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The world needs a new Churchill – What kind of victory should end the Russian war against Ukraine?

Slowing down our victory is the escalation of the war. The new year, 2023, has begun. What it will be like, is currently discussed by all the world’s leading politicians and experts, without exception, writes Yuriy Kostenko.

For Ukrainians, the coming year is the year of their victory over the Russian aggressor and the liberation of all occupied territories. For world leaders, 2023 will be a defining test of their ability to counter large-scale challenges and make forward-looking decisions.

The key topic of current political discussions is the question of what Ukraine’s victory could be like and what the global consequences of Russia’s defeat would be.

Historical analogies are very well visible in this perspective. Such an example is the end of the Second World War. Then, after the joy of victory, leading politicians categorically refused to admit that Hitler was replaced by Stalin, yesterday’s ally, but today’s fierce enemy.


In this context, the reaction of the then political elite to Winston Churchill’s speech in Fulton (USA) in 1946 was extremely eloquent. Among the European leaders, only Churchill spoke categorically against the Munich Agreement with Hitler in 1938 and called on the democratic world to jointly oppose the spread of Nazism. In Fulton, Churchill, the initiator of the anti-Hitler coalition, called Soviet totalitarianism more dangerous than fascism and called for the creation of the Transatlantic Alliance (the future NATO) to oppose communism.

But then, despite Churchill’s authority, his appeals were misheard, and even more so, they were furiously criticized. And not only in Moscow. There was such an uproar in the USA that the President Harry Truman, who invited Churchill to Fulton, had to hold a press conference and distance himself from Churchill’s proposals. And almost the entire British political community called Churchill’s speech “unfavourable to the idea of peace” and demanded a public refutation of it.

However, it took only a few years for communism to spread in Europe and the USSR to show itself an “empire of evil”. In 1946, leading politicians lacked the courage to recognize the scale of the new threats. And people, after six years of suffering from the world war, rather sought to immerse themselves in the benefits of peaceful coexistence with communism than to engage in a struggle against it.


But Churchill turned out to be more far-sighted. And already on April 4, 1949 in Washington, 30 states of North America and Europe created the North Atlantic Alliance (NATO) to oppose Soviet totalitarianism.

On December 25, 1991, the “empire of evil”, the USSR legally ceased to exist. And again, as after the defeat of fascism, in the joy of the victory of the USSR, the democratic world did not see new security problems. History repeated itself.

As a direct participant of many international negotiations of that stormy time and the author of the book “Ukraine’s Nuclear Disarmament: A History”, I want to dwell in more detail on how exactly this process took place and what decisions paved the way for the current Russian war against Ukraine.

After the collapse of the USSR, 16 independent states were formed and announced their intention to build democracies. But the West — apart from the three Baltic countries — did not see these aspirations and did not support them. Instead, all political attention was focused on building relations with the Russia of the “democrat” Yeltsin. Thus, in violation of international law and at the request of President Yeltsin, the Russian Federation took seats instead of the USSR in the most important international organizations designed to preserve world peace: the UN Security Council, the governing bodies of the IAEA, the OSCE, and many others. And already in January 1994, at the Brussels NATO summit, Yeltsin, who participated in it as a special guest, agreed with US President Clinton on a compromise in the sphere of influences on European security. Part of the countries of the former “Warsaw Pact” had to withdraw to the sphere of influence of NATO (primarily Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary), while other post-Soviet countries remained under the “protectorate” of the Kremlin. This compromise was realized in the special program of cooperation between NATO and Russia, “Partnership for Peace”.

But this was not the only way the West singled out and strengthened the “democrat” Yeltsin. The biggest strategic mistake of that time was the US position on nuclear disarmament. After the collapse of the USSR, according to the norms of international law, not only independent, but also nuclear states were formed. The nuclear arsenals of the Soviet empire became the property of Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Belarus and the Russian Federation.

The national security strategy, which was built by the Ukrainian parliament in the early 1990s, decided upon the gradual destruction of nuclear warheads in the presence of broad Western support, and firstly from the United States, and international security guarantees. Instead, with Russia’s submission (Yeltsin’s next demand), the US began pressuring Ukraine to hand over the entire nuclear heritage to the Russian Federation without international security guarantees. At that time, the USA underestimated that after the collapse of the USSR, a totalitarian regime was preserved in Russia, which in the 21st century took on even more dangerous forms for the democratic world than its Soviet predecessor.

That is why, in the early 90s, all our proposals to the USA to bet on Ukraine, which with the support of the West could quickly become both democratic and European and effectively influence the entire post-Soviet space, including the Russian Federation, were rejected by the thesis of American strategists: “Russia is no longer the same” and “With your nuclear weapons, you are not giving humanity a chance to raise the level of world security.” Almost the same as was hurled at Churchill after his prophetic speech at Fulton.

Under the joint pressure of the West and Russia, by 1996, Ukraine had completely transferred the world’s third most powerful nuclear potential into the hands of the “democrat” Yeltsin.

To the question whether that (Ukrainian self-sacrifice) made the world better and safer, time gave the answer now.

First, Putin’s neo-imperialism appeared on the political arena, which, according to NATO, has become the greatest threat to the world in the 21st century.

As for the reduction of nuclear threats, according to the review of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), one of the most authoritative analytical centres in the world, in 2014 (at the beginning of Russian military aggression against Ukraine), Russia and the United States, despite the agreement on the reduction of nuclear arsenals, possessed more than 90% of all nuclear weapons in the world. This is enough to destroy all of humanity, and more than once.

Based on such a historical analysis, it is worth evaluating the current political strategies and discussions about how the war in Ukraine should end.

Today, most often politicians and experts, especially those who inhibit the transfer of modern weapons necessary for the victory of Ukraine, justify their position by fearing the escalation of the war and its development into a nuclear war.

Mutually destruction. What is the probability?

Returning to historical parallels, it is safe to say that today Putin is in a similar situation as Hitler was in 1938 before the signing of the Munich Agreement. Therefore, whether the current war will go beyond the territory of Ukraine depends on the determination of the West to oppose the expansion of rashism. The West really needs to face the truth. Today, only Ukraine can stop Putin and his desire to drag the democratic world into a global war. And only Ukrainian soldiers can destroy all the sick dreams of the dictator already this year. And vice versa. Slowing down our victory is the escalation of the war.

In my opinion, nuclear war is an extremely unlikely scenario. Here are the arguments. According to the article “The growth of US nuclear superiority” published in Foreign Affairs magazine on May 2, 2006, “Russia has 39% fewer long-range bombers, 58% fewer intercontinental ballistic missiles and 80% fewer submarines with strategic nuclear missiles, than was the case in the USSR in its last years.”

Today’s state of the Russian nuclear potential is even more dramatic. Corruption and lack of funds (Russia’s military spending is more than 10 times less than the US) has led to that more than 80% of Russia’s strategic mine-based missiles have reached the end of their warranty period, and plans to replace them are constantly derailed. In particular, the Ukrainian “Pivdenmash” finally stopped the supply and maintenance of 46 of the most modern and powerful strategic carriers (“Satan”), each with ten warheads. And there is nothing to patch this hole in the nuclear potential of the Russian Federation.

In general, according to Western experts, only 150 intercontinental ballistic missiles could remain in Russia by 2015. There were 1,300 of them in the USSR in 1990. Therefore, the ability of the United States to launch a first gratuitous nuclear strike on Russian territory is increasing. Confirmation of this conclusion of experts is provided in the article “Has the end of mutual assured destruction, or the nuclear aspect of the US advantage”, published in the journal International security in the spring of 2006, where military analysts, through computer simulations, established that the US already has a sufficiently probable possibility of the destruction of all Russian strategic bomber bases, all nuclear submarines and all strategic missile systems without the threat of receiving a retaliatory nuclear strike.

And at the end of this review. Back in 2006, Foreign Affairs magazine reported that Washington was once again seeking nuclear superiority over other countries. This is particularly evidenced by the program to improve the American nuclear arsenal, which aims to “carry out the first strike against Russia or China, which will disarm them.”

On the calendar is 2023. Time and funds in the USA were enough to eliminate the so-called “nuclear threat” of Russia. And Putin is well aware of this.

So, the so-called “nuclear” arguments of experts regarding the inhibition of the large-scale supply of modern weapons to Ukraine for our victory in 2023, as evidenced by the above arguments, do not withstand any criticism.

Another thesis that the opponents of our victory began to use is the increase in the cost of military supplies to Ukraine.

Undoubtedly, the price of modern weapons is increasing rapidly, and therefore, every day of Putin’s aggression requires more and more allocations. But firstly, although this war is so far limited only to Ukrainian territory, Putin’s military actions, according to experts, are already threatening the world economy with a global recession. Therefore, speaking about the West’s financial losses in support of Ukraine, it is first necessary to calculate the astronomical amounts of potential losses when the military conflict goes beyond the borders of Ukraine.

Secondly, war is not only losses, but also gains. In particular, the US implementation of the Lend-Lease program during World War II brought its industry out of recession and became a driver of economic growth for many decades. On the other hand, today, thanks to Ukrainian soldiers, the world has already seen what the so-called “unsurpassed” Russian weapon is. As it turned out, this is another propaganda fake. And that is why military orders for Russian weapons are falling rapidly. And this is 10-15% of world supplies. The largest customers of Russian weapons — India, Thailand, the Philippines — have already cancelled most of their defence orders from Russia. And this is just the beginning. Therefore, the less Russia sells its weapons, the more the military industry of the West receives profits. Therefore, an objective assessment of the cost of military aid to Ukraine should also take this factor into account.

And one more. Bringing any weapon to use on the battlefield, especially the newest, also requires funds. And these are considerable expenses that the Military Industry invests to create conditions as close as possible to real military operations. Today, the West has the opportunity to test its advanced military technologies in Ukraine without spending a penny. It is already known that some weapons handed over to us, which are used in Ukraine, need significant improvement. On the other hand, the most modern German air defence system Iris-T has already confirmed its effectiveness in real combat conditions.

So, based on the presented arguments, my conclusions are:

  • Putin’s so-called “special operation” in Ukraine is the final stage of the global war that the Russian dictator launched against democracy in 2008 with the partial occupation of Georgia.
  • It is time to realize that the period of peaceful coexistence and search for political compromises between democracy and dictatorship established after the Second World War is over. Without exception, all international systems that supported global peace and law and order have been destroyed by Russia’s neo-imperial policy.
  • Putin’s goal is to unify dictatorial countries and establish new geopolitical balances on the world stage. And so, in this principled battle for global changes in the world, there are no compromises, let alone diplomatic solutions. Only one person can be the winner.
  • Any delay by the West in providing everything needed to defeat Putin in Ukraine in 2023, and thus the global defeat of dictatorial regimes, risks escalation and will contribute to the achievement of the Russian regime’s geopolitical goals.

Yuriy Kostenko is a politician and leader of the Ukrainian People’s Party. From 1992 to 1998 held cabinet minister ships with portfolios governing environmental protection and nuclear safety. Kostenko was a top-level representative of Ukraine in the negotiations with the Western powers and Russia on the denuclearization of Ukraine in the 1990s. Former Minister of Natural Environment Protection of Ukraine (1995-1998). Author of Ukraine’s Nuclear Disarmament: A History (Harvard Series in Ukrainian Studies).

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