Those of you who followed the link on my essay of yesterday and watched the 10 minute interview with Kiev mayor Vitali Klitschko on TRT World’s “Newsmakers” program will surely agree that this high visibility Ukrainian politician is leading the remaining residents of the country’s capital and the broader population of Ukraine straight to disaster in the name of patriotic self-defense.
I will not waste time here on Klitschko’s vicious lies about the Russian invaders, about their intentions, their deeds and so forth. In my own time at the microphone in the show, I argued that Klitschko’s rejection of any imposed return to the Soviet empire under Russian diktat is total nonsense. Russia has had enough of empire and control of Ukraine would only be an interminable drag on the Russian economy and political focus. The Russian motivation is just to rid Ukraine of NATO formations presently embedded, of NATO membership still projected by the Alliance, and of the neo-Nazi radicals who since 2014 have been the force behind the throne in the Kiev regime.
My point here is to highlight the consequences of the determination of Klitschko and others in the Ukrainian government not to seek any compromises to end the fighting and to save what is left of their country at this point, before the Russians pursue their demolition work to its logical conclusion. If Kiev fails to raise the white flag, fails to negotiate a peace in good faith, the war will end with the civil and military infrastructure of Ukraine totally shattered, with the permanent mass emigration of millions, including the most able-bodied segments of the population, and with a decade or more of destitution for those unfortunate enough to remain.
Last night I received a note from one reader of my essays, who said that the war will not end with a treaty on Russia’s terms. Instead, aided and abetted by the United States and Europe, the Kiev leadership will launch an insurgency against the ‘occupiers’ and this will grow and become as painful and costly for Russia as anything the United States experienced in Afghanistan.
I do not deny that a Ukrainian insurgency is a plausible next phase to the war, especially given the irrational position on ‘compromises’ that we see in Klitschko’s interview. However, there are obvious ways for the Kremlin to respond so as to contain the risks to themselves. To begin with, they can realize the threat Putin issued before the war began: to deprive Ukraine of its statehood. Not entirely, but to deprive them of the state in the configuration that has existed since 1991. This means to partition Ukraine, to hive off the territories west of Kiev and the Dnieper River, forming a land-locked rump state with its capital logically in Lviv, near the Polish frontier.
To use the language of the banking community, Russia would thereby create a ‘bad bank,’ containing the poisonous assets of Ukrainian radicalism, very few industrial or other major economic assets, and removed to a distance no longer threatening to Russia. The ‘good bank’ would be central Ukraine, the territories east of the Dniepr River, which have a considerably larger population of Russian speakers, who should respond to Russia’s call to defend their own interests in the public life of the country and come out from the bullying they were subjected to by the nationalists over the past 8 years. This central Ukraine would receive back the Black Sea coast now occupied by the Russians and would enjoy the agricultural and other major economic assets that always defined Ukrainian prosperity. Presumably the Donbas republics would remain independent as the third part of a divided Ukraine. However, if central Ukraine is properly reconstituted with all due protection for minorities and with properly working federalism, there is no reason to exclude the possibility of the Donbas returning to the fold in the Ukraine east of the Dniepr. Their inclusion would greatly assist the balancing of language communities in the entire recombined state.
The aforementioned denouement is, of course, only one of many that may be floated in the weeks ahead as the Russians close their stranglehold on Ukraine’s main cities and bring closer the moment of truth, when the Ukrainian leadership has to decide whether or not to sue for peace on the victor’s terms.
©Gilbert Doctorow, 2022