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Ukraine’s strategic choices vis-à-vis occupied Donbas: striking a balance between the possible and the desirable

Ukraine’s strategic choices vis-à-vis occupied Donbas: striking a balance between the possible and the desirable

One year ago, when Volodymyr Zelenskyy scored a landslide victory in Ukraine’s presidential elections, his impressive victory was, in no small measure, attributed to his promises to bring peace to Ukraine’s embattled region of Donbas. Once in office, Zelenskyy was thrust into an ice-cold geopolitical reality. Even with Zelenskyy’s party’s commanding majority in Ukraine’s parliament, the nascent government found itself ill-equipped to fulfill many of the promised reforms, including ending violence in Donbas. The administration has demonstrated incompetence in the strategic balancing of the desirable and the probable in managing violence in eastern Ukraine.

One attempt at estimating the probability and the desirability of various scenarios for Donbas was made by New Europe Center in February-March of this year. The study surveyed 65 experts (38 Ukrainian and 27 foreign) who were asked to rate both the probability and the desirability of eight proposed scenarios for Donbas, to be implemented within a year: the status quo; freezing of the conflict; reintegration of Donbas on the basis of decentralization; autonomy/special status for Donbas (federalization); Ukraine’s retaking of the occupied territories by force; Russia’s offensive (full-scale invasion in Ukraine); Ukraine’s withdrawal from the Minsk negotiations; and the introduction of a peacekeeping mission in Donbas.

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