As long as Putin is in charge, Ukraine will have a significant security threat to its sovereignty.
Interview with Christopher Fettweis, an American political scientist and Professor of Political Science at Tulane University. He is known for his expertise on American foreign relations.
What is your view on the latest developments in Ukraine? What do you think Russia wants to achieve in Ukraine?
Russia wants to conquer eastern Ukrainian provinces and declare them part of Russia. Russians seem to contemplate a more powerful attack as they have not mobilized too many troops at home yet. However, they appear to be running very low on precision munitions.
What risks do you see for Ukraine right now, and what can Ukraine do to avert them?
Ukraine's leadership got a challenging position as they must decide how important it is to get those lost provinces back and how many of their citizens are worth sacrificing. Such a situation may or may not work anyway. Russians might not be willing to leave Donbas and Crimea after all. I do not envy Zelensky as he will have to decide if it is worth trying to stop the war and killing. Also, it is not just his choice. It is Putin's choice too.
It seems like a remote perspective, as Ukraine has lost around 20 percent of its territory, and Russia doesn't want to stop.
There are conversations in the USA about what we should be pressuring Ukrainians to do, but all those conversations overlook the fact that Russia has to decide to stop it as it started it. The risk for Ukraine is that Russia will not stop. They may have decided to carry on a low level of fighting for a long time, which can drag on for a long time and hurt the Ukrainian economy, society, and country itself. And maybe that's what Putin wants to do to keep on a perpetual conflict to bleed Ukraine might.
So you think there is no chance for peace talks?
Logic would tell you he would come to the negotiation table at some point. But he might have calculated he doesn't care how many Russians have died. His economy is not as hampered as it should be, and it is not hurting him politically yet. He can decide to keep it going for a while. It is not like Ukrainians can make him come to the peace table. They couldn't prevent him from invading their country. He makes an early argument that he will be remembered as the worst leader of the 21st century.
Also, what depresses me most is not so much Putin but Russian society. What is wrong with it if they can believe Ukraine is an existential threat to Russia and support Russian actions in Ukraine? Once they come to their senses, we can see what happens with Russian support of the war.
Do you think they want to regain the superpower status?
Yes, they want to be seen as a great power again. The West had something to do with it. For instance, NATO expansion and IBM Treaty antagonized Russians. It could be one of Vladimir's goals to carve out space for Russia to play a more active role in the international scene.
Can the West help Ukraine more?
I am glad to see the EU and US have sent arms to Ukraine and helped, at least for now, to battle Russia into a stalemate. And it is not much more we could do. One of the critical rules of international politics is that things can always get worse. If the US were to get too heavily involved, things could get worse fast, and no one would suffer more than the Ukrainian people if this war got bigger. It has been good that our main goal has been to avoid direct conflict with Russia because that could get bad fast.
What awaits Ukraine in the medium-term perspective?
It depends on how long Russians want to keep going. It seems it will be difficult for Russians to advance much further and hard for Ukrainians to kick them out. And it is a recipe for stalemate. And it depends on how much stomach people have in Russia. If they want to continue to press, the West must push back. Also, I do not think Ukraine will lose as it was perceived in the first two weeks of the war, but it doesn't mean the Russians will stop. Or they can leave and come back as happened in Chechnya. As long as Putin is in charge, Ukraine will have a significant security threat to its sovereignty.