In a Kyiv interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy again vowed that Ukraine wouldn’t be negotiating away territory in exchange for a Russian end to the war. Zelenskyy dismissed the idea not out of bluster, but for a more fundamental reason: There’s no evidence that Russia would abide by any such agreement.
“I don’t trust the Russian military and Russian leadership. That is why we understand that the fact that we fought them off and they left, and they were running away from Kyiv, from the north, from Chernihiv and from that direction, it doesn’t mean if they are able to capture Donbas, they won’t come further towards Kyiv.”
A Russian annexation of the Donbas region might temporarily end hostilities, if Ukraine agreed to it, but Russian government figures and state media have repeatedly emphasized that all of Ukraine ought to be annexed, just part of a larger goal of reclaiming ex-Soviet lands in an attempt to return Russia to something resembling it prior superpower status. Ukraine’s government has ample reason to believe that turning over eastern Ukraine lands to Russia would simply put new Russian military bases even closer to Kyiv and other major Ukrainian cities. It’s a deal not likely to happen unless Ukraine’s defenses truly begin to collapse in the face of Russian attacks—and the latest analysis of the frontlines continues to show little evidence Russia can muster any attacks more successful than the ill-coordinated and poorly supplied Kyiv assault.
The most likely scenario continues to be either stalemate or an outright Russian loss. Regardless of battlefield conditions, however, it is now likely that economic sanctions against Russia will last indefinitely. The Biden administration and European Union officials are now moving forward to craft new long-term policies cutting Russia off from western markets permanently. Win or lose, Russia will end the war as an international pariah state, and sanctions will likely remain in place at least until Russian autocrat Vladimir Putin’s retirement or death. And they will last much longer than that, if the Russian oligarchs that ransacked their own military and fired, arrested, or killed anyone who objected to their hollowing-out of the country. For Russia, world isolation will once again be the new normal.
Some of this weekend’s news: