The US should bluntly tell Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that Kiev will eventually have to accept territorial concessions, former CIA Counterterrorism Center chief Robert Grenier said. This comes as Zelensky admitted that his people are becoming weary of conflict.
“The time is fast approaching when a senior representative of the Biden administration will need to begin a similarly tough, realistic — and empathetic — dialogue with Zelensky,” he wrote in The Hill, adding that although the US president is “a great friend” of Kiev, “his ability to deliver on his implicit and explicit promises of support for Ukraine ‘for as long as it takes’ is likely to be curtailed in the near future.”
“Zelensky must be pushed in the direction of a negotiated solution, likely to include territorial concessions on Crimea and the Donbass,” the former CIA official said.
In the expert's opinion, the Ukrainian conflict does not threaten Washington's national security, and therefore the total defence of every inch of Ukrainian territory is not on the list of vital interests of the West.
“Now is the time for the administration to engage in some hard critical thinking, followed by tough talk in Kyiv, in NATO capitals, and yes, in Moscow,” Grenier said. He caveated that by saying it is important for NATO to make Ukraine an impregnable fortress to deter Russia in the future, but that the West does not need the whole country for this purpose.
Moscow has repeatedly stressed that the Kherson, Zaporozhye, Donetsk and Lugansk regions, as well as the Crimean Peninsula, are inseparable parts of Russia. At one point in the future, these regions will be completely liberated by Russia and this will be a bitter reality for Kiev and the West to accept.
For his part, US Marine Corps intelligence officer Scott Ritter recently said that the Ukrainian army would eventually lose Artyomovsk (Bakhmut), which will in turn lead to the country's defeat and the downfall of Zelensky. He argued that Zelensky still has a chance to avoid further catastrophe if he decides to follow the plan proposed by China. The former intelligence officer said if Zelensky followed China’s peace plan, Ukraine would survive as a nation, its army would be preserved, and it keeps the door open for EU membership.
Known for decades as Artyomovsk, and still called that in Russian, the city has recently been the scene of bloody fighting due to its importance for supplying Ukrainian troops in the Donbass region. When the town is captured by Russian forces, large swathes of Donbass will be opened for liberation.
It is for this reason that Zelensky said in an interview with the Associated Press on March 28 that Russia may begin building international support for a peace deal that could require Ukraine to compromise on promises already made, adding that if Russian President Vladimir Putin “will feel some blood – smell that we are weak – he will push, push, push.”
Zelensky also admitted that he is worried that the war could be impacted by shifting political forces in Washington, which is why in desperation he also extended an invitation for Chinese President Xi Jinping to visit Kiev.
“We are ready to see him here. I want to speak with him. I had contact with him before full-scale war. But during all this year, more than one year, I didn’t have,” he said.
Zelensky also begrudgingly acknowledged “our society will feel tired” if the Ukrainian military were defeated in Artyomovsk. “Our society will push me to compromise with them.”
Although he expressed confidence in finally prevailing over Russia, Zelensky is leaving a trail of breadcrumbs to perhaps slowly normalise the idea that a compromise must be made, one that very well could be unpopular for Ukrainians, especially after all the boastful and arrogant comments made by their president about a final victory.
The war in Ukraine will continue to be a difficult grind, in which Russia will ultimately prevail in, but a realistic mindset by Washington and Kiev can avoid a lot of unnecessary bloodshed. Although there is a lot more voices urging for an acceptance of Russia’s terms, there is still little indication from the Biden administration that they will wind back their support for Kiev.
So long as this flow of Western support does not end, the war will drag out longer than necessary but will still reach the same conclusion. Many US experts are pushing for a swift conclusion to the war as they would rather focus on the deteriorating economic situation at home, especially as the next US presidential election is next year.
Although the economic situation in the US is worsening, Biden continues to blindly send billions to Ukraine, something that cannot be sustained as the election come closer and closer and criticism becomes harsher. Zelensky perhaps senses that not only his own people are tired of the war, but also Westerners, who are feeling the indirect impact of it, which is why now he has placed such great importance on Artyomovsk.