Unwinnable war. Washington needs an endgame in Ukraine

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 was a moment of clarity for the United States and its allies. They had an urgent mission to support Ukraine in countering Russian aggression and to punish Moscow for its transgressions. While the West’s response was initially clear, the goal—the endgame of this war—was nebulous.

But now is the time for the United States to develop a vision for how the war ends. Fifteen months of fighting made it clear that neither side was capable of achieving a decisive military victory over the other, even with outside help. Regardless of how much territory Ukrainian forces can liberate, Russia will retain the ability to pose a constant threat to Ukraine. The Ukrainian military would also have the ability to hold any territory in the country occupied by Russian forces at risk and impose costs on military and civilian targets inside Russia itself.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation’s external publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scientific journals, as trade book chapters, or as papers published by other organizations.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decision-making through research and analysis. RAND’s publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.

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