U.S. Army M1A1 Abrams tank fires during NATO enhanced Forward Presence battle group military exercise Crystal Arrow 2021 in Adazi, Latvia, March 26, 2021 (via reuters.com)
Negotiating an End to the Ukraine War

More than forty years ago, I wrote a book titled Negotiating Peace that analyzed the diplomatic and military dynamics of bringing a war to an end. It drew material from the endings of wars through nearly two centuries, as well as a closer examination of a few major cases that had extended periods of simultaneous combat and negotiations. It also drew on theoretical work, chiefly by economists, about bargaining. Parts of the book got rather technical—it included differential equations—but it also had a more digestible prescriptive side. An appendix titled “Lessons for the Statesman at War” included forty-four pieces of advice for how best to employ diplomatic and military instruments to achieve a peace that will maximize the interests of one’s own nation.

Much of this advice is at least potentially applicable to the current war in Ukraine—from the standpoint not only of decisionmakers in Kyiv and Moscow but also of policymakers in Washington, in terms of what they should expect or hope to promote. The actual applicability of some of my apothegms will depend on events yet to unfold, but the following outlines a few of the major lessons.

The ending of the war in Ukraine will almost certainly entail some form of bargaining between Ukraine and Russia, and will leave a situation that represents a compromise between the interests of the two nations. It is rare in interstate conflicts for one belligerent to eradicate the other so that it has no need for any bargaining or compromise. It is not so rare in intrastate warfare, in which an insurgency might eliminate and replace an incumbent regime or the regime might crush the insurgency solely through military means (such as Sri Lanka’s final eradication of the Tamil Tiger insurgency in 2009).

But the eradication of a nation-state is a different matter and a less feasible outcome. Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein managed to do that temporarily when he used armed force to swallow Kuwait in 1990, but a U.S.-led intervention reversed that outcome the following year. The objective of Russian president Vladimir Putin in launching the current war in February 2022 may have been to eliminate Ukraine as an independent country, either through formal incorporation into Russia or by installing a puppet regime in Kyiv. It now is clear that Russian military force is insufficient to achieve any such outcome. And obviously, Ukraine cannot eliminate the Russian state.

Read the full piece in The National Interest.

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