great move by Poland. They get better quality F-16s from the US and offload old Soviet stock at the same time. I can guarantee they never even make it off the ground in Ukraine. Russia will use the same cruise missile capabilities which destroyed the entire UA Air Force only days into the campaign to either interdict them or destroy them on their airfields. RU AF are taking losses but almost entirely to portable Surface-to-Air missile systems.

Pete Lockey
Pete Lockey
2 years ago
Reply to  Sean Meister

Let’s see.

Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
2 years ago

The Ukrainians have seen themselves suddenly cast in the role as the defenders of the free world; of Western Civilisation, no less. Just because Ukraine is neither in NATO nor in the EU, does not make Ukrainians feel any less about their status. The mobilisation and digging-in of the country against the Russian legions in some measure reflects the spirit of those who took part in the Polish/Jewish side of the Warsaw Uprising of July 1944: the long-awaited reckoning has now boiled down to a bid for freedom. The Ukrainian troops don’t have the counter-attacking ability to chase the Russian forces out of Ukraine, or even beyond a fair distance from Kyiv. This is why the Ukrainians have done everything to encourage the West to supply a no-fly zone, fighter jets and international brigades of volunteers. They have tried to bring tax avoidance right up to the point of where it becomes tax evasion. Like those who took part in the Warsaw Uprising against the Germans, the Ukrainians are now desperate. “We will fight to the death” said a mayor of one city. Who knows what the punishments for the leaders of Ukraine’s stand will be if Russia were to destroy Ukraine to the core? If the last stand does not finish everybody off, of course. The Ukrainians may well decide that the bid for complete freedom from tyranny is better than any bid for a compromised peace. On the other hand, perhaps the Ukrainians will shortly decide, having reviewed the situation, that having acted as tough as they could, they can be confident that springing from negotiations they will retain technically full independence, albeit minus some territory and no hope of joining NATO or the EU. Will that be something that both Putin and Zelensky can in the medium term work with? After so much suffering and sacrifice and destruction? Could Putin still go on as Russian leader? Certainly, if the war ends within a month. You might imagine.

The doomed Warsaw Uprising, as far as I know, would not have happened had the resistance believed the Russians were not coming. (The same rationale for the Paris uprising in August of ‘44). Psychologically, emotionally, after nearly FIVE years of occupation, deprivation, disease, death and misery, there had to be a backlash sooner or later against iron-fist rule, no matter should it entail inevitable great sacrifice. The scale of the uprising was to take advantage of the Germans close by to the east in retreat. The Germans quickly began burning down Warsaw, a particularly despotic, cruel backlash of their own against an entire city – yet the Soviets stopped their advance within sight of the smoke to watch this happen. It seemed as if the Soviets saw in the destruction of Warsaw the destruction also of the resistance: a resistance that would in time be a threat to the Soviet overlordship behind the inevitable, eventual, frontline closer to Berlin. The Soviets, moreover, were well aware of how they had invaded Poland from the east, in late September of 1939: on foot of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact the previous month; also, most likely, of the executions at their hands of thousands of Polish army officers in the Katyn Forest, in the autumn of 1939 (now in now western Belarus). The Wehrmacht had discovered the mass graves, broadcast ONLY THESE to the outside world; probably the Polish public learned of them, too.

The Polish revolts against Communism in the 1970s were a strike against a moribund and indifferent rule. The strikers in GdaƄsk and the protestors kept going. Their fearlessness spread to East Germany. The Wall came down soon after. Freedom is a hard-won battle. The Ukrainians won’t give it up easily. If it was good enough for Churchill to fight the enemy on the beaches, then I imagine it’s the same for the Ukrainians. Or is the West expecting the Ukrainians to survey the material damage to a prolonged resistance and have them believe that the material is more valued than the spiritual? The Ukrainians may just believe that if they stand alone, as Britain did in 1940/1, they should fight on.

Was there anything more crass and ignorant than the American offer to spirit the young President Zelensky out of the country? That crassness says it all about how spiritually bereft the West is today. It’s evident in the EU’s recent bland message of building up “the European way of life”. No wonder that even the Russians in the 1980s looked up with admiration for Reagan and Thatcher: the Russians were capable if they wanted to be, if they were free to be, of wondering about a higher way of being. Secular mottos like “the European way of life” did not and do not animate the Russians. That phrase I imagine was meant in part as a dismissive and condescending put-down of Russian immoral oafishness and cruelty. But it is not a helpful phrase, nor an enlightening one, nevertheless.

Although the situation in Kyiv cannot be called an uprising, in some sense it is. It is quite clear that some powerful Russians have viewed for thirty years Ukraine as a breakaway region of the Russian, or Soviet even, empire. A treacherous sore on the greater Russian soil. But the spiteful, deliberate burning down of Warsaw was the punishment for the perceived treachery of the people against their arrogant German masters. The same spite was evident in the blowing apart of Holland’s flood defences by the Wehrmacht in early 1945, turning into vast lakes ground that been reclaimed. The ground was made uninhabitable, nature having been coerced by Germany to annexe it. That same spite was evident in the Russian shelling of the nuclear power plant’s environs. The ultimate spite would be to make the land for hundreds of miles around uninhabitable. That would chiefly be Ukraine. Such spite comes into play when the issuer-of-spite realises that he can never really own the people and their land. (Moreover, the spite was evident and really the only motivation for Goering, Goebbels and Co to fire V-1 and V-2 rockets into the south-east of England, in 1944/45).

The last thing the Ukrainians want is an indifferent West. It would be horrific to them if the West is averse to rocking the boat. But maybe the West is in the middle of learning fast how to rock the boat without tipping the world into nuclear annihilation. The Ukrainians don’t want the West to watch the smoke from afar. Perhaps the West desires that Ukraine negotiates now with Russia. After all, nobody imagines that the longer the Ukrainians hold their ground, the more likely Putin will be toppled in a coup d’état. What will likely be toppled and brought crashing down into the soil is either a foolish attempted uprising in Moscow, or the Ukrainian dream for independence – if Ukraine fights on. Ukraine, for the sake of its people and society and towns and cities, must get a good peace and quickly – and remain patient. Even if the aim of total freedom takes a generation.
At least the West is watching, even if from afar. Ukraine is in fact far from being alone.
But Russia is alone. And Ukraine 
 Ukraine may have just about saved the West, irrespective of what happens now. Ukraine has already fought the good fight. It’s done ITS bit. It’s now over to the West to stand up for itself!!!

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
2 years ago

What percentage of the ruling class of Europe has any fighting spirit ?Is the Ruling Class of Europe prepared to endure a reduction in comfort? If a person lacks spirit they cannot train hard, so the type of weapons they have become of little importance. The days when The Ruling Class( knights) led their people into battle appear to be long gone.
I would suggest that the position was similar to the 1930s. Both Hitler and Putin have judged that the ruling class cannot and will not fight which also largely occurred in Rome from 350 AD.
Putin would not have started any conflict if he thought he would lose and in doing so lose power.
Is there anything Putin fears and if so what? I suggest we need to assess what level of damage done to the Russian Armed Forces would turn them against Putin along with the middle class and some of the oligarchs.

patrick macaskie
patrick macaskie
2 years ago

“Was there anything more crass and ignorant than the American offer to spirit the young President Zelensky out of the country? That crassness says it all about how spiritually bereft the West is today.” 100% with you

Steve Roberts
Steve Roberts
2 years ago

Lets hope, for humanity’s sake that the first offer from Russia to stop the war can begin some good faith negotiations. Geo political balances are fraught at the best of times but there is a war going on and the last thing that is needed is dogma, entrenchment and bad faith actors, no pun intended regards Zelenskiy. At worst what will be revealed are those that have taken positions that mean that at any cost, i.e. other people , they will oppose a workable settlement to stop the slaughter, and try to justify it all manner of ways.
First thoughts :
1) Ceasing all military action – no rational mind could oppose this.
2)A change to the Ukrainian constitution to enshrine neutrality, details unknown but essentially a formalising of a demand that Ukraine abstains from destabilising the region further with its pursuit of EU and NATO membership. Is it not the informal position anyway. Despite these institutions sabre rattling interference they have made it clear they will not die on the hill of Ukraine themselves with direct involvement.
3) Acknowledgement of Crimea as Russian territory, it is de facto a Russian territory anyway ?
4) Recognition of Luhansk and Donetsk as independent, the east that has seen 14,000 deaths in 8 years, the Ukrainian state unable to resolve this disputed territory for this period.

The interesting issue is how many and specifically who will oppose these measures or refuse to negotiate and why. Or more importantly what are the levels of destruction and slaughter that combatants and citizens of both nations are supposed to pay until a settlement is pursued. Their must be a peace for humanity’s sake.

Tom Lewis
Tom Lewis
2 years ago

Very good analysis,

Nicola Gee
Nicola Gee
2 years ago

From the Bucharest Summit Declaration, 3 April 2008 as posted in http://www.nato.int
“NATO welcomes Ukraine’s and Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations for membership in NATO. We agreed today that these countries will become members of NATO. â€Š We welcome the democratic reforms in Ukraine and Georgia and look forward to free and fair parliamentary elections in Georgia in May. MAP is the next step for Ukraine and Georgia on their direct way to membership. Today we make clear that we support these countries’ applications for MAP [Membership Action Plan]. Therefore we will now begin a period of intensive engagement with both at a high political level to address the questions still outstanding pertaining to their MAP applications.”
Obviously Russia sees Ukraine’s aspirations to join NATO as a threat (which of course it is), but the West has treated Putin’s concerns with the utmost contempt. The innocent civilians in Ukraine now pay the price. In no way do I condone these attacks, but surely with less western intervention & promises, they could have been avoided?
Professor John Mearsheimer from the University of Chicago explains very well the build-up to this crisis in numerous talks.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
2 years ago
Reply to  Nicola Gee

I’m well aware that Putin says that a country’s joining NATO is a threat, but the fact of the matter is that Russia is seen as a threat to its neighbours, whose only protection is membership of NATO.
The events of the last few years, and now of the last few weeks, surely shows that the latter is more realistic than the former.
I appreciate that US membership of NATO means that there is potential for US armed forces to enter such a member state, and do believe that this should be addressed, but the USA has surely shown more of an inclination to reduce its forces in Europe than to increase them. That is, until the recent shocking events.

Nicola Gee
Nicola Gee
2 years ago
Reply to  Colin Elliott

In my view, the USA has not lost its inclination to meddle wherever it can eg 1. it openly supported the coup in Ukraine in 2014 and 2. last year started sending arms. Aren’t coups against a democratically elected government illegal, just as this invasion by Russia is? Isn’t sending arms to a country an act of aggression towards the country it is fighting?
The West could instead have bolstered Ukraine’s economy and encouraged it to become neutral, but they do not seem happy with the status quo of NATO. Membership is always dangled as a tempting prize, and as it grows so does Russia’s view of it as a growing threat.

hugh bennett
hugh bennett
2 years ago

A noble effort by the author given the smoke of war that seems to be blurring the thought processes of many journalists !! but I think the author has missed a few points and perhaps under-estimated the Ukrainian Army and tactics,

  1. Ukraine has one of Europe’s largest militaries, with i understand approx 180,000 active personnel, over 100,000 reservists and in addition territorial defense forces that include at least 100,000 veterans.
  2. The Ukrainian regulars are very well trained
  3. In addition, the Ukraine knew what was coming, their forces were thus trained for such a scenario and the high command battle plans were in place at tactical and strategic level.
  4. A defensive battle plan can be one that inflicts huge losses, maybe unacceptable losses, on the attacker.
  5. Just perhaps the Ukrainians will not seek any peace, maybe there will be a last stand, maybe they will win.And they have achieved a tight joined up political policy and military strategy
  6. As to the T-90s Tank- fitted with explosive reactive armour It is intended to engage tanks , as well as low-flying air targets such as helicopters. In many combat situations it has proved less than invincible. It must operate with close infantry support to achieve its potential and the Russian Army often appears to lack such coordination skills.
  7. Also, maybe the Russians have not committed heavier weapons because that might draw NATO in, Putin may not be as mad as we all seem to believe.
Warren T
Warren T
2 years ago
Reply to  hugh bennett

Most of the information today is not provided by journalists. Unless you describe a journalist as someone who reads other articles online, from the comfort of their posh flat, and regurgitates what they’ve read.

Bruno Lucy
Bruno Lucy
2 years ago

Very good piece.
I hate to spoil the party, but President Zelinsky, as courageous as he may be and the guy has balls of steel, is nevertheless seriously getting under my skin. Admitting after thousands of dead, I don’t care which side, death is death, he is finally admitting he is not so hot anymore about joining NATO
..nobody within the alliance wanted Ukraine to join in the first place anyway. Well
.nobody is maybe a bit far stretched, but at least France and Germany were against it and I don’t think the US were very hot about the idea.
So far, Mr Zelinsky has done nothing but tried to drag the West into a conflict with a basket case who has his finger on the nuke button. No fly zone is a ticket for global war, aircrafts deliveries equally so. As to having Ukraine join the EU in a day

give me a break. Fact is that hundreds of civilians died, more to come, the country is in ruine and almost 2 millions are fleeing threatening a refugee crisis as well as a health crisis of mammoth proportion 

.see WHO and Anthony Fauci warnings. Just 30 % of the country is vaccinated against Covid and come the fall, it will flare back right into our face damping west European enthusiasm about welcoming refugees. People are fickle 

added to that the price of filling a tank and getting warm next winter.

Best example is Germany

..we will see how strong their resolve is once the real deal comes along and how they react to an already very expensive electricity and central heating bill.
Somebody on the thread mentioned Finland. This country suffered more than many in Europe since 1917. It is right they lost half of Karelia and until 12 days ago, were a very happy country. Lovely people too. I was there just before Putin decided to invade and nobody I talked to believed this would happen. I returned last week and could not help asking the receptionist what she thought. “ I’m trying not to think about it “ was her answer.

Rick Fraser
Rick Fraser
2 years ago
Reply to  Bruno Lucy

“…a health crisis of mammoth proportion 

.see WHO and Anthony Fauci warnings. Just 30 % of the country is vaccinated against Covid and come the fall, it will flare back right into our face damping west European enthusiasm about welcoming refugees.”
At best, vaccination lessens the severity of symptons after being infected. It does not guard against infection or prevent transmission. Given the milder symptons associated with the dominant variant today, “a health crisis of mammoth proportion” is not likely to materialize.

Bruno Lucy
Bruno Lucy
2 years ago
Reply to  Rick Fraser

You might want to have a peek at Hong Kong



Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago

“The EU should hold firm in insisting on some closer and more generous form of relationship, including membership candidacy status, with postwar Ukraine.”
How would Putin react to this I wonder?

Ian nclfuzzy
Ian nclfuzzy
2 years ago

Not well. Will never happen.

Putin isn’t just worried about defense. He’s worried about culture too.

To him, Ukraine is Rus, it’s Slavic. To Azov, Slavs are dirty mongoloids.

Martin Logan
Martin Logan
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian nclfuzzy

Even though its members are Slavs…
I think their real, still very racist, point is that Muscovite Russians are Mongols.

Last edited 2 years ago by Martin Logan
Sean Meister
Sean Meister
2 years ago

I’m not sure Putin would settle for the Crimea and Donbass, areas he already de facto controlled anyway. I’m sure he’d want at a minimum the entirety of Ukraine East of the Dnieper and also Kiev.

Also, considering Putin’s casus belli, was always to reduce the NATO escalation on Russia’s borders I am not sure he would accept a Rump Western Ukrainian state with Lvov as the capital. For one the practicality that you highlighted that NATO would use such a state to further antagonise Russia (just as Ukraine was already doing in the Donbass for the last 8 years) but also that is a political defeat for Putin. The goal has to be a completely de-militarised Ukrainian state if Putin was to sell that domestically.

It’s not exactly well known in the Anglo world but Putin took a big hit domestically in 2014 when he didn’t go the full way and support the LDPR against Ukraine. Most Russians see the invasion as him rectifying that mistake. So to compromise again for less than what he entered with would really damage him domestically.

Last edited 2 years ago by Sean Meister
Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
2 years ago
Reply to  Sean Meister

He has made very clear what his plans for Ukraine are. You only have to read what he says Article by Vladimir Putin ”On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians“ ‱ President of Russia (kremlin.ru)
Putin apologists, or people who naively tend to think everyone else is as reasonable as they are, who seem curiously numerous on this forum, keep advocating that all Zelensky needs to do is to agree to a few minor things, and all will be well.
Perhaps the fighting might be stopped, and an agreement reached, but sooner or later, a casus belli would be found, so as to achieve what he really wants.
What is more, such an agreement is likely to include something which disadvantages the Ukrainians over their situation in the recent past.

Jesse Porter
Jesse Porter
2 years ago

Excellent analysis. Unlike on social media, ARIS ROUSSINOS at least allows insight into both sides of the clash. The natural human inclination is to blindly present only one side of an argument, or worse to see only two sides. In this essay the complexities of the issues are aired.
Perhaps no one involved is aware of all the issues. And perhaps no one not directly involved is aware of any of the true issues. It sees clear that, is as is usually the case, none of the sides is innocent nor totally at fault. In us versus them, we are always more innocent and they are more at fault. That certainty increases with escalation with its accompanying emotions, making resolution increasingly more difficult.
Those closest to the conflict are always less committed to it than the commanders comfortably ensconced far behind the lines. Perhaps that is so because fighters’ commitment is regularly weakened by experiencing or facing the results of the violence. Modern warfare for at least the last century or century and a half is fought by remote control, especially by those in control. Even though they are intimately familiar with the cruel efficiency of their weapons, they don’t have to look into the faces of those who use them and certainly not the faces and broken bodies of their victims. Empathy, if it ever existed in commanders, is thus in practice removed from the war machines.

Last edited 2 years ago by Jesse Porter
Rick Fraser
Rick Fraser
2 years ago

Excerpts from “The U.S. Decision to Join NATO” by James M. Goldgeier, Brookings Review, Summer 1999:
On March 12 U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright stood with the foreign ministers of Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic in the auditorium of the Truman presidential library in Independence, Missouri, and formally welcomed these three countries into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The Czech-born Albright, herself a refugee from the Europe of Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin, said quite simply on this day:“Hallelujah.”
Not everyone in the United States felt the same way.The dean of America’s Russia experts, George F. Kennan, had called the expansion of NATO into Central Europe “the most fateful error of American policy in the entire post–Cold War era.” Kennan, the architect of America’s post–World War II strategy of containment of the Soviet Union, believed, as did most other Russia experts in the United States, that expanding NATO would damage beyond repair U.S. efforts to transform Russia from enemy to partner.
Kennan’s reaction to the Clinton Administration’s insistence on NATO’s enlargement: “I think the Russians will gradually react quite adversely and it will affect their policies. I think it is a tragic mistake. There was no reason for this whatsoever. No one was threatening anybody else.”

Martin Logan
Martin Logan
2 years ago

Pure fantasy.
The writer totally ignores Putin’s minimum demands: control of Ukraine’s entire coastline, as well as his fait accomplis in Crimea and Donbass. The latter were already under his control, and if they are the only prizes he retains, every Russian knows this is a debacle. Then Putin must inevitably go.
Putin’s only choice now is very much like that of Dostoevsky’s anti-hero in “The Gambler,” keep losing, and keep betting the ante until he loses everything.
More important, no Ukrainian govt could concede to the demands that Putin needs to save his regime. They are not going to condemn their nation to being a landlocked entity half their present size.
Better start thinking about what happens after Putin–and how we are going to protect pro-Russian inhabitants of Crimea and Donbas. This is not going to be pretty.

David NebeskĂœ
David NebeskĂœ
2 years ago

If we assume that it is preferable for both sides to avoid the destruction of Kyiv, and the death of thousands on each side during its storming…”
Wrong assumption. Russians (not just Putin) do not care.

R S Foster
R S Foster
2 years ago

…convincing, if you believe that Putin or his successors will leave it alone. But they won’t…so we need to understand that we fight them now, or fight them later…but in the end, fight them we must.
Otherwise, all that will happen is that Putin will bank his gains…and look for his next bite…Moldova, possibly, assaulted by sea from Crimea? Little Green Men in Russian-speaking corners of the Balts? A confrontation engineered with Finland over future NATO Membership?
Remember, all these places were part of the Czarist Empire Putin aspires to recreate.
They won’t stop, and it is foolish to kid ourselves they will…

Fintan Power
Fintan Power
2 years ago

In the fog of war the truth struggles to emerge. It will be years hence before we see what really happened. Yes it is the plucky David against Goliath and we would wish the Ukrainians to prevail but the forces against them are powerful indeed. I believe it is important to pray for peace, for all the people involved on both sides and for the conversion of Putin.

Martin Terrell
Martin Terrell
2 years ago

There has to be a rational compromise of sorts, that allows both sides to think they have got what they wanted. The alternatives are too awful to contemplate, millions more refugees from Ukraine, and then will a collapsing Russia be far behind?

Chauncey Gardiner
Chauncey Gardiner
2 years ago

Let’s give Putin and his clique of kleptocrats some credit: They’ve not contemplated an indefinite presence in Ukraine much less installing a puppet regime. There’s no way such a regime would be perceived as legitimate and hold on. Contrast that with Praque 1968. In Czechoslovakia, there had been enough support for a regime that would give up on the liberalizing program of the regime that the Soviet invaders deposed. And you don’t need a majority; maybe only 30% support.
The outlines of the ultimate deal have been on the table from the beginning: Acquiesce to the secession of the two oblasti in the East; recognition of the Crimea as part of Russia (as it had been since Catherine the Great nabbed it in 1776); a commitment to not join NATO. Now, for their part, can the Russians credibly commit to leave Ukraine alone going forward?
Credible Commitments End Wars.
NATO Membership for Everyone!If Administrative Process can achieve peace between nations, then open membership to everyone. Were it only so easy.
Our ‘Democratic Imperialism’ versus Their Old School Russian ImperialismWill actual democracy in Ukraine escape being absorbed by either Imperium?

Martin Logan
Martin Logan
2 years ago

Putin cannot credibly commit to anything, given his track record.

Dermot O'Sullivan
Dermot O'Sullivan
2 years ago

There is a season for everything and in this case it is up to Ukraine to decide. Listen to the final sentences from their president’s last broadcast (on Telegram) to gauge the response.

Kiat Huang
Kiat Huang
2 years ago

Well there is the other, less obvious, method of Ukraine obtaining peace – and that is by beating the Russians. It is possible, but they will need help – more help than we have given. What about artillery, minutions, drones? Clandestine military specialist fighting and advisory support.
Let’s not forget the superior and invading force Russia, has brought in Belorussian and Chechen military units to help it. What does NATO do in response? Nothing.
This is what NATO could do.

  1. create and maintain NATO-managed humanitarian corridors between Ukrainian cities and their borders. Get the civilians that need or want to out safely
  2. do not supply military hardware to the Ukrainians along these corridors – they need their own supply routes
  3. red line enforcement: Russia, if you attack us in Ukraine, we will attack you.
Last edited 2 years ago by Kiat Huang
Terence Fitch
Terence Fitch
2 years ago

My guess is NATO membership on hold. Speed up EU membership. Two Eastern provinces given some autonomy. The truth will out though. Russians under 40 something want to be a bit richer than a median $12.5k a year. IKEA and McDonalds is not trivial. We have won the cultural war. If you live in a crappy crumbling soviet block of flats like millions do, IKEA brightened your sad life. The electric guitar vs the balalaika. Some old Orthodox bishop bumbling on about Holy Russia only appeals to babushkas and nutters. Putin will go at some point.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago

Give Crimea and the eastern regions a referendum on whether they wish to remain Ukrainian or to become Russian vassal states, promise to never join NATO, then as soon as the Russians have left join NATO and if you wish the EU.
If Russia can ignore a written agreement to respect Ukrainian territory and sovereignty in exchange for giving up their nuclear deterrent then Ukraine can do the same in regards to joining NATO.

Paul Smithson
Paul Smithson
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Are there not already signed written agreements over the last three decades that assured Russia that NATO would not continue to expand to the east? Did Bush Snr not make such promises? I don’t know the answers. I am just asking the questions so that I can get a clearer understanding, as at the moment all we seem to be getting is 24/7 propaganda and absolutely zero education on this situation.

Ian McKinney
Ian McKinney
2 years ago
Reply to  Paul Smithson

No. There wasn’t.

And also worth noting that if Ukraine had joined, they wouldn’t be seeing their cities smashed to bits and their children being killed.

Paul Smithson
Paul Smithson
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian McKinney

There are some interesting resources that say otherwise Ian.

“Washington D.C., December 12, 2017 – U.S. Secretary of State James Baker’s famous “not one inch eastward” assurance about NATO expansion in his meeting with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev on February 9, 1990, was part of a cascade of assurances about Soviet security given by Western leaders to Gorbachev and other Soviet officials throughout the process of German unification in 1990 and on into 1991, according to declassified U.S., Soviet, German, British and French documents posted today by the National Security Archive at George Washington University”

There is a great deal more in the archives, but I don’t think Unherd will let me post a link.

Again, I am totally anti war, so want to get to the truth as it is very clear that our media is part of a propaganda campaign, something Julian Assange spoke about many years ago.

Last edited 2 years ago by Paul Smithson
Mike Wylde
Mike Wylde
2 years ago
Reply to  Paul Smithson

As usual carefully ignoring the “throughout the process of German unification in 1990″ which limited any statement made in that context to a unified Germany. And the US has stuck to that.

Ben Dhonau
Ben Dhonau
2 years ago
Reply to  Paul Smithson

those assurances were given to the USSR of which the Baltic States and Ukraine were the integral parts and related to Germany. They were voided by the collapse of the USSR

Paul Smithson
Paul Smithson
2 years ago
Reply to  Ben Dhonau

And subsequent meetings over the years have echoed the same thing. The West is far from an innocent player. It rarely is, but the media propaganda machine would have you believe otherwise. And sadly many people just believe whatever the media is telling them.

War is wrong and we need to stop it immediately, but we can only do so with honesty and integrity on ALL sides including ours.

It is critical that we get round a negotiating table now and hammer out a deal or this mess is going to get much worse. But are our current politicans really capable of such diplomacy?

Warren T
Warren T
2 years ago
Reply to  Paul Smithson

So if honestly and integrity is the only way to stop war, and honesty and integrity doesn’t exist, then what?

Martin Logan
Martin Logan
2 years ago
Reply to  Paul Smithson

That was a guarantee to the SOVIET UNION. Which wasn’t written down, in any case.

Mike Wylde
Mike Wylde
2 years ago
Reply to  Paul Smithson

Russia also signed up to maintain the sovereign integrity of Ukraine – until it invaded in 2014.

R Wright
R Wright
2 years ago
Reply to  Mike Wylde

The Ukrainians foolishly handed over their nuclear weapons based on Russian guarantees. Imagine if they hadnt

John McKee
John McKee
2 years ago
Reply to  R Wright

These were utterly worthless since the Russians alone held the codes. A nuclear scientist recently stated that she would not work on any nuclear devices for which she did not have the codes. It is too dangerous.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
2 years ago
Reply to  Paul Smithson

No, but there is a written agreement by which Russia undertook to respect Ukrainian territorial integrity. That was broken in 2014, so he thought the time ripe for another big bite.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  Paul Smithson

No there isn’t. The agreements made with Yeltsin at the break up of the Soviet Union make no mention of other nations not being free to join NATO. They merely contained lines about NATO forces not moving eastwards into the old East Germany for a few years after its dissolution to give the chance for the Russians to move out, a clause which was honoured

Warren T
Warren T
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Sure, and perhaps they will hold a free election in North Korea some day too.

Iris C
Iris C
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

I thought Crimea (54% Russian) had voted to join Russia and the same had happened in the two breakaway Republics. It was that which gave them their legitimacy – Kosovo being sited as a precedent for an ethically different part of a country to decide its own future.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  Iris C

Personally I wouldn’t trust a word Putin says so those results aren’t worth anything in my eyes. If free and fair elections could take place, maybe regulated by international observers then why not do them again to give legitimacy to the claims?

Terence Fitch
Terence Fitch
2 years ago
Reply to  Iris C

Free Somerset! After all used to be the land of the Sumersaete.

Terence Fitch
Terence Fitch
2 years ago
Reply to  Iris C

A little history. Crimea was historically muslim Tartar and before that Greek and Sarmatian. Stalin deported most of the overwhelming majority population of Tartars to extermination in Siberia. Savage and brutal gerrymandering don’t you think?

Andrew F
Andrew F
2 years ago
Reply to  Iris C

Unfortunately, results of Ukraine independence referendum in 1991 were different.
While Crimea only voted 54% to be part of independent Ukraine, Luhansk and Donbass regions voted 80% for it.
Many people confuse Russian speakers with native Russians in Ukraine.
Only 17% of Ukraine population are Russians.

Last edited 2 years ago by Andrew F