Our understandable focus on the genocide in Gaza must not lead to us taking our eye off the Ukraine war. The British government is as opposed to a ceasefire in one conflict as it is in the other.

The war in Ukraine appears to be at a turning point. Russian troops have been advancing in both the Donbas, and around Ukraine’s second city, Kharkiv.

Ukrainian officials acknowledge that their situation is increasingly dire. President Zelensky has cancelled all overseas trips, and military figures are making pessimistic statements regarding the position at the front.

Part of the crisis relates to a shortage of weaponry, supplies of which were held up for months because of divisions in the US Congress, something which only highlights Ukraine’s dependence on the US.

But even whilst enjoying full US and British backing, Ukraine’s offensive last year had failed to make any appreciable progress.

NATO is therefore in danger of losing the war. Victory for NATO has always meant inflicting a categorical defeat for Russia, at least pushing it back to the territory it held before February 2022, when its broad invasion began.

Its sanctions have failed in their stated aim of bringing the Russian economy to its knees. Indeed, Moscow’s military-industrial complex appears stronger than ever.

Russia is therefore able to leverage its huge advantages in population and economic capacity, including in weapons, over Ukraine to get on the front foot.

That does not mean that it is on the verge of victory, partly because it is unclear what would constitute victory, with senior Russian officials sending out mixed messages. Former President Medvedev, for example, has spoken about seizing Kyiv.

That is surely beyond Russia’s military capacities. After the setbacks of the first phase of the war, and the undoubted losses since, its army appears some way off being able to translate tactical advances into a swift strategic offensive. Its navy has also foundered in the Black Sea. Those real concerns neither justify his invasion of 2022, nor his persistence in a war that has bought so much suffering and destruction.

President Putin has, on his trip to China, reiterated that he is open to negotiate an end to the conflict. His key stated concern remains Russia’s security, which he has always argued would be threatened by Ukraine being drawn into NATO’s military orbit.

Peace negotiations are undoubtedly the need of the moment. The alternative was spelt out by French President Macron – deploying NATO ground forces to fight the Russians directly rather than by proxy as hitherto.

This would be a reckless gamble which could plunge all of Europe into war. Macron was repudiated by other NATO leaders, including Biden and Scholz, but he has not backed down from his plan.

If it feels it is losing there is a real danger of NATO embarking on some form of escalation. At present there is merely talk of backing Ukraine to relaunch a fresh offensive next year.

But Ukraine may not get that far if Russia’s advances continue, and their position will likely be worse after the US elections. A restored President Trump has said he would try to end the conflict immediately by pushing Ukraine into negotiations, and even a re-elected Biden would find it hard to get further military assistance packages through Congress.

The anti-war movement’s understandable focus on the genocide in Gaza must not lead to us taking our eye off the Ukraine war. The British government is as opposed to a ceasefire in one conflict as it is in the other.

In both cases, Sunak, with the full support of Starmer, is pushing for an aggressive policy.

We must continue to push for a ceasefire and peace talks focussed on security for all and a democratic solution to the issue of contested territories, and an end to the British government’s bellicose policy of endless conflict.

20 May 2024 by Andrew Murray

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