It is unlikely that Zelensky is counting on a military victory for his country. For this, Ukraine does not have its own military-economic resources, and the funds provided by the West will never be sufficient to inflict a final defeat on Russia. Probably, the calculation of the president of Ukraine is based on offering Ukraine as a tool for the West in the fight against Russia, writes Valdai Club Programme Director Andrey Sushentsov.
The unprecedented hardships of the real war that Ukraine is now facing could be significantly less if the government of Vladimir Zelensky showed it was ready to pursue a diplomatic settlement of the crisis. Russia has repeatedly come up with diplomatic initiatives to resolve this conflict.
For example, at its first stage, such negotiations took place in Belarus and, later, in Turkey. However, under the influence of the United States and Britain, the government of Zelensky took a course of prolonging the conflict, counting on the fact that military assistance from the West would allow Ukraine to achieve its goals during this crisis.
As Ukraine’s own military and economic resources dwindle, the country has become increasingly dependent on Western supplies and has ultimately become a tool in the fight against Russia. There are significant arguments that could lead Kiev to initiate negotiations with Moscow. Zelensky could take the initiative to negotiate with the aim of cementing the still convenient status quo for Ukraine. Obviously, as the military campaign develops and Russian troops advance, the situation will change far from Ukraine’s benefit.
The initiatives that the Russian delegation came up with at the very beginning of the crisis will no longer appear on the negotiating table. If we look at these negotiations as a value in themselves, then as a result they could achieve a sustainable peace and stop the risks of escalation and the slide of the largest military conflict in Europe after the Second World War into a nuclear catastrophe.
Zelensky could have received the laurels of a peacemaker who would have sacrificed some of his ambitions in order to save the lives of Ukrainian citizens and ensure a peaceful future for his country. So far, Zelensky has done the direct opposite. Peace in Ukraine could ease the economic hardships of Kiev’s allies in the West, thereby evoking gratitude on their part. Ukraine could also save a significant portion of its military resources. Indeed, as a result of peace, a certain ceiling would be imposed on them, but they would still remain at the disposal of the Ukrainian government. Nevertheless, President Zelensky and his government act as if they see no reason to preserve Ukrainian statehood. They expend the lives of their citizens and the economic opportunities of the country as material, probably believing that this sacrifice is necessary to obtain eventual, rather vague advantages in the future. Instead of acting as a peacemaker, as a person who is ready to make sacrifices to save the lives of his fellow citizens, Zelensky does the opposite and acts as a gambler – creating a special atmosphere around this “bloody casino”, involving part of his population through military propaganda.
The unprecedented support that Ukraine receives from abroad in the military, political and economic spheres, in fact, covers up any mistakes made by Zelensky’s government, based on the axiom “the war will write everything off”. Inside Ukraine, the militaristic line allows the president to establish a kind of political dictatorship: the persecution of political opponents in all spheres of the life of the state, including religion. As a result, he has ensured concentration of power in his hands, unprecedented for Ukraine, and for the first time in Ukrainian history, he has deeply relegated any opposition centres to the background of politics.
Also, president Zelensky may not worry about the economic well-being of Ukraine in the short term: foreign economic assistance, which is at the disposal of the Ukrainian government, allows him to remove questions about low tax collection and even about the post-war reconstruction of the country. The government in Kiev is still actively counting on getting its hands on Russia’s US$300 billion in gold and foreign exchange reserves frozen in the West. In fact, such pirate production will also allow the Zelensksy administration to dispose of these assets without any checks and balances in their own interests. As a result, Zelensky counts on the fact that even in the event of his defeat and the loss of some territory, he will remain in power as the military leader of a new Ukraine, a kind of main anti-Russian outpost on its western borders, necessary for the West. An outpost that will be armed to the teeth and saturated with Western economic assistance, providing its citizens with an acceptable standard of living.
I believe that Zelensky is quite sincerely convinced that he will be able to turn Ukraine into Israel – a paramilitary state in a hostile environment and with a sense of constant military threat. I do not rule out that even in the worst-case scenario for himself, in which the Ukrainian government collapses completely, Zelensky fully counts on the fact that he himself and a group of his closest associates will find themselves in exile in the West – actively advocating the continuation of the policy of containment and finally defeating Russia. In this sense, the historical trajectories of many governments in exile show that this prospect has every chance of being realized.
It is unlikely that Zelensky is counting on a military victory for his country. For this, Ukraine does not have its own military-economic resources, and the funds provided by the West will never be sufficient to inflict a final defeat on Russia. Probably, the calculation of the president of Ukraine is based on offering Ukraine as a tool for the West in the fight against Russia, constantly mobilising Western support, ensuring the survival of one of the versions of a positive future for his own government. It is regrettable that this strategy does not take into account the interests of the ordinary population of Ukraine, which will be forced to face the consequences of the decisions of the Zelensky government and the significant human lives and material resources associated with them.