Ukraine: Addition by Subtraction Part II
Last month, we pleaded with Volodymyr Zelensky to accept terms of surrender that included ceding the Donetsk Oblast, the Luhansk Oblast, and Crimea, but allowed Ukraine to independently exist.
Because we only hear rumors of what's really on the table for peace, let's review what Ukraine is up against: Russia is the cat and Ukraine is the mouse. The mouse has no path to victory. The only path to victory for the mouse is survival. If the mouse has to gnaw off its own tail to survive the clutches of the cat, that's what the mouse has to do.
Now don't get me wrong, Zelensky is correct, Ukraine has a right to exist and shouldn't be partitioned off. And I am rooting hard for Ukraine, but I cannot say this enough, Ukraine has NO PATH TO VICTORY.
Over a month since the invasion, no other country has gone beyond accepting refugees or sending weapons. Other countries have done just enough to allow Ukraine to defend itself. Is Zelensky outperforming expectations? Oh, hell yeah, but even Ukrainian victories come at a steep cost. As the Russians retreat from the Kyiv Oblast, cities like Irpin are found to be smoldering rubble.
That should be unacceptable to Zelensky.
There are rumors that this is Putin's offer on the table right now:
Ukraine cedes Crimea.
Ukraine recognizes the independent states of Donetsk and Luhansk.
Ukraine signs a pledge of neutrality.
If you're Ukraine, you have to take that deal. You say it's a shitty deal? It is. But it's the best deal you're going to get. You can fight for 10 more years, Ukraine's army isn't going to push Russia back into the Motherland, Russia is simply regrouping in the South and East.
Right now Putin is sending messages. You look at the streets of Bucha, that's not the work of an army in hasty retreat, that's the work of an army that is sending messages. The Russian Army is trying to demoralize and terrorize the Ukrainians. Ukraine knows there is no army riding in to reinforce their losses on the battlefield.
The regions in Ukraine still may or may not be Putin's endgame. Quietly, in Georgia, South Ossetia has moved closer to joining Russia, just 3 days ago the South Ossetia breakaway government announced plans on a vote to join Russia. Georgia's other breakaway region, Abkhazia, announced they have no such plans, they want to be recognized as an independent republic.
And, to top it off, there's a small blurb in Zero Hedge today: Russian Ruble Relaunched, Linked to Gold and Commondities. What if Putin attacked Ukraine, not to take over Ukraine, but to make Western Companies WANT to abandon Russia. What if every time Putin walked by a McDonald's, his blood pressure went up? Symbolically, kicking McDonald's out of Russia would make Putin very unpopular. McDonald's deserting Russia makes McDonald's unpopular. Then, once Western companies mostly leave Russia, Putin re-establishes Russia's monetary systems based on commodities that are their strengths. Commodities like natural gas and oil.
If Putin started a war to establish the Ruble as the monetary unit of record of the East....well, that kind of makes sense. By annexing energy rich regions of Crimea in Ukraine and South Ossetia in Georgia, then allowing "independence" for Donetsk, Luhansk, and Abkhazia, under the condition that they use rubles as their monetary unit, Russia is betting that new energy sources, like solar or wind, simply won't work in the next century. If the Ruble actually strengthens, Putin can strong arm the "Stans" into using the Ruble in the near future also.
Technically, Putin could pull his troops back and simply bomb Ukraine for a decade if his goal is to establish monetary dominance, not actually occupying Kyiv. Is Putin smart enough to start a war to make himself even richer in the long haul? That is next level evil.
As long as Ukraine survives, that has to be Zelensky's endgame. But is it worth losing a million Ukrainian lives, then still having to surrender parts of Ukraine, 5, 8, or 10 years down the road? That's a really hard pill to swallow. Eventually Ukrainians will turn on their leaders when war fatigue sets in. The question is, how many lives, or how many years, before that happens?
Zelensky has to concede Crimea. He cannot bet thousands (or millions) of Ukrainian lives and hope to negotiate better terms in the future with Putin's successor.
Is Putin banking on Endless War? That may not be the right question. The question should be: Where did Putin learn about endless war? Ah, ah, ah, if you're a good Libertarian, you know the answer to that.
[Sometimes that cat doesn't kill the mouse, it simply plays with it and leaves it for dead, bleeding out until another predator finishes it off.]