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Do Russians Want War?

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Photo:  If Ukraine and the world fail to stop Russia, then after Ukraine, it will be Europe's turn to fear for its security. Source: Collage The Gaze/Leonid Lukashenko.
Photo: If Ukraine and the world fail to stop Russia, then after Ukraine, it will be Europe's turn to fear for its security. Source: Collage The Gaze/Leonid Lukashenko.

For a long time, the media in Western countries have been publishing articles about the inevitability of negotiations and the freezing of the conflict between Ukraine and Russia. At the same time, the authors promoting such narratives believe that Russia is ready for an akin scenario, with Ukraine resisting because it wants to liberate the territories previously occupied by Russia. While Ukraine does assume that there can be no negotiations until Russian troops withdraw from the occupied territories, as stated in President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's Peace Formula, Russia has never demonstrated a desire for a ceasefire.

Yes, Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly spoken about being ready for negotiations based on "new territorial realities," hinting at recognizing the occupation of the Ukrainian territories. However, do akin statements have a meaning? No one in the Kremlin considers ending the war, although such illusions are common in the modern world.

The Concept of a War of Choice and the Kremlin's Interests

Since the first months of the full-scale Russian-Ukrainian war, there have been discussions in the West about the need to "consider negotiations" with the Kremlin. Today, these discussions are more regular and pronounced. One may recall the concept of a "war by choice" introduced by American professor Charles Kupchan. He believes that Ukraine must think about freezing the war. 

In his opinion, Ukraine has already achieved a "strategic victory" when it prevented Russia from seizing its entire territory and installing a pro-Russian puppet government in 2022. According to Dr. Kupchan, further struggle for the liberation of Ukrainian territories is a waste of lives and resources. He insists that the necessary result in relations with Russia should stem from negotiations; for now, it is worth focusing on ending the war, disengaging the forces, and introducing other measures.

At the same time, Dr. Kupchan's publication is only one in a series of voices raising similar narratives. Overall, one may find a plethora of articles in the media of civilized countries claiming that Ukraine has "already won," and, therefore, it is not worth continuing the war but rather to seek compromises with Russia, including territorial concessions.

In addition to contradicting the position of Ukrainian society, the Ukrainian government, and the requirements of the Ukrainian Constitution, akin reasoning is rooted in a false premise that it is only Ukraine that wants the war to continue because it wants to restore its territorial integrity. According to this line of thought, Russia is ready to negotiate and freeze the war. However, there is no evidence to support similar conclusions.

Russia Wants to Keep Fighting

There is no evidence of Putin's readiness to negotiate and stop the war, not even under the most favorable conditions. On the contrary, everything suggests Russia plans and prepares for a long war. 

The new Russian budget 2024 envisages an increase in spending on the armed forces to almost $100 billion, constituting a third of all expenditures. Russia doesn't intend to reduce the scope of hostilities; it plans to expand them. In addition, Russia plans to continue increasing the size of its armed forces, amassing the production of weapons, military equipment, drones, etc. Russia is shifting to the military mode of functioning, a process that can't occur in weeks or months. The Kremlin plans to fight a long-term war.

Russia's ideological and information policy reflect akin plans. Since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, Russian society has become increasingly more authoritarian and militaristic. The opposition has been almost completely eradicated and cannot legally function unless it recognizes the policy of continuing the war. All propaganda focuses on reinforcing the fighting, mobilizing, and justifying the conquest of neighboring states. Russia went as far as banning abortion, a measure aimed at increasing the population. Moscow needs human resources for further conquests.

The focal point of Russia's entire foreign policy is sustaining the war. The Kremlin is happy to establish relations with any regimes, including dictatorships (such as the DPRK regime), to receive more weapons, ammunition, and other resources necessary for warfare. The Russian leadership has staked everything on this war, and it has no plans to end it quickly.

Official plans for the complete conquest of Ukraine have not disappeared. Even if we assume, purely theoretically, that Russia would agree to freeze the war, it would mean the loss of most Ukrainian territories for a long time on Russia's end. Does Russia need this? How would Putin then plan to go down in history? He has kept his plans, mobilizing all the resources he can access.

A Dangerous Illusion

The narrative of Ukraine's "strategic victory" is a dangerous illusion that continues to exist among representatives of the Western expert community. The nature of the war waged by Ukraine has not changed since February 24, 2022. It continues to be a war of self-preservation, as the invaders have not abandoned their plans to destroy the Ukrainian sovereign state

At the same time, Russia has been successfully manipulating the idea of negotiations, dropping hints at the possibility of "freezing the war." The goal of such manipulations is to decrease support for Ukraine by convincing Western partners that "the war is almost over" and that all that remains is to force Ukraine to sit at the negotiating table. Russia itself, while engaging in such discussions, continues to build up its military capabilities while the West debates how much it should support Ukraine.

Any reproaches against Ukraine have nothing to do with ending the war. The war's end depends solely on Russia's willingness to abandon its imperialist ambitions against its neighbors. With the current regime in Moscow, even without Putin, the Russians are unlikely to change their policies. If Ukraine and the world fail to stop Russia, then after Ukraine, it will be Europe's turn to fear for its security.

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