WWhat could a desirable and realistic end to Putin’s criminal war against Ukraine look like? – Summarizing the most important arguments of the Western leaders, the bottom line is: Russia (that is, Putin) must not win this war. Ukraine must remain an independent and democratic state capable of defending itself.
You’re right, but that’s just a tactic. The overall strategy must be aimed at ensuring that Russia and its government never want to start wars again, or find war attractive, of their own accord and without coercion. That’s certainly possible. At the moment, the impulse to aggression comes from a mere minority in society.
In my view, the problem with this Western tactic is not its vague wording, but that it ignores one question: what will Russia look like when the stated goals of this strategy are achieved? Could it be that if these tactical goals are successful, the world will end up dealing with an even more aggressive regime in Russia? A country plagued by resentment and imperialist illusions, whose sanctioned but still huge economy is in a state of permanent military mobilization, and whose nuclear weapons guarantee it impunity for international provocations and moves of any magnitude?
It is easy to foresee that even in the event of a painful military defeat, Putin will declare that he did not lose to Ukraine, but to the “collective West and NATO” which attacked to destroy Russia.
And then, in the midst of his post-modern assemblage of every national symbol – from icons to red flags, from Dostoyevsky to ballet – he will solemnly vow to build an army so powerful and develop weapons of such unprecedented destructive power that the West will still have the curse the day he attacked Russia, which would also restore the honor of our great ancestors.
After that, a new cycle will begin: several years of hybrid warfare and provocations, eventually culminating in real war.
To avoid that, for all those seeking peace in this war, the question of post-war Russia must be not just part of the strategy, but at the heart of it. Longer-term goals are impossible to achieve unless there is a plan to ensure the source of the problems stops. Russia must stop being a source of aggression and instability. That is possible, and only that should count as a strategic victory in this war.
What is happening in Russia
But first we need to understand some important things going on in Russia:
1. Envy of Ukraine and its possible achievements is an innate characteristic of post-Soviet power in Russia. That was already the case with its first president, Yeltsin. But since the beginning of Putin’s presidency and especially since the Orange Revolution of 2004, hatred of Ukraine’s European orientation and the desire to turn it into a failed state has been a deep-seated obsession not only for him but for all politicians of his generation .