The Ukraine Crisis Is Going Nowhere Fast – OpEd


By Yasar Yakis

When the new relationship between Russia and the West was taking shape in the 1990s, Vladimir Putin categorically said that Eastern European countries should not join NATO. Then, in 1999, Russia signed the Charter for European Security, which specifically referred to the right of each state to choose and change its security arrangements and join alliances — but this commitment remains a dead letter.

The point we have now reached in the Ukraine crisis requires an updated assessment. Russia is trying to hold its position and not make any concessions to the West because it can sustain the war for a prolonged period. When, in 1994, Ukraine relinquished its nuclear arsenal to the Russian Federation, the security guarantees given by Moscow, Washington and London became obsolete. Most likely, the question of Ukraine’s nuclear arsenal will fall into oblivion and never be mentioned again.

With its sporadic successes, Ukraine has recaptured 54 percent of the territory that Russia occupied following its February 2022 invasion. However, Russia still occupies 18 percent of Ukrainian territory. Ukraine’s offensive last year achieved few territorial gains. Hopefully, there will be no more annexations on either side. The annexation of Crimea by Russia is a different issue and has to be dealt with separately.

The US foreign policy on Ukraine has remained unchanged since the outset of the war. Washington seems to be hesitant about what to do with Ukraine. It is giving the impression that it has adopted a “wait and see” policy.

Were it not for the Gaza war, the battle between Russia and the transatlantic community would still be raging. It has relatively subsided for two reasons: the transatlantic community has had to divide its efforts between the Gaza and Ukraine wars and, secondly, there are more and more discordant views in the West about the legitimacy of Israel’s attacks. If the critical point is reached, the US will probably devote more of its efforts to the Israeli side. This will give Russia the chance to regain some of its losses in Ukraine.

Kyiv is encountering some difficulties in the continuation of the war. Several Western countries have invented excuses for not giving more money or ammunition to Ukraine. Similar difficulties have arisen in the US Congress. The Republicans are blocking $50 billion in appropriations earmarked for Ukraine and this funding has gotten stuck with another obstacle that has nothing to do with Ukraine. They want to keep the Ukraine funding as a hostage while seeking to restrict the arrival of asylum seekers from Latin America. This means that the US support for Ukraine is sidelined for reasons that are not directly related to Ukraine.

The Gaza war and the instabilities that have erupted elsewhere in the Middle East will also distract the attention of the international community. Gaza, for one, may absorb the entire attention of the US. It will probably give priority to Israel, both in terms of diplomatic efforts and military assistance. When it comes to Israel, the funding will flow uninterrupted.

After the Ukraine and Gaza wars, there is a tendency to spread the war to the Red Sea and other places in the Middle East. A world war-type hostility is less likely. Future wars will probably be fought as wars of attrition or proxy wars.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky last month announced that 450,000 to 500,000 additional soldiers would be needed to sustain his country’s war effort. This is not an easy target to attain because there is war fatigue on all sides.

In addition to regular war losses, there are also unaccounted losses of defense material. An official US report admits there is no unauthorized or illicit transfer of defense articles. However, a report by the US European Command conceded that it was beyond the scope of its inquiry to determine whether any arms had been misappropriated.

Another complicating factor has been added to Russian-Ukrainian relations. Last week, a Russian military plane carrying 65 Ukrainian prisoners of war, together with three Russian officers and six crew members, was shot down near the border between the two countries. The Ukrainian passengers were about to be exchanged.

Meanwhile, Turkiye’s acquiescence to Sweden joining NATO has become a done deal, as the Turkish parliament last week approved the move. The other side of this deal was then fulfilled on Friday, when the US State Department notified Congress of the $23 billion agreement to sell F-16 fighter aircraft to Turkiye.

The Ukraine crisis is not likely to be solved if the West does not provide massive military aid and if this aid is not sustained. On the other hand, the West will probably not let Kyiv be overrun by Russia. Therefore, the war has the potential to drag on for a long period. And, as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov put it last week, Ukraine will continue to get money from Western taxpayers.

• Yasar Yakis is a former foreign minister of Turkiye and founding member of the ruling AK Party.

Arab News

Arab News is Saudi Arabia's first English-language newspaper. It was founded in 1975 by Hisham and Mohammed Ali Hafiz. Today, it is one of 29 publications produced by Saudi Research & Publishing Company (SRPC), a subsidiary of Saudi Research & Marketing Group (SRMG).

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