Analysis by Thomas Jäger – As long as the West sticks together on 3 questions, Putin will hardly have a chance

Analysis by Thomas Jäger: As long as the West sticks together on 3 questions, Putin will hardly have a chance

In the war with Ukraine, Vladimir Putin still hopes that the West will drift apart in its support. So far there has been little evidence of this. In the future, however, three questions will come into focus, to which the supporters must find a common answer in order not to give Putin a chance.

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With the war against Ukraine, Russia will not achieve any political goal that it has set itself. Ukraine will not have a pro-Russia government. The Eastern European states will not lose the support of their alliance partners. The US will remain committed to European security. Whether, when and how the war in Ukraine will end will not change that.

So why doesn’t Russia change strategy and try to find a quick solution to the war? Willingness to do so could be demonstrated by Russia temporarily ceasing fire on Ukrainian villages and towns. The reason is that President Putin still assumes that the West will soon lose the unity he did not expect.

Putin is still lurking for cracks between western democracies

In Putin’s worldview, liberal democracies are weak and only interested in profit, which is why they cannot withstand political challenges. If cracks in Western solidarity should therefore appear before Russia is overwhelmed by the economic costs and the military situation becomes precarious, Putin believes that new opportunities could open up to divide the West and achieve his political goals: dominating Ukraine, Eastern Europe in to transform weak buffer states and push the US back out of Europe.

About the expert

Prof. Dr. Thomas Jäger has held the Chair for International Politics and Foreign Policy at the University of Cologne since 1999. His research focuses on international relations and American and German foreign policy.

There are already differences of opinion among the states supporting Ukraine on three issues. Answering them and at the same time keeping the alliance together is currently one of the most important political tasks of the supporting states. Otherwise, the unified resistance to Russia’s war threatens to dwindle.

The supporting countries have to clarify three questions

First, it must be clarified which goals are to be achieved in the war. Secondly, there is the relationship between Ukraine and the EU. Thirdly, finally, the question of how to deal with Russia after the war. In all three questions there are not irreconcilable, but different views. Nevertheless, the European states and the USA must try to reach an agreement with Ukraine.

1. What goals should be achieved in war?

The question of which goals should be achieved in the war has been answered in different ways over the past few weeks. And this from both Russia and Ukraine. This is not surprising, because the course of war is dynamic, the assessment of the situation changes and with it the objectives.

While Russia was initially concerned with taking all of Ukraine, it is currently concentrating on the east and south of the country. If Ukraine was willing to negotiate about the cession of territory, this willingness decreased the more successful the course of the war was from the Ukrainian point of view. President Zelenskyy has now declared that the war can only end if all Ukrainian territories are regained. But this position can also change again, depending on the course of the war.

Ukraine’s supporters must also deal with this issue, because the intensity and duration of their willingness to help depends on it. This shows that the Eastern European states and the USA are striving for a military victory for Ukraine and are ready to support a longer war, while other states – France, Italy, Germany – repeatedly emphasize that a quick end to the war is particularly important is important.

But that can only be achieved through negotiations and presumably through the cession of territory. So is it now a matter of bringing the war to a rapid end by ceding territory, restoring pre-war conditions, or pushing Russia back to the borders of Ukraine? As the war progresses, the answer may change, requiring supporters to create dynamic understanding.

2. What is the relationship between the West and Ukraine like?

The answer to the second question assumes that Russia will not win this war, because only then should the relationship between Ukraine and the EU be considered. The Eastern European states, but also many voices throughout Europe, are striving for a rapid accession of Ukraine to the EU.

Others, above all the French President and the German Chancellor, are more reserved. It could take years and decades to become a full member. At the same time, the support that the EU countries have also promised one another has not yet been publicly discussed. Rather, the debate is currently shaped by Ukraine’s political and cultural affiliation with Europe and the country’s economic reconstruction.

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The Ukrainian Foreign Minister has pointed out that what is promised must also apply. This is an important indication, because the EU has often reflected the wishes of other states and allowed them to be broken in the face of the harsh reality of the accession conditions.

She will show whether the idea of ​​a preliminary step to membership, as proposed by the French President, is helpful. There is currently no consensus. But that must be found in order not to give Russia the opportunity to split the EU on this issue. The Russian leadership will do this anyway with hybrid attacks on public opinion in the EU states, pressure on the EU states Sweden and Finland, cyber attacks and more.

3. How should dealings with Russia look like?

Which brings up the third question of how to deal with Russia when the war is either over or has turned into a protracted war of attrition, trench warfare and partisan warfare. For many it is clear that normal relations can no longer be established with Putin’s Russia.

The German foreign minister also pointed out that turning away from Russian energy supplies was “forever”. American policy would like to use sanctions to weaken Russia militarily in the long term. It is also difficult to imagine that European states will again be supplying goods and components that can be used for military purposes to Russia in the foreseeable future.

At the same time, President Putin can remain in office at least until 2036. That’s a long time to negotiate on climate policy, arms control, non-proliferation and the Arctic – all areas where Russia cannot be excluded if negotiations are to produce effective results.

The question of how to deal with Russia in the future is not currently an issue. At the moment it is still a question of increasing the economic pressure on Russia. There is broad agreement on this. The EU’s decision on an oil embargo shows initial deviations, but they are not formative.

However, it is up to the Western states to reach agreement, at best, also with regard to future dealings with Russia. That takes time and has to take very different interests and perspectives into account.

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