Ukraine’s best strategy is to offer to drop its NATO membership bid (unless Russia at some point in the future drops its objection) in order to secure a cease fire.
Once the cease fire is secure Ukraine should spend the next few years acquiring more defensive weapons from the United States, Britain and the EU.
Ukraine should especially use the ceasefire to acquire Western weapons that would close the capability gaps between the Russian and Ukrainian militaries in areas where Russia presently has the advantage such as fighter jets, artillery, cruise missiles, and anti-aircraft systems.
Since Ukraine put up such a tough defensive fight against Russian forces the Kremlin will probably be reluctant to try to interfere directly again while Ukraine conducts an arms buildup, at least for a few, crucial years.
The reason why this is Ukraine’s best move is that China’s position on the Ukraine conflict is that, while they agree with Russia that Ukraine should not join NATO, they also prefer that this be handled through negotiations.
If Ukraine offered this proposal to Russia then it would be harder for China to tolerate Russia’s offensive because it would satisfy China’s official position on Ukraine.
Additionally, this would put China in a more difficult diplomatic position because they don’t want to be seen cheering a war by their increasingly suspicious neighbors in Asia who study closely every Chinese statement on military affairs.
They also seem to be a bit uneasy about the potential economic effects a war launched by a major energy producer could have on global markets, especially the lucrative European market where China has substantial business interests.
The odds that China would suddenly make more demands is also low since Ukraine is not considered a priority to China and because their diplomats usually do not engage in the wild negotiating tactics that Russian diplomats do. The general tendency of Chinese diplomats is usually to hold onto a negotiating stance without pulling late surprises.
All of this means that if Ukraine offers a major concession that seems to satisfy China’s diplomatic stance on the conflict it would be harder for China not to press Russia for an end to hostilities.
This would place Putin in a position where it would be harder for him not to agree to a peace deal that gives him a key Chinese and Russian demand.
If he were to continue with the attack he would be pressing his attack, even after China’s demand had been met, then he would be risking a more serious break with China by not negotiating.
And if he risked a break with China, an ally Russia must have on board to weather the affects of Western sanctions, then Putin would be at significant risk of being removed from power by Russia’s military and intelligence agency elites.
Best of all, Ukraine would be sacrificing nothing because the promise of Ukrainian NATO membership is a completely empty one.
It is impossible for Ukraine to join with an ongoing border conflict and NATO leaders have refused to give a timetable for Ukraine’s entry.
So the ‘open door’ policy of NATO is a completely empty slogan that provides Ukraine with no strategic advantage at all.
But by using NATO membership as a negotiating chip Ukraine could gain the strategic advantage of time by spending a few years gaining more powerful weapons to deter Russia in the future.
These extra defensive weapons would be what would secure Ukraine’s freedom, not the empty promise of NATO membership.