There is a joke going around Ukraine that the Russian-speaking population went to bed on Wednesday, February 23, 2022, saying “good night” in Russian, and on Thursday the 24th they woke up saying “good morning” in Ukrainian. By noon on the 24th I was taking part in a protest march around the city of New York shouting, “Stop the war, save Ukraine, save the world!” Today I say only “To victory!” like all the people in Ukraine, especially its soldiers. How times have changed!
The end of the war on the basis of an agreement as proposed once by the West and more recently by Moscow is not a solution to the problem of Russian imperialism and the need to protect the people and territory of Ukraine. Today we end the war; tomorrow will be the beginning of a new one. If someone thinks that this is not so, let him read the history of Russia.
The first anniversary of this merciless and completely unjustified war— a war that is marked by military aggression as well as horrific war crimes, crimes against humanity, and a clear intent of genocide is approaching. These crimes are being investigated by the International Criminal Court, although you would have to be blind not to be able to reach that conclusion yourself based on currently available evidence. At this time, twenty percent of the territory of Ukraine is under occupation. The country has suffered significant human casualties, and its territory and infrastructure have been severely damaged.
Meanwhile, the armed forces of Ukraine have not only repelled the strongest attacks of the enemy but also, in some instances, launched successful counterattacks. The West has not just promised but delivered high-quality weapons to Ukraine, albeit mainly defensive ones, and given assurances and then delivered more sophisticated ones.
We need total victory. Russia’s unconditional surrender, that is, the release of the entire territory from the occupier and a return to the borders of 2013, is imperative. But that is not enough. The end of the war by returning to the state of 2013 means that Russia could mount a similar war after only a few months, having had sufficient time to regroup. Moscow’s signature on a document is not worth the paper on which it is written. Putin and Kirill’s “Orthodox Christian” appeals for a Christmas ceasefire proved this most recently.
Unconditional surrender is, without the slightest doubt, merely the first step. The second step is the reconstruction, through funding by the RF, of destroyed Ukrainian territory and infrastructure. The third is the expulsion of the RF from the United Nations and, of course, its Security Council. The RF is not a member of the UN; the USSR was. These are two very different entities, as one was dissolved before the other was formed. The fourth is the dismemberment of the RF into the constituent nations located therein, according to the free will of these peoples. Call it referenda. The fifth is the full demilitarization of Russia of both its nuclear and conventional weapons and the removal of the nuclear arsenal, under the supervision of the UN, to Europe’s nuclear states, the United Kingdom and France.
The sequence of these steps can be changed but not the first one, a step that is a sine qua non and can be realized either by Ukraine’s complete victory on the battlefield or the voluntary withdrawal of all Russian armed forces to the territory of the RF. The longer this takes the more compensation will be due from Russia.
These assumptions are not delusionary but a common-sense conclusion based on today’s realities. The RF is a pariah state, considered an outcast in the international community. It is under heavy sanctions, and it is losing on the battlefield. Even China, which has different trade interests, has no desire to subscribe to Russian aggression. Only North Korea, Iran, and Assad’s Syria remain allies, and they themselves are pariah states. Former Soviet states are irrelevant because many operate in fear.
These points, with the exception of the dismemberment and demilitarization of the Russian Federation, are congruent with the points laid out by President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine. Whatever is missing from President Zelensky’s peace plan is simply not within his purview. Yet he believes in a common-sense world community and understands the opportunity for those who are currently enslaved by the RF to gain their freedom and for the international community to rid itself of the anachronism of empire in the 21st century whereby one nation enslaves and oppresses another before the eyes of the whole world.
It is time to stop Russia’s comical and harmful discourse on ending the war, because it only benefits the Kremlin. It is time for serious proposals to foster victory for Ukraine by strengthening its defensive combat capabilities, providing help to rebuild the country, establishing an environment of freedom from fear of its neighbor, and accommodating the captive nations of the RF. These nations have to rise up by themselves and express their will—but with our help. All peoples have the right to self-determination, and every individual on the planet is entitled to all human rights. This is what the end of the war has to mean. Anything less is unacceptable.
Jan 9, 2023 Askold Lozynskyj