War with Russia ought to last until all Ukraine is liberated
Within the next several months the Kremlin may come forth with an initiative on ceasefire and the start of negotiations process. The latter might focus on cementing control by the Russian forces over territories of Ukraine seized as of that moment. This will happen immediately after Moscow finally understands that its offensive potential is depleted, and that it no longer can seize new Ukrainian territories and, hence, risks to face counter-offensives by the Ukrainian Armed Forces. This is the moment when Putin pulls the joker out of his deck – the provisional “Minsk aggreements-3”. He already possesses positive experience dating backFebruary 2015 when he deftly rocked Ukraine with the “Minsk” and, as a trickster led by the nose allinternational community substituting international law with a null and void piece of paper.
The Kremlin may count to have such an option as currently some voices in Europe sometimes hint that Ukraine will have to find a compromise with the aggressor. Typically, such rhetoric aims to stop the ruinous war in the very midth of the continent. In Moscow, though, such messages are perceived as the opponent’s weakness and as an encouragement to continue the war against Ukraine and the whole of the West.
Russia needs temporary truce to solve a number of its own problems. Apart from the already mentioned fortified control over the substantial part of the territory of Ukraine and evasion of the Ukrainian army counter-attacks, the Russians need some peace and quiet to restore and regroup its forces. Having stopped fire, the Kremlin will inevitably initiate international discussions on sanctions mitigation or cancellation. Unfortunately, the Russians do have the reasons to hope that there are some parties in Europe willing to discuss this issue solely because the Moscow tzar has stopped active hostilities.
Discussions on how to treat Putin who brutally invaded a peaceful country and only temporarily suspended active warfare will only swing the European Union and the NATO. Even though the Russians may not get rid of the sanctions, they will definitely try to disunite the West with such a debate, and this is what the Russian dictator still hopes for. Ideally, he may count to dismantle the very united policy of sanctions and to exacerbate the contradictions between the EU countries and the Alliance. And all of this solely because Putin has suspended his attacks and has no plans whatever to step back from the sovereign state, and continues to threaten others.
There is no good outcome for Ukraine in the status-quo when swaths of Kharkiv, Kherson, and Zaporizzhya regions are seized in addition to the earlier occupied parts of Donbas and Crimea. We well remember the ruinous political and economic consequences for Ukraine after Crimea and parts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions were taken in 2014. The current situation is much worse. Substantial shares of infrastructure and industry of the country were ruined, and Ukraine has in fact lost maritime routes for export and import. Over three quarters of external trade of Ukraine was done via sea ports in previous years. War and ruination have led to significant demographic disequilibrium in this country. “Freezing” the war under such conditions will only lead to further exodus from Ukraine of able-bodied people of reproductive age. Potential compromises with the aggressor shall inevitably bring to life internal political discord unnecessary during the war. Conducting the much needed reform agenda shall be suspended for unspecified time. Reforms shall receive no effort, no stamina, no time.
To evade such a sad scenario, it is of paramount importance to understand one simple thing – Russia cannot get away with what it so irresponsibly commenced. Any talk on finding compromises with Moscow is possible solely after all Putin’s occupants are driven out from the internationally recognized borders of Ukraine, all war criminals get punished for grave international crimes, and Russia as the state is obligated to compensate all war-incurred losses. Until this is not so, the forced defensive war of Ukraine and its Western partners against the aggressor must continue. The Ukrainian army must receive all that it takes to defend the state until our victory. Russia must find itself under maximum international pressure until its defeat. We must understand that the least respite granted to the Kremlin elites will be undoubtedly used by them for error-analysis and new offensives planning in the nearest future, but at a grandier scale and of a more ruinous nature.
Ukrainian society stands ready to resist. Sociology polls state that instead of scaring the Ukrainians, this war has hardened and rallied them. Vast majority of Ukrainian citizens actively resist the aggressor this way or other. The word “victory” is the one that consolidates the Ukrainian nation to the utmost.
*Opinion articles express the views of the authors, but not necessarily of the team of the Kyiv Security Forum.