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Ukraine Must Give Up Territory to End War – HotAir

It can be simultaneously true that Ukraine’s fight against Russian aggression is just and that Ukraine will not be able to achieve the objective of completely beating back Russian advances into its territory.

The Biden Administration seems to be slowly realizing that the hard realities on the ground will likely prevent the long arc of history from bending toward justice in this case.

As with many wars, the causes for its starting are somewhat more complicated than we would like to believe–the borders of Ukraine were somewhat arbitrary, and Russia’s claims of legitimate interests in the eastern provinces are not entirely without merit. With that said, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in the spring of 2022 was unjustified and a simple act of aggression.

Taking Kyiv and the entirety of Ukraine bore no relation to whatever claims the Russians have to protect their Russian-speaking allies in the East. I was as happy as most Westerners to see the Russians get their a$$es kicked by the plucky Ukrainians. Putin was the bad actor here, both in 2014 and 2022. If Ukraine’s borders weren’t sacred, as they are not, Russia’s claims are weak and contrary to agreements made at the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Some negotiated solutions should have been the goal under the Obama administration, but Obama decided to hand over a good chunk of Ukraine instead.

Putin overestimated his military power and underestimated the Biden administration’s willingness to support Ukraine, and they certainly underestimated Zelenskyy’s willingness to fight back.

The result? Somewhere around half a million casualties since the February 2022 invasion.

There was a lot of hope wrapped up in Zelenskyy’s “offensive” that was to drive Russians completely out of Ukrainian territory, but it was never justified by the realities on the ground. Russia lost the offensive phase of the war because its military was weak and its preparations horrendous. Russia will endure in the defensive stage of the war because its military is strong enough, and defending territory–especially fortified territory–is a far easier task than taking it.

Biden hoped he could keep pouring more material into the battlefield and that Ukraine could keep pouring more manpower into the conflict. The hoped-for result would be ultimate victory. Fortunately or not, the political will doesn’t exist to do that (or, admittedly, the means as we are depleting our weaponry at an alarming rate). Nor, it must be said, are Ukraine’s manpower resources sufficient to defeat Russia completely.

So the Biden administration is redefining the goals of the war from the US perspective.

With U.S. and European aid to Ukraine now in serious jeopardy, the Biden administration and European officials are quietly shifting their focus from supporting Ukraine’s goal of total victory over Russia to improving its position in an eventual negotiation to end the war, according to a Biden administration official and a European diplomat based in Washington. Such a negotiation would likely mean giving up parts of Ukraine to Russia.

The White House and Pentagon publicly insist there is no official change in administration policy — that they still support Ukraine’s aim of forcing Russia’s military completely out of the country. But along with the Ukrainians themselves, U.S. and European officials are now discussing the redeployment of Kyiv’s forces away from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s mostly failed counteroffensive into a stronger defensive position against Russian forces in the east, according to the administration official and the European diplomat, and confirmed by a senior administration official. This effort has also involved bolstering air defense systems and building fortifications, razor wire obstructions and anti-tank obstacles and ditches along Ukraine’s northern border with Belarus, these officials say. In addition, the Biden administration is focused on rapidly resurrecting Ukraine’s own defense industry to supply the desperately needed weaponry the U.S. Congress is balking at replacing.

It is something of an exaggeration to say that Congress could, ever were the will to exist, support Ukraine’s war efforts indefinitely. Our resources are becoming thin, and the time to replace them exceeds the time frame necessary to keep Ukraine fighting effectively.

We might wish that this weren’t so, but reality on the ground shows that it is. Russia may not have a large supply of modern weaponry nor a superbly trained army, but they have enough Soviet-era weaponry and seemingly unlimited manpower resources. This is more than enough for a successful defense of occupied territory.

So, the Biden administration is slowly letting it be known that Ukraine must revise its war aims.

The administration official told POLITICO Magazine this week that much of this strategic shift to defense is aimed at shoring up Ukraine’s position in any future negotiation. “That’s been our theory of the case throughout — the only way this war ends ultimately is through negotiation,” said the official, a White House spokesperson who was given anonymity because they are not authorized to speak on the record. “We want Ukraine to have the strongest hand possible when that comes.” The spokesperson emphasized, however, that no talks are planned yet, and that Ukrainian forces are still on the offensive in places and continue to kill and wound thousands of Russian troops. “We want them to be in a stronger position to hold their territory. It’s not that we’re discouraging them from launching any new offensive,” the spokesperson added.

A strong hand in negotiations is far different than a complete victory on the battlefield. Not that such a victory was ever a reasonable expectation.

Ukraine’s success in defending its territory and taking back some of the occupied lands is remarkable. Nobody expected it to do so. They humiliated Russia and depleted it of most of its modern weaponry. The suggestion that Russia poses a credible threat to NATO countries is based on unrealistic assumptions.

Over the past year — with U.S. military support flagging fast on Capitol Hill and Zelenskyy’s once-vaunted counteroffensive failing since it was launched in June — Biden has shifted from promising the U.S. would back Ukraine for “as long as it takes,” to saying the U.S. will provide support “as long as we can” and contending that Ukraine has won “an enormous victory already. Putin has failed.”

Some analysts believe that is code for: Get ready to declare a partial victory and find a way to at least a truce or ceasefire with Moscow, one that would leave Ukraine partially divided.

“Biden’s victory comment has the virtue of being true,” said George Beebe, a former chief of Russia analysis for the CIA who is now head of strategy for the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. But “time has become a stark disadvantage when it comes to Ukraine’s manpower and industrial capacity, and that’s true even if the West continues its support. The longer this goes on the more we’re going to have to concede up front just to get the Russians to the negotiating table.”

If Russia faced Germany on its border, then Germany would likely lose a war–they have created one of the most hollow militaries in the Western world. But Eastern Europe, with US support, would crush Russia’s military. It would hurt–the damage would be immense, but Russia would lose and pay a huge price, and Putin knows it.

So, the walk back has begun. Biden has gotten what he wanted from the war: destroying Russia’s offensive capability. The time for scaling back support for Zelenskyy has begun.

We could wish that these facts on the ground weren’t so, but they are. Russia will keep parts of Ukraine, Zelenskyy will rue the day he trusted the West to support him indefinitely, and the dying will mostly stop.

Love or hate the outcome, Ukraine’s effective borders will be almost the same as before February 2022. The biggest change will be the number of graves.

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