Bombed building Ukraine

Ukraine’s Implausible Theories of Victory: The Fantasy of Russian Defeat and the Case for Diplomacy

July 08, 2022
Barry R. Posen

This is a summary of an article originally published by Foreign Affairs. 

The author, Ford International Professor of Political Science at MIT, writes:

  • “Nobody can say with certainty that the Russian army cannot be hit hard enough or cleverly enough to induce its collapse or that Russia cannot be hurt enough to induce Putin to surrender. But these outcomes are highly improbable. At present, the most plausible result after months or years of fighting is a stalemate close to the current battle lines.”
  • “As the months and years go on, Russia and Ukraine will both have suffered a lot to achieve not very much more than what each has already achieved—limited and pyrrhic territorial gains for Russia, and a strong, independent, and sovereign government with control over most of its prewar territory for Ukraine. … If that is the most likely eventual outcome, then it makes little sense for Western countries to funnel even more weapons and money into a war that results in more death and destruction with every passing week.”
  • “ A negotiated solution to the war would no doubt be hard to achieve, but the outlines of a settlement are already visible. Each side would have to make painful concessions.”
    • “Ukraine would have to relinquish considerable territory and do so in writing. Russia would need to relinquish some of its battlefield gains and renounce future territorial claims. To prevent a future Russian attack, Ukraine would surely need strong assurances of U.S. and European military support, as well as continuing military aid.”
    • “Russia would need to acknowledge the legitimacy of such arrangements.”
    • “The West would need to agree to relax many of the economic sanctions it has placed on Russia.”
    • “NATO and Russia would need to launch a new set of negotiations to limit the intensity of military deployments and interactions along their respective frontiers.”
  • “Because the United States is Ukraine’s principal backer and the organizer of the West’s economic pressure campaign against Russia, it possesses the greatest leverage over the two parties.”

Read the full article at Foreign Affairs. 


Barry R. Posen

Barry R. Posen is Ford International Professor of Political Science at MIT.

The opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author. Photo by U.S. Embassy Kyiv shared under a Creative Commons license.