A peaceful and lasting solution to the Russian invasion of Ukraine means keeping the best interests of the Ukrainian people front of mind, according to John Erath, a former member of the U.S. National Security Council, who now works as senior policy director for the nonprofit Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation. He spoke at a breakfast meeting sponsored by the ABA Standing Committee on Law and National Security.
“Not only is the conflict not going to end in the next few weeks, but ending it too soon might do more harm than good,” Erath said.
A quick resolution would mean a cease-fire or “freezing” of the conflict, similar to what happened following the 2014 annexation of Crimea by Russia. This emboldened Russian president Vladimir Putin, and likely played a role in his decision to launch the February invasion of Ukraine, Erath said. Putin’s goal is to control more slices of Ukraine and install a compliant Ukrainian government that would avoid European integration, he added.
Instead, allies of Ukraine must listen to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian people about how they want the conflict to end. “It’s got to be their choice,” he said. “And we need to back them up, for however long they decide to fight.” A shorter conflict means inflicting maximum damage on the Russian army, leading to a peace deal. A longer conflict would be a huge gamble for Ukraine, Erath said. “They could decide, ‘we’re going to fight this out, we’ve never had a better chance to rid our territory of Russian occupation.’”
Recently, Moscow has promised “unimaginable consequences” for any country that comes to the aid of Ukraine. This veiled threat is being used by Russia as a tool of statecraft, which has never been done before, Erath said, and incentivizes countries such as Iran or North Korea to use their nuclear weapons to threaten other nations to get what they want.
Erath said he is disturbed that Russia has chosen to attribute their military failures to the assistance coming into Ukraine. “I want to be very clear, the reason Russia is failing and Ukraine is doing so well is 90% due to the will of the Ukrainian people to resist. That is the key factor.“
- Just Security: “In Ukraine, There are No Quick Fixes” by John Erath
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