Ukraine’s ‘endgame’ likely means intensification of US-NATO ‘long game’ against Russia: expert


After regaining territory in the fall and holding most of it until winter, the world awaits the long-awaited spring attack on Ukraine to drive the Russian invaders out of the country’s eastern provinces.

But despite the optimism, most European and American analysts believe that victory will be decisive enough to end Vladimir Putin’s vision of “21st-century Russia with 19th-century ambitions.” Senior research scientist Luke Coffey said he didn’t expect the attack to come to fruition Hudson Institute on May 4Reaching the Endgame in UkraineA presentation hosted by a Washington-based conservative think tank.

Coffey said long-term planning would be required if the United States and Western Europe wanted to defend Ukraine and contain Russian aggression, something few are currently considering.

“Rather than view the war in Ukraine as a series of separate battles, the war in Ukraine will be used by the United States to prepare one counteroffensive against Ukraine while laying the groundwork to help Ukraine survive the next winter. It should be seen as an ongoing campaign to get ready for next year’s offensive.”

A “disconnected approach” could develop into a disconnect between Ukraine and its allies if the anticipated offensive fails to liberate Russian forces from Ukraine and the war plunges into a stagnation of attrition. said Coffey.

“Expectations for this counterattack are so high that there are already people suggesting that future aid to Ukraine depends on the success of the campaign,” he said. “Aid to Ukraine cannot be based on one event. We must look at the big strategic picture. [We need] A little more leadership from the White House explaining why Ukraine matters and explaining to the Capitol why it is in our interest to support Ukraine. ”

Coffey said the president and administration officials have failed to make a firm case to the American public about the gravity of the Russian threat and what is at stake in Ukraine.

“The problem with the administration’s language in saying that the United States is with Ukraine ‘how long it takes’ is that no one has defined the word ‘it,'” he said. “Does that equate to victory, some sort of negotiated settlement? To be fair, the problem the White House has is that only Ukrainians can define ‘it’. ”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has made it very clear that he sees the full restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, the restoration of its borders in 1991, as his definition of “victory,” including the recapture of Crimea.

“Aid and assistance to Ukraine should be planned on the basis of these policies,” Coffey said.

Epoch Times photo
Ukrainian military personnel move US-made FIM-92 Stinger missiles and other military aid shipments from Lithuania to Boryspil Airport in Kiev on February 13, 2022. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP via Getty Images)

Putin continues to attack Ukraine

Pablo Klimkin, who served as Ukraine’s foreign minister from 2014 to 2019 and now heads the Kiev-based Center for National Resilience Development, said the “endgame” in Ukraine may require a long-term strategy. agreed that it is high. Without a deal with Ukraine, Russian forces will strike again.

“Putin again uses pretexts” to attack Ukraine, resistance becomes “a constant circle, a kind of spiral”, Europe and the United States continue to pour military and economic aid into the besieged country, and further economic sanctions take the plunge.

“Of course we are confident [we will make] We will have decisive gains on the battlefield this spring,” he said. “I believe that negotiations with Russia are possible only because there is a clear strength. You can only negotiate effectively with Russia from a position of strength. will [but] It can and should be maintained by economic pressure and Russia’s economic isolation. ”

But first, Klimkin said. “If you believe that we need to win, and for Ukrainians, we can argue about what a ‘victory’ is for the West, but at least one point needs to be clarified. we have to win Military power alone cannot win. Victory must be comprehensive.

“You have to embrace this mindset of winning,” he continued. “If you want to win Russia, it is possible, really possible. It is a game-changer mental shift you should have. It is dangerous for humans.”

Epoch Times photo
Volunteers prepare to open fire on Russian military positions near Bakhmut, Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, March 8, 2023. (Libkos/AP Photo)

Europeans awaken to a new reality

Reka Semerkenny, an economist who was Hungary’s ambassador to the United States from 2015 to 2017 and senior adviser on transatlantic strategy at the International Republican Institute, said Central European countries also feared that the threat posed by President Putin’s Russia would be the reason for the recall of troops from Ukraine. He said he recognizes that even if it does, it will not go away. .

For many Europeans, especially Western Europeans, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine caused “the collapse of some great theories” they “based on their relations with Russia,” Semerkenny said.

For example, mutual trade. Expanding trade ties creates stability and security,” he said. “The other is that cooperation across different sectors can lead to strategic cooperation.”

None of these theories hold up, and today, at least in central Europe, it looks like this: It’s a reality that creates a new approach to Russia,” she said, calling the next six months “a very delicate period.”

“Endgame” Scenario

Klimkin identified three potential “endgame” scenarios.

“For one, I like to call it the ‘porcupine scenario,’ in which America and its European allies give Ukraine a way to deter Russia, providing as many, as sophisticated weapons as possible.” He said. Not a sustainable option. ”

Such a scenario is essentially a continuation of the current situation. “It’s unfair to Ukraine and Ukrainians. It won’t work. It will create another spiral of uncertainty.” Deaf. This choice is fundamentally wrong.”

The second scenario, which Klimkin called “a bastion of Ukrainian guarantees,” involves “a series of bilateral guarantees, or one comprehensive guarantee, possibly by NATO,” in which Ukraine’s defense against Russia Guaranteed.

This is also “quite problematic,” he said. “You can imagine a network that guarantees security, but for me it could only be a transitional solution towards NATO membership.”

A third option is for NATO and the European Union to approve Ukraine’s membership in both institutions, Klimkin said.

Damaged building in Ukraine
Severely damaged houses hit by Russian missiles in Uman, Cherkasy region, Ukraine, April 28, 2023. (Press service of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine/handout via Reuters)

Some NATO members are concerned that Ukraine will admit the risk of “direct conflict with Russia”. There’s all sorts of fear and a lack of willingness to raise the stakes, and a tough debate about how Russia will react,” he said.

Mr Klimkin said Mr Putin had already responded, saying it was Ukraine’s pending decision that infuriated the Russian leader and sparked a decade of unrest that culminated in the February 2021 invasion. It claimed that it was an application for membership in NATO and the EU.

Klimkin “spent 20 years” getting Ukraine into NATO and the EU. “I believe there is an essential link between our moves towards the European Union and Russia and Putin’s attempt to destroy Ukraine,” he said.

Klimkin predicted that if Ukraine were admitted to NATO, especially after a clumsy and poorly executed invasion, Putin would turn a blind eye if the Europeans were firm.

“My feeling, my educated guess, is that Putin will not be able to react in a strong way” to Ukraine joining NATO, but first NATO member states will be in a “moment of truth.” face it and risk direct conflict with Russia. Backing down would guarantee a confrontation with Russia, he said.

“Any kind of endgame, which I would like to say is the exception, is impossible without being ambitious,” Klimkin said. “We need this clarity [of NATO membership]. Without it, [Russian invasion] everything will come back. ”

Ukrainians are targeted not only because they are citizens of a country, but because they are Ukrainians, he said, and it becomes personal and existential.

Putin “cannot, fundamentally, see Ukraine as Ukraine. To him, Ukraine is either Russia or anti-Russia,” Klimkin said, referring to Putin’s essay and speech, which the Russian leader claims. Remember, “Ukraine is man-made. There is no Ukrainian language, no state, no history, basically nothing. Is it doing?”

Russian soldiers walk the streets of Mariupol on April 12, 2022. (Alexander Nemenov/AFP via Getty Images)

The seeds of war, Europe’s first large-scale military conflict since World War II, were sown with the demise of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. The imperial plan has been broken,” he said. “That’s where it all started.”

Europe should therefore not be surprised by Putin sending Russian troops to Ukraine and should have responded sooner to US intelligence warnings of a planned invasion, Klimkin said. .

“This is not Putin’s reaction by accident. Two years ago, a year ago, or 2014, or before that, for him, it was a mission to destroy Ukraine and Ukrainian identity,” Klimkin said. rice field. “Making Ukraine a European country would destroy his sense of what Ukraine should be and the Russians’ sense of it.”

Unfortunately for Putin, his efforts to destroy the “Ukrainian identity” have backfired spectacularly since the invasion, he said.

“Ukrainians are fundamentally intellectually different from Russians,” said Klimkin. “It wasn’t until 2014 that a lot of people started to understand it. [when Russia seized and occupied Crimea] And even more so in the moment [Russia’s] All-out aggression.

About a decade ago, when Russia told Ukrainians that they claimed they were Russians, “the mantra was ‘so what?'”, he said.

Now, thanks to Putin, Ukrainians are convinced they are not Russian, with polls showing over 90% “against any kind of negotiations with Putin,” Klimkin said. says.

“Now it is understood that Ukraine is Europe and Ukrainians are Europeans,” he said.