How the war in Ukraine might end? Part 2 - The Curious Western Policy

Research by M.L.R. Smith, Academic Principal, The Australian War College, Canberra, Australia & David Martin Jones, Director of Research, Danube Institute, Budapest, Hungary

The Russia-Ukraine war is now into its second year, and at the time of writing, shows little sign of ending. The dominant account of the war in much Western media coverage since the start of the conflict has been one of relentless Russian military setbacks. This narrative, however, sits uneasily with the evidence that, despite battlefield failures, Russia has not been defeated. It remains in occupation of large tracts of the Eastern Donbas region and has arguably consolidated its hold over these territories. It is clear also that Russia can prevail in certain tactical encounters along the peripheries of these occupied areas, while it is also capable of inflicting substantial damage on Ukraine’s infrastructure through long range rocket bombardment. The inaccuracy of a great deal of Western commentary regarding the underlying Russian military position and the supposed brittleness of Putin’s rule, simply highlights the fog that envelops the conflict. The two unresolved questions the war raises are: what was Russia’s original intention and operational plan in invading Ukraine; and what exactly is the endgame of Western strategy? It is the latter question that is of particular interest to this report. What is the rationale of Western policy in engaging a nuclear armed Russia, at a distance, in support of a country that is not part of the Western alliance system? It is easy to construct an obvious moral basis for Western actions: to uphold the principles of the liberal international order and to maintain the integrity of sovereign borders. That much may be apparent, but beyond these abstract imperatives, what is the actual goal of Western strategy in the Russo-Ukraine war?


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