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Friday, March 24, 2023

One of the day. Ukraine’s allies may have no choice but to betray it

“How is it going to end?” The question is displayed cover of The Spectator, in London. And trots in all Western heads, according to the conservative weekly in its edition dated February 4.

With the deliveries of heavy weapons endorsed at the end of January by London, Berlin and Washington, in particular, the NATO countries “come to flirt with their own yellow lines”. Those set at the start of the war by General Mark Milley, at least. For the Chief of the American Defense Staff, quoted by The Spectator, four priorities would make it possible to avoid the outbreak of a third world war while “enforcing” international law:

“1. Avoid a kinetic conflict between the United States or NATO and Russia. 2 To prevent the war from spilling over the geographical limits of Ukraine. 3. Strengthen and guarantee the unity of NATO. 4. Give Ukraine the means to fight on its own.”

A year later, observes journalist Owen Matthews, a specialist in Russia, these strategic objectives “are on the verge of rupture”. The conflict remains confined to Ukrainian territory, but the Russians “are on the verge of considering NATO as a co-belligerent”. Within the transatlantic alliance, the unity displayed on the tank transfer poorly hides “real divisions on the question of what the end of the war should look like”.

Switch to a war of conquest

In kyiv, the answer is beyond doubt: only total victory, accompanied by the expulsion of Russian troops from every plot of Ukrainian land, including the annexed Donbass and Crimea, would be acceptable. “This has not always been the case, recalls The Spectator. During the first abortive negotiations in Turkey in March and April 2022, the President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, had implied that the status of these regions was negotiable. But the weaponry supplied by the West has enabled it to abandon its pragmatism and adopt a maximalist position.”

Problem: for the time being, the conflict is stagnating in an “intermediate phase”, during which each side seeks either to win or to gain the upper hand with a view to future negotiations. The recovery of the regions annexed by Russia, believes Owen Matthews, will inevitably go through a change of gear. “Instead of a liberation, it will be a war of conquest.” Only, emptied of their pro-Ukrainian inhabitants, the Donbass like the Crimea “mainly and clearly want to no longer be part of Ukraine”. Once this is established, asks the London magazine, “Does the West want to get involved in an attempt to force people to join a nation they no longer want to be part of?” Especially since opposite Putin keeps a “huge” reserve of “unsophisticated” men and weapons.

In this context, Volodymyr Zelenskyy finds himself stuck between his promise to liberate the entire country on the one hand – which earned him immense popularity – and on the other the decisions of his Western allies. “Even with the optimistic scenario that envisages the Russians being pushed back to the pre-invasion borders, Ukraine would still be dismembered, and Putin probably still in power, concludes The Spectator. It’s tragic, but if we look at this war realistically, whatever the outcome, the Ukrainians can only cry treason. But if all other options lead us to World War III, betraying the Ukrainians might be the least terrible of the solutions.”

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