After six months of war, Volodymr Zelenskyy is reinforcing the objective of a military victory over Vladimir Putin as hopes for a negotiated resolution recede.
The drums of war multiply their presence everywhere in Ukraine as the language of ceasefire, let alone agreement and negotiation, cannot be heard. There is nothing to celebrate six months after Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine. Half a year of war has failed to provide a reflective respite to examine any conditions for deescalation, but instead returned the conflict to the 2014 invasion of Crimea, when the international community was far less engaged than it is today.
The six-hour videoconference Tuesday between Volodymr Zelenskyy and the United States, NATO and the European Union seem to confirm Zelenskyy’s recent assertion that Ukraine’s goal is no longer peace, but victory. From the beginning, that has been the position of countries bordering Russia, almost all of them liberated from the Soviet orbit 30 years ago and many directly threatened by Putin’s warmongering expansionism.
A new shipment of U.S. military equipment worth more than 3 billion euros reinforces the public perception that this will be a prolonged war in which the warring parties have no interest in a cease-fire that would facilitate dialogue. The first domestic criticism of Zelenskyy has emerged, which may indicate a change in attitude — especially in view of the revelations that he concealed U.S. intelligence from the public that might have been demoralizing in the days before the invasion. The smallest hope for agreement is receding even further as the last few weeks seem to indicate that Ukraine will resume a military offensive.
No matter how much Moscow manipulates its media and disguises its setbacks, it seems clear that, for the first time, Ukraine is taking the initiative in territory conquered by Russia, with drone attacks in Crimea, numerous acts of sabotage, an attempt to regain control of Kherson and, probably, the assassination of Daria Dugina, the daughter of Putin’s inspirational ideologue, Alexander Dugin.
The consequences of this war have long been apparent on the streets of Europe in the form of runaway energy prices and inflation that shows no signs of abating. A recession could be looming in Europe. Russia is relying on winter to shift war weariness to concerns about energy, where it knows it can weaken the morale of European governments — especially if they begin to fall under an onslaught of populism attentive only to inflation and living standards. Much of the economically weaker part of the world, including many countries in Africa, continue to be affected by the lethal combination of a blockage of grain supplies and an unrelenting drought.
In the United States, the perception is more distant and less based on experience. Antony Blinken’s explicit support for Zelenskyy is related not only to the defense of a country under attack, but to U.S. interests in a geopolitical map that transcends the current war. Meanwhile, personal appeals from both Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and U.N. Secretary General António Guterres for peace drop into the void and are out of sync with such strident warmongering.
There is nothing to celebrate in Ukraine. The very fragile possibility of an agreement remains even further away at the moment than it was, and Europe is closer to a recession that could break the very delicate social and economic balances left by the pandemic and aggravated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
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