Photo: General Milley
Source: Voice of America
During the 8 months of the war, Ukraine managed to repel the most powerful military force of the continent and switch from defense to offensive actions. Since the beginning of the full-scale invasion of the Russian Federation, the Armed Forces of Ukraine have already returned more than half of the occupied territories, including the only administrative center that the Russians managed to capture since February - Kherson.
Each successful stage of Ukraine's strategic defense operation was accompanied by a rise in morale and faith of Ukrainians themselves in their own ability to liberate the occupied territories. This, in turn, encouraged partner countries to increase military aid. Over time, belief in the capabilities of the Armed Forces and the support of partners converted into a number of significant victories on the battlefield.
At the same time, in contrast to the Ukrainian leadership, the people of Ukraine, politicians and scientists, who call for increased aid and ensuring the complete victory of Ukraine over the aggressor state, after each victory of Ukraine, some government officials and experts consistently advocated the beginning of negotiations to end of the war through diplomatic means. At the same time, every serious defeat of the Russians was used as an argument about the danger of further successes of the Armed Forces, because they could allegedly lead to an uncontrolled escalation. On the other hand, each such success was accompanied by skepticism about the possibility of further advancement of the Ukrainian army, and therefore, further military assistance, from the point of view of such commentators, is inappropriate.
In addition to the pro-Russian part of the so-called "peacebuilders" there are several reasons that force partners to talk about negotiations. One of the main problems of those partners who urge Ukraine to negotiate is the lack of a clear strategic vision of future relations with the Russian Federation in the event of its defeat. From this point of view, a weakened Putin regime will no longer pose a fundamental threat to the North Atlantic Alliance. However, the possible uncontrolled disintegration of the largest nuclear power can become such a threat.
Another fear of the Western elites is the possible use of nuclear weapons by the Kremlin regime. Within the expert community, one can most often hear the intimidation of a potential nuclear war and the subsequent apocalypse. This option is unlikely, but ultimately the threat of Russian use of tactical nuclear weapons remains. Such a move will not give the Russian Federation a strategic advantage and will not solve any problems in Ukraine. So, in this context, the main danger is the lifting of the taboo on the use of nuclear weapons, which is fraught with the destruction of the nuclear non-proliferation regime and possible emergence of new nuclear states. In this case, armed conflicts between the United States and states trying to acquire nuclear status cannot be excluded.
The next factor justifying the calls of a number of partners for negotiations is the fact that at the domestic political level, political parties use the question of assistance to Ukraine in their own interests, playing on the sentiments of the electorate. The ruling elites, in turn, in the face of economic turmoil caused by the Russian invasion, believe that a short-term freeze of the war can help them stabilize the situation in the country, and therefore their own position, and redirect resources from military assistance to Ukraine for other needs and priorities.
There is also another group of countries that do not join the sanctions against Russia and flirt with the Kremlin, or hope for economic preferences, further cooperation, etc. This is a number of Asian, Middle Eastern, Latin American and African countries. Among the leaders of these states, there are many who want to become mediators in the Russian-Ukrainian war and end the war in any way. As President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky noted, Russian diplomacy lies to these leaders about the alleged desire of Vladimir Putin to negotiate directly with Volodymyr Zelensky, thus shifting the responsibility for the war to Ukraine.
A number of senior NATO members are also trying to avoid escalating the conflict in order to prevent its possible expansion into NATO territory. More modern offensive weapons, such as modern tanks, as well as Western-made aircraft, are considered the element that could push Vladimir Putin to strike Alliance territory, thus leaving the Allies no choice but to go to war. Thus, as an alternative to armed confrontation, the option of searching for a diplomatic settlement is proposed. However, as analysts of the American analytical centre CSIS note, negotiations at this stage and an agreement with Putin would be a reward for aggression. Analysts also argue that most of the forces of the Russian Armed Forces are already involved in Ukraine, and the arsenal of precision-guided missiles that could be used in a war with NATO has already been significantly reduced.
Thus, Russia does not have enough resources to fight the North Atlantic alliance and probably mobilization will not create such capabilities for the next few months. Up to this point, Vladimir Putin has not behaved like an irrational actor, despite all the miscalculations associated with launching a full-scale invasion. So, probably, the transfer of modern tanks and aircraft will not lead to an uncontrolled escalation. On the contrary, such a step would have positive consequences. A clear US goal of supporting Ukrainian sovereignty could help deter Moscow from renewed attempts to change its neighbours’ borders by force or coercion. The weakening of the Russian army by Ukrainian forces and the weakening of the Russian military-industrial complex will reduce the threats to NATO countries on the Russian periphery - at least in the near future. This will allow the US to focus scarce defense dollars on China's standoff in the Indo-Pacific. The weakening of the Russian army may also be a factor that will make it clear that Russian politics must move away from the Putin era. In addition, it may serve as a warning to other dictators who are trying to conquer countries by brute force.
Ukraine's main partner in the war is the United States, which formed the Rammstein Coalition. There are officials in Washington who share the aforementioned vision and advocate increased military assistance to Ukraine, primarily Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and State Department head Anthony Blinken. At the same time, there are those who call for negotiations with the Kremlin.
After the liberation of Kherson, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, said that the Ukrainians had achieved about as much as they could reasonably expect before winter sets in on the battlefield, and therefore an attempt should be made to secure their achievements at the negotiating table. Jake Sullivan, National Security Advisor to the President of the United States, according to The Wall Street Journal, in turn, in negotiations with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, suggested to think about "realistic requirements" for starting negotiations.
Thus, in the United States of America, competition and discussion continues on the issue of supporting Ukraine. At present, the United States is ready to continue assistance at the current level, which will allow the Armed Forces of Ukraine to continue to resist and liberate the occupied territories. Negotiations are possible only after the liberation of the entire territory of Ukraine. This position was taken by the leadership of the state. Freezing the conflict will not lead to a final settlement, but will turn the war into a ticking time bomb. Now the Kremlin's interest in the negotiations lies in the desire to restore strength and resume aggression, being in better conditions. In order to force negotiations, the Russians resort to terrorism at the state level. The fact that Russia is destroying Ukrainian critical infrastructure in order to force Ukraine to negotiate was confirmed by Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. At the same time, the conditions offered by the Russians are actually an ultimatum.
At the G20 summit, Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky proposed his ten-step plan for peace, but in response, the Russian Federation launched the most massive strike on Ukraine since the start of a full-scale invasion. This was a Russian response to the proposals of Volodymyr Zelensky and those partners who are pushing Ukraine towards negotiations, or at least the beginning of a dialogue. Thus, as of today, negotiations between Ukraine and the Russian Federation have no prospects. Russia understands only force, therefore the optimal negotiating strategy of the West is to arm Ukraine to such an extent that would allow all the occupied territories to be liberated as quickly as possible and with less losses. In particular, Ukraine's partners should begin deliveries of more modern tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and aviation. This will not only help the Armed Forces of Ukraine liberate the occupied cities more effectively, but will also be a signal to the Putin regime that the current Kremlin policy has no future.
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