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Mon. May 27, 2024
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Has the West Ever Wanted Ukraine to Win Its War Against Russia?
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The straightforward and briefest answer to the title question above should honestly be “no”. Of course, it does not mean that Ukraine needs to lose the war. However, it has been exceptionally rare so far for most Western top politicians to talk about “defeat”, “victory”, “lands liberation”, etc. since the beginning of the Russian invasion. Instead, you can easily find their opinions on how important it is for Ukraine to defend itself and eventually negotiate peace with the war criminal Putin from a strong and beneficial position. In this case, usually, it is not even considered the option that Putin may not want to negotiate peace at all, or at least not from expectations differing greatly from his own ideas. Further, thinking of Western governments' attitude to Ukraine inevitably crawls down to the military support they deliver to the country. It crawls down as a grasp of conspicuously insufficient help for winning a war like the one with Russia. Why? On the invasion date, the Russians had a superiority in key arms sizes, such as battle tanks, artillery, aircraft, missiles, troops, etc., several times over the Ukrainian piles of the same arms or conscripts. Upon this reality, after 12 months of battling throughout the frontlines, the Russians spent $82 billion, while the U.S. extended just $31.7 billion military aid to Ukraine. The EU backing was less than half of the American one. Ukrainians under these circumstances continued to rely mainly on their old Soviet weapons, complemented or upgraded sometimes by Western ones. General Zaluzhny, the commander in chief of the Ukrainian military forces, asked for 300 modern battle tanks from the West at the beginning of 2023 for the intended counteroffensive later during the year and received only 140. Ukraine wanted over 1 million rounds of projectiles from the EU in 2023 and was told that such a bulky order perhaps cannot be satisfied until the end of 2023, even though Ukrainian rounds on the battlefields in 2022 were 5-10 times smaller than the Russian ones. Ukraine will not receive jets and long-range missiles at least until the end of 2023, either. Afterwards, naturally comes the winter when it is not very plausible to expect grand counteroffensive moves. How should it be believed that the West is prepared to deliver exactly in the winter generous consignments of weapons? And what about the pre-election period in the U.S. in 2024? Will Biden be ready to spend significantly in Ukraine following the winter and the frozen Ukrainian counteroffensive in it if he does not do that now at its start in the summer? Quite normally, the onlooker should also ask himself why the West has delayed even its insufficient arms deliveries so much as to give opportunities for the Russians to build reliable and extensive defense infrastructure in southern Ukraine. What does it mean then that the democratic governments will support Ukraine as long as it is necessary? What does it mean, indeed, if their economies continue to buy Russian petrol and gas from India and Turkey and deliver through third countries to Russia chips for the production of long-range precision-guided missiles hitting civil targets in Ukraine, when Ukraine is not even given such missiles? No less strange is the fact that the U.S. and EU cumulatively have about 20 times bigger GDP than Russia, as well as  blocking around US 300 billion of the Russian Central Bank reserves and despite it, do little to assist the Ukrainian arms shortages overcoming. This happens without the size of the potential arms deliveries to have a pro-inflationary effect on the Western economies, which is not so with both the inflation and stagnation originating from the continuous war's influence on international trade ($ 2.8. trillion shrinking as per OECD estimates for 2023).

Obviously, the West has precautions about Ukraine winning the war and thus  liberating all its occupied territories. And these precautions are sheer fears. Fear number one is to avoid a direct conflict between NATO and Russia. Fear number two is for escalating the war on Ukrainian territory further. Fear number

three is that a despaired and humiliated Putin may use nuclear weapons at a certain moment if he feels like a loser. Fear number four is focused on the unpredictability of what will happen globally if nuclear Russia disintegrates because of the lost war. All these fears are so underscored that NATO even tiptoes away from the kind of humanitarian intervention in Ukraine that it practiced in the past in non-NATO countries. The fear of conflicting with Russia directly is let us say a bit curious when this organization has to guarantee the national security of its member states against Russia and keeping Russians as far as possible from NATO boundaries should be among its geopolitical priorities. Besides, if NATO is scared of Russia, then what should be its attitude towards China or any military alliance between China and Russia? Why would not it be afraid of WWIII and nukes in defending, say, Luxembourg, but the situation gets much the opposite for the largest country in Eastern Europe, currently carrying out the geopolitical work of NATO? Even ignoring similar questions as perhaps slightly abstract, we cannot receive a reasonable answer to another question – in case the West is afraid of a face-to-face conflict with Russia and Putin can clearly see its fear, then is it not exactly the Western fear the nutritious ingredient for escalating the war instead of the weapons the Ukrainians still ask for? If we could not figure out a reasonable reply to the last question, it should mean that the West simply puts under a hypocritical treatment what it calls ‘Ukraine should be able to defend itself’. Unfortunately, the same hypocrisy can be identified in the Western fear related to the possible disintegration of Russia as a nuclear power. When the West asserts that, the disintegrated empire will make the potential use of nukes unpredictable, it is hard to explain why Putin should be considered predictable. If he were predictable indeed, why then did NATO do nothing to stop him in Georgia, Syria and Ukraine? Was the West not surprised by him after conceding Georgia and snubbing Ukraine's request to enter NATO in 2008 when he invaded Crimea in 2014, and a few months prior to 24th Feb. 2022, while he tried to press NATO for returning to its historical boundaries at hand prior to 1997? If Putin is unpredictable as a leader of the empire, why has his disintegrated empire once lacking him become even more unpredictable? Is it not true that Ukraine and the other Russian neighbours will have weaker potential opponents within the Russian disintegrated space, accompanied by some risks about nukes use, which however exist now, too? The disintegrated Russian space would be also a smaller geopolitical threat to the West in a strategic sense. Therefore, the disintegrated Russia is a better alternative to the Russian empire if NATO creates a strong military wall on its eastern flank, leaving the Russian problems to be solved only by Russians. Having such a wall without a strong, compact, and free Ukraine is impossible. Having disintegrated Russian space behind the reliable wall will also ensure one less powerful ally to China.

An assumption that the West has chosen a war of attrition with Russia due to its bigger economic potential and that is why it does not want to support Ukraine to achieve an unconditional liberation of all its occupied territories is as inadequate as the NATO approach motivated by fears. First, it should be noted, that the war of attrition does not guarantee the liberation of the territories in Ukraine under Russian control, because Putin will decide when and how to end the military operations, not the West. Then a truce, for example, does not mean a troops retreat. It is also not certain that Putin will ever be willing to exchange territories to cancel the economic sanctions of the West imposed on Russia. Neither one should credit Putin’s word on any kind of agreement. On the other hand, it is difficult to be sure that whatever truce or treaty might be signed and implemented by Putin will not transform the attrition war into a frozen military conflict. Additionally, the attrition war strategy leaves open an opportunity for China to assist Putin at any moment when it will accept that there would be nothing more than bearable Western sanctions to be afraid of. Such an occurrence will prolong the attrition again in a frozen conflict. The attrition war does not solve the problem of nuclear blackmailing, which Russia tries to exercise at the expense of the West. If the West will not have a firm, focused and unequivocal position on blackmailing, it will probably encounter it many other times from countries like North Korea, Iran and even China. Similarly, it will be fundamentally  wrong if the Western governments assume that supporting military Ukraine as much as solely keeping its pro-Western government in power by means of attrition war and paying no attention otherwise to the country's full territorial liberation, is a sufficient demonstration of fortitude in the eyes of Putin and the world autocrats. In this context, it should be taken into consideration that because of the advancing de-carbonization in the West and the EU Green Deal, the export potential of Russia to the West is going to shrink and the shrinking would be particularly drastic in the EU. No wonder then that Putin tries to promote his economic turn to Asia. If Russia re-directs the bulk of its carbon products export to Asia, it will have remained only expansionistic geopolitical ambitions in Europe and it will be especially valid towards Eastern Europe. Territorial concessions like the possible ones in Ukraine, forged out on battlefields, will not convince Putin or his heir in the fortitude of the West but just the opposite, they will encourage him to struggle for more concessions in Europe, after the struggle will be good mantra for consolidating Russian society under the flag of nationalism when no clear economic success will be accessible to it. Besides, the attrition war strategy is inadequate due to the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances dated 12/05/1994 provisions, which were co-signed by the U.S., Great Britain and France from the West. In this document, Ukraine agreed to give up the Soviet nuclear weapons stationed on its territory against receiving security commitment from the Western co-signors and Russia. Ukraine indeed has given up the third nuclear potential in the world at that time but on what kind of commitment can it rely nowadays from the Western co-signors if it is not able to recover its own territorial wholesomeness through their support? According to the Ukrainians, the Memorandum is a legal act of international law even if it has no enforcement mechanism included in it, but the U.S. understands it as only a political commitment. This variation on the Memorandum understanding however does not change the simple fact, that Ukraine has made its required contribution to it, while the West has not. Under these circumstances, how could the West pretend that by backing Ukraine in its war with Russia, it tries to defend an international order based on rules? Are these rules just a legal shape of norms or norms conceived to regulate international relations by prioritizing content over the explicit shape?

Obviously, the sustainable solution to the Ukrainian war presumes a radical change in the Western foreign policy related to the war. The backbone in the first step of the change necessitates a significant increase in weapons deliveries both in quantity and quality of firing power, because Ukraine should win this war and liberate all its territories. This will make Ukraine not interested in keeping the frozen war and will leave only Russia to possess such interest. The West has at disposal the Russian Central Bank blocked reserves for increased arms deliveries offsetting and doing nothing legally for their use is another fault of the Western governments. The successful completion of Step 1 will allow a rapid Ukrainian accession to NATO in Step 2 without trading any occupied Ukrainian lands for the membership. Step 2 undertaking will make the prospective expansionistic ambition of the Kremlin rather perilous for Russia or the leftovers of Russia after Step 1 execution. Precisely this fact can guarantee the best peace sustainability in Ukraine and eliminate eventually for a long time the availability of a second party interested in the frozen war continuation. Lastly, in Step 3, NATO needs to build a strong Eastern flank based on the reinforcements of all the armies in the countries sharing the common threat of direct Russian invasion. These countries are Ukraine, Poland, Baltic republics, Finland and Romania. The U.S. should be the driving force for the pointed-out joint national armies' capacity improvement.

Nicola Stoev is a Bulgarian economist. He was a foreign investors’ consultant in Bulgaria and a chief expert at the Bulgarian Ministry of Finance, where he wrote analyses about the Bulgarian economy in the context of the global economy, sent to the IMF, the EIB and the World Bank. Currently, he is the founder and managing director of a foundation called "Dobro surce". His blog site is https://stoev.substack.com/

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