And what should the West do in this situation?

Petr Akopov

Both the capture of Soledar and the appointment of Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov as commander of the Joint Group of Forces draw additional attention to what is happening on the fronts, without canceling the understanding that the path to victory will be long and difficult. The fighting has long been drawn out, and there is no chance that Western support for Ukraine will weaken, let alone stop. And the point here is not the already promised deliveries of tanks, armored personnel carriers and other things – the point is that a bet has been made on a protracted war. Moreover (although this bet was made a long time ago) recently there has been a rethinking of this concept itself, that is, the forms in which it can proceed, and even its results.
Initially, the West chose mainly from two options. The longest possible war of attrition, in which all support for Ukraine is aimed at containing and exhausting Russia. So that in the end victory will be given to us at the highest possible price – human, economic, geopolitical. And ideally, the path to it was not passed by us to the end: because it would lead to confusion and the collapse of Russia (but this is already a completely advantageous option for the West, which by and large does not depend on it, because here the Russians must flog themselves) .
The second option is to bet on the victory of Ukra-ine, for which it is necessary not only to wear down Russia, but also to inflict a serious military defeat on it, in particular, to take aw-ay the Donbass and Crim-ea. Although there are those among the Western establi-shment who sincerely beli-eve in the possibility of def-eating Russia at the hands of Ukraine and are not afraid of a nuclear war, this option was still much less popular than the first one.
But now the third option is being discussed more and more actively – a protracted war in itself. That is, without leading to the defeat of any of the parties and at the same time allowing the West to maintain and even strengthen control over Ukraine. Moreover, at the same time and partially re-store relations with Russia, having received guarantees from her that the conflict will not escalate beyond the borders of Ukraine.
Amazing naivete? No, quite a serious text on Foreign Affairs ” Long battle in Ukraine ” with the subtitle “The West needs a plan for a protracted conflict with Russia.” Signed by Ivo Daalder and James Goldgaier, the former not an ordinary analyst (now president of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs), and the latter a former US ambassador to NATO (during Obama’s first term) and director of European affairs at the National Security Council (under Clinton).
The authors begin by criticizing the Western approach, which chooses from two options – not the ones we described above (because no one in the West recognizes the existence of a war strategy of attrition for Russia), but the options of “victory for Ukraine” and “achieving peace through negotiations.” Daalder and Goldgaier call unconvincing bets on both the military victory of Kiev , and on peace negotiations with Moscow , which is not going to give up on achieving its goals. And they consider a stalemate on the battlefield quite likely:
“Both sides will try to feel for weaknesses in the enemy’s defenses, but if a more significant collapse does not befall either of them, the line of confrontation will most likely remain more or less where it is. The depletion of material resources and the lack of personnel can even lead to long pauses in hostilities, which can help achieve ceasefire agreements, even if they are temporary.Not all wars end.And not all of them end in peace.The Korean War ended in a truce, and the 1973 Yom Kippur War led to “disengagement agreements”, which in the case of Israel and Syria are still in force. And Russia is even more accustomed to living with frozen conflicts, including in Georgiaand Moldova.
The examples cited with the Far and Middle East , of course, are completely incorrect: in the first case, it was a direct conflict between the United States and China (with mainly indirect participation of the USSR ), and in the second, Arabs and Jews fought among themselves with the support of Moscow and Washington . Now hostilities are taking place on the territory of historical Russia, that is, the West is trying to solve the internal problem of this country by cutting off from it (not formal, as in 1991, but actual) the western part. But in this case, what is important is where the authors of Foreign Affairs are driving:
“If Ukrainians face such a bleak future — that is, a situation in which a state of military conflict with or without intense fighting persists — the West will need a multi-vector long-term strategy that does not imply indifference to the future of Ukraine or refusal to contact Russia on issues that represent mutual interest While it is difficult for the West to imagine cooperating with Putin and his regime at the moment, in the long run it may not have much choice.<…>
There is an urgent need to look at the longer term of the conflict and develop policies towards both Russia and Ukraine based on the emerging reality that hostilities are likely to continue for quite some time. Instead of believing that the confrontation can be ended with victory or negotiations, the West needs to reflect on a situation in which the conflict continues, but neither victory nor peace is in sight.”
And what should the West do in this situation? Keep Ukraine in your hands and make agreements with Russia! Yes, there are those who believe in such a possibility:
“Western states and their allies will need to continue to provide Ukraine with military support to defend against further Russian attacks and contain Russia’s larger ambitions by maintaining economic sanctions and diplomatically isolating it. And they will need to ensure that the conflict does not escalate. At the same time, the West will need to lay a long-term foundation for security and stability in Europe.This will require the full integration of Kiev and the West in the development of a containment policy that emphasizes both preventing a Russian offensive and engaging Moscow in efforts to prevent the conflict from escalating into a larger military confrontation, which no one wants”.
That is, the war will go on in a sluggish mode for years, and in the meantime, the States will prepare Ukraine’s entry into NATO and the EU :
“The United States and NATO countries need to make a security commitment to provide Ukraine with the weapons it needs to defend against Russia in the long term, just as the United States has done with Israel for decades. And Washington, together with its allies, must work to increasing the prospects for the EU membership promised to Kyiv, while simultaneously addressing the issue of possible entry into NATO.
Meanwhile, Russia will need to be contained and politically isolated by all means, maintaining all sanctions and convincing the countries of the South that Russia is to blame for their disasters. But at the same time to offer it to reach agreements on strategic stability:
“However, along with the containment of Russia and its political and economic isolation, the West will also need to maintain channels of communication with the Kremlin in order to avoid a direct war between Russia and NATO and maintain strategic stability. With continued intense fig-hting in Ukraine between the West and Russia, it is unlikely that wide-ranging negotiations But, as in the last Cold War, there may be scope for both sides to take confidence-building measures to avoid confrontation: neither wants one. New START Treaty, which expires in 2026, and which provides for intrusive verification and information sharing on nuclear weapons held by both Russia and the United States.
That is, with one hand we are fighting against Russia in Ukraine, and with the other we offer it negotiations on START – Moscow is also interested in an agreement? At the same time, the logic is ironclad, because we, the Americans, managed to combine the policy of containment and diplomacy in relations with Russia before, why not this time? The fundamental difference between situations – and historical time – is simply ignored.
Moreover, there is even confidence that the West and Russia will be able to agree on a new European security architecture:
“Eventually, both the West and Russia will have to accept some version of the agreements that the United States and its allies made with the Soviet Union between 1975 and 1990 in order to avert worse consequences and ensure greater stability in Europe. The Helsinki Final Act 1975 committed all parties to recognize existing borders and seek to change them only by peaceful means. The Vienna Document, signed in 1990 and periodically updated in subsequent years, was a set of confidence-building measures that limited hostilities, provided for the exchange of information on military stocks and demanded advance notice of significant troop movements.<…>
It is most likely impossible to reach such agreements now. They may not be possible at all while Putin is in power, although the West should consider such options. However, they remain the only viable means of engagement with Russia in the long term.”
This text is very revealing in that its main pathos is aimed at convincing the American establishment that Russia has its own interests: “Even non-imperial Russia, focused on itself, will have its own security interests. All states have them. And if the West is admits – this will not mean his weakness. But if the American elite needs to be explained such primitive things that a great nuclear power has its own national interests, this speaks first of all of how inadequate its ideas about the world order are.
And the authors of the text in Foreign Affairs themselves – who certainly consider themselves realists and certainly not interventionists – are building their entire concept on a completely false premise. On the fact that Ukraine is just another point of conflict between Russia and the West, it means that sooner or later it will be possible to leave the conflict because of it in a semi-frozen form and agree on global problems – nuclear weapons and European security. But Ukraine is not just a conflict between the West and Russia: it is a conflict that takes place at the moment of the collapse of the Western world order and in itself accelerates it. And this conflict is taking place on the territory of historical Russia, that is, it has an absolutely existential character for us, which does not provide for freezing and refusing to fight until victory. Even if the West manages to impose a really protracted war on us, we will not back down and we will not yield, but the understanding of this is already practically inaccessible to the Atlantic strategists. What deprives them of the opportunity to adequately predict the future – not only ours, but also their own.