The World Today for November 15, 2022


A Game of Chicken


As Russian forces retreated from Kherson and Ukrainian forces poured into the strategic southern Ukrainian city, one could be forgiven for wondering if the world was seeing the beginning of the end of the war. Six weeks ago, noted National Public Radio, Russian President Vladimir Putin had illegally annexed the region and others into the Russian Federation just as he did with the Crimean Peninsula in 2014. If one believed the Russian president’s propaganda about Kherson, Ukraine had just invaded Mother Russia herself.

The change of fortunes on the battlefield has come as Russian and Ukrainian leaders have hinted they are willing to sit down and talk – even as each side says the other has been stalling, Al Jazeera reported. Ukraine is on a roll and sees little reason to stop defeating the Russian military. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said he won’t join peace talks until Putin is removed from power. The Russians, meanwhile, are happy to wait until the cold winter arrives and energy prices continue to increase, providing more reasons for the international coalition backing Ukraine to split apart, perhaps forcing the Ukrainians to the bargaining table.

The US, for example, has asked Zelenskyy to tone down his rhetoric and signal a willingness to speak to the Russians, the Washington Post wrote. Unnamed American officials said that European leaders were beginning to feel “Ukraine fatigue.” Even under that pressure, however, Zelenskyy will likely not budge. Ukrainians have suffered too much: “Russia’s devastating military campaign … has destroyed civilian areas and resulted in massacres, rape and looting,” the New York Times explained. They are not inclined to stop or go soft on the Russians.

Zelenskyy repeatedly calls for a “just peace”, which would include: “Respect for the UN charter, respect for our territorial integrity, respect for our people, and due responsibility for terror – that is, punishment for all those who are guilty and full compensation by Russia for the damage caused to us,” according to the Kyiv Independent.

The prospect of a nuclear strike on Ukraine, NATO members in Eastern Europe or anywhere else is giving many analysts pause, however. As the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace noted, Putin is treating the war like a game of chicken. The more he loses territory or suffers defeats that could result in his loss of power, the more he is forced to escalate the Russian response to Ukrainian attacks to the most unthinkable, nuclear levels.

Zelenskyy is in a tricky position now: He has to keep Ukraine and many other countries from losing everything just as they are on the threshold of victory.

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