After nearly two years of supporting the Ukrainian effort (though there’s not much I can do as an armchair observer), I’ve changed my mind about supporting Kiev militarily. At this point, the war is unwinnable by either Ukraine or Russia. This is a war of attrition. It is a meat grinder. Ukraine’s counteroffensive has spluttered. Russia has barely gained any territory, and it didn’t “take Kiev in three days” as it planned to last year.
The world has been flooded with propaganda, both Russian and Ukrainian, claiming that each side will win handily. Anyone with a pulse who paid attention to the Western mainstream media knew about Russian propaganda, which was indeed full of shit. But Ukrainian propaganda, too, misled the Western public. Ukrainian propaganda doesn’t tell outright lies like its Russian counterpart, but it distorts, exaggerates, minimises, denies and obfuscates. “If you just give us enough weapons, we’ll win the war,” Zelensky said over and over again. For a while, it worked: Russia’s troops failed to take major cities like Kiev, Odessa, Lviv and Kharkov. Ukraine was able to recapture Kherson. But this year, Ukraine’s luck ran out. The Russians took Bakhmut, even though it was a hollowed-out shell with very few inhabitants. “Putin is the next Hitler,” they said. Russia can’t even manage to take over the entirety of Ukraine. There is little chance that it will try to take Poland, Georgia or any other nearby country. Putin’s goals have been as quixotic as Zelensky’s. If Russia resorts to using nuclear weapons, even China will stop dealing with it. It is likely that Russia’s only ally will be North Korea, a worldwide pariah state.
I really hate to admit this, since… the Ukrainians did not deserve what Russia did to them—the Bucha massacre, the daily bombings, the child abductions, the fake referenda, the crushing repression in all Russian-occupied areas. The injustice is palpable. As much as I have complained about Ukraine’s ultranationalist politics and its accommodation of the extreme right, ordinary Ukrainians are not synonymous with their leadership. Remember that Zelensky won his election handily because he ran on a peace platform. He ran to bring all Ukrainians together, whether they came from Lviv, Vinnytsia, Kiev, Odessa or Donetsk. Instead, he and the Rada passed Poroshenko-like laws that favoured Western Ukraine. But that’s not what Ukrainians voted for in 2019. They’d had enough of that after Poroshenko. These are ordinary people trapped in extraordinarily bad circumstances.
But at the same time, it’s time for some policy realism. Ukraine needs no-strings-attached humanitarian aid—and a change in government to flush out the ultranationalists, not more weapons from the US, NATO and the EU. It is time for Moscow and Kiev to go to the negotiation table. Enough is enough.