The Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, which was supposed to be a special operation of just a few days, has escalated into a bloody armed conflict that lasted for more than 400 days. There is probably nobody who has not been surprised by this war, whether by the determination but above all by the effectiveness of Ukraine’s resistance, by the helplessness and huge losses of the Russian army, or by the scale and type of Ukraine’s military support from the West, or finally by the brutality of Russian crimes against civilians.
The forecasts dominating media discourse about the likely end of the conflict have fluctuated from predictions of Ukraine’s imminent defeat to predictions of its inevitable triumph. None of them came true. The war developed into a high-intensity positional conflict. No apparent symptoms would indicate the imminent victory of one of the sides. There is no sign of a reduction in the intensity of the fighting, an end or freezing of the conflict, or even less, a willingness on the part of the parties to engage in peace talks.
So what are Russia’s goals after more than a year of war? Have they changed as a result of the war’s failures? Moreover, is Ukraine willing to make concessions? When is the conflict likely to end? What are the most likely scenarios, beneficial to each side, for the settlement of the Russian-Ukrainian war?
What is the war about?
In the first hours of the war, Russia’s goals were officially defined as “denazification and demilitarization of Ukraine.” The first of these terms was, of course, intended as an insult to the Ukrainian authorities to justify the military operation in the eyes of the Russian public. But first of all, the demand for the “denazification of Ukraine” was hidden under the intention to replace the political elite, as evidenced by the targeting of the Russian military’s main strike on the Ukrainian capital. Numerous media leaks that were difficult to verify, although they looked plausible, indicated that an agent of Russian influence, Viktor Medvedchuk, would be installed in power in Kyiv after Volodymyr Zelensky was forced to flee and emigrate. It is possible that this was to be preceded by a short period of interregnum in the form of the transitional government of Viktor Yanukovych, which would have had a significant value: propagandistically, it would have been presented as the restoration of a legitimate leader, overthrown by the Revolution of Dignity, and at the same time would have constituted a symbolic reversal of the achievements of the “color revolutions” in the post-Soviet area.
The course of the war, especially the war crimes committed by Russians and the ferocity of anti-Ukrainian propaganda, indicate that the “denazification” slogan, however, should be perceived in a broader sense. The materials obtained show that Russia planned to pacify Ukraine with the forces of the army, FSB, and Rosgvardia; lists of representatives of the Ukrainian elite destined for physical liquidation were prepared. After the occupation of Kyiv and eastern Ukraine, it was planned to introduce occupation administration there, while the most likely resisting western Ukrainian regions were to have their water supply, energy supply, and access to the banking system cut off to paralyze them.
The demand for the demilitarization of Ukraine should be read as an announcement of the eventual transformation of Ukraine into a defenseless state that is a de facto protectorate of Moscow.
The demand for the demilitarization of Ukraine should be read as an announcement of the eventual transformation of Ukraine into a vulnerable state that is a de facto protectorate of Moscow. This was demonstrated by Putin’s rhetoric in the months leading up to the war, portraying Ukraine as an “anti-Russia project,” along with the demand to “restore the historical unity of Russians and Ukrainians”.
The reasoning behind these goals was confirmed by the course of peace negotiations, which took place in March 2022 in Belarus and then in Turkey, already after the failure of the Russian operation to capture Kyiv. The severe conditions of the Russian side made the peace negotiations a forgotten episode of the initial phase of the war. In addition to Ukraine’s recognition of the annexation of Crimea and the independence of the two Donbas republics, Russia demanded the imposition of permanent neutrality on Ukraine militarily (with the reduction of the size of the Ukrainian armed forces to 50,000 soldiers and 280 tanks) and politically, the granting of the Russian language the official status of the state language, concessions in the spheres of education, culture and historical policy (along with a list of laws to be repealed). Russia expected Ukraine to refrain from any actions against its interests, which would have been subject to Russian interpretation and thus would have provided unlimited opportunities for further influence over Ukraine and its subjection. Thus, while Russia did not formally condition a change of power in Kyiv in March 2022, the political system model it sought to impose on Ukraine would naturally lead to this.
The unfavorable situation at the front forced Russia to adjust its military and political strategy, even if the Kremlin elite has only strengthened the desire to erase everything that is Ukrainian. Maximal goals gave way to ad hoc measures, implemented in the logic of the politics of faits accomplis. In September 2022, Russia acknowledged the independence of the Zaporizhia and Kherson regions and then announced their annexation, along with the so-called Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics. There were mainly psychological goals behind this: both the desire to convince its society of the successes it was achieved, the hope to weaken the morale of the Ukrainian side (by creating the impression that continued resistance would only increase Ukraine’s territorial losses) and, finally, to discourage Western countries from supporting Ukraine in the effort to retake the lost territories (as an operation carrying additional risks, possibly even risking nuclear conflict).
In the short term, Vladimir Putin’s decision to annex four Ukrainian oblasts appeared to limit his political room for maneuvering in the event of future peace negotiations and raise the political cost of any failures on the frontline. However, let’s look at the decision from a long-term perspective. It should be seen as tying the hands of potential competitors in the political elite who would like to build their positions on more moderate and less aggressive policies than Putin.
In this regard, it should be noted that on the day of annexation, Russia did not control more than 40 percent of Donetsk Oblast, 30 percent of Zaporizhzhya Oblast (including the city of Zaporizhzhia), and 10 percent of Kherson Oblast (a significant part of which, located on the right bank of the Dnieper River, including the regional capital, Ukraine managed to liberate a month and a half later, in November 2022). For this reason, when annexing the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions, the Russian authorities used an ambiguous definition of the borders of these territories, and top government officials refrained from explicit opinions on where Russia’s new borders extend. Over the next six months, the author of this article has not managed to come across any map of the Russian Federation’s expanded borders on Russian government administration websites which would specify their actual course, in sharp contrast to the situation in 2014 after the announcement of the annexation of Crimea.
The Russian government’s cautiousness in defining the borders of the annexed oblasts indicates that while Putin rules out giving up claims to the annexed territories at this stage of the war, he accepts that political settlements will depend on the extent of Russian occupation, perhaps less than the administrative borders of the oblasts.
The announcement of the annexation of four regions of Ukraine indicates Russia’s priorities for the next stage of the armed conflict. Putin’s primary political objective will be to capture the currently uncontrolled areas of the Donetsk region and Zaporizhia. Legalizing the annexation of Ukrainian territories will be a crucial demand in the eventual peace talks and a “consolation prize” in the face of the inability to achieve primary goals.
There is no lasting “peace for land” scenario in Russian-Ukrainian relations. Russia’s goal is to subjugate Ukraine, whose independence is treated as temporary in the Kremlin.
However, it should not be thought that the eventual acquisition of a land connection to Crimea will satisfy Russian claims. Just as the capture of Crimea and parts of Donbas did not end the claims, but was only an additional instrument for Moscow to put pressure on Ukraine and escalate demands. Indeed, there is no lasting “peace for land” scenario in Russian-Ukrainian relations. Russia’s goal is to subjugate Ukraine, whose independence is treated as temporary in the Kremlin, or, if that proves impossible, at least to devastate its statehood (including its infrastructure and economy) so that democratic and pro-Western Kyiv does not radiate system competition to Russia, posing a threat to the Russian elite.
It is to be expected that in the case of progress on the frontline, Russia will return to the concept of subjection all of Ukraine, either by creating a dependent state in eastern Ukraine with claims to the rest of the country (in simple terms, this can be called the “Korean variant”), or annexing further occupied regions of Ukraine. In doing so, a certain contradiction emerges between the temptation of successive annexations of Ukrainian territory into the Russian Federation and the desire to create from the occupied Ukrainian/eastern Ukrainian area a dependent state indirectly controlled by Moscow, potentially able to influence the unoccupied rest of the country.
Russia’s successes in Ukraine would encourage Putin to act aggressively, targeting Western countries with the intention of forcing a complete revision of the international order in Europe.
Discussing Russia’s goals in the ongoing war, it is essential to remember that Russia’s successes in Ukraine would encourage Putin to act aggressively, targeting Western countries to force a complete revision of the European international order. For Vladimir Putin, the war against Ukraine is the first element of the fight against the West. It is no coincidence that in parallel with the demands to Kyiv, articulated in December 2021, the Russian government formulated in a tone of blackmail a list of expected concessions from the US and NATO aimed at reversing the effects of NATO’s expansion into Central Europe and turning the region into a security buffer zone.
Can Russia win?
Russia failed to achieve its goals despite the war lasting more than 400 days. In addition, much of the success achieved in the first days of the conflict proved short-term. So far, Ukraine has regained 54 percent of the territory it lost in the first month of the war, first forcing the withdrawal of Russian troops from the Kyiv, Chernihiv, and Sumy regions, then launching an effective counteroffensive in the Kharkiv region and then recapturing Kherson and the right-bank Kherson region. For many months, the situation on the front has been stable, and the progress of Russian troops has been negligible. In over a year of the war, Russia has captured and managed to hold about 10 percent of Ukrainian territory. Including Crimea and Donbas, captured in 2014-2015, it now controls about 17 percent of Ukraine.
Ukraine not only preserved its defense potential (both military and socio-economic) but, by being equipped with Western-made armaments, even managed to increase it compared to the beginning of the war. Meanwhile, Russia suffered unexpectedly high human and material losses during the war. It is estimated that 150,000 to 200,000 soldiers were killed and wounded, arguably double the Ukrainian losses and three times that of the decade-long Soviet intervention in Afghanistan. In doing so, Russia faces economic sanctions, slowing its development as a country and negatively affecting the interests of the Kremlin elite.
That raises a fundamental question: given its moderate successes and high losses, can Russia win the ongoing war?
Of course, the category of victory is a complex concept, not only because of the flexibility of goals outlined above but also because of the subjective assessment of the cost-effectiveness of the ratio between benefits achieved and costs incurred both short- and long-term. So let’s focus exclusively on victory, understood as the ability to perform the essential goals regarding Ukraine regardless of the accompanying costs, which seems to reflect Vladimir Putin’s calculation.
The course of the war and the balance of power indicate that at this stage, Russia is not in a position to conquer Ukraine and probably not even gain significant territory. It has also proved unable to damage Ukraine’s power infrastructure. The Ukrainian authorities have managed to overcome the crisis in electricity generation capacity, which occurred in early 2023 due to missile attacks on the electricity system. There is no indication that Russia has a precision-guided munition to trigger a crisis in this area again in the face of Ukraine’s growing air defense capabilities.
Despite the high cost of the war to the civilian population, including a decline of more than 30 percent in Ukraine’s GDP in 2022, a social crisis is not expected. We see vast, virtually complete public support for the authorities, with 98 percent expressing confidence in Ukraine’s armed forces. Polls indicate that 97 percent of Ukrainians think they will win the war, and 74 percent expect the restoration of full territorial integrity, including the regaining of Crimea.
The ability to destroy Ukraine’s defense potential, both militarily, socially and economically, becomes more important from Russia’s point of view than taking control of particular places.
Russia will not win the war against Ukraine due to one or another offensive, even if we consider that their successful execution is possible at this stage of the war. There is no indication that the defenders’ morale is likely to collapse due to the loss of territory. Russia’s chance, therefore, is to turn the conflict into a war of attrition. The ability to destroy Ukraine’s defense potential militarily, socially, and economically becomes more critical from Russia’s point of view than taking control of particular places, even if possession of some of them, such as Bakhmut and Avdiyivka, which are of significant symbolic importance to both sides.
Ukraine has defended itself for more than 400 days thanks to Western support. The United States provided the most extensive support. It is estimated that American humanitarian, financial, and military support exceeded $75 billion in the first year of the war. Total aid from EU countries in the first year of the battle reached 55 billion euros. Keeping the current scale of assistance in the following months of the war will take a lot of work. In the view of Western public opinion, the conflict will become more and more common, and the costs of supporting Ukraine and suppressing Russia, including through a policy of sanctions, will increasingly be seen as excessive, especially in the face of the continuing economic crisis. Even with the unlikely continued willingness of Western countries to transfer equipment and armaments without restriction, the disparity between Ukraine’s needs and the capacity of the Western defense industry, including for the most basic measures such as ammunition, will also become increasingly apparent. Ukraine claims to demand 250,000 artillery shells per month – more than the Western production capacity. The transfer of more advanced armaments will also become increasingly problematic since decisions on this issue come at a higher financial and political cost to Western decision-makers. Handling more complex equipment requires long training.
Withholding or even reducing arms and weapons supplies and financial support would doom Ukraine to failure probably delayed by weeks or months.
Withholding or reducing arms and weapons supplies and financial support would doom Ukraine to failure, probably delayed by weeks or months. Critical in this regard is, of course, the position of the United States because of the scale of support and available resources, but, above all, the fact that it is American policy that sets the scale of ambition for the entire Euro-Atlantic community.
Reducing the U.S. determination to keep Ukraine resilient is a worst-case scenario that must be seriously considered. The beginning of the campaign before the presidential elections, which will be held in the fall of 2024, indicates that the Joe Biden administration’s policy of unconditional support for Ukraine will be increasingly contested, especially among opposition Republicans, whose position is being imposed by Donald Trump, who is leading in the poll battle for the nomination. It is expected that the course of the debate will mitigate the extent of support for Ukraine and the incumbent administration’s statements of intent in this regard.
It cannot be excluded that after the U.S. elections in early 2025, Ukraine will find itself facing (at first probably non-public) pressure from the new president, who, under the threat of withholding, or even just reducing, financial and military support over the next few months, will demand that a compromise be reached with Russia. The alternative to making concessions to Russia will be military defeat in the following weeks or months.
A scenario in which Ukraine loses the war with Russia as a result of Western pressure also involves a less likely, though media-discussed, variant of Russia’s use of nuclear power: probably in the form of using tactical nuclear missiles in a way that demonstrates the Kremlin’s determination, but at the same time with relatively limited casualties. It is doubtful that this action would decrease the Ukrainians will to resist. In some cases, Russian aggression with conventional weapons (Mariupol, Bakhmut, Popasna, Lyman, or Sevrodonetsk) has inflicted destruction comparable to the destructive potential of tactical nuclear weapons. Reaching for weapons of mass destruction also brings the risk for Russia of deepening sanctions and international ostracism, including complicating its relationship with China. However, this scenario gives one potential benefit: it would be to create panic in pacifist Western societies. We would face using nuclear weapons as an escalation tool to de-escalate the conflict on their terms.
Any peace or truce forced by the West in Ukraine, which Moscow would accept, will be for Putin at best a postponed scenario of subjection of Ukraine.
Any peace or truce forced by the West in Ukraine, which Moscow would accept, will be, for Putin at best, a postponed scenario of the subjection of Ukraine (and further confrontation with the West, which is beyond the scope of the subject of this paper). At worse, Ukraine’s forced concessions to Russia behind closed doors, given the mood prevailing in Ukraine, could mean a deep intra-political conflict (probably between the civilian authorities and some of the armed forces), destabilizing the social situation and thus increasing Russia’s tools for subjugating Ukraine.
The fulfillment of the above scenarios of Western states forcing Ukraine’s actual capitulation presented as a much-needed compromise is not a foregone conclusion. Still, it should be recognized that this is currently the most likely development of events, ultimately leading to Ukraine’s defeat in the ongoing war.
It provides an obvious window of opportunity for the Russian government, which cannot win the war at this stage of military conflict. That increases the likelihood that Putin will continue the high-intensity fight for the next two years, regardless of the enormous economic, military, and international costs that will come to Russia. The Kremlin believes that a war of attrition will exhaust the West’s determination and, thus, Ukraine’s defense potential.
Can Russia lose?
The scenario of a Russian victory outlined above assumes it will be achieved due to a prolonged war of attrition. A protracted conflict, however, is not only a hope for Putin to achieve goals currently unable to achieve through military means but also a danger associated with a breakdown in Russia’s internal stability, which could determine the outcome of the war to Moscow’s disadvantage.
Ukraine’s victory scenario usually involves a successful counter-offensive and recapturing lost territories. The Russian army’s forced withdrawal from the country’s north and successful Ukrainian counter-offensives in the Kharkiv region and the right-bank Kherson region have created a media impression that further successes by the Ukrainian army are only a matter of time. The most common reference in this context is the probable preparation of a strike in the Zaporizhzhya region, in the direction of Melitopol or Berdyansk. That would make it possible to cut the land connection between Russia and annexed Crimea, and thus make it more challenging to supply Russian units on the peninsula and in the occupied areas of the Kherson region.
Without prejudging the likelihood of a new Ukrainian offensive, and thus its success, it should be noted that, unlike the operation to liberate Kherson, isolated from the leading Russian grouping by the Dnieper River, this type of operation will require the accumulation of massive forces capable of holding off simultaneous Russian counter-attacks from the east and west. Meanwhile, the partial mobilization of some 300,000 reservists, carried out in the fall of 2022, has allowed the Russian army to strengthen its forces along the entire frontline; there are also reports of Russian troops building a system of fortifications in the occupied territories. As a result, after the successful Kherson operation in November 2022, Ukraine failed not only to go ahead but also, for the next five months of the war, did not liberate any other occupied territories, despite repeatedly announced offensive operations.
There is no doubt that in the event of defeats on the front, Putin will opt for further waves of official or hidden mobilization. They will threaten to destabilize the domestic situation, but carrying them out is not beyond the potential of Russia’s 140 million population. The same is true of armaments. To minimize its losses, Russia has made very frugal use of its sizable air force to support ground offensives, limiting itself to long-range missile attacks. There is a significant stockpile of tanks (estimated at around 8,000 units) and ammunition in deep storage, obsolete armaments, some of which are probably inoperable but can strengthen the Russian army or at least ensure that it weakens more slowly than the Ukrainian army. Russia also has far more significant savings and budget revenues than Ukraine to spend on war; in 2022. Russian Federation’s GDP declined by only 2.1 percent. Despite the freeze on financial resources deposited in Western currencies, Russia can also partially use the National Welfare Fund’s resources of up to $150 billion.
The most crucial factor favoring Russia’s waging of war by all means, even in the event of further military setbacks, is the determination of Vladimir Putin, for whom the issue of regaining control of Ukraine has grown into a fundamental part of his political legacy. Worse, the war has also become a way for his political regime to survive.
The Russian authorities have managed to create a siege fortress syndrome among Russians, convincing the public that the conflict with Ukraine is in fact a defensive clash in the face of Western aggression, a new “Great Patriotic War”.
The Russian authorities have managed to create a siege fortress syndrome among Russians, convincing the public that the conflict with Ukraine is, in fact, a defensive clash in the face of Western aggression, a new “Great Patriotic War.” This type of propaganda has allowed the public to rationalize the bloody conflict with a supposedly brotherly, or even the same, nation as the Russians, as Putin has referred to the Ukrainians over the years. Most Russians at least passively approve of the ongoing conflict. The mechanism of reality repression partly leads to passivity, partly to a chauvinism-fueled increase in support for the authorities (although the announcement of the annexation of four Ukrainian regions did not generate public enthusiasm, unlike in the case of Crimea). Sociologists estimate that no more than a dozen percent of Russian society is negatively disposed toward the war.
That means that Putin, whose social legitimacy has been depleting in recent years due to Russians’ tiredness with economic stagnation and state inefficiency, has found a tool for consolidating Russians around him and, at the same time, a convenient pretext for repressing opposition circles. He became, arguably until the end of his reign, a “war president,” using it as a convenient pretext to transform the political model of the state from autocratic to (semi-)totalitarian.
Although in the long run, Russia will probably pay a very high price for the current war in the form of a de-modernization of the economy as a result of sanctions and international isolation, Vladimir Putin has concluded that he is able, financially and politically, to wage a high-intensity war over the next few months, avoiding internal destabilization, thanks to war mobilization and the apparatus of repression (and, not unlikely, increasingly, the apparatus of terror).
This, of course, does not preclude the Kremlin’s willingness to make apparent compromises, for example, in the form of a ceasefire, the intention of which will be to rearm its army and to play to weaken Ukraine ( on the back of the economic crisis or divisions over the legitimacy of talks with Russia, for example) and erode Western support for it. Just as after the first unsuccessful war with Chechnya in 1994-1996 for Yeltsin’s Russia, Putin triggered a new conflict in 1999, for which the Russian army was already much better prepared, so in this case, too, any concessions to Ukraine would most likely only have the character of a tactical game of timing in the eyes of the current Russian elite. The truce would have continued the war with the temporary use of other means.
Ukraine’s eventual military success alone, consisting of a successful counter-offensive and the liberation of part of the occupied territories, will not end the war and will not induce Putin to recognize his defeat.
Drawing a scenario of Russian defeat in the ongoing war, it is, therefore, necessary to pose a complex thesis that Ukraine’s eventual military success alone, consisting of a successful counter-offensive and the liberation of part of the occupied territories, will not end the war and will not induce Putin to recognize his defeat. An internal crisis in Russia is necessary, though not necessarily a sufficient condition for Ukraine’s victory, which will ultimately exhaust the Kremlin’s (Putin’s successor rather than Putin himself) determination to continue its aggression against Ukraine.
Failure at the front, in addition to the economic costs of the war, would probably be the primary catalyst for a possible internal crisis in Russia. With that said, the more significant impact on destabilizing the situation may not be the loss of part of the occupied territory (the loss of Kherson went virtually unnoticed by Russian public opinion) but rather spectacular, high-profile media failures analogous to the sinking of the cruiser “Moskva,” the destruction of the Crimean bridge or the shelling of Russia’s Belgorod.
While the process of Russia’s internal destabilization may manifest itself in protests by an active, probably mainly metropolitan part of society, it is most likely that the social crisis will be merely a complementary factor, perhaps preceding, perhaps only secondary to turbulence at the top of government. In the deeply historically rooted Russian political model, state stability is primarily determined by the attitudes of the elite, not in society.
The Russian elite has paid a bigger bill for Putin’s war than the average Russian
It may seem surprising, but the Russian elite has paid a bigger bill for Putin’s war than the average Russian. Russians, unless they themselves or their relatives have ended up on the front lines, have not actually noticed the effects of the war yet, except for the intensification of TV propaganda. Meanwhile, the political and business elite have lost income as a result of sanctions and the cutting of cooperative ties with the world’s richest countries. Although rhetorically anti-Western, representatives of the establishment and their families lived for years in symbiosis with the declaratory enemy. For them, the war meant an end to their ability to travel, vacation, or study in the US, France, or Britain. Unlike Putin himself, most of the Russian elite believe continuing the war is more costly than ending it. The aging leader is becoming more and more of a burden. At the same time, fear of losing privileged status and potential repression keep cohesion within the elite at this stage.
It is difficult to determine if and when elite discontent will prove more decisive than their opportunism and nationalist agitation. In autocratic states with no mechanisms for venting frustration, such processes tend to occur subliminally and erupt unexpectedly. In any case, the new leader who will replace Putin sooner or later, no matter what role he has played so far within the establishment, will have more freedom of action, and it will be easier for him (both politically and psychologically) to backtrack from the decisions made by his predecessor. In his calculation, continuing to wage a war of attrition against Ukraine, but de facto also against the Western world, may prove less justifiable than with the current president.
Ukraine’s victory in this war, therefore, requires several conditions to be met simultaneously: military success on the front lines, securing sustained military and financial support from Western countries, causing turbulence in the Russian elite (presumably with a change of president), and destabilizing the political situation in Russia, which will change the previous profit and costs calculations associated with continuing the war.
The victory of Ukraine, and thus the permanent maintenance of sovereignty (even at the expense of accepting some territorial losses), will require a long, painful process of de-imperializing Russia, its elites, and its society. Until then, Ukraine will operate in the shadow of a much larger and revengeful enemy with enormous military potential.
Of course, security guarantees from the United States could minimize risks to Ukraine’s sovereignty. However, given the worst possible experience of the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, the only credible guarantor could be NATO membership, with political declarations backed up by an allied forward military presence.
Ukraine’s NATO membership is no longer as fantastic a scenario as it was before Russia started the war on February 24, 2022.
Currently, there is no willingness on the part of the Alliance’s major countries to accept Ukraine’s accession, as evidenced by reports of the U.S. administration’s reluctance to present a Membership Action Plan (MAP) to Kyiv at the Alliance’s upcoming summit in Vilnius in July 2023. It should be remembered, however, that Ukraine’s eventual accession to NATO will not be an arduous political and bureaucratic process but may unexpectedly turn out to be a political necessity part of a political puzzle to restore peace in Eastern Europe on terms acceptable to Kyiv, with face-saving by the West and fuses to prevent a restart of hostilities. That prompts the thesis that Ukraine’s NATO membership is no longer as fantastic a scenario as before Russia started the war on February 24, 2022.
The most likely scenario for Russia’s victory and defeat assumes a prolonged war of attrition until the spring of 2025. Russia’s goals for Ukraine are total: the ultimate goal is the destruction of Ukrainian statehood, which can also be accomplished in stages, spread out over time. The stakes of this war drastically reduce the room for intermediate, compromise solutions. Ukraine knows that lasting peace cannot be purchased with territorial concessions. Putin’s Russia has irreversibly put all eggs in one basket, disregarding the colossal bill it will pay for the war itself.
The outcome of the decisive battle, which has been going on for more than 400 days, is uncertain. It depends on the resilience of Ukraine, Russia, and the Western community. It does not seem an exaggeration to say that the scale of the U.S. and European countries’ determination to support Ukraine will favor the victory in the ongoing war for one side or the other, with potentially colossal consequences also for the security of the Euro-Atlantic community.
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 It can be argued both that Russia annexed the above-mentioned oblasts within their administrative boundaries, and that only within the boundaries defined by the actual front line, which seemed to be confirmed by the voices of representatives of the elite that the Kherson oblast was annexed together with two adjacent regions (districts) of the Nikolaev oblast, which were then occupied by Russian troops.
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