How to end the war in Ukraine before Western allies give up

As Russia cruelly besieges Severodontesk, the death toll rises and the atrocities drag on, it’s time to ask: how does this war end, or at least achieve a ceasefire? fire ?

Morally, Vladimir Putin deserves to keep nothing of his territorial gains. This dates back to its earlier capture of Crimea and moves into the Donbass. Then, as now, the Russian strongman seized his neighbor’s territory without any justification.

Unfortunately, these moral claims will not determine the practical results.

Yes, the bravery and resilience the Ukrainians have shown so far suggests that they are ready to fight for a complete victory. But Volodymyr Zelensky and his forces face three crucial limitations.

The first is the possibility of a Russian escalation. Backed into a corner, Putin really could be crazy enough to go nuclear – betting, say, that using a tactical nuke or two could turn his enemies’ calculations upside down.

Second, Ukraine’s lack of resources. His forces have fought well above their weight, but they depend on the West for materiel.

And that’s the third factor: the willingness of the West, particularly the United States, to continue providing the lethal (and non-lethal) aid that keeps Ukraine fighting. Yes, Washington has committed billions, but America faces its own domestic problems, including an inflation crisis and a midterm election that are already sucking public support for American involvement. And several European allies are even more fragile.

President Joe Biden and Congress have committed $40 billion in aid to Ukraine.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The West appears ready to back Zelensky & Co. until Putin stops trying to take more territory, but he may well falter in major Ukrainian offensives beyond that.

A real peace deal seems impossible: neither Putin nor Zelensky seem willing to settle on a permanent division of Ukrainian territory, and Putin’s word clearly cannot be trusted anyway.

Indeed, the pre-February status quo seems the best Ukraine can hope for, and even that could come with exclusions in the energy-rich eastern parts of the country that Putin now controls.

Russian President Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin cannot be trusted to end his invasion on his own promise.
MIKHAIL METZEL/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images

But the war must end, for the good of all: Ukrainian civilians and soldiers on both sides (remember, most ordinary Russian troops are just pawns sent to the meat grinder). As well as the rest of the world: the sudden loss of Ukrainian wheat exports is a blow to the global food supply.

Even temporary, internationally unrecognized territorial gains for Putin will be a bitter pill for Ukraine. But the autocrat remains a character absolutely no free in Europe and America, facing persistent sanctions and a general pariah. (Indeed, the Ukraine war and its aftermath may well provoke a complete overhaul by the West of its entanglement with China as well).

And the United States and its allies can, to have to, take concrete steps to ensure that any future Putin incursions would be stopped in their tracks. This means providing Ukraine with enough material to make another assault hopeless.

A ceasefire does not mean that Ukraine has lost. This means that material necessity prevailed. Next time his friends can make sure necessity is on the right side before the crisis comes.


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