AUTHORS: Guy Duczynski, Edith Cowan University, Australia, Sascha Dov Bachmann, University of Canberra, and Matthew Smith, Australian Department of Defence 

DATE: May 10, 2022

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It is unlikely that there is one single action that can end the present conflict in Ukraine without it being accompanied by significant unintended consequences. It is, however, highly likely that a particular combination of actions, if executed with precise timing, an acknowledgment of the centrality of the three principal actors—Russian President Vladimir Putin, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and the NATO alliance—and an awareness of amplifying effects, could deliver an end to the conflict on terms favourable to Ukraine. This paper analyzes the central factors at the operational and strategic levels to highlight purposeful courses of action that could be developed: actions that are linked directly to sought-after changes in the system. This process is complex in the Ukraine situation due to the extraordinary levels of violence, destruction, and offensive actions that are violating the principle of proportionality in military operations. While the United Nations and the Security Council might be included as fourth and fifth actors, these institutions have thus far taken something of a spectator role in the conflict, and are apparently distracted by their own internal and somewhat underperforming mechanisms for arresting conflicts through assertive action, security resolutions, and other legitimate instruments.

The invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces commenced on 24 February 2022. How or when it will conclude remains uncertain as of this writing. After two months of indiscriminate destruction of civilian infrastructure, limited military progress, and an unexpected level of heroism and resistance by Ukrainian forces and citizenry, the West has gradually awakened to what permanent Russian occupation of Ukraine would mean for NATO and Europe as a whole. Furthermore, Putin’s reckless and intentionally threatening mentions of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons have led his opponents in the West to hesitate about becoming more deeply and actively engaged in the fight.

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