Ukraine is paying the price for its defiance of Moscow. Encouraged by the West since the 2008 Orange Revolution, Kyiv pursued engagement with the European Union and NATO. For more than a decade, it refused to negotiate neutrality or a closer relationship with Moscow. Despite repeated Russian threats and “redlines,” Kyiv stood up to Vladimir Putin. That resistance ultimately resulted in the loss of Crimea; a civil war fomented by Moscow in Donbass; and now, finally, open war with Russia. Western democracies encouraged Ukraine to take this Quixotic approach, even as they made clear that Ukraine had no near-term chance of joining NATO. The bottom line is that the Ukrainians were left to fend for themselves. Despite that, it is possible that Ukraine, with NATO-supplied equipment, will now pull off the impossible: slowing Russia’s invasion into a military stalemate.
The terms under which President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Russia might end hostilities will be mainly up to the warring partners. Following the Russian invasion, Ukraine did back off its position on neutrality. Notwithstanding Ukraine’s constitution calling for NATO membership, Zelenskyy raised Ukraine’s alignment as an issue for possible negotiation just three days after the Russians attacked.
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