OpEd

Will Ukraine survive?

If the US proves unwilling to meet its obligations and uphold the rule of international law that territory cannot be acquired by force, then we are looking at a future far more violent and dangerous than the past.

Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine is about to enter its third year. There is much to feel good about, but there is also room for concern. In short, it's time to take stock.

What Ukraine and its Western backers have achieved since invading Russia in February 2022 is remarkable. Russia, a nuclear-armed power with a population three and a half times the size of Ukraine, ten times its GDP, and an army with many times the personnel and equipment, has been fought on an almost equal footing. Ukraine controls about 80 percent of its territory, more than two years ago.

Russian President Vladimir Putin clearly calculated that this war of annexation would resemble his earlier invasion of Ukraine in 2014, when Russian forces entered and quickly seized Crimea and much of eastern Donbas. He saw Ukraine, Europe and the United States of America as weak and divided. He also believed his generals when they promised that Russia's army is strong and would crush any resistance that Ukraine might muster.

All these assumptions proved wrong. But there are reasons for concern nonetheless.

Ukraine's much-anticipated counteroffensive, intended to liberate territory and bring to life a victory on the battlefield or at least a momentum that would pave the way for promising diplomacy, has largely been resisted. Russia is used to living with Western economic sanctions and has largely redirected vital energy exports to China and India.

Western military sanctions have also been avoided: Russia has continued to sell weapons to India and others, as well as to buy from North Korea and Iran. It has also been able to purchase ostensibly civilian technology and products that can be repurposed for military use. It has expanded its defense base and now has a significant advantage over Ukraine in the amount of artillery and ammunition it can deploy on the battlefield.

Russia shows few signs of fatigue. Despite the enormous human cost of the war, estimated at over 300.000 Russian troops killed or injured, Putin's control over the media and public narrative has allowed the Kremlin to minimize dissent and convince many Russians that their country is the victim. not the aggressor.

In the meantime, Ukraine is showing signs of political division. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky just fired his top general. More importantly, Ukraine is struggling on the battlefield, largely due to Republicans in the US Congress blocking a $60 billion military aid package. Republican opposition appears to reflect a mix of resurgent isolationism, sympathy for Putin's authoritarianism, and a common desire not to hand President Joe Biden a political victory ahead of November's presidential election.

Ideally, Biden will be able to convince enough Republicans to cooperate with him, as well as Democrats to approve the new part of the assistance, which is in America's strategic interest. But this outcome cannot be counted on, despite mounting evidence that Ukraine is running out of weapons and ammunition and, as a result, is experiencing difficulties in resisting Russian military pressure.

All of this begs the question: How can Ukraine and its friends in Europe and elsewhere fill at least some of the void left by a US that is no longer prepared to provide meaningful levels of assistance?

Europe has already agreed to provide Ukraine with more than $50 billion in new economic aid; along with others (such as South Korea and possibly Japan), a coordinated plan is needed to provide Ukraine with weapons and ammunition so that it can better defend itself and attack important Russian military targets. At the same time, Ukraine's friends should help it rebuild and expand its arms industry so that it becomes less dependent on the ability and willingness of others to provide the resources the war requires. .

At the same time, Ukraine can reduce its resource needs and save lives by adopting a largely defensive military strategy. Protecting and preserving the 80 percent of the country that Ukraine now controls is possible and essential. Ukraine would not give up anything by embracing such a stance, given that the military liberation of Crimea, Donbas and other Russian-occupied regions is not in the cards, at least in the short term. And it can continue to demand full territorial return to the negotiating table, if and when serious talks begin.

If the arms deal will determine how Ukraine fares this year, then the US presidential and congressional elections in November will go toward determining how it fares in 2025 and beyond. If Biden is re-elected, and if the US Senate falls to Republican control, as most expect, but the Democrats take back the House of Representatives, then the stage will be set for new US economic and military aid and perhaps a link between Ukraine and NATO -s. This would free Putin from the belief that time is on his side, increasing the likelihood that diplomacy will come to the fore.

If, however, former President Donald Trump wins and Republicans retain control of the House of Representatives, then Ukraine would face a far more difficult future. The burden of Ukraine's security would fall even more on itself and its friends in Europe and Asia. If they prove willing and able to fill much of the void left by the withdrawal of American support, then a protracted stalemate on the battlefield, followed by constructive diplomacy, can be foreseen. If not, Putin will in all likelihood increase his advantage on the battlefield and come to the negotiating table only to impose the outcome he has sought from the beginning.

The difference between these two futures is profound. The risks for Ukraine, for Europe and for the world are enormous. Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has his own designs on Taiwan, is watching with great interest how this all plays out. Iran is doing it too. If the US proves unwilling to meet its obligations and uphold the rule of international law that territory cannot be acquired by force, then we are looking at a future far more violent and dangerous than the past. .

(Richard Haass, chairman emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, is senior advisor to Centerview Partners and author of The Bill of Obligations: The Ten Habits of Good Citizens. This review was written exclusively for the World Wide Web. journalism "Project Syndicate", part of which is also "Koha Ditore").