There are ordinary events that happen, and they are forgotten the next day. And there are decisive ones that determine the trends of global events. The liberation of Kherson, the only regional centre of Ukraine captured after Feb. 24,  was decisive.

Why?

The liberation of Kherson is a strategic victory that puts under control roads leading to Crimea and makes the enemy’s offensive in the South, one of the turning points in the Russian-Ukrainian war, which will determine its outcome, impossible.

The liberation of Kherson is proof of the victory of Ukraine, despite the enemy’s declared mobilization and other efforts made by it, is inevitable, and its support in the world is only gathering pace.

The liberation of Kherson has strengthened the negotiating positions of Ukraine in a qualitative way; that’s if the Ukrainian authorities decide to actually start talks.

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Kherson is Ours

A balanced assessment of the consequences of Kherson’s liberation is a matter for future historians. But what can be understood even now – after Kherson, is that a radical change in favor of Ukraine has taken place, and the strategic initiative in this war has, at last, passed into the hands of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

The elimination of the enemy’s bridgehead on the right-bank of Kherson Region, which was planned back in the summer, began to be realized with the destruction of crossings across the Dnipro River by Himars. Even then it became clear that the racist group situated on the right bank was doomed. The military and political leadership of Russia reported in early October to Putin about the need to evacuate, and the decision was made only a month later.

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The Kherson offensive operation defined a high level of operational art and a growing strategic level of actions of by the leadership of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. It  will be included in future textbooks on military strategies and studied as a model in academies and universities all over the world.

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Ukrainians have received a powerful positive moral charge, and the residents of  temporarily-occupied territories were convinced that sooner or later all of Ukraine will be finally freed from the enemy, and our victory is inevitable. This does not mean that it will take place automatically. No, there is still a lot of blood and suffering ahead, pain and sweat, heavy battles in Donetsk Region and Crimea, the deaths of relatives and loved ones.

I would also like to disagree with the Honorable General Mark Milley, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, who spoke about stabilizing and freezing hostilities during the coming 2022/23 winter. I will remind him that during the Second World War, the Soviet army, which included both Ukrainians and Russians, won its first victories over Nazi Germany in the winter of 1941-42 and 1942-43. So, the experience is there, and the intensity of hostilities is unlikely to decrease significantly.

So far, the Armed Forces of Ukraine are fighting according to the plan that was laid out in the strategic initiative of Generals Zaluzhny and Zabrodsky, and according to which the liberation of occupied Crimea is expected in spring-summer 2023.

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Bipartisan Support of Ukraine Remains

Many experts, including the author of this article, expressed cautious fears that the recent midterm elections in the U.S. could destroy bipartisan support for Ukraine.

Republicans who are Trump supporters openly speculated on the issue of military aid to the Armed Forces of Ukraine, and some of them declared that Ukraine would not receive a single penny again.

The most pessimistic forecasts did not come true.

The “red wave” never became the ninth wave of the Republicans in the Congress. In the House of Representatives, they won a slight majority, while the Democrats will most likely hold onto their advantage in the Senate. Dozens of MAGA Republicans supported by Trump were not elected to the Congress.

The mid-term elections made Ron DeSantis, re-elected governor of Florida, one of the main US politicians. He became a real sensation, turning the state from a swing state into a true Republican Florida.

Today, Ron DeSantis is seen in the Republican Party as a real alternative to Trump in the 2024 presidential election, and in terms of his political views, he is much closer to the classic Reaganite Republicans, who understand the responsibility of the United States to the democratic world.

Despite certain problems with the American economy, rising inflation, and special information operations by Russia, the majority of American society continues to support Ukrainians in their fight against Russia.

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Bipartisan support for military aid to Ukraine in the U.S. Congress will remain after the midterm elections, while the conditions for its provision will become tougher, and reporting on its use will become more transparent and stricter.

Fata Morgan Peace Talks

The thesis that any war ends with peace negotiations has become almost axiomatic. Both our partners and our enemies like to repeat this. It’s actually a fake.

Sometimes wars end with the absolute defeat of one of the warring parties, and far from being the result of previous peace negotiations. Before the surrender of Germany in 1945, neither the USSR, nor the U.S. or the UK conducted any official negotiations with Germany. It received an ultimatum and the country’s leaders were simply faced with the fact of signing the necessary documents.

What is this short introduction leading to?

Last week, the whole world was once again driven by an information wave about the need for Russian-Ukrainian negotiations and about belligerent Ukraine, which for some reason wants to continue fighting. And then, as is traditional, about the inevitability of peace talks.

The wave turned out to be quite a powerful one, as it was not only Russian screenwriters were hiding behind its scenes. Its influence was strengthened by the narratives of elections in the U.S. and the Kremlin’s useful idiots,  who all of a sudden ‘care’ so much about the human victims of this war, for some reason traditionally forgetting that it is Russia that is the man-eating aggressor.

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The emergency visit to Kyiv by the U.S. President’s National Security Assistant Jake Sullivan was tied precisely with these circumstances. Volodymyr Zelensky “matched” the Americans, declaring that Kyiv is ready for negotiations with Russia, but only on condition of the withdrawal of Russian troops from the territory of Ukraine to the borders of 1991, and negotiations with a “new” Russia that fulfills these conditions.

Instead, Ukraine’s head of state received further assurances from American officials of unchanging support in the fight against the Kremlin and another tranche of military-technical assistance.

It seemed as though the liberation of Kherson had now become the final sentence for the holding of peace negotiations. But not so.

It was through Russian Telegram channels and opposition bloggers with, to be frank, ambiguous reputations, that a draft peace treaty allegedly agreed upon by Ukraine and its Western partners was leaked.

The agreement provided for the complete withdrawal of Russian troops from our territory to the borders of 1991; the demilitarization of Crimea and the withdrawal of military forces from Sevastopol; a 100 km demilitarized zone along the Ukrainian-Russian and Belarusian borders; “suspension” of the status of Crimea; and a ban on Ukraine becoming a member of NATO for seven years.

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It seems that this document was handed over to the Russian dictator and he is thinking hard about whether or not to accept it.

The authors of this fake information did not take into account one thing. Around 90 percent of Ukrainians oppose making any territorial concessions to the aggressor, and the uncertain status of Crimea will be perceived as such. Any government that even hints at agreeing to such a document risks ceasing to be that government in just an instant.

This week, Russia lost not only Kherson, but also many other positions on the world stage, particularly among G20 countries.

The Russian authorities are more and more inclined towards the holding of peace talks, but it seems that they have not understood the main point: that now their start, terms and content will be determined not in Moscow, but in Kyiv.

Ihor Zhdanov is a co-founder of the Open Policy Foundation, a Non-Government Organization (NGO) in Ukraine.

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s and not necessarily those of Kyiv Post.

 

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