Tensions Rise: The Ongoing Conflict between Ukraine and Russia

The conflict between Ukraine and Russia is escalating. Stay informed on the latest news and analysis of the ongoing tensions between these two powerful nations.

Are the Ongoing Conflicts and Divisions in Ukraine Becoming Increasingly Prominent?

Whenever the US faces a foreign policy crisis, observers argue that the government is either doing too much or too little. The same is true for the current situation in Ukraine. Many blame the White House for not providing heavy weaponry to Ukraine, such as tanks, missiles, and combat aircraft, which are essential for confronting the Russian military forces. Others worry about economic costs escalating due to the war, forcing the Kiev government to negotiate with Russia, even if it means relinquishing some territories. According to many experts, both arguments have convincing and unconvincing points. Ukraine's military has surprised everyone with its ability to defend its country and even regain some territories that it had lost when the war began. But pushing Russian forces out of the entire border would be extremely difficult, even with larger military aid from the West. To achieve such a result, it requires overcoming Russia's deeply entrenched defense system, while at the same time risking a direct war between NATO and Russia or even a nuclear scenario—something nobody wants. So far, Russian President Vladimir Putin has given no indication that he is willing to relinquish these declared territories. In addition, the Ukrainian government has not been willing to compromise on these territories in exchange for an uncertain peace. No matter how strong the momentum is on both sides, the outcome is more likely to be a prolonged, bitter conflict and gradually a stalemate that nobody accepts.

Tensions between Ukraine and Russia have been escalating since 2014. Find out what's causing the conflict, how it is impacting the world, and what you can do to help.
Is there no peace without a victory?

It is argued that the war is likely to end in a victory for one side or a negotiated settlement, which is becoming increasingly unlikely. History has also proven that. Despite years of efforts for peace, the war in Donbas resulted in a draw after 8 years before Russia's full-scale attack on Ukraine began in February 2022. The current war may not be any different. After more than 10 months of fighting and many economic sanctions, Russia remains determined not to give up the four provinces in eastern Ukraine. The government in Kiev is also determined not to compromise.
Up to now, Washington and its allies have focused on two main tasks: step by step, provide Ukraine with increasingly modern weapons and increase economic sanctions against Russia. However, many experts believe that this will not help the conflict end soon. In a scenario of no victory, no peace, both sides continue to fight through temporary borders that are becoming increasingly real. According to some Western officials, they need to continue to pressure Russia by maintaining economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation. They also need to ensure that destructive weapons are not used. At the same time, a long-term foundation for security and stability in Europe needs to be established. A balanced policy that is appropriate for both Ukraine and Russia is a major long-term challenge but necessary for the future of Europe.
Despite the US government publicly releasing intelligence reports of Russia preparing for an attack, many were still shocked when Moscow deployed more than 175,000 troops into Ukraine. However, many were also surprised that Russia was unable to take control of Ukraine and topple the government in the capital city of Kiev. Contrary to expectations, the Russian forces faced difficulties due to their lack of communication and inadequate support, allowing the Ukrainian forces to outnumber and be better equipped to prevent Moscow's advance on Kiev. With further support from the West in unimaginable proportions, Ukraine continued to surprise the world by shifting the course of the war in the summer, reclaiming roughly half of the territory they had lost in Russia's initial attack. Meanwhile, the West continued to impose severe economic sanctions on Russia. especially Europe's readiness to break away from Russia's energy monopoly at a cost that few thought the governments of Europe were willing to bear.
Despite Ukraine's forces achieving remarkable successes in the autumn of 2022 and there being no signs of stopping the fighting, the impetus of the war changed in the last months of the year. Ukraine entered 2023 damaged by Russian missile strikes against its civilian infrastructure and power grids. However, Russia lacked the personnel and equipment to attack on the frontlines. Missile and drone strikes against civilian infrastructure only strengthened the Ukrainian people's determination to resist. On the other hand, Ukraine will increasingly find it difficult to break through Russia's defense system. Ukraine may continue to carry out attacks along certain routes, such as those in the south towards Melitopol and the Azov Sea. But unless the Russian defense system collapses, Ukraine will lack the personnel to sustain a long-term attack without being counterattacked elsewhere.
Leaders of some Baltic states have called for Ukraine to be provided with the heavy weapons it needs, while others, including General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the US military, have suggested that Ukraine's leaders consider a negotiated solution, which may not result in a complete victory but at least would end the conflict.
There are limits to what Washington and its allies can support. Part of those limits is the reality that even the US is running low on excess weapons to supply to Ukraine. An example is artillery shells. Last year, Ukraine produced more in a week than the United States could in a month.Similar shortages exist for more advanced weaponry. Germany sent the modern IRIS-T air defense system to Ukraine in October, but the country has struggled to supply the necessary numbers of ground-based air defense missiles to sustain the IRIS-T's effective defense. With available stockpiles running low, the West may be able to deliver fewer weapons to Ukraine over the next six months than it did over the past six.
In addition to supply limitations,
Washington and its allies are also hampered when it comes to providing Ukraine with advanced weaponry due to the risk that the weapons could fall into Russian hands if used on the battlefield. First are fighter jets, from F-16s to newer models. Second are high-tech, unmanned aircraft such as Grey Eagles, which, if captured by Russian forces, will provide Moscow with valuable insights into US capabilities and military technology.
Subsequently, there is a risk of escalation. Moscow has repeatedly warned Washington against sending long-range missiles to Ukraine, including the tactical MGM-140 or ATACMS missile system with a range of 300 km, which could launch deep strikes into Russian territory. President of the United States Joe Biden has repeatedly rejected calls to send these missiles to Ukraine, arguing that doing so would split NATO and risk a direct military confrontation with Russia, if not a third world war.
The White House and the Pentagon have continued to evaluate Ukraine's needs and what the US can support. The initial systems were excluded, including long-range missiles and advanced air defense systems such as Patriots, which were then sent to Ukraine. The latest changes relate to armored vehicles, with the US, Germany, and France agreeing to supply Kiev with armored combat vehicles and light tanks. These weapons and equipment will help Ukraine, depleting Russia's strength, although it is unlikely to tilt the balance of power on the battlefield enough to end the war. If they fall into the hands of Russia, they will not worry about losing important technology.
If a military victory for Ukraine is unlikely, prospects for peace through negotiations seem even further away. Although President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly stated that he is willing to negotiate, his conditions remain very rigid. He wants to discuss his territorial objectives directly with the United States rather than negotiate with Ukraine's leaders. Furthermore, he has asserted that the four districts that Russia declared to join in September, along with the Crimean peninsula, are an integral part of the Russian Federation. On the other hand, President Zelenskiy has also rejected any loss of territory. He has ignored many calls for negotiation from the West.


The new border is slowly taking shape.

With neither side achieving a complete victory and negotiations at a standstill, the war is predicted to continue into the near future. Russia's defense systems in the east and south are being reinforced, running along a long, thousands of kilometers-long line dividing Russian and Ukrainian forces. Both will probe for weaknesses in the other's defenses, but if there is no major collapse of one side or the other, then the front line will remain more or less as it is. Exhaustion and a lack of manpower and equipment may create lulls in the fighting, leading to temporary ceasefires. Not all wars end in long-term peace treaties. The Korean War ended with a temporary armistice. The Yom Kippur War of 1973 only led to withdrawal agreements, still in force today, between Israel and Syria. Russia is no stranger to living with conflicts in a state of temporary stasis, as seen in Georgia and Moldova, for example.
Such a bleak future may await the people of Ukraine. War still persists, and the borders are unclear. According to some experts, in this situation, the West needs a long-term strategy, not to abandon its attention to Ukraine’s future, and to continue to pressure Russia. Despite President Putin’s weakening power due to the damage in Ukraine, his power in Russia still remains large, thanks to 22 years of building and consolidation. In the future, there may be another figure to replace him, but the likelihood is that this person will share Putin’s vision, which is a more disastrous scenario, and this person may think that President Putin has not been hard enough to protect the interests of Russia. Some French historians have raised the alarm when recalling that fascism emerged in Italy, was rooted in Germany’s immense military losses in World War I, and was pressured economically by the European countries through huge reparation demands.
Despite the ongoing conflict, Kiev, Washington, and Moscow have maintained direct communications. Ukraine and Russia continue to negotiate a prisoner exchange. The two sides have also reached an agreement on the export of coal. Russia and the US are also negotiating a prisoner exchange. In the face of a long-running conflict, some experts argue that such contacts need to be continued and reinforced.
On the other hand, to prevent conflict in the future, the West needs to continue its policy of isolating Russia on the world stage. A stronger and more encompassing effort could lead countries in the South Caucasus to reduce their support for Russia and limit their ties with it. They do not need to apply the West’s economic sanctions, but how can we make them understand that the food and fuel crises will be resolved when the conflict ends? The West may also need to forgive debt and provide food aid to countries in need.
Finally, putting pressure on Russia requires the West to maintain a strong posture not only against military threats but also against the regime’s and society’s threats. This means that Europe will have to increase defense spending. The US needs to continue to invest in Europe, even as it increasingly focuses on countering China in the Indo-Pacific. Despite the weakening of the Russian military, they still have enough strength to alter the political landscape of Europe.
That is the reason why, in addition to putting pressure on and containing Russia politically and economically, the West also needs to maintain channels of communication with the Kremlin to avoid a direct NATO-Russia conflict and to maintain strategic stability. There can be no broader negotiations between the West and Russia as long as hostilities continue, but as in the Cold War, there is still an opportunity for both sides to pursue confidence-building measures to avoid a confrontation neither wants. An important step is to begin negotiations on extending the New START treaty, which will expire in 2026, while also negotiating information exchanges on nuclear weapons between Russia and the US.


Should the West maintain a soft policy toward Russia?

A long-term containment strategy toward Russia is not a new idea for the US and its partners. The West pursued such a policy toward the Soviet Union for four decades before softening Soviet power, as diplomat George Kennan hoped when constructing it.But in the Cold War, especially after the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, the US pursued a soft foreign policy to avoid disastrous consequences, especially a total nuclear war. Even President Ronald Reagan, who criticized appeasement for yielding too much to the Soviet Union, also pursued a soft foreign policy at the darkest moments before President Mikhail Gorbachev came to power, such as after the Soviet Union shot down a South Korean civilian plane in 1983.
Many hard-line Western academics in recent times have argued, like their predecessors in the Soviet Union, that President Putin needs to be restrained from expanding the Russian empire, but that Russia will not go away. The West needs different policies toward Kiev and Moscow. It is very difficult to have both in the short term. A free and democratic Ukraine is important to the West. an even more important country that does not pose a threat. French President Emmanuel Macron has said that the West should ensure security for Russia. The reason is that Russia feels threatened. One of the reasons they are waging war in Ukraine is that the Russian-speaking community is oppressed and Russian culture is excluded. President Macron shared that he sees the anger in the eyes of his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin.
Some Western scholars, including former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, have suggested that maintaining a hardline policy with Russia will not guarantee security in Europe once Moscow still feels threatened. A solution similar to that of US President Ronald Reagan's applied to the Soviet Union in the 1980s should be considered. This soft and flexible foreign policy made the confrontation in the Cold War more gentle, thus leading to reforms within the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.
Source : [NGUYỄN VĂN PHONG – 10/1/2023]
Translater : Vic


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