The conflict in Ukraine is still raging and it has taken hundreds of thousands of lives, created millions of refugees, wrecked Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure and economy, and consumed enormous financial resources from nations around the world.
And yet, despite the conflict’s vast human and economic costs, there is no sign that it is abating. Russia and Ukraine are now bogged down in very bloody military stalemate, with about a fifth of Ukraine’s land controlled by Russia.
In a recent televised interview with Putin, he reiterated that Moscow’s goals in Ukraine, which are de-Nazification, de-militarization and a neutral status of Ukraine remain unchanged. He had spelled out those loosely defined objectives the day he sent in troops February 2022.
Putin said he was forced to respond to what he described as an attempt by the West to turn Ukraine into a tool to challenge and threaten Russia. The main issue seems to be that the West, in particular the U.S., keep pushing for Ukraine to join NATO. An eastwards expansion of NATO has long been a key geopolitical goal of Biden.
Will there be peace in Ukraine in 2024? It certainly does not seem so right now, but there is some war fatigue at least in the U.S. The republicans in the house of representatives have declared that they are tired of sending blank checks in the billions to Ukraine and at the same time facing problems like poverty, crimes, illegal immigration, and homelessness domestically. They question sending more money to Ukraine without proper accountability and transparency. Funding will be a major issue in 2024 and Ukraine will likely have a more difficult time to get money from the U.S. and its allies.
At the same time, Ukrainian president Zelensky is still arguing that victory is within reach and that he may mobilize 500,000 more troops. He feels confident the U.S. will not let Ukraine down. The question is rather if the U.S. is willing to keep funding a seemingly endless war. Biden likely would, but congress would not, and Trump would not.
What would even a sustainable peace look like? From Ukraine’s perspective, it would mean a restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity within the pre-2014 borders, future security guarantees, and reparations for the material damage caused. Ukrainian membership in NATO and the European Union should also be part of the deal. From Russia’s perspective, the main goal is to keep Ukraine neutral and out of NATO. From a geopolitical standpoint, Russia would likely want to incorporate the Russian speaking eastern areas of Ukraine into Russia and, of course, keep Crimea.
Given the vast differences between the two countries goals, there is a need for international diplomacy and involvement. This seems to be the only way to prevent more deaths and to find a peaceful solution. It will not be easy, but even in this conflict, there is most likely a solution. At least eventually.