Thinking about Putin’s Off Ramp
If I recall correctly, during the Vietnam War, Senator Aiken, of Vermont, suggested that we pull out of Vietnam and say we won. There’s a lesson for Putin. As just about everyone agrees, Putin can’t afford to lose his war with Ukraine. He needs an off ramp, and it has to include his “winning the war.” This suggests to me a possible settlement, which provides for (i) an immediate and permanent cease-fire; (ii) an immediate withdrawal of all Russian forces from Ukraine; (iii) Putin keeps Crimea and portions of the two eastern provinces that were not under full Ukrainian control before Russia’s “special military action”; (iv) it’s agreed that any “Nazis” in Ukraine who were threatening Russia have been eliminated; (v) Western government sanctions are lifted; (vi) Ukraine and Russia sign a permanent non-aggression pact; (vii) Ukraine membership in NATO is banned, but it is understood that NATO will fully protect Ukraine, as if Ukraine were a member, in the event it is attacked again.
Putin can claim that Russia won the war: It achieved its objective in protecting Russian interests in Ukraine and in teaching Ukraine a lesson, thereby ensuring that Ukraine will never threaten Russia’s sovereignty again.
Not part of the settlement, but not foreclosed by it, and with or without support of Russia, Western nations must provide massive relief and rehabilitation for Ukraine, including its military forces, Putin remains an international pariah, subject to war crimes prosecution for life, and the truth seeps into the consciousness of most Russians that that Putin’s aggression was a monstrous contemptible act that weakened and disgraced Russia, and that his war was not a win for a Russia, but a shameful loss.