Opinion | It’s time to start thinking about the endgame in Ukraine

Opinion |  It's time to start thinking about the endgame in Ukraine
Placeholder while article actions load

In 1942, Winston Churchill tried to prepare the British people for a long conflict. “This is not the end,” he said, referring to the Allied victory in Egypt. “It’s not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” When we think in those terms, what phase are we witnessing in the war in Ukraine?

We are likely in the middle, explains Gideon Rose, a scholar at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of an excellent book, “how wars end.” He points out that every war begins similar to a game of chess, with a dramatic attack and defense. If those initial salvos fail to produce a decisive victory, the war enters an intermediate phase, with both sides trying to push themselves to gain an advantage on the battlefield. “During the intermediate phase,” he told me, “neither side is interested in negotiating because each side is trying to win outright, improve their position on the battlefield, and therefore have a stronger position from the front. which to negotiate”. This is the period when emotions run high, making commitment difficult.

Finally, at some point, the combatants enter the final phase through one of two paths: either the tide of war turns irreversibly in favor of one side (as it did in 1918 and 1944), or an exhausted stalemate ensues ( as in Korea). mid 1951). “At that point, the parties enter the endgame and start manipulating the final agreement,” Rose noted.

In this intermediate phase in which we find ourselves, the West must help Ukraine to strengthen its position. needs of Kyiv more weapons and training. While there are real limits to how much the Ukrainians can absorb, Washington (and its allies in Europe and elsewhere) must redouble their efforts. They also need to help Ukraine break the russian blockade around Odessa. People have focused on the collapse of the Russian economy, which will probably shrink about 11 percent this year. But Ukraine’s economy is likely to contract by a staggering 45 percent in 2022. Unless the country can export its grain from its Black Sea ports, it could face economic problems calamity in the years to come.

Most likely, this intermediate phase of the war will last for a while. Neither Russia nor Ukraine has the ability to win decisively, and neither is likely to give up easily. In the short term, this favors Russia. She has taken control of much of donbas. And because the West has not outright banned Russia’s energy exportsthe russian government has Be benefit during this war. Bloomberg projects that Russia’s oil and gas revenue for this year will be about $285 billioncompared to $236 billion last year. In the meantime, it can now frustrate the export capacity of Ukraine. In the long term, one has to hope that the sanctions will hit Russia harder as the war progresses. At the same time, Ukraine has massive assistance from the West, high morale and the will to fight to the end.

Although we are not yet in the final stages, it would be wise for Ukraine to start thinking about the endgame. That way, you can develop a consistent position, align your strategy around it, and gain international support. Former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger was criticized for suggesting that Kyiv should not seek to go beyond the pre-February date. 24 lines on the battlefield. In fact, at this point it seems highly unlikely that Ukraine will be able to recapture all of that territory by force, although it should keep trying. But it seems prudent to make that his goal: reverse Russia’s territorial gains this year. Then Kyiv can try to win back the territories lost before that in 2014 through negotiations. President Volodymyr Zelensky has several times He suggested something like that. And that goal: a return to the time before February. 24 lines, it would also be one that would get the most international support.

In the final phase of the war, the West, and the United States in particular, become the key players. Right now, Russia is fighting Ukraine directly. But as long as the conflict becomes something of a stalemate, the real fight will be between Russia and the West. What will Russia give to achieve a relaxation of sanctions? What will the West demand to end Russia’s isolation?

So far, Washington has insisted on this, explaining that it depends on the Ukrainians. to decide what they want and that Washington will not negotiate over their heads. That is the correct message of public support, but Ukraine and its Western partners must formulate a set of common war goals, coordinate strategy around them, garner international support, and use whatever influence they have to succeed. The goal must be an independent Ukraine, in full control of at least as much territory as it had before February 24, and with some security commitments from the West.

The alternative to some kind of negotiated settlement would be an endless war in Ukraine, which would further devastate that country and its people, more than 5 million of which they have already fled. And the resulting disruptions to energy supplies, food, and the economy would skyrocket everywhere, with political turmoil intensifying around the world. Surely it’s worth looking for an endgame that avoids this bleak future.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.