How does this end? Increasingly, this question is dominating discussion of the Russia-Ukraine war in Washington and other Western capitals. Although successful Ukrainian counteroffensives in Kharkiv and Kherson in fall 2022 renewed optimism about Kyiv’s prospects on the battlefield, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement on September 21 of a partial mobilization and annexation of four Ukrainian provinces was a stark reminder that this war is nowhere near a resolution.
So discussion of the Russia-Ukraine war in Washington is increasingly dominated by the question of how it might end and the ways in which this war could evolve and how alternative trajectories would affect U.S. interests. In addition to minimizing the risks of major escalation, U.S. interests would be best served by avoiding a protracted conflict. The costs and risks of a long war in Ukraine are significant and outweigh the possible benefits of such a trajectory for the United States. Although Washington cannot by itself determine the war’s duration, it can take steps that make an eventual negotiated end to the conflict more likely.