When Trump showed up on CNN’s Town Hall event, nobody was surprised that he was hit with a question about Ukraine. But do the people who mocked his answer have any better solution?
[Note:This article is an opinion piece on the current situation in the Ukraine ware]
The situation right now:
Russia is an invading force and Ukraine is a defending force.
So it’s easy to draw from everything we learned about 20th Century conflict in Europe and define the situation in terms of good guys and bad guys. That ignores a whole host of complicated facts, including promises our side have broken that have provoked further conflict, including the continued expansion of NATO into formerly neutral countries.
But even if we reduce it to the simplest and most obvious terms of white hat defenders and black hat attackers, there are only two options on the table. Endless fighting or a truce.
The problem with a truce is that each side has to give up enough that they feel justified in laying down their weapons and going home.
If the terms are too lopsided, the best you can hope to accomplish is a period of peace during which the insulted party nurses the grudge and builds up their forces until they can resume fighting with a more favorable result. (See: Treaty of Versailles after WWI)
Zelenskyy is fighting Russia with the confidence of a man who believes he has an all-but unlimited arsenal to throw at Putin’s invaders. Looking back at the last year, why would he think otherwise?
He has made it clear that he is not the least bit interested in a negotiated settlement with Russia. Nothing less that a complete Russian retreat from Ukraine’s borders will satisfy him.
Per the Telegraph:
Experts have stressed that a peace agreement will be hard to reach, particularly given that Russia and Ukraine cannot agree on a starting point.
Russia wants Ukraine to acknowledge its annexation of the Crimean peninsula and provinces including Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia.
Kyiv, however, has rejected such demands and refuses to engage with Moscow unless it withdraws from occupied territories. — Telegraph
This is echoed by reporting in NewsWeek:
Losing control of occupied Crimea is a “red line” for Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Estonian defense minister has said, though urged fellow NATO nations not to balk at a Ukrainian operation towards the peninsula regardless of fears over Moscow’s nuclear arsenal.
Crimea occupies a particularly important place in Putin’s national myth. Its quick and remarkably bloodless seizure by Russian troops—known then as “little green men” due to their lack of insignia or other identifiers—in 2014 was celebrated as evidence of Moscow’s renewed confidence and capability and a reversal of a historic perceived national humiliation.
But Ukrainian troops may be looking toward the peninsula for their coming counteroffensive. A successful drive south from Zaporizhzhia and east from Kherson to sever the land bridge from Crimea to Russia could isolate the peninsula, and imperil the hundreds of thousands of Russian troops and civilians there. –Newsweek
What is the American citizen to make of these facts?
We have something like a stalemate in the conflict, where both sides are drawing from resources of foreign supporters in a war of attrition. With no sign of an agreement on Crimea in sight, we are unlikely to see an end to the conflict until one side or the other exhausts its resources — including the lives of those fighting in this war.
There are two paths forward to an end. If Ukraine finds a way to win so decisively against the Russians that they decide the price to be paid for Crimea is too great, Zelensky will get the terms he is looking for.
The other path is to realize he cannot expect to rely on the unlimited patience and generosity of taxpayers in far-flung countries to keep his war going.
In that scenario, he will have to do the same thing leaders in stalemates have had to do for all of human history:see the conflict through the eyes of a realist and re-evaluate what peace terms might be tolerable, however unpleasant and unwelcome they might be at the time.
These are some harsh realities the West has seldom had to consider in a world where United Nations councils can paint a veneer of civility over so many of our interactions.
Who knows? The day may come when Crimea takes the same path as other disputed territories before it, with an international peace-keeping force creating a neutral zone between the two contentious neighbors.
Then again, such arrangements haven’t always worked out so well.