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VICTOR DAVIS HANSON: The Ukrainian Verdun

Ukraine is locked into a modern-day version of the horrific Battle of Verdun, fought 108 years ago on the Western Front of World War I in 1916. That meat grinder cost France and Germany about 700,000 casualties.

The nightmare ended ten months later when heroic French defenders thwarted the final German attack. However, each army ended up in the same position as when the battle began.

The Ukraine war is now similarly stalled, following the failure of Russia's pre-emptive strike on Kiev in February 2022, followed by Ukraine's six-month “spring” counterattack in spring 2023.

Russia failed to annex Ukraine. It has not expanded much beyond occupied Crimea and Donbass.

But Ukraine appears unable to push Russian forces back to their starting point in February 2022, much less regain lost territory taken in early 2014.

Although neither side has released reliable and comprehensive casualty statistics, casualties from this war now likely total between 600,000 and 700,000, similar to Verdun.

Perhaps 10 million of Ukraine's pre-war population fled the country. A massive refugee exodus may have reduced the country's population to less than 35 million.

In other words, Russia would have seven times the population, ten times the gross national product, and more than 30 times the area of ​​present-day Ukraine.

Still, if NATO and the US can continue to provide arms to Ukraine, it is as unlikely that Russia will be able to annex Ukraine, as it is doubtful that Ukraine will be able to regain the territory it lost before 2014. right.

As human costs mount and the stalemate persists, talk of a peace deal comes up every month.

For Ukraine and its allies, there is a growing but private realization that Kiev will not be able to regain the large Russian-speaking parts of Donbas and Crimea that were lost during the inactive Obama administration a decade ago.

Indeed, during the Obama, Trump, and Biden administrations, there was no effort by Ukraine or its allies to take back by force what Russia effectively absorbed in 2014.

So what is the outline of the ceasefire agreement that is increasingly being reported in the media?

It's likely similar to what Ukraine and Russia reportedly discussed in the weeks after the failed invasion of Russia in 2022.

The plan would result in the institutionalization of a decade of Russian control of Donbass and Crimea, along with guarantees of Ukraine's sovereignty in line with the pre-February period. 2022 lines.

Moreover, some suggest that Ukraine will not become a member of NATO, but will be armed to the teeth to deter or destroy any possible future Russian invaders.

If such a plan had previously surfaced and is reportedly now being reconsidered, what are the benefits and drawbacks for both Russia and Ukraine?

Russian President Vladimir Putin, like other dictators, has resulted in approximately 500,000 Russian casualties, the crushing of the military, and a significant decline in Russia's reputation without giving away any additional territory. We need to explain to the people why we started the war.

His supposed advantage would be that he single-handedly completed the absorption of resource-rich Donbass and Crimea and prevented Ukraine from joining NATO.

Ukraine may counter that its courage and allied aid inflicted the heaviest damage on Russian forces since World War II. Moreover, ensuring the rebuilding and rearmament of Ukraine's now seasoned military could deter Putin from re-invading after 71 years.

Ukraine would lose its valid claims to Donbass and Crimea. But again, clearly, Obama, Trump, the pre-war Biden administration, NATO members, and Ukraine itself had no purpose or ability to take back by force what Putin had stolen.

But what happens if there is no agreement?

By the end of 2024, at current rates, the total number of deaths and injuries could reach 1 million.

European countries will continue to actively engage in dialogue. But they will increasingly reduce aid and quietly consider Ukraine out of sight and out of mind.

The new and toxic anti-Western alliance between China, Iran, and Russia is likely to strengthen. Third-party opportunists such as Turkey, Vietnam, the Middle East, and the Southern Hemisphere countries will increasingly be drawn into this new Axis orbit.

Measures to break the long-standing impasse will be stepped up, with Ukraine's government demanding far more and more powerful Western weapons despite dwindling human resources.

There will be a growing need for strategically logical but dangerous escalating attacks against Russian bases and depots within Mother Russia, as well as against the Black Sea Fleet.

Russia, in turn, will continue to increase its ongoing nuclear threat and target civilians. Stalled wars have a way of turning what was once horrifying and unimaginable into commonplace.

There is already crazy talk of Russia throwing NATO ground forces into the war while threatening to attack other Western countries.

Worse than an armistice with no clear winners or losers is an endless war with over a million casualties.

Victor Davis Hanson is a distinguished fellow at the Center for American Greatness. He is a classicist and historian at Stanford University's Hoover Institution and the author of Basic Books' The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won.You can contact him via email

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.

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