By MG Paul E. Vallely, US Army (Ret)

According to many reports, the population of Ukraine has declined by more than half, from 40+ million to 20 million, with death, injury, and destruction widespread in the country since February 2014.  Let’s look at some stages where this outcome might have been prevented: Stage One—The Ukraine administration of Yanukovych had negotiated a better economic deal with China and Russia than what the West was offering.  China was very interested in helping Ukraine increase agricultural production, thereby boosting exports to China.  However, Yanukovych was overthrown in the 2014 Maidan revolution and fled to Russia.  A question is why Russia did not step in before it was too late, like what Russia did in Kazakhstan to prevent a coup.  In the latter case, Russia sent an airborne force to hold the line while the Kazakhstan President rounded up the plotters.  Then, the Russian troops left after a week or so.

In the Ukraine case, perhaps Yanukovych did not ask for help, or the Russians did not think it would work out to intervene.  Also, no one continued to call the Yanukovych group a “government-in-exile” and pretended that he was still the legal chief, even though that was the case.  This contrasts with the Yemen situation, where the leader was overthrown and fled the country to stay in Saudi Arabia but continued to be referred to as the President in the media. Stage Two—The Minsk Agreements would have prevented the disaster if they had been implemented.  Ukraine would have only had to treat the Russian speakers civilly and to grant the Donbas a measure of autonomy, along with forgoing NATO membership.  Ukraine could have concentrated on modernizing and improving the country so that the inhabitants did not need to emigrate to find jobs.  Russian terms, at this point, were relatively lenient. The fact is that Germany and France later admitted that the agreements were a ruse to give time to arm and train the Ukrainian army.  Of course, the agreements also gave time for Russia to arm further and train its army.  Russia did not admit to having “wonder weapons” until Putin’s speech in 2018.  The start of the Special Military Operation (SMO) in 2022 gave four more years for the Russian weapons to be mass-produced and delivered to the front lines.  Both sides had an incentive to delay the actual clash of armies. Stage Three—The so-called “Not-Ultimatum” issued by Russia in December 2021 was another opportunity to avoid military conflict.  It was rejected by the West, to the detriment of Ukraine.

At the time, the US was announcing that Russia was amassing troops along the border with Ukraine, thus indicating that Russia was getting ready to carry out the “military-technical” measure mentioned in the Not-Ultimatum.  At the same time, Ukraine had increased shelling and other military activity against the separatist areas in the Donbas, also a typical action in advance of an invasion.  It was unclear from reports at the time as to why the Ukrainian army did not invade the separatist area before the Russian army did the same thing.  Ukraine had a window of opportunity before Russia formally annexed the separatist provinces when the area was still formally part of Ukraine.  At that time, it would have been a Ukrainian civil war only.  Most governments do not like to lose territory and will use force to put down any efforts to gain independence.   This is a more-or-less accepted procedure—an example is the US Civil War.

If the Ukrainian army could have moved up to the border with Russia, it would have still been on Ukrainian soil.  If the Russian military had then crossed over the border into Ukraine, it would have looked a lot more like aggression.  This would have been bad PR for Russia and may have been one reason Ukraine hesitated.  Instead, while both armies gathered troops, the separatist provinces were accepted as part of the Russian Federation.  From the Russian viewpoint, this meant that Russia was defending Russian territory from the Ukrainian forces.  It was better to obtain support from the Russian people for the Russian military action that immediately followed.  The lightning military strike by Russia’s Special Military Operation in February 2022 prevented the Ukrainian military from making any significant move into the newly annexed areas of Russia. Stage Four—The cease-fire agreement negotiated by Ukraine and Russia in Istanbul in March 2022 was another opportunity to avoid more death and destruction.   The terms were more complicated in Ukraine, as with each successive stage in the drama.  Russia even withdrew its column of tanks from the outskirts of Kyiv as a good-faith gesture.

However, the US and UK convinced Ukraine to scrap the agreement and continue the fighting. Stage Five—In the Autumn of 2022, the Ukrainian forces were reported in the mainstream media to have gained some territory from the Russian troops.  The US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman suggested that Ukraine seek negotiations with Russia while Ukraine was having some success on the battlefield and was in a better negotiating position.  The general probably had been told by the Defense Intelligence Agency that, even with Western support, Ukraine could never win the war against Russia. Unfortunately for Ukraine (and the US general, who got into hot water over his comment), the politicians decided to continue the fighting.

With the benefit of hindsight, it is now widely acknowledged that the general was correct. Stage Six—The failure of the ballyhooed Ukrainian 2023 Summer Counter-Offensive has led to much soul-searching and some calls for a truce along the line of contact.  The argument is to let Russia have the separatist areas, leaving most of the country under Kyiv’s control and tied to the West, but not in NATO.  Other factions in the West still want to pursue the war with more significant support for Ukraine, including granting membership in the European Union (EU).  The description of the fighting as a “stalemate” suggested that it could lead to a Korean-style solution with a DMZ running down through Ukraine.  There is also talk now of reconstruction of “Western Ukraine” and the billions of dollars that would be needed. According to the Business World Online Bureau, dated June 19, 2023:

“Leading financial firms BlackRock and JPMorgan Chase are partnering with the Ukrainian government to establish a reconstruction bank that will serve as a conduit for public seed capital to fund rebuilding projects. The initiatives aim to attract significant private investment, potentially amounting to hundreds of billions of dollars. Currently in the planning stages, the Ukrainian Development Fund is expected to be fully launched once hostilities with Russia end.  However, investors will be provided a preview of the fund at the London conference hosted by the British and Ukrainian governments.”

The conference was held in London on June 21, 2023, and attracted over 400 participants. A more current report indicates that Ukraine is still seeking additional non-government funding. This update is from Simplicius:

“On that topic, interestingly, Zelensky and the leadership have just gone through a veritable gauntlet of meetings with the top globalist venture vultures, likely for the very purpose above, to begin negotiations of selling off more Ukrainian assets—and Ukraine itself—to bankroll next year’s coming disastrous deficits. Approximately 3-4 days apart, Zelensky met with the IMF and Alex Soros, and Yermak is reportedly meeting with BlackRock.”  –, December 13, 2023

However, the proponents of the stalemate/truce/end of fighting in the Stage Six scenario must address whether Russia would agree to such a result.  Even if Russia were now to agree to end the fighting along the contact line, Ukraine would still be in much worse shape than if it had decided to negotiate a truce at one of the earlier stages. Stage Seven: –At the beginning of the Ukraine conflict in 2022, many analysts thought that Russia would stop when it pushed the Ukrainian army out of the separatist provinces that Russia had annexed.  The farther west one went in Ukraine, the fewer Russian speakers, the fewer Russian Orthodox members, and the more hostility toward Russia.

Analysts also considered that the cost of reconstruction and fixing all the problems in Ukraine would be enormous and way beyond what Russia would want to shoulder.  However, a more careful look at the Russians’ positions, as laid out in the Not-Ultimatum and at the reason for the SMO, shows that they would not allow for a Ukraine military arrangement with any NATO country.  This could not be guaranteed if Kyiv remained independent, as Russia could not trust any agreement made by the Western powers.

Russia would need to ensure that no US or NATO missiles remained on the territory of Ukraine for the same reasons that the Soviet Union required to keep the US missiles out of Turkey.  The so-called “Cuban Missile Crisis” should have been called the “Turkish Missile Crisis” since that is where it started.  In addition, Russia had often announced that the SMO’s purpose was to demilitarize and denazify Ukraine.  It would be difficult to explain to the Russian people if the SMO project stopped only partway to the objective. In other words, it is unlikely that Russia will agree to end the conflict at the current line of contact.  That would allow the Western powers to rebuild and rearm Ukraine and to move more potent missiles and other military weapons up against the Russian borders again.  US officials practically admit that this is precisely what they plan to do.  So, some analysts are suggesting that Russia may intend to go all the way and take over Ukraine and restore it as part of Mother Russia.  Here is one example:

“I am convinced that behind Russia’s strategy of minimizing civilian casualties in their SMO also lies a plan of future enlistment of Ukrainians against the West. The day will come when the realization that their Slavic brethren Russia is their only true friend, and the Westerners who cheated and used them to wage war on a geopolitical adversary will be met with their time of reckoning.  Western leaders openly brag about their proxy force nurtured to fight Russia.  The day will come when it will all be turned back against them. 

With any luck, the targets will be only those responsible, not the wider population. Whatever form that blowback will take, there is clear historical precedent, both in former fighters turning rogue against the West (Mujahideen > Al-Qaida) as well as Russia’s subjugation of former foes, turning them into their most loyal and formidable fighters (Chechnya, to name the most recent example).” –Rubiconned, December 12, 2023, 16:54 utc, 27, Would it work to have Ukraine be part of Russia again?  Opinion on this question has been a definite no until recently.  Now, there are glimmers of change in tune, with more suggestions that maybe Russia will go all the way to return Ukraine to its Russian roots.  Putin has recently noted that “Odesa is a Russian city” and that Ukraine, Belarus, and the Russian Federation are all branches of the same tree.  Putin also cryptically called the conflict in Ukraine a “civil war.”  The US Civil War ended with a single country, and the winning side managed the Reconstruction.

Other Russian officials have recently been suggesting the same viewpoints as Putin.  Sergey Naryshkin, the head of the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), said that Western masters would inevitably abandon the Kyiv regime and that Russians and Ukrainians are two parts of a triune people.  Such talk sounds like a “Greater Russia” composed of the Russian Federation, Belarus, and Ukraine.  The US has been accusing Russia of trying to recreate the Soviet Union, which, of course, is denied by the Russians.  However, the Russian government may try to set up a situation with Ukraine like the “Union State” association with Belarus.

“The Supreme Council of the Union State of Russia and Belarus is expected to approve a new three-year integration package next year, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Friday…. Founded in 1997, the Union State was originally intended to be a confederation but is now a supranational union of Belarus and Russia aimed at deepening their economic and defense ties.” –, December 15, 2023.

Whether these ideas are sent up as trial balloons or as an update to the Russian narrative remains to be seen. Dmitry Medvedev has been reported as saying that Ukraine’s agreements with Western banks, funds, and businesses would be nullified at the end of the SMO.  This darkens the outlook for plans made at the London investment conference last June.  On the other hand, the RAND blog just published a story by two of its analysts that assumed the West would handle the reconstruction job in Ukraine after the war.  There is no glimmer in the article of Russia being in charge of the reconstruction: “Resilient Reconstruction in Ukraine,” William Courtney and Howard J. Shatz,, December 7, 2023. Tom Luongo’s comments are also pertinent:

“The folks with the most to lose in Ukraine at this point are those carpetbaggers who were chosen to rebuild the country after the war.  Russia understands this, and no more wants Blackrock rebuilding Ukraine than it wants Ukraine in NATO.”  – “Luongo: Running on Empty, The US Leaves Zelenskyy Hanging,” Tyler Durdan,, December 16, 2023


After examining these seven stages of possibility, where the conflict might have been avoided or minimized, the actual results point up the single-mindedness with which Western powers have pursued their Ukrainian project, even in the face of what have been revealed to be insurmountable odds of succeeding.  Something envisioned as an easy win against Russia has found formidable resistance from the unanticipated sophistication and focus of the chosen foe.  As for Ukraine, the war was never in its national interest and has been a disaster for the Ukrainian people.  Ukraine would have been much better off if it could have taken one of the opportunities to exit the war.  Unfortunately, Ukraine was not in charge of its destiny. ADDENDUM BY LARRY JOHNSON — A few good souls have mistakenly praised me for the preceding article. Thank you. But OBSERVER R. There wrote it is an essential new development in the last week highly relevant to this piece — Russia has clarified its position on negotiating an end to the war. Alexander Mercouris describes it as “implacable”. Good word. Other appropriate terms are “hardened,” “unrelenting,” and “uncompromising.” Pick your adjective. Russia is in no mood to compromise with Ukraine or the West. That bridge has been burned. The Rubicon is crossed, and Russia will take all necessary steps to secure a voluntary surrender or a capitulation by force. Ukraine’s options have evaporated. Russian First Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Dmitry Polyansky recently posted this on X:

“As for the peace agreement, it is already well-known that negotiators of Ze initialed it [Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky], and its copy was shown by [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin. This story, as well as the direct involvement of the UK and the US in persuading Ze to reject [the agreement], has been corroborated by numerous witnesses. However, you have nothing to worry about, as Ze’s Ukraine has blown its chances for such a favorable outcome. Therefore, any possible deal will now reflect its capitulation,” the Russian diplomat wrote on his Twitter page (formerly known as Twitter).

[1] Gateway Pundit 12.18.2023 “The End of Ukraine”. European Source

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