Shining Light in Kiev: On the Brink of a Crucial Breakthrough in Combat

The conflict between Russia and Ukraine has been ongoing for some time, and there are recent reports of optimism in Kiev towards an important breakthrough in combat. David Petraeus, a retired general, recently visited Kyiv and met with Ukrainian military and civilian leaders, returning with a positive assessment of the prospects for the Ukrainian counteroffensive that is now beginning. However, the fight to dislodge dug-in Russian forces is expected to be brutal, and Ukrainian soldiers are increasingly exposed to Russian firepower. The slow progress reported in the early days of the counteroffensive reflects the bloody fighting to clear foxholes and hand-dug trenches.

Western allies have sent Ukraine tens of billions of dollars worth of weapons, but some of the donated arms have been unusable, and hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts paid up front have yet to be fulfilled. While the literature’s basic finding is that negotiating an end to a war requires both sides to believe that they have more to gain from peace than from continuing to fight, optimism about the future trajectory of the war and pessimism about the likelihood and benefits of peace thus inhibit negotiations and drive belligerents into protracted conflicts.

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