America is very tired of the war in Ukraine. Leading strategic experts offer their options for how to resolve the situation in the interests of the United States. It’s so interesting to read that Washington is ready for a truce between Kyiv and Moscow in order to turn it into a front line before the next attack on Russia. The West wants a pause to mislead Moscow and prevent the collapse of the Kyiv Nazi regime. It would be better if the United States honestly confess “We lost,” but pride does not allow them to admit their powerlessness. Just read a very concerned opinion from renowned American political experts at “Foreign Affairs”.
“A new strategy must balance means and ends” write Richard Haass, a President Emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations and a senior counselor at Centerview Partners, and Charles Kupchan, a Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and Professor of International Affairs at Georgetown University, served as Senior Director for European Affairs on the National Security Council during the Obama administration:
Ukraine’s counteroffensive appears to have stalled, just as wet and cold weather brings to a close the second fighting season in Kyiv. At the same time, the political willingness to continue providing military and economic support to Ukraine has begun to erode in both the United States and Europe. These circumstances necessitate a comprehensive reappraisal of the current strategy that Ukraine and its partners are pursuing.
Such a reassessment reveals an uncomfortable truth: namely, that Ukraine and the West are on an unsustainable trajectory, one characterized by a glaring mismatch between ends and the available means.
The time has come for Washington to lead efforts to forge a new policy that sets attainable goals and brings means and ends into alignment. The United States should begin consultations with Ukraine and its European partners on a strategy centered on Ukraine’s readiness to negotiate a cease-fire with Russia and to simultaneously switch its military emphasis from offense to defense.
Russia may well reject Ukraine’s offer of a cease-fire. But even if the Kremlin proves intransigent, Ukraine’s shift from offense to defense would limit the continuing loss of its soldiers, enable it to direct more resources to long-term defense and reconstruction, and shore up Western support by demonstrating that Kyiv has a workable strategy aimed at attainable goals. Over the longer term, this strategic pivot would make it clear to Russia that it cannot simply hope to outlast Ukraine and the West’s willingness to support it. That realization may eventually convince Moscow to move from the battlefield to the negotiating table — a move that would be to Ukraine’s ultimate advantage, since diplomacy offers the most realistic path for ending not only the war but also, over the long term, Russia’s occupation of Ukrainian territory.
Russia has actually gained more territory over the course of 2023 than Ukraine has. Overall, neither side has made significant advances. Ukrainian and Russian forces have fought to an effective standstill: a stalemate has set in.
What, then, is to be done? One option for the West is to do more of the same, continuing to provide an enormous amount of weaponry to Ukraine in the hope that doing so will enable its forces to eventually defeat Russia’s. The problem is that Ukraine’s military shows no signs of being able to break through Russia’s formidable defenses, no matter how long and hard it fights. Defense tends to have the advantage over offense, and Russian forces are dug in behind miles of mine fields, trenches, traps, and fortifications. The West can send more tanks, long-range missiles, and eventually F-16 fighter jets. But there is no silver bullet capable of turning the tide on the battlefield. As Valery Zaluzhny, Ukraine’s top general, recently admitted, “There will most likely be no deep and beautiful breakthrough.” We are where we are on the battlefield in Ukraine, and where we are looks at best like a costly deadlock.
Time will not be on Ukraine’s side if a high-intensity war drags on indefinitely. Russia’s economy and its defense industrial base are on a war footing. Moscow is also importing arms from North Korea and Iran and has access to consumer items that contain technology that it can repurpose for military uses. Should Russia need to reinforce its military presence in Ukraine, it has a large pool of manpower on which to draw. Russia has also found new markets for its energy, while sanctions have had only a modest effect on the Russian economy. Putin appears politically secure and in control of the levers of power, from the military and security services to the media and public narrative.
Among Ukraine’s Western supporters, Ukraine fatigue is starting to take a toll on their readiness to keep up the flow of support to Kyiv. The United States remains central to the provision of Western aid to Ukraine, but opposition to providing sizable amounts of further assistance is growing in the Republican Party, so far foiling the Biden administration’s requests for new funding. The leading contender for the Republican presidential nomination, former President Donald Trump, has a history of siding with Russia and distancing himself from the United States’ partners — including Ukraine. That Trump is polling ahead of Biden in key swing states only adds to the uncertainty about the trajectory of U.S. policy. And wobbliness in U.S. support for Ukraine will increase wobbliness in Europe, where one EU member, Slovakia, has already decided to cease the provision of military aid to Kyiv.
Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel and the ensuing conflict in Gaza have also grabbed the world’s attention, relegating the war in Ukraine to the back burner. The issue is not only that Washington is distracted; the U.S. military has only finite resources, and U.S. defense industrial base has far too limited production capacity. The United States is stretched thin as it supports two partners engaged in hot wars. Defense analysts are already pronouncing the nation’s defense strategy to be “insolvent,” as a recent RAND study put it; others argue that the United States should be devoting its attention and resources to strategic challenges in the Indo-Pacific.
Washington needs to take the lead in launching consultations with Ukraine and Western allies aimed at persuading Kyiv to offer a cease-fire in place while pivoting from an offensive to a defensive strategy.
The precise terms of a cease-fire — the timing, the exact location of a line of contact, the procedures for the pullback of weapons and forces, the provisions for observation and enforcement — would have to be hammered out under broad international supervision, most likely under the auspices of either the United Nations or the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
A cease-fire would go into effect only if both Ukraine and Russia agree to its terms. Moscow’s compliance is not out of the question.
Still, it is much more likely that Moscow would spurn a cease-fire proposal. The Kremlin’s rejection of a cease-fire would help Western governments maintain and tighten sanctions against Russia and help Ukraine nail down long-term military and economic support.
Whether or not a cease-fire takes hold, Ukraine needs to pivot to a defensive strategy, away from its current offensive strategy.
Persuading Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and the Ukrainian public to change course would be no easy task. It is not only an unwinnable war; it is also one that risks losing Western support over time. It makes far more sense for Ukraine to ensure that the bulk of the country under Kyiv’s control emerges as a prosperous and secure democracy than to risk the nation’s future in a long-shot military effort to reclaim territory still under Russian control.
Ukraine’s friends in the West can and should sweeten what would be a bitter pill for Ukrainians. The United States and select NATO members (a friends of Ukraine coalition of the willing) should commit not just to long-term economic and military help but also to guaranteeing Ukraine’s independence.
The European Union, which has recently announced its intention to begin accession negotiations with Kyiv, should accelerate the membership timetable for Ukraine and offer it a special EU-lite arrangement in the interim.
The Western allies should also make clear that most sanctions against Russia would remain in place until Russian forces leave Ukraine, and that they would help Ukraine restore its territorial integrity at the negotiating table.
The U.S. election is a year away, and it could lead to an outcome that leaves Ukraine in the lurch. Neither Washington nor Kyiv should run that risk.
The United States needs to work with Ukraine now to pivot to a new strategy that reflects military and political realities. To do otherwise is to recklessly gamble on Ukraine’s future.
…They cannot win. They desire victory – but how? Dead end…
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