Most experts agree that the Russia-Ukraine war will have to come to an end at some point. And policy makers agonize over how to ensure a peace that is both permanent and meaningful. Lasha Tchantouridzé argues that the West needs to go further than simply supplying arms and ensuring NATO membership to bring a long-lasting ceasefire.
Although Moscow has given occasional assurances to the contrary, it is widely accepted that the Russo-Ukraine war will eventually come to an end. However, it is also anticipated that Moscow may resume its campaign in Ukraine after a period of relative peace. Given this, it is in the interest of Kyiv and its supporters to seek a lasting peace settlement that would enable Ukraine to defend itself in the future. This will require catching and holding Moscow's undivided attention by targeting and threatening at least one major strategic asset of the Russian Federation, which is the Black Sea Fleet with its home base in Sevastopol. If Russia were to lose its Black Sea navy, its fight for Sevastopol and Crimea would lose strategic significance, and Moscow would be more willing to negotiate a compromise settlement in Ukraine.
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To achieve this goal, Kyiv must acquire the necessary weapons systems to bring Russia to the negotiating table. Moscow is likely to accept one of two possible peace settlement scenarios, provided that each allows for ample room for compromise. The first scenario involves restoring the status quo ante bellum and allowing Ukraine to join NATO. The country would remain divided for the time being, with the Cold War division line drawn in the Donetsk suburbs. This scenario is similar to the settlement imposed upon Germany after World War II, which eventually led to reunification.
The second scenario involves Moscow relinquishing all its conquests in Ukraine except for Sevastopol and its connecting road through the Crimea bridge. Ukraine would remain well-armed but neutral, and Russia would regain control of the Black Sea Fleet. A third scenario, a mixture of the two compromises, is also possible. With any of these peace settlement scenarios, the question of the repatriation of hostages, exchange of prisoners, war reparations, war crimes, trade, communications systems, etc., will remain on the negotiating table and will be settled gradually.
It is important to recognize that the Russo-Ukraine war does not need to continue any longer than necessary. The fact that the frontlines have remained largely unchanged in land battles since last fall is largely due to logistical and weapons supply realities surrounding the conflict. While the Russian land forces have made improvements in storage and supply, other issues within the Russian army cannot be resolved in the short term. Specifically, the military reforms implemented between 2008 and 2021 have left the infantry units ill-suited for conventional continent-scale warfare. Last year's debacles in Ukraine led the Russian high command to stop deploying infantry combat units in an enhanced battalion formation, which addressed the problem of unified command but did not solve the shortage of infantry storm troops, the competence of non-commissioned officers, the lack of knowledgeable junior commanders, and the absence of necessary logistical equipment and personnel to service them.
Long-range missiles, attack drones, and fighter jets are crucial for Ukraine to attack and destroy Russia's Black Sea Fleet, primarily deployed around Crimea.
In light of these challenges, it is in the interest of all parties involved to seek a negotiated settlement that would allow for a peaceful resolution of the conflict. While it will be necessary to address issues such as prisoner exchanges and war reparations, the first step must be to establish a lasting ceasefire that can serve as a foundation for further negotiations. It will require a willingness to compromise and a recognition that continued fighting will only lead to more suffering and destruction. The war of attrition is not in the long-term interests of Ukraine or its Western allies. Ukraine will do much better to reduce Russia's strategic assets, starting from the Black Sea Fleet and its infrastructure.
The slow progress of Ukraine's armed forces in the conflict is largely due to the lack of necessary equipment and inadequate ammunition rationing. Despite promises made by NATO to deliver equipment and supplies, deliveries have been slow and intermittent, and NATO has not yet fully fulfilled its commitments to Ukraine. This state of affairs has only served to embolden Moscow, as Russia has thus far outperformed NATO in war production and supplies. Erratic supplies have a detrimental effect on the operational tempo of the Ukrainian armed forces, greatly influencing the outcome of battles. More importantly, Ukraine loses troops at an alarming rate, and the genocidal policies of the Russian mercenaries destroy thousands of civilians. Ukraine cannot afford to sustain this war of attrition for too long.
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Another issue that the United States and its NATO allies have been slow to address is the range of heavy weapons sent to Ukraine. In a conventional war of this scale, it is essential to target the enemy's second echelon of troops and their supply lines as the fighting sides rely on mechanized infantry advances towards the enemy's fortified positions. While the range and precision of weapons supplied to Ukraine have been increasing gradually, the Ukrainian armed forces still lack the ability to reach deep into the enemy rear in sufficient quantities, particularly with respect to barreled and missile artillery. It is imperative that NATO fulfills its promises to Ukraine promptly and equips its forces with the necessary weapons to effectively confront the Russian army. Furthermore, the United States and its NATO allies must re-evaluate their restrictions on the range of heavy weapons sent to Ukraine and provide the necessary support to enable the Ukrainian armed forces to target the enemy's second echelon of troops and supply lines, as this is crucial to achieving success in the conflict. Long-range missiles, attack drones, and fighter jets are crucial for Ukraine to attack and destroy Russia's Black Sea Fleet, primarily deployed around Crimea.
A clear strategy is necessary for Ukraine to end this war. It is important for Kyiv to have access to proper weapons and equipment that can effectively counter the Russian military, whether through imports or domestic production. The limitations imposed by NATO on the type and range of weapons that can be supplied to Ukraine can be a hindrance to its efforts to bring the war to a desirable conclusion. Adapting old Soviet equipment or coming up with ad hoc solutions can be useful in some instances but can only provide limited benefits. Therefore, it is crucial to provide Ukraine with the necessary equipment and technology to enable Ukraine to target the enemy's rear lines and supply chains and ultimately weaken Russia's military position.
Since its foundation in 1547, the Russian state has been involved in a violent military conflict in every decade.
In addition to proper equipment, a clear and comprehensive strategy is needed to effectively utilize it. This strategy should focus on the systematic weakening of Russia's military position, rather than just attacking individual targets in a piecemeal manner. It should also consider the diplomatic and economic dimensions of the conflict, as a comprehensive solution cannot be achieved through military means alone.
Moscow's control of the Black Sea through its Black Sea Fleet is a crucial factor in maintaining its status as a global power. Historically, the Russian state has established itself as a major power by gaining dominant access to the Baltic and Black Seas. In contemporary times, the Black Sea continues to play an important role in Moscow's global ambitions, as seen in its policies towards Ukraine and Georgia. Additionally, Russia's military activities in Syria, Libya, and Africa rely heavily on the Black Sea navy. Therefore, the Black Sea Fleet is a vital strategic asset for Moscow. However, it is also vulnerable to gradual erosion without triggering nuclear alarms. Moscow has already lost its flagship Moskva and other vessels, and the loss of one or more ships per week during wartime may not generate panic in Moscow until it is too late to prevent significant attrition.
Kyiv has two primary objectives in the ongoing conflict: to achieve a favorable military outcome and to demonstrate to Moscow that it can inflict strategic harm on Russia. The latter objective is critical for Ukraine's long-term security, as it must deter future aggression from its large eastern neighbor. While Ukraine has demonstrated its ability to defend itself, it must continue to do so in a manner that remains relevant to future generations of leaders in Moscow. Additionally, it is important for Ukraine's survival and prosperity to bring the conflict to a conclusion as soon as possible, while also ensuring that any compromise settlement with Moscow does not weaken the strength of its armed forces or compromise its future objectives for a final settlement with Russia.
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The period from spring 2023 to fall 2024 presents a critical window of opportunity for Kyiv to make progress towards settling with Russia. The current political leadership in key Western countries is supportive of Ukraine, and there is growing willingness among its allies to supply long-range weapons. Moreover, public opinion in the West continues to support Ukraine's fight, while Moscow has failed to secure significant military support from its potential allies such as China and Brazil. However, waiting for a more favorable phase in the war is a gamble that may not pay off. The Western public may lose interest in the conflict, and leaders less willing to support Ukraine may come to power. Additionally, Russia may receive a significant military aid infusion, making a settlement more challenging to achieve. Therefore, Kyiv must act with urgency to take advantage of the current geopolitical climate to pursue its objectives.
Since its foundation in 1547, the Russian state has been involved in a violent military conflict in every decade. Whether it was expanding its territory or suppressing rebellions and civil wars, the rulers of Rus have been engaged in a cycle of violence. Despite being portrayed as a domestic conflict by Moscow, the current war in Ukraine, labeled as a "special military operation," is, in fact, a war of conquest. If Russia succeeds in this war, it will guarantee future wars of conquest as there are many lands to recover and even more scores to settle. Even if Russia is unsuccessful in this war, it is unlikely to break from its centuries-long tradition of military conflict. The only way to dissuade Russia from future wars is to provide its neighbors with the necessary tools to retaliate should Russia attack again. Currently, Ukraine is well-positioned to acquire and deploy these tools of persuasion.
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