Western governments want to deny Russia any territorial gains from its invasion of Ukraine, officials have said in the clearest indication yet of the extent of the defeat they intend to inflict on Moscow.
Eastern officials said the current war must end with Russian forces withdrawing “at least” to the positions they held when the invasion began in February. Such an outcome could leave Vladimir Putin in control of Crimea and part of the Donbass, but deny him his publicly stated war aim of “liberating” the Donetsk and Luhansk regions and establishing a land bridge to Crimea.
“Our strategic goal is to ensure that Putin fails in Ukraine,” a Western official said.
When asked what that would mean on the ground, the official said: “We would like to see Russian forces at least withdraw to positions they occupied in February this year and no change in Ukraine’s borders without their consent.” government and its people. ”
The official declined to describe in detail how this would be achieved but warned that the war would be a “long road”.
It came as Putin had again hinted that he would use nuclear weapons if the West intervened against his forces in Ukraine.
“If someone sets out to intervene in current events from the outside and creates threats of a strategic nature that are unacceptable to us, they should know that our reaction will be … lightning fast,” the Russian leader said in a speech to his parliament.
“We have all the tools that no one else can boast of. We will not brag about it: we will use it when necessary. And I want everyone to know that,” Putin said, referring to Russia’s nuclear arsenal.
Putin promised his invasion would “accomplish all the tasks” it had set itself “unconditionally.”
At the beginning of the war, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy ruled out negotiating sovereignty or territory of Ukraine in exchange for peace.
Western leaders initially avoided ruling out such compromises, instead clinging to a vague mantra that the Russian invasion must be “doomed to fail.”
That rhetoric has shifted in recent days to less ambiguous support for a “Ukrainian victory”.
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said Tuesday the US and its allies would move “heaven and earth” to help Ukraine win.
Mr Austin also said after meeting Mr Zelenskyy in Kyiv last week that the United States wanted Russia “to be weakened to the point where it can no longer do the things it did when it invaded Ukraine”.
It is not clear whether Western governments believe that such a Russian withdrawal can be forced by purely military means on the battlefield. The US, UK and other Western governments have begun shipping tanks, artillery and other heavy weapons to Ukraine to help repel a major Russian offensive now unfolding in the east of the country.
However, Russia retains the advantage in manpower and weapons, and the weapons promised so far are unlikely to be sufficient for a strategic counteroffensive on the scale needed to reverse the invasion.
The declared goal also leaves some gaps between the West and Kyiv.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, after meeting Mr Zelenskyi earlier this month, said that the Ukrainian president’s preference to “drive out Russian forces from their existing positions in Donetsk and Luhansk” goes beyond simply returning to pre-invasion lines would.
“It’s quite a maximalist position. In Crimea they are not so maximalist,” he said at the time.
Moscow is aiming to complete the encirclement of Ukrainian forces in Donbass in the next “four to six weeks,” with the goal of maximizing its negotiating position in peace talks, the Western official said.
But his advance was hampered by poor logistics, bad weather and stubborn Ukrainian resistance, including swift counterattacks and ambushes by special forces on supply convoys.
“All of this buys time for Ukrainians to build up their capabilities, mobilize volunteers and secure more military equipment,” he said. (© Telegraph Media Group Ltd. 2022)
https://www.independent.ie/world-news/europe/western-officials-say-moscow-must-now-be-denied-any-territorial-gain-41595069.html Western officials say Moscow ‘must now be denied any territorial gain’