NATO was never serious about admitting Ukraine. The Russian invasion has lowered Ukraine’s chances even further
Amid the debate over the war in Ukraine, there’s widespread agreement on one point: the carnage and destruction will continue – not just for weeks, but for months or, according to some western officials, years or even decades.
Eventually, however, this war, like all others, will conclude, but not before Russia or Ukraine, perhaps both, become convinced that the losses – in blood and treasure – are unbearable and success beyond reach.
Perhaps Vladimir Putin calculates that Ukrainians’ desire to end their suffering will force them to accept peace on his terms and that if they haven’t yet it’s because he hasn’t pounded their towns and cities enough.
But the pain could just as well increase Ukrainians’ determination to keep fighting. Countries have endured horrific hardships in wartime. Putin surely understands this. Like all Russians, he learned as a schoolboy about the sacrifices Soviet civilians and soldiers made during “the great patriotic war”.
Before the invasion, he may have believed that Ukrainians lacked that sort of mettle. By now he must know that their tenacity has not eroded and that news of widespread Russian atrocities – in Bucha, Trostyanets and elsewhere – has in fact increased it.
Although Ukrainians’ morale could dissipate if significant military defeats make it impossible, or futile, for their army to continue fighting, that has not happened yet. Despite the Russian army’s overwhelming superiority in troops and firepower, Ukraine has inflicted substantial losses. Thousands of Russian troops have been killed and numerous tanks and armored vehicles destroyed. Russian commanders have been forced to abandon the northern offensive aimed at Kyiv.
Moreover, because continuing western military aid provides Ukraine’s army the means to keep fighting, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy isn’t under pressure to accept a deal that concedes large swathes of Ukraine’s south and east to Russia.
By Rajan Menon
Rajan Menon is the Director of the Grand Strategy Program at Defense Priorities and Senior Research Fellow at the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies at Columbia University