With the Ukraine conflict reaching stalemate, with neither the Ukrainians nor the Russians seemingly capable of achieving a significant breakthrough, it is almost inevitable that Western policymakers should start thinking about ways to end the bloodshed.
For all the optimism that surrounded Ukraine’s long-planned summer counteroffensive to liberate areas of the country captured by their Russian adversaries, Ukrainian forces have failed to achieve the decisive breakthrough they sought.
Despite launching a series of well-coordinated attacks to liberate territory in both the east and the south of the country, the highly effective defensive positions established by the Russians, known as the Surovikin line after the Russian general who devised them, the Ukrainians have failed to make the type of decisive breakthroughs they achieved last year, when they recaptured the city of Kharkiv in the northeast and Kherson in the south.
The only tangible gains the Ukrainians have achieved so far this year is to challenge Russia’s control over Crimea, home to the Russian Navy’s Black Sea fleet. A series of daring raids and missile strikes against Russian naval targets in Crimea, including an attack on November 4 which inflicted severe damage on a brand new Russian warship, an Askold Project 22800 Karakurt-class corvette which was docked in a Kerch shipyard in occupied Crimea.
But while Ukraine’s clever targeting of Russia’s naval bases in Crimea has severely restricted its navy’s ability to operate in the Black Sea, elsewhere Ukrainian forces have made minimal progress, prompting General Valery Zaluzhny, Ukraine’s commander-in-chief, to acknowledge in an interview earlier this month that the conflict had now reached stalemate.