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How will the Ukraine war end? Our leaders have to failed to define 'victory'

A soldier walks through Sloviansk. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

A soldier walks through Sloviansk. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)


June 21, 2024   7 mins

How will the war in Ukraine end? In an election overshadowed by a grim climate of international instability, it is remarkable that the only candidate to seriously address this question so far has been Nigel Farage. Laying out Reform’s foreign policy stance, in a discussion the Mirror tells us has sparked “fury” (though from whom is not explained), Farage declared that his party would, in power, “go on ­sending money to [Ukraine] but I think both sides need to be told that at some point wars either end in negotiation or catastrophe, and this one looks like going on for many, many, many years – and at an horrendous cost of life.” There will, he says, have to be face-to-face talks.

Farage’s intervention is striking not only in how it diverges from the stated Ukraine policy of the two main parties, which is to support Ukraine until “victory” — an end state Kyiv has redefined, over the course of the war, from a return to its pre-invasion 2022 borders to a vastly more daunting return to its 1991 borders — but in how it reflects serious foreign policy debate over the war, and not the dubious platitudes of British party politics. Such absence of strategic thinking, as the respected Russia analyst Mark Galeotti observes, serves neither Ukraine nor the West. As Galeotti notes, “the gap between rhetoric and reality in the West is dangerous because it risks establishing unrealistic expectations.” Closer to Farage’s analysis than mainstream British political discourse, Galeotti cautions that “the likelihood is that some kind of deal will end up being struck which will trade some Ukrainian territory, and maybe guarantees of neutrality, for Moscow’s no doubt grudging acceptance of Kyiv’s sovereignty and independence.” Though Western officials privately brief that this is the likely outcome, publicly this result “runs counter not only to Kyiv’s own position, but also official rhetoric in the West.”

Logically, there are three possible endpoints for the Ukraine War: a complete Ukrainian victory, and total Russian defeat, which even senior Ukrainian officials admit now looks unlikely; its inversion, a total Russian victory, predicated on a Ukrainian collapse, which despite the war slowly shifting in Russia’s favour, does not look imminent; and a freezing of hostilities, perhaps on the current lines. This last outcome reflects the view of America’s then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, back in the winter of 2022, when Ukraine’s successful autumn offensive had forced Russia onto the back foot, and Kyiv had won a negotiating position that, from today’s vantagepoint, looks like a missed opportunity. Yet the Biden administration at the time quashed Milley’s talk of a diplomatic push, with the President declaring: “That’s up to the Ukrainians. Nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine.”

But Kyiv’s decision to spurn talks and continue the war was predicated on hopes of a successful 2023 offensive dramatically weakening Russia’s battlefield position and the belief that American military support could be maintained until the final victory: yet the offensive was a costly failure and America’s support is increasingly contested in Washington. But while the result has been a deterioration in Ukraine’s battlefield position, Washington’s publicly stated goals have not altered: the facts on the ground may have changed for the worse, but the rhetoric in Washington, and far less Westminster, has not adapted to the new reality.

Yet what would a realistic Ukraine policy look like? The irony is that even if the West’s desired endstate shifts towards a negotiated settlement rather than outright military victory, nothing would actually change that much, for now, at least. When Ukraine appeared to gain the upper hand back in 2022, Kyiv, scenting victory, had no desire to pursue meaningful negotiations. Now that Russia has the upper hand, Moscow, equally, has no desire to make the concessions necessary towards constructive peace talks. Putin’s purported “ceasefire offer”, proposed at the beginning of last week’s Ukrainian-led “peace summit” (taking place without Russia’s inclusion, and which Biden chose not to attend), if anything represents a hardening of Moscow’s position: as recently as last month, the mood music from the Kremlin centred on freezing hostilities on the current frontlines.

As a precondition for talks, Putin insisted that Ukraine withdraw its remaining troops from the four Ukrainian provinces — Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhia and Kherson — that Russia formally annexed in autumn 2022, even as the Ukrainian offensive forced it to abandon huge swathes of the latter two. While Russia’s insistence that Ukraine does not join Nato is not, within the context of negotiations, unreasonable — Western rhetoric notwithstanding, there is little realistic prospect of this happening — it is unrealistic to demand Ukraine cede control of large areas of its own territory that it still controls. Russian troops are advancing, slowly, all across the front but have as yet made no great breakthrough. Putin may be counting on a new summer offensive before the onset of winter snows, or be satisfied that a war of attrition will eventually break the Ukrainian army beyond repair, but for now Ukraine’s position is, if difficult, not disastrous, and it is entirely rational at this stage for Kyiv to reject the Russian proposal. Russia’s offer of talks was, paradoxically, Moscow’s statement that it is not yet ready to negotiate.

Yet even still, Ukraine’s own preconditions for peace talks are unhelpful, in that they demand concessions Russia is under no pressure to meet, in pursuit of an end goal Ukraine is unlikely to achieve. The summit in Geneva, from which Russia was excluded, probably represents the last of such initiatives before meaningful negotiations begin, with the patience of non-aligned states already wearing thin. As the Economist observes, “a conversation is already happening about what America believes might be an acceptable end to the war”, as “eyes are already starting to turn towards alternative negotiation platforms, possibly beginning as soon as in the late autumn”.

Much may happen before the autumn, which is precisely why peace talks before then are unlikely. Russia may achieve greater battlefield success this summer, forcing Kyiv to accept terms it would currently reject. Yet equally, Ukraine may continue to blunt the Russian advance, returning the war to a slow, grinding stalemate in which serious negotiations may once again look attractive to Putin. In achieving the latter outcome, Western policy decisions — that is, continuing to arm Ukraine and grant it strong expressions of diplomatic support — would not be measurably distinct from the current stated strategy of supporting Ukraine until Russia’s total defeat. In this sense, the West’s public commitment to maximalist and likely unachievable policy ends can be read as a negotiating tactic to improve Ukraine’s position ahead of a renewed push for meaningful talks: whether or not they fool Putin is another question.

“The West’s public commitment to maximalist and likely unachievable policy ends can be read as a negotiating tactic.”

In any case, the other possible event of the autumn, a Trump electoral victory, is perhaps the deciding factor making negotiations unlikely before the end of the year. Trump’s stance on Ukraine is difficult to discern: while he has expressed negative opinions on Zelensky personally, and his most committed faction within American politics is decidedly hostile to Ukraine, he is a mercurial figure who may choose to escalate the war as a dramatic prelude to talks. A future Trump administration’s eventual Ukraine policy is such a potentially transformative yet unknowable quantity that it is entirely logical for Putin to drag out the war until the new American president takes office: until then, there is, currently, no meaningful space for negotiations, and if, as is likely, a peace deal will entail the painful cession of Ukrainian territory, the political logic for the Biden administration will be to palm responsibility, and the press outrage that will accompany an unsatisfactory conclusion, onto Trump.

Yet even still, it is perhaps possible to discern the future outlines of a settlement. Last summer, it emerged that the eminent American foreign policy mandarin Richard Haass was engaged in back-channel talks with Kremlin officials, for which he was swiftly denounced by Kyiv and distanced by the White House. Haass’s conclusion, published in Foreign Affairs the same month he met Russian officials, was that “the West has allowed Ukraine to define success and set the war aims of the West. This policy, regardless of whether it made sense at the outset of the war, has now run its course.” Controversial then, Haass’ analysis that “Peace in Ukraine cannot be held hostage to war aims that, however morally justified, are likely unattainable”, has held up well over the intervening year, with military trends moving in Russia’s favour, and political trends in both the US and Europe edging away from the firm and bottomless commitment to the war that Western leaders expressed at its beginning.

Haass’s suggestion — presumably made to Russia — was that the war should be frozen at the current frontline, and “ideally, both Ukraine and Russia would pull back their troops and heavy weapons from the new line of contact, effectively creating a demilitarised zone,” monitored by neutral observers. Russia would hold its military gains, though Kyiv would not be compelled to recognise their legitimacy, “instead accepting that the recovery of territorial integrity must await a diplomatic breakthrough,” perhaps only after Putin exits the political scene. Until then, “Western governments could promise to fully lift sanctions against Russia and normalize relations with it only if Moscow signed a peace agreement that was acceptable to Kyiv.” Acceding to Russian demands for Ukrainian neutrality — that is, a commitment not to join Nato — would be counterbalanced by a firm bilateral US commitment to Ukraine’s defence. It is noteworthy, then, that as the clock runs down on the West’s current strategy, the Biden administration last week signed a 10-year bilateral security agreement outside Nato structures: the Haass strategy is, perhaps, already in motion.

Even as the war grinds on inconclusively, the remaining months of this year will probably see both sides attempt to consolidate their battlefield positions ahead of a new diplomatic push for peace. If Trump wins the election, and if, as seems likely, he intends to pressure Ukraine to cede land for peace, European politicians will face difficult choices. A full Europeanisation of the Western war effort will require a far greater mobilisation of resources than, for all their rhetoric, European politicians have yet shown themselves capable or willing to make, while the disjunct between Kyiv’s maximalist war aims and battlefield realities will only become starker. Would Starmer commit Britain to the Ukraine war without American support? The question is surely worth asking. To bring this threatening situation to a palatable conclusion requires a frank and serious debate over what an acceptable conclusion to the war, short of a total Russian collapse, would look like.

Yet as Galeotti observes, “one key problem is that we do not have any kind of a common sense of quite what ‘victory’ or ‘defeat’ really mean,” and thus “no meaningful public debate in the West about the likely outcomes, what we are prepared to spend and do… and thus, what our actual strategy may be.” These frank conversations, vital to British security, are already taking place above our heads, yet are strangely taboo in British political discourse, even as our leaders debate reintroducing conscription. Britain committed itself heavily towards Ukraine’s war effort, and deserves credit for enabling its successful defence of its core territory. Kyiv’s very survival is itself a bankable victory, and Britain’s interests ought to be secured in any peace negotiations to follow. Washington’s calculations are already quietly diverging from its rhetoric: in introducing a dose of reality, and dragging vigorous US foreign policy disputes into the insular world of British politics, Farage surely deserves credit rather than censure. It is sensible, rather than immoral, to engage with the hard world that exists, and not the better one we would wish for.


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

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Martin M
Martin M
20 days ago

Closer to Farage’s analysis than mainstream British political discourse, Galeotti cautions that “the likelihood is that some kind of deal will end up being struck which will trade some Ukrainian territory, and maybe guarantees of neutrality, for Moscow’s no doubt grudging acceptance of Kyiv’s sovereignty and independence.”  That sounds all very well in theory, but who would be stupid enough to believe anything Russia says?

Rocky Martiano
Rocky Martiano
19 days ago
Reply to  Martin M

The same people that promised Gorbachev NATO would not expand ‘one inch to the east’?

El Uro
El Uro
19 days ago
Reply to  Rocky Martiano

Who promised that?

Rocky Martiano
Rocky Martiano
19 days ago
Reply to  El Uro
Michael Cazaly
Michael Cazaly
18 days ago
Reply to  Rocky Martiano

You are wasting your time telling this one any facts whatsoever

Michael Cazaly
Michael Cazaly
19 days ago
Reply to  Martin M

Unless Ukraine “wins” there won’t be a choice…and it won’t “win”.

Obviously membership of the EU and neutrality would be a “win” in real terms for the rest of Ukraine…but that was on offer for all of it…and rejected.

Ukraine should have accepted that offer…the resultant prosperity would eventually have brought the Donetsk and Luhansk aboard…old people die, the young have different views…

Anna Bramwell
Anna Bramwell
18 days ago
Reply to  Michael Cazaly

They die particularly easily in Donetsk and Luhansk, where Poroshenko and Zelensky cut off old age pensions.

Michael Cazaly
Michael Cazaly
18 days ago
Reply to  Anna Bramwell

Yes, quite…

Fafa Fafa
Fafa Fafa
20 days ago

There is recent precedent in Europe for countries ceding large territories under external pressure – think of Germany and Hungary after WW1 and Finland, then Germany again, after WW2. Pomerania, Silesia – now you see it, now you don’t. The inviolability of territorial integrity – it is a new invention, and it is just empty words. If those countries can live with chunks of their land lost forever, in exchange for peace, then Ukraine should be able to do it too.

Peter B
Peter B
19 days ago
Reply to  Fafa Fafa

The Hungarians were a minority in almost all of the land that Hungary lost in the Treaty of Trianon (post WWI). Who would argue now that Translyvania belongs to Hungary and not Romania ? This is what happens when colonial empires break up. It’s the same with the pockets of Russians in the Baltic states and Moldova today.
So if you argue that Ukraine should cede the territories in the east that it lost before 2022 (I tend to agree), then by the same token, Russia should hand back Transnistria (i.e. get their troops out, allow it to reunite with Moldova and perhaps eventually Romania – the Moldovans are Romanians after all) and perhaps even Kaliningrad (German Konigsberg, which it colonised only in 1945). It’s exactly the same principle.

Anna Bramwell
Anna Bramwell
19 days ago
Reply to  Peter B

Harold Nicolson’s diary and book on the Versailles and Trianon process is fascinating. He writes that there was no intention to reduce Hungary to its rump status. The committees looking at other countries made their recommendations: when they met together,it emerged that Hungary had lost far more than anyone had intended. But everyone was tired and nobody wanted to start again. That is before in 1944-5 Ukraine was gifted with a third of Poland and the trans Carpathians from Hungary, setting off a brutal four year war, despite Poland being compensated with a large chunk of Germany.

Seb Dakin
Seb Dakin
20 days ago

Once again it’s Nigel Farage breaking the cosy consensus. There seems to have been a trend, maybe going back ten, even twenty years, whereby merely raising objections to the status quo brought such opprobrium down on one that few people, despite objecting to something deep down, felt that coming out and saying it was worth the hassle (and sometimes very real actual professional consequences). COVID policy, trans issues, BLM, DEI, immigration – all of these major issues were sort of removed from genuine debate by the sheer costs of challenging the consensus. I say consensus, but really dominant narrative is more accurate, because it was based on a consensus of a quite narrow group of people in specific professions and locations.
If ideas are not challenged and debated openly, and if the media does not do a proper job of challenging whoever is in charge, democracy doesn’t work properly, and democratic societies will function less effectively. Regardless of whether you agree with Nigel Farage, or Jorden Petersen, or JK Rawling, society owes them thanks for having the guts to stick their neck out and actually say what they think.
It’s courage and it’s also leadership. We’re bemoaning the lack of leadership we are seeing from senior politicians in the current election. What can we expect having seen the development of a public space in which any departure from the orthodoxy has you branded ‘far-right’, racist, ~phobic, etc. and practically barred from speaking in public spaces because your ‘safety cannot be guaranteed’ and other mealy-mouthed excuses?

A D Kent
A D Kent
19 days ago
Reply to  Seb Dakin

Those consensuses are a problem, but the levels of approbrium are minimal in comparison to those inflicted on anyone who dares to suggest better relations with Russia. Trump did it and they manufactured a collusion narrative about him and Putin. Corbyn had the temerity to suggest we might want to wait for a proper investigation of the Salisbury poisonings before we blamed Russia (and we’re still awaiting one) and he was jeered to the rafters by 600 MPs and smeared as an apologist across the entire media. A Labour candidate is dropped for sharing an RT article four years ago. The Times, Guardian and BBC smears academics asking questions about the alleged chemical weapons attacks in Syria without ever once reporting on their evidence for doing so – and there’s plenty more besides.

I’m sure there will be dozens of hacks right now scouring Reform, Farrage, Galloways & the Worker’s Party’s books for anything that can be associated with Russia.

The culture war stuff is minor in comparison.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
18 days ago
Reply to  A D Kent

The idea that any other state or institution other than Putin’s Russia caused the Salisbury poisonings is absolutely ludicrous. He had a clear motive and we have clear evidence. We have CCTV footage of the particular agents who set down the poison. This by the way had the potential to cause civilian casualties in a state with which supposedly Russia was at peace. The fact that Corbyn questioned this shows him to be a naive dupe at best and an instinctive supporter of any state, far Left, Right or theocracy as long as it is anti-western.

It is one thing to have a discussion about the appropriate Western foreign policy; quite another to believe any old hogwash coming from the Kremlin dictatorship where we might recall critics of Putin journalists or otherwise are routinely disposed of. For all the modern West’s faults, this does not happen here.

Michael Cazaly
Michael Cazaly
19 days ago

“Britain’s interests”? What national interests does Britain have in Ukraine?
The only apparent interest is that of Britain’s political class sucking up to the USA in pursuit of later personal gain.

Peter B
Peter B
19 days ago
Reply to  Michael Cazaly

British foreign policy has always been to try to preserve stability and a balance of power in Europe. Always. Russia invading Ukraine and threatening other eastern European countries is clearly counter to our permament interests. We also have NATO commitments to some of these countries – and I believe troops in Estonia as part of this.
I hope that helps.
I’m not sure why you think that “personal [I assume that means national] gain” is incompatible with foreign policy. What else do you suggest we should do ?
I notice that you still haven’t answered my questions on which countries you think should allowed to be international bullies. You clearly believe that Russia has greater rights than its neighbouring smaller countries. What I want to know is whether Britain’s historic “big power” status also entitles us to “international bully” status. Since Russia’s claim seems to be based primarily on their historic belief that they are a major power.

A D Kent
A D Kent
19 days ago
Reply to  Peter B

Where has that ‘balance of power’ been evident in the West’s response to Russia? Any and every proposal for talks regarding a new strategic framework for Europe prior to and since the 2022 invasion has been rejected out of hand. The Minsk process (as confirmed by the French, German & Ukrainian leaders taking part in it) were a sham designed to buy time to let the Ukrainians arm themselves to retake Crimea. British policy has nothing to do with balance of power with the RF – it’s been for restriction and dismemberment.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
18 days ago
Reply to  A D Kent

Even if that highly partisan account of the Minsk process were accurate, rather than heavily loaded, the term “retaking” Crimea (which voted albeit by a small margin in 1991 to be part of an independent Ukraine and was illegally seized by Russia only 23 years later, says it all.

There is not a single scintilla of evidence that either us or UK policy has ever been to dismember Russia, but the non Russian post Soviet states do not see themselves as part of Russia, and this was recognised at the time.

Michael Cazaly
Michael Cazaly
19 days ago
Reply to  Peter B

That was certainly Britain’s historic policy. However after WW2 the policy was containment of Communism, firstly the Soviet Union (at that time believed to be a military threat to Western Europe…which it probably wasn’t…as Bevan, not Bevin, pointed out…but there probably was a subversive threat), then “Red” China and others, hence the involvement in Korea (despite Indian Independence, although Britain still had “Malaya”…a profitable colony…, now Malaysia where it fought a successful counter insurgency action).
That policy was as “second fiddle” to the USA, but then downgraded to supplicant with the Suez adventure. Any thoughts of true co operation with France were destroyed then (France had made sure its finances were in order, Britain not..thanks to Macmillan a useless Chancellor…)… Britain scuttled, much to the annoyance of France.
Happily Wilson kept Britain out of Vietnam… thanks Harold…a great decision.
After the Cold War, Britain, and NATO, merely served as an adjunct to the military arm of the US Empire, with no benefit to itself.
Your assumption is wrong…read again my actual words.
My beliefs are irrelevant, and you do not know what they are. What I seek to do is analyse situations and draw rational conclusions from them. It is therefore clear that Russia considers itself to have the same rights as the US Empire has arrogated to itself.
Those rights taken by the US Empire include the right to use military action, up to and including invasion of other countries, in order to protect itself, its interests ( actually the interests of its ruling class…) and its friends (there are only two or three) from perceived threats, whether real, prospective or totally imaginary, and to advance its wealth (this being the major reason). The deaths and destruction these cause are not important to it…as is the case with all empires but in the modern age they are immense.
In the case of Ukraine the threat to Russia was far from imaginary.

Carl Valentine
Carl Valentine
18 days ago
Reply to  Michael Cazaly

Well said!

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
18 days ago
Reply to  Michael Cazaly

Your use of the term “US empire” hardly shows you to be some neutral observer!. The US has a great deal of military, economic and even moral hegemony – but it is not an Empire, unless you are referring to the territories captured in the US Mexican war in 1846. I believe de Gaulle proved this quite a few decades ago. You should have a look at the definition of the word.

It is so fashionable, indeed almost universal, to decry the American involvement in Vietnam but nobody has ever explained to me why it’s a fantastic thing that South Korea is an independent democratic, capitalist and highly successful state – but there was no chance of South Vietnam ever becoming so.

We can’t predict the future and arguing from hindsight is easy. American foreign policy at the time was entire about containing communism – and since communism caused repression on an epic scale, including tens of millions of deaths, this was a thoroughly good thing in my view. Pinochet was a brute but killed “only” a few thousand, not hundreds of thousands of even millions of political opponents, as most communist States did.

Martin M
Martin M
16 days ago
Reply to  Michael Cazaly

It is in Britain’s national interest not to allow war mongering tyrants to launch unprovoked invasions of peaceful neighbors. After all, that is why it went into WW2.

Carlos Danger
Carlos Danger
19 days ago

Let’s hope someone like Richard Haass is talking to the Russians, at least, and the Ukrainians too, at best. We need a good dealmaker to be working a deal, because there is a deal to be made.
Why? Volodymyr Zelensky was elected in 2019 as a peace president. Ukraine had basically given up on getting Crimea back. The idea was just to get Russia to back out of the Donbas. So a deal that leaves Crimea Russian and ends the war with Russia giving up claims in the Donbas seems a possible deal for Ukraine.
While ethnic Russian separatists were battling Ukraine for 8 years in the Donbas, Vladimir Putin was eager to hang onto Crimea, but didn’t want the Donbas. They had agreed under the Minsk accords not to annex any territory in that region. So while Russia has annexed four other Ukrainian provinces—Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhia and Kherson—they don’t seem serious about keeping them. It’s rather like the way they take hostages, like Paul Whelan and Evan Gershkovich.
So what would be a good deal for both sides? Basically, the Minsk accords. Crimea stays Russian. The other occupied territory is no longer Russian, but to be negotiated. Ukraine stays out of NATO, but gets other security guarantees.
Would Vladimir Putin agree to that? Would Volodymyr Zelensky? I don’t know. But it would be worth a try. And no one seems to be trying. Both sides put up preconditions to negotiations. But that’s silly. If your demands must be satisfied before negotiations begin, what are the negotiations for?
Both Ukraine and Russia are talking to their allies instead of with each other. But as former Israeli general Moshe Dayan said, “if you want peace you don’t talk to your friends, you talk to your enemies.”

Jürg Gassmann
Jürg Gassmann
19 days ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

I agree with your reading up to September 2022, but I don’t see it realistically that Russia would now discuss giving up on the four new oblasts. It seems to me that train has left the station.
As Clausewitz says – the course of the war creates new dynamics.
That of course darkens the prospects for an imminent peace…

Carlos Danger
Carlos Danger
18 days ago
Reply to  Jürg Gassmann

You’re right, it may be hard for Russia now to give up the four new oblasts. Things have changed.
But as a dealmaker (albeit as a business lawyer rather than in foreign affairs) I get the sense that Russia would rather not have had those four oblasts to have to pay for. Just like I don’t think Ukraine really wanted to have Crimea back until the Russian invasion in 2022.
So I think a good dealmaker (and there are some in the US government) would have some things to work with. It would be best to have the president do it, and I think Donald Trump could. Joe Biden, for a variety of reasons, could not.

Jürg Gassmann
Jürg Gassmann
18 days ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

Looking at it from the other side:

– What could the West credibly promise that it can deliver? Realistically speaking, the US is – for domestic policy reasons – simply unable to stop sanctions. Even if a president would want to, there is no constituency in Congress to do it, and we’re now seeing the new phenomenon that Treasury is running its own sanctions policy. Obama lifted some of the sanctions on Cuba, but when Trump came in, he let Pompeo and his crowd run their own policy, and sanctions came back with vengeance. The fate of the JCPOA is an obvious case in point; the US simply reneged on the agreement, and the Europeans, who had at one point talked grandly about setting up mechanisms for Europe to insulate its Iran trade from US sanctions, meekly caved.

– What could the West offer that Russia wants badly? It seems to me that Russia has figured out that the West is unable to genuinely change policy and make it stick, and has arranged itself accordingly. Russia is already talking about leveraging BRICS to replace the international organisations, from the UN to Olympics, which the West has weaponised.

Martin M
Martin M
16 days ago
Reply to  Jürg Gassmann

The West would only really remove sanctions if Russia pulls out of Ukraine completely and pays for the damage it has caused. That obviously isn’t going to happen, so I guess they stay in place.

Anna Bramwell
Anna Bramwell
19 days ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

Actually I;don’t think that Luhansk and Donets ever wanted to be Russian. But as that has become the narrative, with no one from the west ‘embedded’ there for ten years to report back, there is little point in suggesting that those provinces might be asked what they think. In any case the population is now down a third, to 4 million from 6.5 million, so that the old post war picture of mass refugees has become again the norm.

j watson
j watson
19 days ago

The public statements made by the key people will be different from what is going on below the surface. The Author well knows that. Public statements by both sides have to maintain morale.
A 38th parallel type settlement always been the most likely. Kyiv knows Putin will hold out for a bleak winter and until Trump, but I think an error if Author thinks once in power Trump would change much. What he says now is about getting back in the White House, not what he might do afterwards. Baling from Ukraine, with the consequences for international support in ME and Taiwan not a legacy he’ll want, and all 2nd term Presidents fixate quickly on Foreign policy and legacy.
Author overstates the strength of current Russian military position. It’s much weaker than the recent Kharkiv offensive might imply and that of course has ground to a halt. The longer range western supplied ordnance is now getting deployed and will gradually degrade key elements of the Russian position. North Korean ordnance is no match.
Took 2 years of stalemate before the Korean armistice signed. It’s coming but not yet. Once it does the challenge for the West is help Ukraine become S Korea II.

Peter B
Peter B
19 days ago
Reply to  j watson

Pretty much agree. This idea that Trump is pro-Russia is almost certainly wrong. Much of what he says is for effect rather than literal. In any case, who knows whether he’ll win in November.
It’s always been the case that the West has kept plenty in reserve in its support for Ukraine and only escalated slowly and incrementally. Permitting the use of long range missile strikes inside Russia is a case in point. Quite why it was ever considered ok for Russia to bomb within Ukraine, but not Ukraine to bomb within Russia is beyond me.
Not sure about Ukraine becoming South Korea II. One can hope so. But this is only possible if the people have the right culture, drive and determination and the society has the right incentives and commitment to property rights and the rule of law. Some countries do – perhaps Estonia. It’s not clear that Ukraine does. We must hope they can develop them.

j watson
j watson
19 days ago
Reply to  Peter B

I agree it was a major mistake, morally and strategically, to not allow Ukraine to use western munitions cross border and deeper into Russian territory earlier. Maybe the tactical Nukes usage threat resonated too much. That was always cobblers though. As it is the tactical Nukes Russia has have a 400mile range and near to be close to border to be deployed. They’d be destroyed before they could deploy and Russians know that.
As regards can Ukraine become S Korea II – if one looks back at what sort of state S Korea was under Syngman Rhee one could contend Ukraine already starting from a much better position. It’s doable and in some regards the threat from Russia if they didn’t acts as fuel to power them in the right direction.

Peter B
Peter B
19 days ago
Reply to  j watson

Quite. Russia can’t use nukes near its own border without directly hurting themselves. The Russian nuclear threats are all BS. Like pretty much everything coming out of the Kremlin (and their apologists in the West).

Anna Bramwell
Anna Bramwell
19 days ago
Reply to  j watson

Ukraine has done significant and humiliating. damage to Russia, – remember the Moskvich? They saw off the tanks marching to Kiev with , as far as I can understand, a few men standing on old cars and firing shotguns. They have already carried out effective drone attacks in Russia. But is this enough to win? The loss of troops is taking on Somme like figures. I was brought up on the post war books about Britain’s brave actions during the war: the Cruel Sea, the Dam Busters, the spies in France, the cunning plots. But Britain didnt win the war. That was done by the US and the Soviet Union, pretty well by brute force, US industrial might and huge armies from the Soviet Union. It is inspiring to read about the courage and bravery, the innovations, of the Ukrainian army. But where do they go from here? Just keep throwing troops into the mincing machine? Farage will probably get the treatment the Duke of Devonshire got when he called for peace in the 1st World War. Oh how Lloyd George and the media excoriated him. But does anybody think now that he was wrong?

Michael Cazaly
Michael Cazaly
19 days ago
Reply to  Anna Bramwell

It isn’t just the Ukrainian military losses, it is the destruction of the power infrastructure. Power stations are being destroyed…and they run on Soviet equipment which the West cannot replace. Winter for the Ukrainian people is going to be very grim indeed.

I think you are wrong about the advance on Kiev…it simply wasn’t big enough to succeed.

I certainly agree about WW2…the USA supplied the money and the Soviet Union the blood…the epithet that Britain beat the Italians, the Russians beat the Germans and the Americans beat the Japanese pretty much sums it up…but harshly.

And yes, of course the Duke of Devonshire was right…but nobody believes Cassandra…

Jürg Gassmann
Jürg Gassmann
19 days ago

Several key statements here which I argue are false or erroneous:
1. The three possible “outcomes” are all military outcomes; there is a fourth possibility, and that is a negotiated settlement.
2. Why would Russia “grudgingly” accept a survival of Ukraine? Erasing Ukraine has never been among Russia’s stated war aims, and Putin has consistently recognised Ukraine as a separate and independent state.
3. A “Korean Solution” – freezing the conflict at the current line of contact with Ukraine remaining in control of the remainders of Kherson, Zaporizhzhiya and Donetsk oblasts – has never been an acceptable basis of discussion for Russia. Western “negotiators” touting that as a way forward are deluding themselves. So far as Russia is concerned, after September 2022, Ukraine has been and is in occupation of Russian lands, and Russia have said they won’t negotiate a settlement on that basis.
So far as the military situation is concerned, where the current line of contact is precisely is largely immaterial. By all accounts, Russia is chewing up and spitting out increasingly threadbare Ukrainian armed forces, and Ukraine’s “strategy” is feeding into Russia’s strategy of attrition. Historically, the losing side (Ukraine) cannot sustain such a strategy indefinitely; collapse looks unlikely but then comes suddenly.

Peter B
Peter B
19 days ago
Reply to  Jürg Gassmann

What utterly pathetic and shameful lies.
Putin claims 4 provinces of Ukraine as part of Russia. In addition to Crimea. And you say that is “recognising Ukraine as a separate and independent state”.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
19 days ago
Reply to  Peter B

Remind us what led Putin to take an interest in at least two of those four states. I’ll wait.

Peter B
Peter B
19 days ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Greed. Paranoia. Delusions of grandeur as the new Russian emperor (in his own tiny mind anyway). Hatred of the West. “Yes men” lackeys telling him it would be a pushover. Can’t bear to have successful neighbours as it makes him look bad. Old man in a hurry. Any combination of the above.

Michael Cazaly
Michael Cazaly
19 days ago
Reply to  Peter B

Ukraine was successful?

El Uro
El Uro
19 days ago
Reply to  Michael Cazaly

And what does that mean?

Michael Cazaly
Michael Cazaly
19 days ago
Reply to  El Uro

It is a question…

El Uro
El Uro
17 days ago
Reply to  Michael Cazaly

If I understand you correctly, an unsuccessful country can be destroyed. Rare asshole.
It is an answer…

Anna Bramwell
Anna Bramwell
19 days ago
Reply to  Peter B

How about 10 to 14000 civilian casualties in the east, where the rebels had the temerity to want their legitimate president back?

El Uro
El Uro
19 days ago
Reply to  Anna Bramwell

Why are you lying?

Michael Cazaly
Michael Cazaly
19 days ago
Reply to  El Uro

Is she?

Anna Bramwell
Anna Bramwell
18 days ago
Reply to  El Uro

United nation figures. Why are you hiding your head in the sand?

Michael Cazaly
Michael Cazaly
18 days ago
Reply to  Anna Bramwell

He isn’t…he’s merely a troll, paid or otherwise…

El Uro
El Uro
17 days ago
Reply to  Michael Cazaly

Fool

El Uro
El Uro
17 days ago
Reply to  Anna Bramwell

15000 from both sides. These numbers are official.
In 2021 the number of victims was about 1 or 3…
What about Russian Army directly participated in this conflict?
Your arguments are the typical RT arguments, sorry

Martin M
Martin M
16 days ago
Reply to  Anna Bramwell

Their “legitimate President” was a Russian stooge! Don’t believe me? Where is he now?

B Emery
B Emery
19 days ago
Reply to  Peter B

Crazy nato American foreign policy lunatics at the door. That whole nato expansion argument. Us sanctions causing mayhem. Weaponisation of the dollar. American isolationism. It was really a civil war to start with, so there is that to consider. Maidan p*sing off russians. Which to be fair if they really don’t like Russians I suppose is fair enough I’m not really sure anymore. Possibly also some of your options, I like the yes men lackeys and the old man in a hurry ones especially.

El Uro
El Uro
19 days ago
Reply to  Jürg Gassmann

Ukraine has been and is in occupation of Russian lands, and Russia have said they won’t negotiate a settlement on that basis
What?

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
19 days ago

Not only is there no general definition of what constitutes victory, there is also no clue of what the aftermath will look like. From the beginning, the one non-negotiable point from Moscow has been that Ukraine must be neutral. Given NATO’s mission – never mind that with the collapse of the Soviet Union, that mission is over – that hardly seems over the top. I somehow doubt that Russian or Chinese bases in Mexico would go over well.
This could and should have ended more than two years ago, but a bunch of worthless old men decided otherwise. Meantime, tens of thousands have been killed and a nation has been eviscerated. One of our Senators recently admitted the malicious truth – the wealth of resources in Ukraine that he sees as an American birthright rather than Ukraine’s to use and sell for its benefit.

Anna Bramwell
Anna Bramwell
19 days ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Agreed. Ukraine was always the US’s ‘ bread basket’, as Albright honestly admitted.

Peter B
Peter B
15 days ago
Reply to  Anna Bramwell

What absolute c**p.
The USA is easily self-sufficient in wheat and almost all agricultural commodities. It doesn’t need a foreign breadbasket. Never has. Never will.
Must lie harder !

Martin M
Martin M
16 days ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

As the situation in Ukraine shows, NATO’s mission (providing a bulwark against Russia) is not over, nor is it likely to be any time soon. While it is possible to imagine a world in which Russia is a valued member of the international community, that won’t happen this century.

Dr Illbit
Dr Illbit
19 days ago

Lovely, Aris.

It seems Farage has a realist position on FP as well as domestic policy. Not nearly so ‘Pound Shop Trump’ as he is depicted by UK media. Perhaps he is aware that – heaven forbid – there is an anti-globalist position which doesnt necessitate isolationism…

Grown-up thinking anyone?

Nice to see a political leader offering viable counter-proposition to the egoistic technocratic idealism of neo-liberal elites FP.

John Tyler
John Tyler
19 days ago

“Our leaders” don’t have to define victory. We are not at war. Ukraine defines victory as recovery of land stolen by an autocratic and amoral regime; Russia defines it as whatever it’s dictatorship says at any given moment.

Michael Cazaly
Michael Cazaly
19 days ago
Reply to  John Tyler

So “the West” supports Ukraine no matter what it does, until Ukraine’s rulers decide they’ve won…effectively giving them control over “the West’s” policy?

John Dewhirst
John Dewhirst
19 days ago

The factor not mentioned is the delivery of the F16s and the impact of recent US arms deliveries which have encouraged Ukraine to continue the fight. Once we get to November the winter will have its own impact, less on the battlefield as with regards to power generation within Ukraine which could yet be decisive in changing attitudes within Ukraine. On the other hand, the number of fatalities has been such that neither side – and Ukraine in particular – will wish to forego the opportunity to avenge the deaths of comrades.

Pip G
Pip G
19 days ago

Realism is breaking through. The pause with a demilitarized zone seems pragmatic. The key is the USA: Europe will never sponsor Ukraine alone. Within USA, Mr Trump is the unknown factor: he would love to claim an “Art of the Deal” success.
However, the West cannot allow Putin to obtain a partial victory. He will only come back for more (Baltic states?). The biggest beneficiary will be China, as an increasingly impoverished Russia becomes a dependent client state. What a change in the British attitude to China (Foreign Office excepted) from 10 years ago with Cameron & Osborne toadying to China; not that we should gratuitously alienate China today.

Dave Canuck
Dave Canuck
19 days ago

It will end when both sides are war exhausted and the people finally wake up and take to the streets, hopefully in Moscow first. Until then, both sides will be fed by the military complexes of the west and China. Despite more support from the west, Ukraine is looking tired, they are having difficulty recruiting more soldiers and the economy is in tatters, and they have a much smaller population than Russia. It may suit the west to try to bleed Russia further, but at some point war exhaustion will set in and both sides will have to negotiate. On the other hand, it could go nuclear if Russia starts losing, Putin will not accept defeat and humiliation (I don’t support Putin, but I read enough Russian history to understand how they think, they are very proud and fear and loathe the west)

Michael Cazaly
Michael Cazaly
19 days ago
Reply to  Dave Canuck

But Russia isn’t bleeding. The Russian people have never before had such a high standard of living.

The Western “sanctions” have had significant “blowback”…it is the EU which is suffering the consequences.

Most of the rest of the world don’t care about Ukraine and have no intention of being impoverished because of the sanctions…which have little “bite”…cheaper energy and lots of it will always find a market

Dave Canuck
Dave Canuck
19 days ago
Reply to  Michael Cazaly

On the surface it may appear that Russia is doing well, but the economy is on a war footing, much of the spending is on defense. They have low unemployment because many young people have been drafted in the military, and they are facing a brain drain as many of the educated and skilled are leaving the country, many young people are not interested in fighting in Ukraine and dying for Putin. Russia has an aging population and low birth rate as well as very little immigration. Russia is not an economic powerhouse, their GDP is about the same as Canada and maybe 10% of the US and EU economy. They are very vulnerable if oil prices drop as they export mostly energy.

Michael Cazaly
Michael Cazaly
18 days ago
Reply to  Dave Canuck

The GDP on a PPP basis puts Russia about fourth in the world, above the UK.

Infant mortality is less than in the USA.

Those are figures which should cause considerable reflection in “the West” which should concentrate on peace and prosperity for its own people, rather than seeking to enlarge the US Empire.

I’m sure most Russians don’t want to fight but there was no option as a peace deal was torpedoed by the West. The alternative was as a vassal to Western “big capital”…that hasn’t worked out well for other countries.

In fact it hasn’t worked out brilliantly for the people of what was East Germany, a case where one might have thought it would work exceptionally well.

Dave Canuck
Dave Canuck
18 days ago
Reply to  Michael Cazaly

PPP per capita in the US 76k, UK 54k, Russia 36k per 2022 figures. Russia is 52nd globally. They have life expectancy at least 5 years lower than the US, birth rate Russia 1.5 versus US 1.7. There is plenty of ” big capital ” in Russia as well, in the hands of corrupt oligarchs that are running things there and under Putin’s thumb, the richest oligarch of them all.

Michael Cazaly
Michael Cazaly
17 days ago
Reply to  Dave Canuck

Thanks for the PPP correction…clearly my souce was wrong. I think the infant mortality figures are right though.
Yes I know there are oligarchs in Russia…the point is that the West suffers the same disease but pretends it doesn’t both to its own people and the rest of the world when it assumes a mantle of democracy and virtue…which totally false.

Mark epperson
Mark epperson
19 days ago

The war in the Ukraine will end badly for both Ukraine and Russia. Thousands of soldiers killed, wounded, and maimed needlessly. Ukraine could have made a good deal with Russia but would have had to give up a lot of land that was Old Russia and that would have been supported by the folks living in the Old Russian lands. This was a Western “elites” war who soon tired of the slog and moved on to something more exciting for “elites”. The only ones who are going to come out ahead are the contractors and weapon makers. Russia will end up getting most of those lands and Ukraine will get energy, and other commodities. They could have made a better deal before the war started. Tragic, but a perfect example of the greedy, inept, and corrupt world we live, courtesy of the “Elites”. Assholes, really

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
18 days ago
Reply to  Mark epperson

“The war in the Ukraine will end badly for both Ukraine and Russia. ”
That was the objective, and the US blocks has already won.

Martin M
Martin M
16 days ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

If true, sad for Ukraine. Russia, on the other hand, deserves every misery.

Andrew Boughton
Andrew Boughton
19 days ago

Accurate analysis. The Mirror is grossly foolish and, in effect, homicidal. N.F. is to be congratulated for his dependable realism and reason.

Stephen Feldman
Stephen Feldman
19 days ago

Odd how all agree WW1 was a prolonged waste but we repeat it anyway.

Martin M
Martin M
16 days ago

That is the thing with wars. If they are happening in your country, there is nowhere to “pack up and go home” to.

TERRY JESSOP
TERRY JESSOP
19 days ago

It is not clear to me upon what terms the war between Ukraine and Russia will finally end, but one prediction that I can make is that Ukraine will, after seeing off the Russians for three years or more, have little problem in dominating the pusillanimous nations of Europe and becoming the dominant power in that continent. And good luck to them.

Anna Bramwell
Anna Bramwell
18 days ago
Reply to  TERRY JESSOP

Interesting prediction. Ukraine has been an economic basket case since 1992. Unlike Poland, it never found a way to develop a new and viable economy, only oligarchism. And only the financial aid from US and the EU is fending off hyperinflation. Perhaps if the exiles and refugees return things could get better.

Michael Cazaly
Michael Cazaly
18 days ago
Reply to  Anna Bramwell

Even that is doubtful. Ukraine is basically owned by Western capital, our very own version of oligarchs, but usually referred to as “elites”…

The war, as ever, is to protect someone else’s profits, not “freedom”, “democracy” or other such concepts as our rulers would have us believe.

Martin M
Martin M
16 days ago
Reply to  Anna Bramwell

The West will need to pay for the reconstruction of Ukraine, to the extent that seized Russian assets don’t cover the bill.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
18 days ago

Excellent article.

Hans Daoghn
Hans Daoghn
17 days ago

Excellent article.  Thank you. 
Let me suggest a scenario I think is coming:
1)    The war reaches a stalemate with neither side able to defeat the other. With the arrival of advanced western air defense weapons we are almost at that point.
2)    Biden is defeated by Trump on November 5th.  This looks likely.

What happens next: Trump rescinds Biden’s 10-year UNCONDITIONAL PLEDGE to defend Ukraine. He replaces it with an ultimatum to Zelensky: the U.S. will defend Ukraine ONLY if it relinquishes all the land Russia now occupies.  Further: if Ukraine refuses, the U.S. will stop providing weapons to Ukraine.
The rest of the West will fall in line behind the U.S. position.  
Zelensky will, in a matter of a few months have no choice but to agree to the deal.
Notably, Putin recently offered to end hostilities if Ukraine gave up the land Russia now occupies.

Martin M
Martin M
16 days ago
Reply to  Hans Daoghn

….which of course will mean that Trump sells out the people of Ukraine to support one of his dictator pals.

Talia Perkins
Talia Perkins
16 days ago

Zelenksyy is the leader involved, and he has defined winning quite concisely.

Peter Mott
Peter Mott
16 days ago

This is a long, rambling and inconclusive piece. Maybe because it is based upon the assumption that the Ukraine war will end in negotiation, and so we should think about that process. But Lawrence Freedman wrote a recent (free) piece pointing out that wars don’t necessarily end – or even typically – end in negotiation.
In the comments someone asked him: “has there ever been a negotiated peace after fighting has started when the situation is balanced, neither side has an advantage?” and Freedman responded: “Can’t think of any offhand (which doesn’t mean to say hasn’t happened).”
Usually when people talk about negotiations they just want the war to stop and Ukraine to be sacrificed to achieve this.
The Freedman article is at: https://samf.substack.com/p/why-wars-dont-always-end-with-negotiations/