Ukraine War, June 4, 2022 (I): What constitutes “Victory”; George F. Will’s mistaken acceptance of Kissinger’s proposed exchange of territory for peace

Developing. We are publishing this article as it is being written. Please check back for updates.

To see a list of previous articles, enter “Ukraine” in the Search Box on the upper right, on The Trenchant Observer web site, and you will see a list in chronological order.

Dispatches

1) George F. Will, “Now is no time to go tentative on military aid for Ukraine,” Washington Post, June 3, 2022 (6:00 a.m. EDT):

2) Michael McFaul, “Want to undermine Putin? Help Russians who are opposed to the war,” Washington Post, June 1, 2022 (4:05 p.m. EDT):

Commentary

George F. Will reports on the stakes in the Russian war against Ukraine, and the critical importance of decisiveness.Tentative responses to, e.g., continuing the supply of weapons, are not conducive to victory.

Unfortunately, he also tosses off a series of judgments which require scrutiny and close attention to details he may not have considered. He writes, for example,

The United States’ choice today is different. The country’s potential gains from sustaining Ukraine’s valorous expenditure of its blood are enormous. After visiting Kyiv, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on May 1 that the United States is “with Ukraine until victory is won.” Victory should have two elements.

One is that combat ends with Russia diminished — more militarily vulnerable, economically ramshackle and internationally disdained than it was when its aggression began. This has been achieved, but the achievement must be preserved by a second element:

Regarding the second element of victory, he argues:

Never mind war reparations; war-crime prosecutions; the return of Ukrainian territory previously annexed by Russia, such as Crimea; or even the end of Russian mischief in Ukrainian regions with large Russian-speaking populations. What matters in preventing Scholz’s “victor’s peace” is restoration of the (albeit untidy) geographic status quo of Feb. 24.

We disagree.

Never mind war reparations?

Never mind war crimes prosecutions?

Never mind the return of Ukrainian territory previously annexed by Russia, such as the Crimea?

Never mind the end of Russian “mischief” in Ukrainian regions with large Russian-speaking populations?

Will describes succinctly the strong language used by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in spport of laudable goals. But he gets it wrong in describing victory and the two elements he thinks it should have.

Will wants to prevent Scholz’s “victor’s peace”, whatever he thinks that is.

And to achieve that goal, what matters for Will is the restoration of the geographic status quo ante on February 24.

Will has swallowed Henry Kissinger’s bait–his proposal of territorial concessions in exchange for peace–“hook, line, and sinker”.

Has Will thought about the Russian recognition of the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk days before the invasion and the fact it was pouring Russian troops into those provinces before February 24, or the fact that Russia’s recognition extended to the entire provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk, two thirds of which were occupied by Ukraine?

Scholz’s “victor’s peace” is not detailed in Will’s article. It seems to be a peace that upholds international law and the U.N. Charter, which neither Kissinger nor Will mentions.

How should Ukraine and the West define victory?

Certainly not as Will does.

We should not set as our goals that Russia be weak, economically and militarily, and that it be held in ever greater disdain by the other nations of the world. Those are not goals of victory but effects of Russian behavior.

Nor should we set as a goal of victory a restoration of the status quo ante before February 24.

Our war aims should be simple: The withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukraine. A cessation of Russia’s “threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence” of Ukraine, i.e., compliance with Article 2 paragraph 4 of the U.N. Charter.

Ukraine and the West cannot accept the invasion and annexation of the Crimea, secured through the illegal use of force, though Ukraine’s proposal of a 15-year period to resolve the status of the Crimea seems to be eminently reasonable.

As for the Donetsk and Luhansk provinces in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, a return to the borders before Russia recognized the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk is essential. The final status of these regions could perhaps be postponed for future resolution. That, after all,o was the goal of the Minsk II negotiations which Russia abruptly ended by its recognition of the People’s Republics.

Will’s reference to “Russian mischief” in Russian-speaking areas of the country is obscene.

Such “mischief” has included the wanton killing of thousands of civilians and the destruction of large parts of Kharkiv, the destruction of much of the Donbas, the obliteration of Mariupol, and the subjugation of the Ukrainian population to brutal totalitarian rule by Russians in areas they occupy such as Kherson.

By this Kissingerian logic, the individual human beings in Ukraine can be ignored in deference to the requirements of great power politics.

International law, including the international law of human rights and international humanitarian law, reject that proposition.

We should never lose sight of the fact that what we are fighting for in Ukraine is not just a cessation of Russia’s aggression and barbaric crimes against humanity, but also a vindication of international law and the primacy of the United Nations Charter.

That vindication should be our ultimate war aim. When achieved, it will constitute “victory” in the Ukraine war.

That victory will not be the victory of Ukraine or Russia, but rather the victory of all humanuty.

The Trenchant Observer

***

See also,

Only force can stop Putin

“Ukraine War, April 5, 2022 (II): Force must be used to stop Putin,” The Trenchant Observer, April 5, 2022.

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