As Russia and Ukraine are heading to the twenty-second week of continuous fighting in Ukraine, the situation has become even grimmer in the absence of diplomacy to pacify or to create a ceasefire paving the way for negotiations. It is evident that Russia and Ukraine both trying their military might to emerge victorious under different circumstances in this conflict.
As many international security analysts pointed out at the outset, the conflict started due to a lack of trust between the parties to this conflict. However, we cannot go back in time to correct or undo events that led to this conflict. Despite colossal damages and continued brutal attacks in Ukraine, there is still time to find a solution that is acceptable to Ukraine and Russia. The destiny of Ukraine should be in the hands of Ukrainian and it should not be influenced by other powerful actors. It’s a fact that geography cannot be changed and Ukraine continues to remain an immediate neighbor of Russia, which shares a common border and vice versa.
In this context, Ukraine and Russia must find a solution that is acceptable to them and that guarantees the security and peaceful coexistence of Ukraine. Such a solution is still feasible if Ukraine and Russia immediately opened up channels for discussion with an acceptable mediator with the involvement of the United Nations. It is understood at least for now, that NATO will not go to war in Ukraine other than the provision of warlike material support to fight against Russia. This means that Ukraine has to fight its war in its territory. Up to now, the West has sent the most lethal weapons and ammunition to Ukraine to halt Russian aggression. However, the conflict continues with no sign of progress towards cessation of hostilities. In this context, it is evident that the provision of warlike material, imposing sanctions, and directing information warfare against Russia would not pay the way for a long-term solution to this conflict.
Huge numbers of human losses, sufferings, and destructions have been recorded due to indiscriminate firing in Ukraine and the inaction of international bodies to pursue a diplomatic solution to the conflict. It is evident that the steps taken by major powers in this conflict are yet to bear the fruits and haven’t been able to stop the unfolding catastrophe. With ground realities, it is evident that both militaries have suffered immensely.
It is worth now for Ukraine to decide the price that they are willing to pay for this conflict, where Russia has made clear its intention through actions- to occupy territories belonging to Ukraine at any cost and destroy the infrastructure. It is also evident that Ukraine needs to use its all-available resources to fight against the Russian invasion of their land, meaning catastrophic outcomes in every imaginable situation. In this dynamic threat landscape, Russia is changing its modus operandi mainly to preserve combat efficiency and to cause maximum destruction to Ukraine. In this situation, the Russians inevitably exert more pressure on Ukrainian forces which may change the dynamics of this war in months to come.
In the near future, there are no diplomatic efforts to establish any form of negotiations leading to a ceasefire to prevent further catastrophe. So far, the international sanctions and provision of sophisticated arms and ammunition, training, and limited intelligence support to Ukraine, failed to stop further Russian aggression and occupation in parts of Ukraine. As a determined aggressor- the Russian leadership is determined to exert maximum pressure on Ukrainian forces by inflicting maximum casualties and damages. By doing so, Russia is trying to portray that they can still maintain their superiority despite combined NATO assistance to Ukraine. As evidence shows, both countries are in a stalemate, with Ukraine making every endeavor to repel attacks by inflicting maximum damages to the enemy while reclaiming lost territories. On the other hand, Russia is gradually consolidating captured areas while changing its modus operandi mainly to preserve combat efficiency and consolidation in captured areas. The Russian course of action may terminate with a face-saving strategy- establishing de-facto territories in eastern Ukraine and transfer of power to Pro-Russian communities.
In this conflict, long-term ramifications are disastrous for international peace and stability in the absence of diplomacy. This scenario provides a perfect recipe for the creation of new world order that is detrimental to world peace and stability. Meanwhile, a cascading effect of this conflict is visible across the globe, such as the global energy crisis, inflationary effects, and food insecurity developments.
If this conflict continues for a considerable period in the same manner as described above, there could be far-reaching consequences that may change the future direction of war. With notable growing domestic pressure on leaders of the coalition with recession fears, there could be dissension between the western coalition and their support for this conflict. Such development is likely to create adverse effects on cohesiveness.
In this decisive moment, it is evident that the ripple effects of this conflict spread far beyond Ukraine. Now, the question remains to be answered is how long is too long and how many deaths are to be reported to say enough is enough by Ukraine and Russia? And, the second question is how far is too far, and at what cost the West is willing to mediate to find a diplomatic solution acceptable to Russia and Ukraine?
Lastly, as history shows, there are neither permanent enemies nor friends. The decision on the future of Ukraine must be based solely on Ukraine’s interests with a negotiated settlement.
Suminda Jayasundera is a retired military officer & a researcher. During his illustrious military career, Jayasundera has held many important appointments including, a tour of duty in the United Nations. After his retirement, he entered the corporate sector, where he excelled in crisis management, global security management, and business continuity management. He holds a master’s degree in Defense Management and is a graduate of Army Command & General Staff College, Ft Leavenworth, Kansas. He acquired further education from the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Emergency Management & Business Continuity.