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RAND Corporation: No one can win this war

by Michael Maier
Authors Samuel Charap and Miranda Priebe conclude "that in addition to averting a possible escalation toward a Russia-Nato war or Russian nuclear deployment, avoiding a protracted war is a higher priority for the United States" than regaining territorial control through Ukraine. As a result, the analysis sees first a cease-fire and eventually an agreement as crucial.
RAND Corporation: No one can win this war. Is reason beginning to prevail?

The US think tank RAND Corporation advises a ceasefire and negotiations between Russia and Ukraine. It is based on an unsparing military analysis.
by Michael Maier
[This article posted on 2/2/2023 is translated fro the German on the Internet, RAND Corporation: Diesen Krieg kann keiner gewinnen. Kehrt jetzt Vernunft ein?.]

Washington: Joe Biden (l-r), President of the United States, Kevin McCarthy, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Hakeem Jeffries, Minority Leader in the U.S. House of Representatives, and Steve Scalise, Majority Leader in the U.S. House of Representatives, listen during a sermon at the National Prayer Breakfast on Capitol Hill. 


The RAND Corporation, one of the most influential independent think tanks in the U.S., particularly on military and international affairs, concludes in a recent analysis that a protracted war between Russia and Ukraine would be more detrimental than beneficial to U.S. interests. RAND is a foundation from the military and defense industries. The think tank's analyses are usually met with great interest by political, economic and military decision makers.

The current study criticizes the policy debate in Washington for "focusing too narrowly on one dimension of the war's course." Ukraine's interests, it argues, are different from those of the United States. While "territorial control is immensely important" to Ukraine, "it is not the most important dimension for the future of the war" for the United States.

Authors Samuel Charap and Miranda Priebe conclude "that in addition to averting a possible escalation toward a Russia-Nato war or Russian nuclear deployment, avoiding a protracted war is a higher priority for the United States" than regaining territorial control through Ukraine. As a result, the analysis sees first a cease-fire and eventually an agreement between the warring parties as the most beneficial solution for U.S. interests. After an "absolute victory" by one of the parties is highly unlikely, the current front lines should be frozen, it said.
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RAND believes that a realistic frontline would be that of December 2022, in which Russia would thus have control over about 20 percent of Ukrainian territory. RAND does not believe a return to the borders of before the Russian attack on February 24 is desirable because Ukraine would still lose territory but would not gain stability. The border that would be drawn after a cease-fire would be "a heavily militarized border" along the lines of "the inner-German border during the Cold War."

After the cease-fire, negotiations should begin that could result in Ukraine becoming neutral but receiving "strong security guarantees" from the West. Political and economic agreements should be reached on the basis of the Istanbul Communiqué.

The think tank believes that the final course of the border can hardly be influenced by the Pentagon in fact. The "U.S. ability to micromanage where the border is ultimately drawn" is severely limited "because the U.S. military is not directly involved in the fighting." At the current rate at which the Ukrainian army is accomplishing recaptures, it could take "months, if not years" to restore territorial integrity. But more territory does not mean more security. Rather, this could be achieved through economic progress on a smaller territory.
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RAND cites the threat of nuclear escalation during the course of the war as a real possibility. The paper argues that the war in Ukraine is "close to existential" for Russia. Russia has continued to press ahead with the war despite the high price tag following the Crimean sanctions and has indicated that it is willing to pay an even higher price. By mobilizing 300,000 troops, he said, Russia's President Vladimir Putin has shown that he is willing to accept the risk of social unrest as well. It has also been part of Russian military doctrine since that tactical nuclear weapons could be used in the event of imminent defeat in a conventional war.

The risk of using nuclear weapons is "much higher during a war than in peacetime." For its part, the U.S. government had threatened "catastrophic consequences" if Russia used nuclear weapons, which would lead to a direct war between NATO and Russia. This scenario, he said, should be avoided at all costs from the U.S. perspective because it would result in a "strategic nuclear war." Such a scenario could lead to the "collapse of the transatlantic alliance."
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