The increasingly murky prospect of an end to Putin’s Ukraine war


Jan 21, 2023

A woman walks among rubble in retaken town Lyman, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine.

A woman walks among rubble in the retaken town Lyman, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine.OLEG PETRASYUK/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

How is the Ukraine war going to end?

This question bedevils smaller arguments over Western aid to the brave Ukrainian forces. Bringing it into tighter focus is Vladimir Putin’s decision to pass the winter with ever-more-brutal strikes on Ukraine’s infrastructure and civilian targets — such as last Saturday’s murderous missile attack on a Dnipro apartment building, which killed dozens including six children.

Putin’s invasion must fail. Anything else represents a serious blow to US interests in Europe, to NATO’s stability and to the larger world order. Atop all Moscow’s brutality, the war on Ukraine is as much an attack on that order as it is a territorial gambit.

But Washington is mired in a game of escalation that’s lethargic, confused — and reactive. Yes, we’ve sent Ukraine lots of help — including lethal aid — but only after Putin upped his violence first. And even US “escalations” are hesitant. Our meager gift of one Patriot air defense system, for example, carries all the risks President Joe Biden professes to fear, but with minimized benefits: Ukraine needs more Patriots for them to be effective.

We’ve also kiboshed MiG transfers from regional allies, balked at sending tanks and said no to more advanced tactical missile systems that would greatly increase Ukrainian range — all on the theory that helping Ukraine strike inside Russia might prompt Putin to go nuclear.

He and other top Russians keep making that threat, because it works to keep the West from doing more.

Yet it’s plain that more is required to force Putin to end the war. A military defeat, at the moment, looks like the only real path to freedom and security for Ukraine. A negotiated settlement seems off the table, as the Kremlin’s demands remain “let us win.”

Putin’s insane territorial claims would almost certainly exceed anything Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky might agree to, while Zelensky and his government want everything back, including Crimea. Even if the West threatens to end its support to blackmail Ukraine into some bad deal, Putin’s record shows he’ll break it at his own convenience.

A mild winter (so far) has aided the Ukrainians’ resistance. And the Russian army’s deep-rooted logistical and personnel issues bode ill for Putin’s rumored coming massive troop callup.

Putin plainly means to outlast his way to victory, betting as much on Western will as any battlefield success. Ukraine and its allies can defeat that approach by holding firm.

But ultimate victory relies on a strategy led by the United States that puts Ukraine on the front foot enough to force Russia to give up the fight.



  1. It is not only cowardice – and there is no other term that aptly describes this hesitance for sending Ukraine the most effective weapons – but also a lot of idiocy involved. Otherwise, those who are in charge would know very well that this war is costing lots of blood from innocent people, and the longer the war lasts, the bigger this pool of blood will get. And, across the globe, it reduces lots of confidence in us, and our lameness turns our calls for freedom, justice, and democracy into weak, pointless rhetoric. Moreover, lengthening the war increases the costs unnecessarily, not only for the aid that we do give, but also the continued high prices for fuel and foodstuffs that are related to this war. Another aspect is that we constantly react to what the enemy does. We never act beforehand, although our intelligence gives us warnings well in advance on some issues.
    Let’s face it, mafia land will not use nukes. Despite our lethargy, we’ve already crossed many red mafia lines. The mafiosi know the consequences of using nukes, and their masters in Peking are vehemently against this.
    Thus, fear and stupidity has immobilized our true potential.

  2. The US were also very hesitant in helping Europe fight the nazis. Once they did enter the war. the end of the nazis was guaranteed. The same will happen here. Should the US go all in with weapons, this war is over. russia won’t launch nukes, that would be suicidal and they know it.

  3. There appear to be some errors in failing to understand the strategy of “slowly boiling the frog” above, in comments AND in Editorial.

    Putin, venomous Siloviks, Kremlin, and submissive Russian fighters are not frogs, to be sure, being a GREAT danger to life on earth.

    Now, it is PLEASING to see a conservative publication decide to ally and stand firm with others.
    We have CLEARLY observed the cold solipsism of BOTH conservative Congressmembers/ their constituents, as well as the SAME from so-called “Progressives” so believing in their OWN impoverishment that they retain NO compassion for any horses of Another color” though we AL be herd animals, clustering for survival against anything we fear.

    We HAVE also recognized that the Transactional View of life, wherein we must profit from all others, ignoring their commonality of value, however muchy their values differ slightly from our own, led to a vulnerability SO severe tht even an elected president in 2016 CHOSE alliance with a superior Machiavellain groups and intellects OVER our OWN National Community.

    As an adolescent I did not tolerate direct threat to myself or others, which resulted in a pretty violent period and actions.
    Some more confident elders, NOT my own, DID and DO teach that not only our own integrity is forever unassailable, but that training and confidence- savoir faire in interaction, allowed far less bloody events like a few that landed me a bit short of blood in hospital, once, after chasing a much larger individual without such determination, until I could no longer stand from the loss of too much of that common red juice.

    I still don’t well tolerate aggression, nearly landing back in prison (the initial time was for the same aggressive action against myself and others, by a larger power that completely disregarded our validity , equal to theirs. We had professions we regarded as superior in value to ourselves, and so engaged in active, er, disagreement.

    That’s generally NOT necessary in any adulthood occurring in a principled, community – whether village or nation.

    Some of the ghettoes in which humans ensconce themselves are wealthy, some impoverished. But I discovered that the wealthy are EXACTLY as violently unethical and hostile as the poor ones I first experienced as a young adult.

    YOUR ghetto is what YOU make of it, is the lesson I desire to communicate here.

    This makes me not at all progressive, yet not as selfishly conservative as those villages & ranches in Western COlorado, or Georgia, or constantly “threatened” Texas, and elsewhere.

    Your personal desires are NOT murky, as the article headline, intended to whip up threat seems to convey.

    I sent what aid I personally could to Ukrainians, admittedly in great part to having known a few, who having been accomplished professionals as well as bright aspirants, garnered far more of my respect than quibbling “Victims” so common in this Land of Plenty, and of Plenty More than any of us can conceive.

    Generosity, then is the Other side of the coin of Gratitude and admiration of those who gave me knowledge of values more beautiful than i had known.

    And when you see, or even imagine, a Ukrainian packing his suitcases with peanut butter for protein to give to his aging mother half the World away, you also just MIGHT gain some generosity of spirit toward those you DON’T know. We all came from mothers, back into the far recesses of time.
    So here’s a note from some Neanderthal to You, for your contemplation.

    BE kind , at least toward those who must fight a far more deadly and dangerous battle than is common, or that you may have experienced.
    Childhood should be a beautiful thing, and don’t forget what is magnificent of yours-
    ALL others just want THIS.

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