Ukraine’s Best Option is for Germany or France to Offer a Five Year Pause in Ukraine’s NATO Bid

The best move for Ukraine to make would be for Germany or France to offer Russia a five year suspension in Ukraine’s NATO membership application in order to give more time for diplomacy.

Although the Ukrainian Government could almost certainly not make this offer itself because it would be seen as weakness, either Germany or France would be doing Ukraine a favor if they offered this medium term deal to Russia.

There are a number of reasons why this would be beneficial for Ukraine.

The first reason is simply that Ukraine would lose nothing under this proposal because it is impossible for any nation to join NATO if it has an ongoing border conflict because, if it were to join, that would mean every NATO member would technically be at war with whatever nation the new member was fighting with.

By offering a five year suspension to Ukraine’s application bid Germany or France would be “conceding” a NATO ascension for Ukraine that can not happen even with just the existing border disputes in Crimea and Donbas.

The second reason is that the offer would throw off a number of Putin’s potential goals.

The Russian forces arrayed against Ukraine are not enough to fight a multi-year insurgent warfare campaign in Ukraine’s cities if Putin intended a full-scale occupation of at least half the country.

At least 500,000 Russian soldiers would be needed to occupy and hold the Eastern half of Ukraine, a number that is probably not politically sustainable among the Russian public or something Russia’s military could keep going for an indefinite period of time. It would be so large that Russia’s military would have little reserves left to handle any kind of military situation that occurred outside of Ukraine.

Hence why Russia’s deployment is less than half of what would be realistically needed.

If Putin were absolutely determined to go with a full-scale attack and annex half the country, no matter the military and economic consequences, then he wouldn’t be going “cheap” with the number of Russian forces deployed.

This leaves two main options for Russia.

One is that Putin is still trying to pressure Ukraine and the West for diplomatic concessions.

The recognition of the breakaway provinces in Ukraine might have been an attempt to divide NATO over a “grey area” of what constitutes an invasion.

And the continued military pressure on Ukraine could be an attempt to weaken its economy enough to force the Ukrainians to make concessions.

To keep up this economic pressure Putin simply needs to continue to hold the threat of war up for months, but has no need to launch a campaign.

The other option is that he intends a narrow attack, possibly seizing and holding a few more provinces. The size of the Russian force is sufficient to do that without having to worry much with insurgent warfare and would be able to throw back any Ukrainian counter-attacks.

Their existing forces could also invade quickly and target major Ukrainian military positions, but then withdraw instead of trying to hold land in the face of urban warfare insurgency.

Toppling the Government in Kiev is not realistic because a puppet regime installed by Russia would have no legitimacy in the eyes of the Ukrainian public or in the diplomatic arena.

In either case, offering a five year suspension would be useful regardless of which of the two possibilities Putin is most likely aiming for.

If Putin intends to go with a narrow attack then this would undercut his justification for launching a war by giving some leeway on a key demand of his.

At a minimum it would make it harder to justify to the public the economic and military costs of an attack would impose on Russia if there is officially no immediate chance of Ukraine entering NATO.

This proposal would also make it more difficult for Russia to justify their actions to China because Beijing has recently signaled that, while they agree with Putin that Ukraine should not join NATO, they also want to see this demand met with diplomatic agreements, not warfare.

The reason China announced this is probably because they do not want to be seen cheering a land invasion since their Asian neighbors would interpret Chinese support for an invasion to mean China is considering territorial expansion in their own neighborhood.

If Ukrainian NATO membership is put on hold it would serve to drive a further wedge between Russia and China on Ukraine because China could see some progress in what they see as a legitimate Russian request that Ukraine not join the Alliance and this concession would have been made without war.

If Putin still wanted to attack after this offer is made it would be even harder for Russia to get support from China, which still has never recognized Crimea as part of Russia.

And if Putin is actually trying to use the threat of war as diplomatic leverage then he could sell this proposal as a “win” for Russia on a major goal that will then open the way for deescalation.

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