Against the backdrop of the escalation of hostilities in the Kharkiv region of Ukraine by Russia, many people are asking questions about the West’s strategy in the war in Ukraine. Does the West consider a Ukrainian victory to be the desired outcome or not?

Ukrainian President Zelenskyy recently stated that “while his allies are calling for a swift end to the war,” Zelenskyy says “Ukraine will only accept a ‘fair’ peace solution.” Probably, by “fair peace,” Zelenskyy means the restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity within the 1991 borders.

How to achieve this goal when the West is not willing to provide Ukraine with all the weapons it needs to try to restore its territorial integrity militarily? In this context, it should come as no surprise that the $32 billion lend-lease signed by President Biden on May 9, 2022, was not used until the lend-lease expired on September 30, 2023, triggering a nearly seven-month political battle for aid to Ukraine in Congress, thus having a very negative impact on the combat capability of Ukraine’s armed forces.

Ukraine is awaiting the $60 billion in U.S. military aid that was approved last month, which includes rocket launchers, artillery rounds, infantry vehicles and other military equipment.

At the same time, representatives of the US administration do not make public statements regarding the timing of the delivery of weapons. Only announcements of upcoming events of a general nature.

“The principal desire of the United States is for Ukraine to win the war against the Russian Federation,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said at a May 20 briefing. “We fundamentally want Ukraine to win this war, and I think we’ve made that clear, including by providing billions of dollars in security assistance,” Miller said.

At the same time, Miller did not name the criteria of Ukraine’s victory – he did not mention anything about returning to the 1991 borders, i.e. restoring territorial integrity. When asked whether the United States wanted Russia to lose the war, Miller said that the United States “wants to see Ukraine win and that by its very nature means Russia losing the war.

What criteria for Russia losing the war did Miller cite? Miller stated that “we would like Russia to just end the war”.”Just end the war” is the basic message for the end of a war, i.e., when the war stops along the battle lines. It is neither victory nor defeat. Ukraine does not lose the war by defending its sovereignty and independence, and the territorial issue is moved to the political square after the end of hostilities, which will mean that Russia has not lost the war either, i.e. it is a war where there will be neither victory nor defeat for both sides.

“We are in a nonsense situation where the West is afraid that Russia will lose the war,” President Zelensky said. “And it does not want Ukraine to lose it.” President Zelensky publicly repeated the first part of the well-known thesis of Sullivan, the White House National Security Advisor: “Ukraine must not lose and Russia must not win”.

Ukraine must preserve its sovereignty and independence, and the issue of territorial integrity should be the subject of post-war international debate and political, not military, instruments.

This is the basis of the plan to end the war by presidential candidate Trump and Chinese President Xi, which was announced in May. This is exactly what President Zelenskyy is talking about when he mentions soft power, i.e. the political tools that Ukraine’s Western partners want to use to end the war. Putin quickly recognized this development and made a statement in which he agreed to this development, i.e., to stop the war and switch to political instruments.

In early May, the deputy head of Ukraine’s foreign intelligence service, Skibitsky, said that Ukraine understood that returning to the 1991 borders using military tools, i.e. restoring territorial integrity, would not end the war. Only the front line will change, and the war will continue, so negotiations will begin before Ukraine’s territorial integrity is restored. This is a hint of understanding Sullivan’s thesis in Ukraine.

Ending the war with a military victory for Ukraine would imply not only the restoration of the 1991 borders but also fundamental political changes in Russia – either a radical change of power in Russia or the collapse of Russia as a state. Here the main question arises: “Does the West have a strategy for changing the fundamental political landscape in Russia – either a radical change of power in Russia or the collapse of Russia as a state, and does it even seek to do so?” The leaders of the Western world have not made such statements. President Biden has made the opposite statement, emphasizing that the United States is not seeking this. It is worth recalling the experience of the past.

In 1989, after his inauguration as President of the United States, President Bush asked James Baker, the US Secretary of State, what strategy should be chosen for the USSR against the background of various changes in President Gorbachev’s policy towards the West aimed at openness and improvement of relations. The strategy was called “Pause,” meaning to watch the developments in the USSR.

At the same time, after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the opening of democratic processes in Eastern Europe, the Bush administration simultaneously did everything it could to support Gorbachev in his efforts to preserve the USSR during political and economic reforms.

Immediately after the August 1991 coup in the USSR, James Baker asked President Gorbachev what the United States was most concerned about: “Where was Russia’s so-called nuclear suitcase during the coup?” President Gorbachev replied that he did not know, which shocked both Baker and Bush, forcing them, as well as the Clinton administration, to virtually immediately take control of the fate of nuclear weapons in the USSR during its collapse and the rise of Yeltsin’s government in Russia.

At present, the strategy for Russia’s collapse, or even a radical change of power in Russia, must necessarily include mechanisms for controlling nuclear weapons and nuclear materials, which are of interest to international terrorist organizations in their quest to obtain a dirty nuclear bomb. Does the United States have such mechanisms now? Partially, that is, about strategic nuclear weapons, yes – the New START treaty, which expires in February 2026. Sullivan has repeatedly stated the relevance of its extension, but Russia has set a condition: the end of the war in Ukraine through political means and by reducing arms assistance to Ukraine.

Without this treaty, the only thing left is shuttle diplomacy, i.e. constant communication in Russia with those who will have the actual ability to control Russia’s nuclear weapons. But how can this be done against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine? The relationship between the US and the USSR (Russia) in the days of Gorbachev and Yeltsin and the relationship between the US and Russia now cannot be compared – operational and effective communications are extremely difficult, if not impossible.

So, the fate of the nuclear suitcase, nuclear weapons and nuclear materials: in whose hands will they be? Likely, the Biden administration does not have an answer to this question. Just as there is no answer to the question that follows from Baker’s statement addressed to President Bush during the August 1991 coup in Moscow: What will replace the USSR?

The U.S. administration eventually decided to support the collapse of the USSR and to facilitate this process politically because of the presence of a powerful, large-scale democratic movement in the USSR, particularly in the Russian Federation.

How powerful is the democratic movement in Russia today and is it ready to take on this challenge? It is not. Waiting for the emergence of such a movement in Russia while Ukraine is bleeding in the war is not justified either from the point of view of security in the region, i.e. the spread of the war to Europe, or from the point of view of the fate of millions of Ukrainians.

Therefore, Western partners’ calls for President Zelenskyy to end the war and move to a political post-war settlement can also be summarized as not only ending the war in Ukraine but also addressing larger security issues in the region as a whole. The war needs to be put on a permanent pause, and the major geopolitical players should use this to engage in an active dialogue that would address the main security issues in the region and correct the mistakes of the 1990s regarding Ukraine’s security status. Until the issue of Ukraine’s security status is resolved, it is impossible to build a reliable security architecture in Europe.

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