Interview: Putin has not given up on erasing Ukraine ‘as a state, a concept, and a people’

Interview: Putin has not given up on erasing Ukraine ‘as a state, a concept, and a people’

Nataliya Bugayova, a nonresident fellow at the Institute for the Study of War, interviewed by RFE/RL:

RFE/RL: In a recent ISW backgrounder that you co-authored, you wrote in the very first sentence that “Russia cannot defeat Ukraine or the West — and will likely lose — if the West mobilizes its resources to resist the Kremlin.” How big is that “if,” and how big a step in that direction is the recently approved U.S. aid?

Nataliya Bugayova: Thank you for reading the piece. I think the U.S. aid package is certainly a key step in this direction. Secondly, with other countries, such as the United Kingdom, for example, announcing additional military aid, I think we also observe more Western leaders and societies awakening to the reality that Russia is a self-declared adversary and the West really has only two choices: counter the challenge from the Kremlin or surrender to it. I think all of these are good steps in that direction.

But for me, the key question remains about the scale and about the time. The aid that was just passed will likely be enough to help Ukraine stabilize the front line, but to help Ukraine regain the advantage…the West would really need to mobilize. And when I say “mobilize,” I mean surging up its military production even more so: restocking its supplies, sharing more of its existing supplies, building military capability and economic assets, and, frankly, accepting a higher threshold of risk — recognizing that this is the strategy to avoid more risk and more cost in the future.

RFE/RL: What does it take for the West to come to that clarity of vision, where [leaders] have to make a perhaps tough but necessary choice?

Bugayova: Well, I think there is an awakening already happening among Western countries and leaders. I think it will come down fundamentally to the West understanding and recognizing that Russia is a persistent challenge and it requires persistent investment in countering that challenge and that the cost of this persistent effort is still minor compared to the catastrophic consequences of having Russia prevail in Ukraine.

So I think it fundamentally will come down to that realization, which we are seeing, but will it come in time to help Ukraine restore some battlefield initiative? I think what we’ve seen in the last month in Europe and in the last week in the U.S. suggests that track is possible, fortunately. [Continue reading…]

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