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Opinion
Ian Buruma

Putin’s Unconditional Surrender Should Not Be the Goal

Ukraine and its allies are not refighting World War II. Insisting on Russia’s total defeat is a fine negotiating position but not a realistic aim. 

What does victory look like in Ukraine?

What does victory look like in Ukraine?

Photographer: Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images

Nothing creates confusion more than war. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has said that “diplomacy leads to peace, and peace is desirable for every human being.” Yet Ukrainian officials have furiously denounced suggestions — most recently from 99-year-old former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger — that they settle for a return to the status quo ante, leaving Vladimir Putin in control of large swathes of Ukrainian territory.

Ukraine “does not trade its sovereignty for someone to fill their wallet,” raged a senior adviser to Zelenskiy. The Ukrainian leader himself suggested that Americans who opposed support for his country “start reading some World War II memoirs,” since any appeasement of Putin would only encourage him to invade more European countries.