Why It’s So Hard to End the War in Ukraine

A wounded man walks past as emergency service personnel attend to the site of a blast in Kyiv, Ukraine. (Photo by Ed Ram/Getty Images)

Ukrainians’ confidence is growing after a series of battlefield victories culminated with a successful attack on the symbolically and strategically important Kerch Bridge. Yet anxiety lingers over Russian President Vladimir Putin’s commitment to his bloody and protracted invasion—and what he might do to turn the tide.

A consensus has developed in Ukraine that winning is the only option. That means repelling Russian forces from Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders, taking legal action against Russian war criminals, pursuing reparations and eventually joining the European Union and NATO. The question is whether Ukraine can maintain these ambitious goals if its supporters begin pushing for a less ambitious settlement.

This week leaders of the G-7 issued a statement promising to stand with Kyiv “for as long as it takes.” National leaders have made similar pronouncements for months. Although officially supportive of Ukraine’s goals, many allies have worried publicly about the danger of Putin’s nuclear threats and energy blackmail.

“What is Putin’s off-ramp?” U.S. President Joe Biden asked a gathering of donors in New York City last week. “Where does he find himself in a position that he does not—not only lose face, but lose significant power within Russia?” Biden also implied that the way to avoid nuclear war may be to strike a deal with Moscow. This echoes statements from some skittish European leaders and even billionaire Elon Musk. 

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