opinion | It’s time to start thinking about the end game in Ukraine

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In 1942, Winston Churchill attempted to prepare the British people for a long struggle. “This is not the end,” he said, referring to the Allied victory in Egypt. “It is not even the beginning of the end. But it may be the end of the beginning.” When we think about these terms, what phase are we seeing in the war in Ukraine?

We’re probably in the middle, explains Gideon Rose, a researcher at Council on Foreign Relations Excellent book authorHow do wars end?. He points out that every war begins like a game of chess with a dramatic attack and defense. If those opening shots do not result in a decisive victory, the war enters an intermediate stage, with both sides trying to pull it together to gain an advantage on the battlefield. “During the middle stage, he said to me, Neither side was interested in negotiating because each side is trying to win directly, strengthening its position on the battlefield, and thus having a stronger position through which to negotiate.” This is the period when feelings escalate, making bargaining difficult.

Finally, at some point, combatants enter the final phase through one of two paths: either the tide of war turns irreversibly in favor of one side (as in 1918 and 1944), or the emergence of a debilitating stalemate (as in Korea) . In the middle of 1951). “At this point, the parties get into the end game, and they start maneuvering around the final settlement,” Rose noted.

At this intermediate stage we are in, the West should help Ukraine strengthen its position. Kyiv needs More weapons and training. While there are real limits to how much Ukrainians can absorb, Washington (and its allies in Europe and elsewhere) should redouble their efforts. They also need to help Ukraine collapse Russian siege About Odessa. People focused on the collapse of the Russian economy, because of which it is likely to shrink About 11 percent this year. But the Ukrainian economy is likely to shrink dramatically 45 percent In 2022. Unless the country can export its grain from Black Sea ports, it may face the economy calamity for the coming years.

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Most likely, this middle stage of the war will last for a while. Neither Russia nor Ukraine has the ability to win decisively, and neither is likely to give up easily. In the short term, this is in Russia’s favor. I have taken control of a lot of Donbass. And because the West was not completely banned Russia’s energy exportsthe Russian government actually has Benefit during this war. Bloomberg predicts that this year’s Russian oil and gas revenues will be on the cusp of $285 billionCompared with the $236 billion last year. Meanwhile, it can now thwart Ukraine’s ability to export. In the long run, one has to hope that the sanctions will do more damage to Russia as the war continues. At the same time, Ukraine has enormous Western assistance, high morale and a willingness to fight to the end.

Although we are not in the final stages yet, it would be smart for Ukraine to start thinking about the end of the game. In this way, it can develop a coherent position, align its strategy around it, and win international support. Former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger was criticized To suggest that Kyiv should not seek to go beyond the pre-February period. 24 lines on the battlefield. Indeed, it seems unlikely at this point that Ukraine will even be able to retake all of that territory by force, although it should keep trying. But it seems wise to make this his goal – to reverse Russia’s territorial gains this year. Then Kyiv could try to regain the territories it lost before that in 2014 through negotiations. President Volodymyr Zelensky many times I suggested something similar. And that goal – back to before February. 24 lines – would also have the most international support.

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In the war’s final phase, the West – and the United States in particular – became the pivotal players. At the moment, Russia is fighting Ukraine head-on. But when the conflict becomes a kind of stalemate, the real conflict will be between Russia and the West. What will Russia offer to ease sanctions? What will the West demand to end Russia’s isolation?

So far, Washington has been pressing this issue, making it clear that it is up to the Ukrainians to decide What do they want and that Washington will not negotiate over their heads. This is the right message of public support, but Ukraine and its Western partners need to craft a set of common war goals, coordinate strategy around them, gain international support and use all the leverage they have to succeed. The goal should be Ukraine’s independence, and full control of at least an area of ​​territory as it was before February 24, with some security commitments from the West.

The alternative to some sort of negotiated settlement would be an endless war in Ukraine, which would further destroy that country and its people, more than 5 million of them They have already fled. The resulting disruptions to energy and food supplies and the economy will be exacerbated everywhere, as political unrest intensifies around the world. Definitely worth looking for a definitive game that avoids this bleak future.

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