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As the first month of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine draws near to an end, so many questions remain as to how the conflict will continue, and how it could be brought to an end.
It seems certain that Vladimir Putin didn’t expect to meet with the kind of resistance that he has been met with by the Ukrainian military and civilians, but Russia retains a significant advantage in terms of numbers and equipment.
As for Ukraine, survival as a sovereign state seems to be the only remaining thing that matters, as they can’t hope to compete forever against the Russian war machine.
Still, what would have to happen before Ukraine could declare the war as a victory?
There are several ways in which the smaller forces commanded by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his generals might consider their defence of the country as a success, but – as we’ve alluded to – a total victory over Russia’s military might seems nigh on impossible.
At the latest talks, it was reported that Ukraine rejected Russia’s demand that they surrender the city of Mariupol, although Zelenskyy has now said that he is ‘ready for negotiations’ with his Russian counterpart Putin.
He added: "We have to use any format, any chance in order to have a possibility of negotiating,"
With millions displaced by the conflict, and thousands thought to have already been killed, a solution needs to be sought quickly. Keeping control of the capital city, Kyiv, could be key to winning the war, according to Katie Laatikainen, a political science professor at Adelphi University in New York.
She told The Independent that keeping Kyiv ‘would be presented as something of a victory, because the general consensus before the war was that the Russian campaign would be quick’.
Professor Peter Rutland, who teaches Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, added: "Control over Kyiv is an important symbol for both sides.” That doesn’t mean surrendering other territory, though.
Rutland told Newsweek: "Whether the capital falls or not, the problem for Zelenskyy remains that large parts of Ukraine will be under Russian occupation,”
Zelenskyy, he said, will ‘have to negotiate some sort of deal with them [Russia] to get them to withdraw from the territory that they have occupied.’
Another potential pathway to peace could be if Ukraine agrees not to join Nato.
Whilst Zelenskyy has pretty much admitted that Ukraine won’t be joining the treaty, it could give Putin a reason to relent if he commits not to join.
However, Putin is also likely to want the autonomous republics of Donetsk and Luhansk to remain, and they are considered by the international community as Ukraine’s sovereign territory.
It would be a climb-down, that’s for sure.
Whilst it might seem unlikely, a third option would be the removal of Putin from his position at the head of Russia’s government and forces.
Russia is increasingly struggling as a result of sanctions, and – if his popularity wanes amongst his own people – he could be removed from office. According to Professor Sir Lawrence Freedman of King’s College London, it is ‘now as likely that there will be regime change in Moscow as in Kyiv’.
He said: "Putin, who has isolated himself, in all senses of the word, risks now losing that aura of ruthless power that he has carefully cultivated.”
Hopefully a solution to the conflict can be found before too many more people are displaced or killed.
At the end of a war, there are usually many more losers than winners, regardless of who claims the victory.