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Pope Francis is right about Ukraine

Pope Francis meets with Volodymyr Zelensky in the Vatican last year. Credit: Getty

March 11, 2024 - 7:00am

Pope Francis has called on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to have the “courage of the white flag”. Speaking to Swiss broadcaster RSI, the Pope argued that “the strongest one is the one who looks at the situation, thinks about the people, has the courage of the white flag, and negotiates.” While the comments were condemned in some quarters, at this stage they are merely a recognition of the reality of the situation in Ukraine.

Since the country’s ill-fated summer counteroffensive last year, it has become increasingly clear that Ukraine is not winning the war and may not be able to do so. Enormous promises were made regarding this counteroffensive, not least that the Ukrainians would push all the way through to Crimea and thereby deal a devastating and perhaps destabilising blow to the Kremlin. But none of this came to pass. As the Ukrainians met dug-in Russian defences, it quickly petered out.

The same cannot be said for the Russians. Last month’s fall of Avdiivka, a key Ukrainian position which was thought to have almost impenetrable defences, provoked Western media outlets to speculate that Russia might be turning the tide of the war. There are now widespread rumours that Vladimir Putin might instigate a major offensive this spring to try to break the Ukrainian lines.

This is bad news for the Zelensky government, which has become increasingly frayed. Last year media reports suggested that Zelensky had become involved in a spat with the man who was then in charge of the war effort, the respected General Valerii Zaluzhny, who had become increasingly critical of the President’s handling of the war. This came to a head last month when Zelensky fired Zaluzhny. Last week the former commander was made ambassador to the United Kingdom, in a move many suspect was geared towards containing his potential entry into the political arena.

The economic situation is looking increasingly grim for Ukraine too. At the start of February the European Union approved another €50 billion in aid to the embattled nation, but this is simply not enough money to keep the lights on. The €50 billion supplied by the Europeans was supposed to be met with a similar package from the Americans, but President Joe Biden remains unable to get the aid package through Congress, leaving Ukraine potentially short on cash.

Ukraine’s domestic situation is still combustible. Zelensky is fending off internal political criticism and even the emergence of rival factions which disagree with his handling of the war. Meanwhile, the economic situation may deteriorate further in the course of this year. And that’s not even to mention the increasing problems the Ukrainian military is having with recruitment. A successful spring offensive by the Russians could prove to be the spark that lights the powder keg ablaze. Perhaps the Ukrainian President would be wise to listen to the Pope’s suggestion.


Philip Pilkington is a macroeconomist and investment professional, and the author of The Reformation in Economics

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Stephen Walsh
Stephen Walsh
4 months ago

Having mobilised an army, put his economy on a war footing, tightened his control over the Russian state and exposed Western promises to Ukraine and to invest in their own defence as mere bluster, why would Putin be content now with slivers of devastated territory in eastern and southern Ukraine no rational country would accept as a gift? Europe might be better to bring the fight to Russia where it now is as opposed to where it will go next.

Rob N
Rob N
4 months ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

Agree with most of that, except the conclusion. Instead we need to draw the war to a sensible and pragmatic conclusion. And then work at splitting Russia away from China. Best for Ukraine and the West.

Stephen Walsh
Stephen Walsh
4 months ago
Reply to  Rob N

And why would Russia agree to any of that at a price the West would be willing to pay?

Aidan Twomey
Aidan Twomey
4 months ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

More to the point, once the economy s on a war footing, it needs wars to keep it going: demobilisation is terrible for GDP. Even if the war is drawn to a “sensible and pragmatic conclusion” Putin would be left with the choice between letting the economy slide or invading somewhere else. Anyone banking on the Russian problem going away is probably in for a nasty disappointment.

Martin M
Martin M
4 months ago
Reply to  Aidan Twomey

Russia has always been a problem, and it’s always going to be a problem. The sooner the West wakes up to that, the better.

Carlos Danger
Carlos Danger
4 months ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

Russia may not agree. It’s still worth talking. The fact that Joe Biden hasn’t spoken to Vladimir Putin for years is unfortunate.

Matt M
Matt M
4 months ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

If they were to take Odessa and join up their forces in Transnistria with those from the east, they would remove Ukraine’s access to the sea while creating a land corridor from Transnistria to Russia proper. I expect Moldova would soon capitulate and become a Russia “partner”. At which point Ukraine would be surrounded by Russia to the east, Belarus to the north and the new Moldova/Russia territory to the south. I suspect eventually, the Ukrainian government would be replaced by a more Russia-friendly one and talk of NATO and EU membership would be shelved.
Without a doubt, the gas and oil would start flowing westward again. Putin would have expanded Russian territory and influence, secured Crimea’s future against Ukrainian “aggression”, created a buffer zone with NATO, enhanced Russia’s relationship with China and created his legacy.
I’m not really sure what the west can do to prevent this outcome, especially if the US and Germany have gone cold on sending more arms to Ukraine.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
4 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

The west could do quite a lot still. The question is whether it wants to, or whether it prefers to let Putin have his victory – and start worrying about defending the Baltic states and Poland next.

Matt M
Matt M
4 months ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Yes you are right. If the west were to make a concerted effort to arm the Ukrainians, they could stop this outcome and tie the Russians down in eastern Ukraine. But I think the wind is blowing the other way.
As it happens, I suspect Putin would be reluctant to actually invade a NATO country. Much more likely that he will consolidate control over eastern and southern Ukraine and Transnistria/Moldova.
Once Ukraine and Moldova are neutered and cannot join NATO and so long as Belarus is friendly and Russia-aligned, the Russians have a pretty decent buffer zone between them and the west. I predict that were that to happen, Russia would move its focus towards Georgia rather than Poland and the Baltics.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
4 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

We can but hope. But is Trump (if he wins) really going to go to war if his friend Putin invades Lithuania? Moreover, is Putin going to believe the risk is high enough to keep him from trying? When the west has already shown they have no stomach for a fight, even when other people do the dying and all they have to risk is money?

Stephen Walsh
Stephen Walsh
4 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

Quite apart from the implications for European security of an expanded Russia, that would trigger millions more Ukrainian refugees into Europe.

Matt M
Matt M
4 months ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

And Moldavans, and probably Romanians too.

Martin M
Martin M
4 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

A good start would be to NEVER AGAIN buy Russian oil and gas.

Matt M
Matt M
4 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

It seems unlikely to me that the Germans would be able to hold the line on that. The moment it is clear things are in a stalemate, BMW, Mercedes, Siemens, etc will be agitating for a resumption of deliveries from the east.

B Emery
B Emery
4 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

FREE TRADE. You don’t have to like the people you are buying stuff from, in ww2 we had no sanctions and still had a massive fight.

Peter B
Peter B
4 months ago

Who cares what the Pope says ? Shouldn’t he be putting his own house in order (like actually reporting all the paedos to the police rather than covering for them) ? Proudest day in England’s history when we handed the Pope his P45 in 1534.

Arthur King
Arthur King
4 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

I don’t like this pope but he is the leader of millions of the faithful. His opinion matters. Yours and mine, not so much.

Peter B
Peter B
4 months ago
Reply to  Arthur King

And what sort of leadership have these Popes provided ?
Backed the rebel Fascists against the elected government in the Spanish Civil War.
Signed treaties with the Italian Fascist government and Nazi Germany and helped to enable WWII. Apparently “did a lot of good work behind the scenes” to protect the Jews in WWII. But curiously silent and unable to speak out when it mattered. Which is the only time it does matter. Still haven’t apologised for their behaviour up to, during and after WWII (including Vatican officials doing the paperwork to get Nazis out to South America after the war).
Top layers of this organisation rotten to the core. Like pretty much every other organisation these days, sadly. No one should take advice from such people.

Arthur King
Arthur King
4 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

I’m not, I just value his opinion. I’m a protestant. In this case, I’m somewhat in agreement. Ukraine should sue for peace and give Russia the two Russian dominated provinces.

Kent Ausburn
Kent Ausburn
4 months ago
Reply to  Arthur King

Anyone who values this Pope’s opinion is either ignorant or a fool.

Peter B
Peter B
4 months ago
Reply to  Arthur King

Agreed. Except someone external needs to come in to broker/force the agreement. Direct Ukraine/Russia negotiations will never produce a stable, enuring peace. Perhaps Trump will step up to the mark (if elected). Failing that, Erdogan or China. Biden clearly has no strategy for ending this (if he’s even fully ware what’s going on).

Martin M
Martin M
4 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

Let’s not forget that they turned a blind eye to rampant child sexual abuse by significant numbers of their clergy.

Peter B
Peter B
4 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

Indeed. World class at turning a blind eye there.

Carlos Danger
Carlos Danger
4 months ago

The war between Russia and Ukraine is not a Manichaean struggle between evil and good. It’s more complicated and more complex than that. Russia is not as evil as it is made out to be, nor Ukraine as good.
As Soviet dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn said, “If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”
We should support Ukraine, as we are. But we should also seek to end the war, not to win it. As Cicero said, “As for me, I cease not to advocate peace. It may be on unjust terms, but even so it is more expedient than the justest of civil wars.”
The war between Russia and Ukraine has been smoldering for more than 10 years, and flared up for 2 of those years. It could go on for many more years. We may be able to end it. We should certainly try. That’s a point Donald Trump made, and he’s right.
Last year Donald Trump was asked if he wanted Ukraine to win the war. He said: “I don’t think in terms of winning and losing, I think in terms of getting it settled so we stop killing all these people.” And later: “I want everybody to stop dying. They’re dying. Russians and Ukrainians. I want them to stop dying.”
Ukraine and Russia have fought to a stalemate. Neither is strong enough to win or weak enough to lose. Since we have committed to war until it’s won, what do we do now?

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
4 months ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

The only way ‘we’ can end this war, as things stand, is to have Ukraine surrender to Russia. If not immediately, then after a suitable pause for rearmament and another round of war. That is what the white flag means: surrender. Surrender is sometimes better than fighting on to lose anyway, but anyone who proposes it should have the honesty to call things by their right name. We did not expect any such honesty from Trump, but it is remarkable that the pope has chosen to sail in the same boat.

Charles Farrar
Charles Farrar
4 months ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Reread what the Pope said it was not a abject surrender

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
4 months ago
Reply to  Charles Farrar

That is exactly my problem. The pope was dishonest. Russia wants to control Ukraine (that is what ‘demilitarisation and dena**fiction’ means), and there is absolutely no indication that Russia will settle for less. Any ‘negotiation’ now will mean that Russia gets what it wants – which is surrender. Calling it by another name does not make it any nicer, it just means that you are trying to fool people – or maybe yourself. Surely the pope can be expected to manage at least basic honesty?

Carlos Danger
Carlos Danger
4 months ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

The point of negotiation is to explore solutions. Donald Trump has his faults, but he is indeed a master at the “art of the deal” (the title of his autobiography). It would be very interesting to see him at work. Sadly, Joe Biden is a piker.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
4 months ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

If the starting point of the negotiations is that one way or another Ukraine will not have support to continue fighting, it is easy to see what kind of deal Russia will offer.

Carlos Danger
Carlos Danger
4 months ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

It would indeed be foolish, as you suggest, to go into negotiations with a starting point like that. But there’s no need to do that. In negotiation, you explore options. Options are things you can accept or not accept.
That choice is a powerful thing. Trying to work out a deal in advance never works well. Rather than worry about the starting point to negotiations, much better to start talking as soon as possible, and see what happens.
At least that’s my experience with the art of the deal, as a student and in practice. What’s been your experience?

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
4 months ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

To get an acceptable deal you need to convince the other side that he cannot get a much better one by holding out. In the specific case, you need convince Russia that even if they keep fighting they are not going to get everything they want. Which is exactly the opposite of what the US Republicans are doing now. It is easy to imagine how the conversation would go:

Trump: “We want to make a deal”
Putin: “Excellent idea. We will of course keep Crimea and the four Oblasts that are sovereign Russian territory (Note: that is more than Russia has conquered so far). Ukraine must be demilitarised and dena**fied, so that they cannot threaten our citizens or conspire with our enemies again. And we will of course prevent anti-Russian forces from trying taking power in the future. How about it?”
US State Department: “We cannot accept anything like that”.
Putin: “Then we will keep fighting the war till we win. What are you going to do about it?”
US State Department: “Well, let us see, …”
Putin: “This is a waste of time. Make a sensible offer, or go away. I have a war to fight”.
Trump: ???

As someone with great experience in the art of the deal, how do you imagine the negotiation will go?

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
4 months ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

My last mail got zapped (never put in bold text – it gets you classified as spam) so here goes again.

I am not a professional wheeler-dealer, but surely before you start negotiating you need to understand the aims, interests, maximum and minimum demands of both sides, what options you can offer and what you can accept. Otherwise, what are you negotiating about? In this case Putin has some quite predictable demands, and good reason to believe that Trump is not going to stop him from getting them. It is quite easy to imagine how that negotiation would go:

Trump: “I want to make a deal”.

Putin: “Excellent idea. Of course any deal must include that we keep Crimea and the other areas that are sovereign Russian territory (NOTE: That includes Ukrainian territory that Russia has annexed but has not even conquered yet). Ukraine must be demilitarised and dena**fied so that they cannot again attack our citizens or conspire with our enemies against us. We also reserve the right to intervene if Ukraine should again start plotting against us or giving bases to our enemies. How about it?”

US State Department: “That is completely unacceptable.”

Putin: “Well in that case I shall just keep fighting until I achieve our just goals. What do you intend to do about it?”

US State Department: “Well, let us see, I need to consult, …”

Putin: “You are wasting my time. Please go away, and come back when you have something sensible to propose. Meanwhile, I have a Special Military Operation to run.”

Trump: ???

If you have anything to propose that could get a decent result out of that start, I’d love to hear it. If you do not, there is no point in ‘exploring options’. The predictable outcomes are either that the negotiations break down, or, more likely, that Trump gets to be the big man who ended the war – by forcing Ukraine to surrender to Russia.

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
4 months ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

the only ‘safe’ deal for Ukraine is a Korean scenario. Putin will have a hit list a mile long – and the Ukrainians know this. How about the West sends in earthworks vs ammo to create a decent DMZ zone – that has worked very well for the Russians. Now that Putin has the FAB 1500’s the crappola is going to hit the fan for the Ukrainians and containment somehow must be the priority ???????????

Sensible Citizen
Sensible Citizen
4 months ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

I agree. A ceasefire followed by a negotiated settlement is not a surrender or abject defeat. I don’t believe Putin wants any more of Ukraine than he has currently. He may even give back Adviidka; possibly the only reason he took it. Ukraine is a country of homeless women and amputee men. They largely visited this catastrophe on themselves by not acknowledging the suffering and oppression of the ethnic Russians in the Donbass.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
4 months ago

Russia has officially annexed even more of Ukraine than they currently occupy. Do you really think that Putin will accept a deal that means he has to relinquish (what he now says is) sovereign Russian territory? Russia’s stated goal since the whole thing started has been to keep Ukraine captive within the ‘Russian family’ of nations, and to ‘demilitarise and dena**fy’ Ukraine till they are unable to resist Russia’s wishes. Will he give up on those goals? Russia has a military and political presence in TransDnestria, on the other side of Ukraine, that is really hard to defend without a land bridge. Do you really think he will let that situation continue when he could change it? Finally, what would prevent Russia from holding a ceasefire, restocking on artillery shells, and just restarting the war?

Russia’s stated and obvious minimum goal is to control Ukraine like they now control Belarus. Giving up on that goal, would be a major setback as well as politically humiliating, and Russia would consider it only if it was clear that it was too expensive to keep pursuing it. Unless and until Russia gives up the hope of winning ‘negotiations’ is just a prelude to surrender.

As for the ‘suffering and oppression of the ethnic Russians in the Donbass’, those ethnic Russians could have avoided it easily if they had not chosen to rebel and fight against their own country Ukraine, for and with Russia. Which country are you a sensible citizen of anyway? Russia?

Martin M
Martin M
4 months ago

I don’t believe Putin wants any more of Ukraine than he has currently.
You are an extremely gullible person then. If there were a “Neville Chamberlain Award”, I would vote for you receiving it.

Martin M
Martin M
4 months ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Surely the pope can be expected to manage at least basic honesty?
It is an interesting point, but I don’t recall it ever happening.

Jürg Gassmann
Jürg Gassmann
4 months ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

The “white flag” image was set out by the interviewer – the Pope merely picked it up in response, and clarified what he meant.
The white flag is also the protection under which negotiators on the battlefield meet to discuss pauses in the fighting to allow for the evacuation of injured and killed. It does not automatically imply surrender.
And yes – given the threats against Zelensky from his murderous beyond-far-right constituencies, such a move would take enormous courage.

Carlos Danger
Carlos Danger
4 months ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

The only way ‘we’ can end this war, as things stand, is to have Ukraine surrender to Russia.

How do you know?

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
4 months ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

Give us a realistic proposal for a deal that leaves Ukraine free to conduct its own foreign and trade policy, and safe from future invasions if it displeases Russia. Then we can discuss it.

Carlos Danger
Carlos Danger
4 months ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

That’s not a productive way to approach negotiations. The purpose of a negotiation is to explore options and try to find a solution. The white flag Pope Francis talks about is not the white flag of surrender, but the white flag of negotiations.
Donald Trump is an expert at dealmaking. (I should know — that’s been a large part of my career as well.) He has said that his first goal would be to stop the dying. That means (I think) a ceasefire. That would be a good start, and we could go from there.
Ukraine’s predicament is sad. The war was started by Russia, and Vladimir Putin deserves condemnation for its brutal butchery. But life is not fair. We have to deal with the world as it is, not as we would like it to be.
There is no magical solution to this war. There never is. But at some point it will end. In many ways, the sooner, the better.

Martin M
Martin M
4 months ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

How do you know?
Because Putin is in charge.

John Galt Was Correct
John Galt Was Correct
4 months ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

Ukraine is only not weak enough to lose with the West, mainly the US backing it with the best part of $200B in aid and weapons. What happens when the US loses interest after the next election, or even now when the next Ukraine tranche of funding is held up in congress?

David B
David B
4 months ago

The sidelining of Victoria Nuland suggests the USA interest in the ongoing regime-management in Ukraine is waning.

Matt Hindman
Matt Hindman
4 months ago

Too much focus on funding and not enough on the hard limits of industrial capacity. The West cannot magically spend artillery shells into thin air.

Martin M
Martin M
4 months ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

True. Hopefully this is a lesson to the West to massively rearm. It will have to deal with Russia at some stage.

Sensible Citizen
Sensible Citizen
4 months ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

I only disagree in so far as Russia has, it seems to me, won. They have held referenda, and they are defending their own territory at this point. Ukraine has no chance of another offensive which means the Donbass and Crimea are now part of the Russian Federation in some form or another.

Martin M
Martin M
4 months ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

Maybe Russians are not entirely evil, but Russian culture seems to have a way of ensuring the most evil ones are in charge.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
4 months ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

Your comment on this sensible article is an excellent analysis, thank you.

Jacqui Denomme
Jacqui Denomme
1 month ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

This is why I can’t hate Trump as much as my American BF does (I’m Canadian)…”They’re dying. Russians and Ukrainians. I want them to stop dying…” I have been shaking my head over this war since it started. I clearly remember Joe Biden saying the West (or USA)will support this war until ‘The last Ukrainian is standing”. I thought that was horrific. No rhetoric about negotiations for peace to save those Ukrainian lives. Now when I go look for that quote on Google I can only find a recent similar quotation by Putin.

AC Harper
AC Harper
4 months ago

Jorge Mario Bergoglio has ‘authority’ and should be listened to because?

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
4 months ago
Reply to  AC Harper

Precisely. Those who seek an authoritative voice in such a meaningless event as his ascension to the papacy are truly crying out in the wilderness.

El Uro
El Uro
4 months ago

I looked through the list of articles by this author on UnHerd, here are just some of them:
Pope Francis is right about Ukraine | the West in electric cars market | Is the Nvidia boom built on sand? | Higher defense spending won’t save Europe | America is driving Germany’s de-industrialisation | The US border crisis spells trouble for Ukraine | America’s Yemen airstrikes are leading to mission creep
He’s very prolific, but writing horror films scenarios for Hollywood would be a much more lucrative endeavor. Which is what I advise

Matthew Symington
Matthew Symington
4 months ago
Reply to  El Uro

He has certainly found his niche.

John Pade
John Pade
4 months ago

It’s a reprise of WWI’s eastern front in 1915 and 1916. Germany and Austria won brilliant victories in 1915 only to find themselves facing 10,000,000 Russian troops in 1916.
Land war in Russia is ultimately unwinnable. Its reserves of men, its vastness, its climate, make it impossible for an enemy to win by military conquest. Only internal upheaval can succeed, as in 1917 and 1993.
I don’t see a Lenin or even a Yeltsin who might do it this time.
Fighting to the last Ukranian is not viable prospect, militarily or morally.

Peter B
Peter B
4 months ago
Reply to  John Pade

You seem to be forgetting the the Russians effectively surrendered to the Germans at Brest-Litovsk in early 1918.
If you’re going to reference history, at least get it right.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
4 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

That treaty was between the Central Powers and the Soviet government, who had not yet established full control of the country or the military. The Tsar had already been deposed in 1917 and Lenin had him killed just three months after the treaty was signed. The Soviets had to fight a civil war that lasted five more years before they fully controlled the Russian government.

Peter B
Peter B
4 months ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

So what ?
You were implying that the Russians somehowe beat the Germans in WWI. Factually incorrect. The Russians did OK against Austria-Hungary. But got crushed by the Germans. Fact.

John Pade
John Pade
4 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

Sorry for writing so poorly, but I thought I had covered that in my second paragraph.
Russia did resist until 1918 even though they started negotiations way earlier. Their strategy was to neither surrender nor fight. Russian troops were encouraging their German opposites to rise up against the monarchy with so much success that Germany felt it unsafe to use many of them, over a million, in the Kaiserslacht.
Germany’s conquest of Riga and the islands off Estonia finally forced them to sign the treaty, but so belatedly that Germany’s 1918 plans were hasty to the point of being worse than nothing.

Martin M
Martin M
4 months ago
Reply to  John Pade

Ok, let’s fight to the last citizen of every NATO county. See how that goes.

B Emery
B Emery
4 months ago

‘President Joe Biden remains unable to get the aid package through Congress, leaving Ukraine potentially short on cash’

Not content with attempting to bankrupt Europe, the UK and itself, America is now going to bankrupt Ukraine.
At least part of that aid package should be released to stop their economy tanking, this really is getting beyond ridiculous.

Can anyone answer the question:
Does ukraine need the arms in that aid package now or will it be OK with the aid from Europe?

Jürg Gassmann
Jürg Gassmann
4 months ago
Reply to  B Emery

Ukraine has long been bankrupt. It’s only thanks to cash injections from the US, Europe and the IMF that Ukraine is still able to make payments. In a way, the best thing that can happen to Ukraine is to be absorbed by Russia and have all its debts vanish.
Europe’s €50b aid is spread over four years, so €12.5b this year. We can ignore anything past this year, it’ll be irrelevant.
Will that keep Ukraine in the game? No. First of all, it’s nowhere near enough. But even if Ukraine were given enough, Ukraine needs ammunition and restocking of arms, but Western cupboards are bare. Ukraine also needs soldiers, and those are not available, full stop. Sure, they can press-gang more bodies, but they need trained soldiers in trained units with a trained NCO and officer corps. That takes ten years to build.

B Emery
B Emery
4 months ago
Reply to  Jürg Gassmann

Thanks for the reply. I understand we are short on stocks and they are short on soldiers. America has that aid parcel ‘ready to go’ through Congress though, so is it that they haven’t got the weapons they promised to go in that aid package or have they got the stuff they said they would send and won’t send it? Perhaps with a shortage after that aid package has gone.
As much as I would like a diplomatic solution, I’m not sure ukraine being absorbed by Russia could be a good thing at all, after all the hype in the west about helping them, all that taxpayers money spent, it would make us look very weak, it’s debts would not vanish – it’s debts are our debts, and in that scenario would never be repaid, so in fact it would then be like an enormous black hole that has swallowed a load of western cash with no return what so ever. I feel like America could at least help keep what is left of their economy in tact if nothing else.
What do you think about sending nato in to help them before russia pushes further in? Does nato have its own weapon stocks? Or have we supplied them from reserves nato would normally use too?

Jürg Gassmann
Jürg Gassmann
4 months ago
Reply to  B Emery

Ukraine has been preparing for this war since 2014 – according to Zelensky’s former spin doctor Oleksey Arestovich. In an interview in 2019 (which used to be on YouTube, may still be), Arestovich said the war would start in 2021 or 2022, it would be hard for Ukraine, but it was necessary and would be Ukraine’s entry fee into NATO.
The army with which Ukraine went into the war in February 2022 was intensively NATO-trained, had extensively participated in NATO manoeuvres, and was to some extent (but more than any NATO force) battle-hardened thanks to the Donbass civil war since 2014.
This army was pulled together for a massive assault on Donbass in early 2022. Russia pre-empted that attack by in turn launching its invasion. By the summer of 2022, this army was largely destroyed.
NATO then scrambled to scrape together all the mothballed former Soviet military surplus from the NATO members who had formerly been in the Warsaw Pact. These were of course antiquated, but at least of a type the Ukrainians were familiar with. With this reconstituted second army, Ukraine launched the operations to recover the Kharkov region in late 2022, and lost its second army in the process.
During the winter 2022/23, NATO provided Ukraine with the all the equipment Ukraine said it needed for a third army, but this time with a rag-bag of Western kit, which Ukraine was not familiar with, which were not appropriate for the terrain, and did not include the full suite of kit necessary for a NATO-style combined arms operation. Hastily recruited Ukrainian troops were given makeovers in NATO doctrine, without any opportunity to practice large-unit combined-arms operations – something that takes years to even understand. With this third army, Ukraine was goaded into the “spring offensive”. The offensive was finally launched in summer. Ukraine promptly lost its engineering tanks in the first 48 hours, essential for breaching minefields, and by the autumn had wasted this third army.
Now Ukraine is on its fourth army – a flea market of kit, press-ganged soldiers, worn-out artillery barrels, no air force to speak of, and scarce ammunition. Of the 1,000,000 shells a year grandiloquently promised by the EU (a body without a military), roughly 300,000 materialised – about the number of shells Russia fires in a month of intensive fighting. Denmark has by now given all of its artillery, lock, stock and barrel, to Ukraine. The UK has run out of kit to give. The Baltics talk big swinging d*&k, but all their military put together does not even amount to the number of troops Ukraine lost in Avdeyevka.
As for Russia absorbing Ukraine, I seriously doubt the Russians would be so mad as to want that. The Ukrainians in the west of Ukraine loath Slavs, especially Russians, whether they’re from Russia or their Ukrainian compatriots, just as they loath the Poles. Putin has said repeatedly he’s not interested in western Ukraine. Russia did not want Donbass, either – since 2015, Russia was doggedly pursuing the Minsk Accords, which would have left Donbass in Ukraine, and in the Istanbul Communiqué March/April 2022, Russia was willing to withdraw from all of Donbass. But when Boris Johnson swanned in and told Zelensky he had to continue fighting, Russia realised that NATO and Ukraine were not interested in resolving the matter. The small expeditionary force Russia had used for the invasion was nowhere large enough for serious fighting, so Russia partially mobilised and absorbed the four oblasts. This serious Russian army started appearing on the battlefield in early 2023, and Russia has had the initiative ever since.
As Clausewitz said – the progress of the war shapes the war aims. Or as the French say: L’appétit vient en mangeant.
So what do you think? Fancy NATO’s chances? I don’t. NATO does not have the force posture, the training, the numbers of weapons or soldiers, the logistics capability, or the command structure. NATO abandoned its role as an alliance built and trained to defend Europe from a Soviet attack, for which it was reasonably well set up, and in the 90s pivoted to supporting the US’ colonial wars and military adventurism.
Capt. Edmund Blackadder sums it up well:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6k1iv4obNrw

B Emery
B Emery
4 months ago
Reply to  Jürg Gassmann

That does all sum it up very well, finished to perfection with blackadder, brilliant.
I think NATO seems like a bad idea, diplomacy seems a much better one. Perhaps we should have learnt from blackadder the first time and never gotten into this mess in the first place.

Martin M
Martin M
4 months ago
Reply to  Jürg Gassmann

Putin has said repeatedly he’s not interested in western Ukraine.
Oh, that’s ok then. If you can’t believe Putin, who can you believe?

Martin M
Martin M
4 months ago
Reply to  Jürg Gassmann

“….the best thing that can happen to Ukraine is to be absorbed by Russia and have all its debts vanish“. Have all its people vanish, more like. The Russians would simply murder them.

Jürg Gassmann
Jürg Gassmann
4 months ago

The one move available to the West that would cause Russia greatest grief is to give Russia all of Ukraine tomorrow. Russia would have to cope with the administration of a huge country without any economy to speak of, and with a population in its western half that is inimically hostile to Russia.

Martin M
Martin M
4 months ago
Reply to  Jürg Gassmann

That wouldn’t cause Russia any grief at all. They’d just let the Ukrainians starve, and move Russians in.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
4 months ago

My guess is if Russia has a major operation planned, it will be in the south along the Black Sea coast to capture Kherson and Odesa. Putin is in a superior position and knows it. He’s already thinking in terms of the final settlement. With that in mind, he can get all of Donetsk and Luhansk at the negotiating table but if he wants a landlocked Ukraine and a possible corridor to Transnistria, he’s got a lot of ground to cover. A landlocked Ukraine centered around Kyiv is largely irrelevant even if it does join the EU.

Martin M
Martin M
4 months ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

It needs to be in Nato, not the EU.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
4 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

I doubt Putin will ever accept that. That’s half the reason he started the war in the first place. To me, the Russians willingness to pursue this war despite the cost tells me that Putin was and is serious about Ukraine being in NATO as a “red line”. That and getting the Donbas region was always his primary objective. He won’t compromise one of his primary war objectives while he’s in a dominant military position.

Martin M
Martin M
4 months ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

Well, Putin has successfully guided Sweden and Finland into Nato. Maybe he will live long enough to see Ukraine in as well. There seems no doubt that Ukraine’s future lies with the West.

Sensible Citizen
Sensible Citizen
4 months ago

Zelenskyy is afraid of the CIA. He was bought by the CIA, and the CIA will keep him bought.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
4 months ago

Why is every article from Pilkington always a pro Russia/pro CCP/anti west? I enjoy reading viewpoints different from my own so perhaps Pilkington can explain what a negotiated settlement would look like? Russia has already proven that it won’t abide the treaties it signs so what should Ukraine give up for peace, and how can we ensure Russia simply doesn’t rearm and try again in a few years?

Andrew Zalotocky
Andrew Zalotocky
4 months ago

To call on Ukraine to negotiate is to ignore reality. The Putin regime is utterly ruthless and does not respect any legal or moral norms. Nor will Putin moderate his territorial demands, which have consistently included the whole of Ukraine, the Baltic states and parts of Poland. So, he would treat any peace agreement as no more than a convenient pause in the war to consolidate his limited gains and rebuild the Russian armed forces for the next offensive.
But in the meantime, the Russians would systematically erase every last trace of Ukrainian language and culture in the territories they controlled, and kill anybody who was even suspected of having opposed the invasion in any way. They would deport large numbers of Ukrainians to remote parts of Russia and resettle the land with Russian colonists to ensure that no new opposition could emerge.
So, there is no “land for peace” deal available to the Ukrainians. They would have to give up land and accept ethnic cleaning in the occupied territories for the sake of a meaningless treaty which the Russians would break as soon as they were ready to resume the fighting.
If it was your country, would you accept those terms?

G M
G M
4 months ago

If you give in to or appease bullies, expect more bullying.

If Putin wins this war then it would embolden other aggressive non-democratic countries.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
4 months ago

The West acts like that friend who tells you they have your back while cheerfully pushing you into a fight only to quickly disappear when the shit hits the fan.

Martin M
Martin M
4 months ago

An absurd comment from a man with zero credibility. He might like to try getting the Catholic Church in order before advising people to surrender their countries to tyrants.

0 0
0 0
4 months ago

Pilkington in all his posting on this website has never said one bad word about the Russians and Chinese and has always said bad things of the West in general and the in Americans in particular regardless of the topic, same can be said Thomas Fazi. It just amaze me that their are people in the west that admire these countries regimes despite how horrible they behave and how inadequate they been shown to be. On the Marxist left, they see these regimes as allies in the vain hope that someday they can resurrect the cause of Marxism, and on right we have people who are so side with these horrible regime out of despair, do to a belief that western society is so decadent and immoral its beyond saving and that anything the west dose is by definition bad and that these regimes are ideal forms of government, they see them of moral protectors virtue. That’s wrong because once you get past their public piety, they are decadent and immoral in private. When comes to the Marxists, these regime are opposite of Marxism. It just amazes me that are westerners who want the west to lose, these people regardless of what side of the political spectrum they are on basically hate their own societies and live vicariously through others outside of them do their own societies failing to meet their ideological expectations about how the world should work and they take it personally as a result. They would rather have their societies lose and suffer as a result in order to get revenge, they do this not make world better despite what they say and thing, but out personal resentment and pettiness, its nothing but nihilism.