On Feb. 24, 2022, President Vladimir Putin ordered his Russian troops to invade Ukraine and to capture the capital of Kyiv. As fear and uncertainty gripped the world, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian people and Ukraine’s western coalition of allies stood firm. Ukraine has been supplied with an abundance of weapons and Russia has been smacked with sanctions. Kyiv, Zelensky and the Ukrainian state remain intact and in the fight.
Yet, this is not a time for celebration. The war continues to rage on and hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian and Russian soldiers have lost their lives. There have been immense civilian casualties and much of Ukrainian’s infrastructure is severely damaged. Hospitals, homes, schools, apartment complexes and places of worship have been bombed out by Russian artillery.
Electrical grids are in constant disrepair, leading to long and grueling hours of electrical work.
In the eastern Donbas region, a bloody stalemate seems to be approaching as each side digs in whilst making minimal gains in territory. Despite this, neither side seems ready to engage in substantial peace talks. The United States has officially claimed that it will support what Ukraine decides to do, as have many other western powers. Rather, they should be encouraging talks.
Putin is not going to back down; he and his country are so entangled in this war that if he were to wave the white flag the war will ultimately have been for nothing. He has everything to lose and nothing to gain. Putin has badly miscalculated and therefore has unintentionally tied his fate to the war. If Russia loses, Putin is finished. Without question.
Putin would not allow himself to suffer a massive embarrassment such as the complete loss of the Crimean peninsula or the Donbas region. He will keep sending in troops to be slaughtered, no matter how many of them die. There is no price too high in the face of defeat. Ukraine did not cause the war, but the only plausible way out of it will be through peace talks.
While Ukrainians have been vehemently against the idea of conceding lost territory to Russia, are the lives of Ukrainian civilians and soldiers worth sacrificing to reclaim it? How much longer can they hold on, and what if the tide of the war changes? What if Russia recoups and launches a successful offensive?
As Russia finds allies in Iran and North Korea, new caches of weapons are coming their way. China is beginning to act more and more friendly to Moscow. According to American intelligence, Beijing is heavily considering sending Russia drones and ammunition. Do the western powers really want to fight a ballooning proxy war? Besides, what does victory on the battlefield look like for Ukraine? Entirely reclaiming their lost territory? Is that even realistic?
For those who think peace talks would let Putin get away with his onslaught, let me argue otherwise. Putin and Russia’s international standing, credibility and prospects have sunken significantly since last year. Signs point to a stagnating and even shrinking Russian economy over the next decade. The Ruble only remains afloat due to temporarily high oil prices.
Russia has also experienced a detrimental brain drain where hundreds of thousands of trained professionals, young Russians and tech workers have fled Russia for Central Asia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. Most will never return. The reality of the war and its consequences will reach the Russian people sooner or later; they will have no choice but to wake up to the war.
Ukraine and NATO have adequately proven that if an aggressive power such as Russia decides to invade a peaceful neighboring country, there will be severe consequences. China will take notice and think twice before invading Taiwan. Unlike Ukraine, the U.S. has indicated that it will protect Taiwan. Unlike Ukraine, the U.S. is already supplying Taiwan with weapons.
Most importantly, when the war ends, there is the possibility that Ukraine can join the European Union and NATO. This would extend economic opportunities to a recovering Ukraine whilst also giving it what it has wanted for years: westernization. The sooner the war ends, the sooner more security and economic guarantees can be granted. Ukraine would be much safer in NATO.
The war is unquestionably Russia’s fault, but the west has to be realistic. Ukraine has to be realistic. The reality is that Putin will not allow the contested territory to be given up. Too many lives have been lost to continue to delay the inevitable. It may not seem fair to Ukraine, but the best path forward is to engage in peace talks. It may be the only way.