How Must The War In Ukraine End? - Honolulu Civil Beat

About the Author

Stephen O'Harrow

Stephen O’Harrow is a professor emeritus of Asian Languages, having retired in 2019 after 50 years on the faculty of the University of Hawaii Manoa. A resident of Hawaii since 1968, he’s been active in local political campaigns since the 1970s and is a member of the Board of Directors, Americans for Democratic Action/Hawaii.

There will have to be an armistice, and Russia will most likely keep Crimea and parts of the Donbas.

Given that the war in Ukraine has now become a war of attrition, offensives or counter-offensives by either side in the field notwithstanding, we need to ask ourselves, “Which side can withstand such a conflict in the long run?”

Unfortunately, the obvious answer is Russia for several reasons, to wit:

1) Russia claims to have weathered Western sanctions much better than expected and, according to the IMF, her exports have actually increased (this is, however, disputed by some experts, such as Yale School of Management’s Jeffrey Sonnenfeld).

If this is true, we must recognize it as “an inconvenient truth,” since countries like India, South Africa, and China are still buying what Putin has to offer, Ukraine be damned!

2) The present Russian government (like all Russian governments before it, from tsars to Communists to Putin) is quite willing to send thousands of muzhik (peasant) and prisoner conscripts into the meat grinder. They did it in the 19th century in the Russo-Turkish War, against Japan in 1905, against the Germans in World War I and again in WWII.

Their attitude is the same as the Imperial Japanese Army said about its own peasant soldiers before 1945: “The peasant is like a sesame seed, you can go on squeezing forever and you will still get oil.”
Putin basically does not care how many Russians suffer and die, as long as he wins in the end.

Urban Russians may get disgruntled but there is no hard evidence that Russians in the provinces or their various Central Asian or Siberian populations — those who as always bear the burden of conscription — will rise up in significant opposition to the continuing loss of life. They never have successfully done so in the past.

3) Wars of attrition are won by those who can afford to lose more men and materiel than their opponents and continue throwing men into combat. Ukraine, even with unlimited Western supplies, cannot afford to keep on losing soldiers, no matter how brave, based on a population of 44 million as opposed to triple that number in Russia (148 million or so).

4) NATO is rapidly drawing down its weapons and munitions without sufficiently ramping up production to replace the stocks sent to Kyiv. This is quietly worrying the Pentagon as well as civilian realists in both the Department of Defense and the State Department. It cannot go on forever (as in a war of attrition) on the current course and, at some point soon, this will become public knowledge.

5) While opposition inside the GOP to helping Kyiv has been limited to “the usual suspects,” it will not be contained much longer when No. 4 above becomes obvious public knowledge.

6) There is already some opposition to U.S. aid on the left and when No. 4 above becomes obvious public knowledge, it will grow enough, when combined with No. 5, to upset the heretofore secure policies of the White House and Senate leadership on both sides of the aisle.

7) War without end in Afghanistan, alas, finally caught up with Washington (badly) and war without end in Ukraine will, sooner or later, catch up with both the U.S. and our NATO partners, at which point the West will be obliged to impose a long-term cease fire on Kyiv, like it or not.

Status Quo

What does this add up to?

It adds up to the fact that, whether or not the Ukrainian government wants to do it, there will have to be an armistice and Russia will most likely keep Crimea and parts of the Donbas.

Just as at the end of the Korean War, 1950-53, where there was no official peace treaty ending the conflict (and still none today), there will be a status quo. That status quo will maintain a territorially reduced Ukraine (whether Kyiv or Washington or Warsaw or anybody else is pleased), a Ukraine that will require extensive reconstruction. Just as with current arms shipments, those costs will mainly be borne by the West.

Post-armistice Ukraine will also have to build robust civil institutions in order to become part of the European Union. The country still suffers from its Soviet past in many relevant respects, including a sclerotic bureaucracy and its accompanying corruption. However, a likely condition of any armistice will exclude Ukraine from ever joining NATO.

In time, such a Ukraine could become like South Korea in contrast to North Korea: prosperous, modern, and democratic. And Russia will become … who knows?

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About the Author

Stephen O'Harrow

Stephen O’Harrow is a professor emeritus of Asian Languages, having retired in 2019 after 50 years on the faculty of the University of Hawaii Manoa. A resident of Hawaii since 1968, he’s been active in local political campaigns since the 1970s and is a member of the Board of Directors, Americans for Democratic Action/Hawaii.

Latest Comments (0)

While the U.S. illegally occupies Hawaii, seems like a 'glass houses and stones' analogy is appropriate.

ClaudeRains · 4 months ago

I couldn't disagree more with just about all of these arguments. I don't know what you have been following, but the Russian army is in complete collapse. It doesn't matter how many troops they can throw into the meat grinder, if they're losing 20 to one because of drones, aircraft, tanks, etc, they will soon learn that surrendering will save their lives. The technology that Russia lacks to even maintain let alone build a modern-day army is going to be showing more and more on the battlefield. That and the fact that the entire NATO West is supplying intelligence besides arms and training to the Ukrainian army, which is now probably the third strongest in the world. I'm not even talking about countries with nukes, I'm talking about conventional warfare. The counter offensive has not even started yet and the Russians are fleeing so fast they don't know what to do. Now they have the glider bombs that can reach all over Ukraine and beyond. Also keep in mind that there is lots of disturbance within the Kremlin, and I think there's a bullseye on a number of heads there, including Putin himself.

Scotty_Poppins · 4 months ago

The US can force Ukraine to the table, but how do you force Russia to show up? They have shown no interest in negos to date, and in fact, keep doubling down. They too are running short on munitions (ask Prigozhin), but not of casualties.

LarryS · 4 months ago

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