Tuesday, December 5, 2023

A Crimean invasion would cost Ukraine 200,000 lives: Ex-Zelensky aide

Vladimir Zelensky

The cost of invading Crimea would be too high for Kiev, a former adviser to Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky, Aleksey Arestovich, said this week. The operation would likely lead to hundreds of thousands of casualties, he told Russian journalist Yulia Latynina.

There are “few prospects” of seizing the Crimean Peninsula through military means, Arestovich said, discussing the options remaining to Kiev in its conflict with Moscow.

“What will be the cost? Extermination of 200,000 of the adult male population?” he asked, referring to the number of soldiers Ukraine would likely lose. Ukraine’s economy could also be “totally destroyed” in the process, he warned.

Kiev is already “totally dependent” on its Western backers, the former presidential adviser said. Should the US and its allies stop supplying Ukrainian troops with weapons, they would not only be unable to take back territories that joined Russia, but would struggle to defend their current positions, he said.

Arestovich also charged that Washington and its allies are pursuing their own interests in the conflict. “Let’s be honest: Our foreign policy goals in this war contrast sharply with the foreign policy goals of our sponsors and backers,” he said, adding that the West is willing to sacrifice Ukrainian lives to achieve the desired outcome.

Ukraine can now only influence Western leaders at an “emotional” level, the former presidential adviser said, adding that Kiev should have focused on building up its own sovereignty instead. “We need relations… based on real profits. That’s the only thing they [the West] understand.” He added that “immoral policies… and inability to take serious decisions” are the “major weakness of the West.”

However, Ukraine cannot just abandon its Western backers and pursue its own goals “at any cost,” the former adviser stated, saying this would be a “dead end” for Kiev, and the only consolation would be the prospect of joining NATO in exchange for peace with Russia.

Stop the war and join NATO? Many people would say it is a historical chance,” Arestovich said. He also described NATO guarantees in exchange for consenting to peace with Russia along the current contact line as a “fairly good deal.” According to him, the agreement would also likely require the West to lift some of its sanctions on Russia to convince Moscow to agree to the terms.

His remarks come amid the much-touted Ukrainian summer offensive, which has failed to bring about significant changes on the battlefield almost a month and a half after it was launched. Ukrainian troops have suffered heavy losses, including Western-supplied heavy armor, during their largely unsuccessful attacks on Russian defenses. According to Western media, Kiev’s backers have also been frustrated by the slow pace of the operation.

Moscow has repeatedly signaled that it is ready for peace talks with Ukraine. It has also blamed Kiev for the lack of progress in diplomacy, citing a decree signed last year by Zelensky that prohibits talks for as long as Russian President Vladimir Putin remains in power.

Kiev put forth its own peace plan, demanding Russia withdraw its troops from all the territories within Ukraine’s 1991 borders. Moscow has rejected the proposal, calling it detached from reality.

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