A milestone today — one year since Vlad Putin’s Russian invasion of Ukraine, and despite the notion the incursion would be a cakewalk to Kyiv and that would be that, months later, the war is a horror — the Russian army is losing and maybe even has already lost, but that won’t stop Vlad.
In marking the date apparently, and to show neutral asshole ability, China offered up a 12-point peace plan to end the war (while thinking about sending Vlad drones and whatnot), and whether the future will witness a concussion or not.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy was hopeful, but not about Vlad — via the Guardian this afternoon:
Speaking at a press conference in Kyiv to mark the first anniversary of Moscow’s full-scale attack, the Ukrainian president said he “wanted to believe” Beijing was interested in a “fair peace”. That meant not “supplying weapons to Russia”, he said, adding: “I’m doing my best to prevent that from happening. This is priority number one.”
Western leaders are sceptical over the proposal, and argue that Beijing does not have the international credibility to act as a mediator. Ukraine has come up with its own 10-point peace formula. It demands the withdrawal of Russian troops, reparations and prosecutions for Russia’s war leadership.
On Friday, Zelenskiy indicated he was willing to consider aspects of the Chinese proposal. He said he planned to meet president Xi Jinping and said it would be “useful” to both countries and global security. “As far as I know, China respects historical integrity,” he stressed, adding: “Let’s work China on this point. Why not?”
But there seems little realistic prospect of any direct negotiations with Russia, a year after Putin sent his army to seize Kyiv and to topple its pro-western government. Zelenskiy – who was dressed in a black fleece, khaki trousers and desert boots – said compromise with a “sick” and “bloody” Russian leadership was currently impossible.
He recalled how Ukrainians “didn’t run to Russian troops with flowers” when they came across the border a year ago and instead greeted them with weapons. Russia had turned from a “neighbour and friend” into a prodigious murderer that “killed and tortured people”, and abducted children, he said.
“Do you think we can sit and negotiate with them after this?” he asked. “They need to stop shelling us, destroying infrastructure, launching airstrikes, killing animals and burning forests.”
Zelenskly rightfully put the full nix on dealing with war criminal Vlad.
Yet what could be the future of this horrible mess? An ending:
— Fred Kaplan (@fmkaplan) February 24, 2023
Fred Kaplan takes a deep dive into the future at Slate this morning:
The most striking revelation is also the most obvious: that a war like this can still happen in the middle of Europe. One reason for President Biden’s hesitancy to send tanks to Ukraine is that the U.S. stopped building tanks in the early 1990s. The Pentagon has recently ordered contractors to sextuple the production of ammunition and artillery shells, because no one thought we needed to prepare for a war where both sides fired a million shells a month, and many more rounds of ammunition than that.
In the mid-2000s, the U.S. Army’s training center stopped putting troops through the rigors of “combined-arms operations”—the coordinated maneuvers of tanks, infantry, and artillery. Instead, it set up mock villages where troops would practice the complexities of “counterinsurgency.” Iraq and Afghanistan were seen as the templates of modern combat. Nobody foresaw a reprise, even in miniature, of the First or Second World War. (Fortunately, the Army restored much of its traditional training several years ago.)
Another lesson of the war has been that, like it or not, European defense—and, therefore, a coherent Europe more broadly—is dependent on the United States. A few years ago, French President Emmanuel Macron pushed the idea of “strategic autonomy,” a European defense force free of American domination. It was a valid goal; the U.S. seemed to be an unreliable protector, with then-President Trump speaking publicly of pulling out of NATO and abandoning all treaty obligations. It is a valid goal now, as Trump is running for president again and as many congressional Republicans push for isolationism.
Yet, when it comes to European security, the war in Ukraine has highlighted, more than any event since the end of the Cold War, the indispensability of the United States. Without U.S. weapons, training, intelligence-sharing, and diplomatic coordination, Kyiv would have tumbled long ago and the councils of Europe would be negotiating with Moscow for the resumption of cheap oil and gas—not because they would want to, but because they would have no choice.
So how does the war end? Almost certainly not in the way of a “total war,” with Ukrainian tanks rolling into Moscow in the same way that Allied tanks rolled into Berlin in 1945, for the reason stated above.
More likely, the war will end the way most wars in history have ended—through a diplomatic settlement. This will likely somehow involve the fate of Crimea and the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine—the disputed, Russia-annexed territories where this war started back in 2014. One can imagine a variety of possible solutions: internationally supervised referendums; a grand bargain where Russia keeps Crimea and Donbas but Ukraine joins NATO and the European Union; some mix of the above, with Crimea and Donbas deemed a demilitarized zone patrolled by international peacekeepers.
Which leads to the other power in this conflict—China. The war has put its president, Xi Jinping, in an awkward, though potentially powerful, position. Just weeks before the invasion, he and Putin signed a declaration of a Moscow-Beijing partnership with “no limits.” The war has exposed some limits. Xi has kept Russia afloat economically, buying its energy and selling it high-tech components—but he has not sent Russia any weapons. He wants to see the U.S. pour more of its military power into Ukraine, so it has less ability to counter Chinese pressure in the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea. At the same time, he doesn’t want to tie himself too closely to the aggressor in what could be a losing war. More broadly, he wants to open ties of investment and influence with European leaders, many of whom are alienated by his support of Russia.
Go read the whole piece, interesting, though, maybe possible.
Another analysis/observation on a possible end to the Ukrainian conflict:
War, peace, and the time between, yet once again here we are…
(Illustration out front: Salvador Dali’s ‘Hell Canto 2: Giants,’ found here.)