American political scientist Dominic Tierney wrote an article for Foreign Affairs. Tierney writes that the USSR calmly and honorably left Afghanistan ("golden bridge"), and then a few years later the pro-Soviet regime in Afghanistan fell, and the USSR itself collapsed, so there is no need to defeat the Russian army, instead it is necessary to give Putin if not the "golden bridge" for an honorable retreat, then at least "gilded". And it is also extremely important not to humiliate the Russian people, otherwise, the people will develop "Versailles syndrome", and this is fraught with future aggression.
Yes, right now at the front in the Luhansk region there are very difficult events for the Ukrainian army and this is not the best time for discussions about "Putin's honorable retreat."
But we understand that the offensive potential of the Russian army without mobilization is limited, tactical successes cannot radically change the impasse for them. And I am so concerned about this Western discourse "you can't humiliate Russians" that I want to disassemble it, especially since the balance of power directly depends on the decision of Western countries, Ukraine still lacks weapons very much.
First of all, since we're talking about the Peace of Versailles, let's remember the First World War. It cannot be said that among the two unions, one was white and fluffy, and the other was the beginning of hell. At first, they wanted to fight everywhere, there was unprecedented enthusiasm in all countries. And everyone wanted to capture other people's territories, for example, the Russian Empire dreamed of the Turkish straits. Therefore, the Germans had some grounds for resentment - they are no more guilty than others, it's just that Germany did not pull the war on two fronts.
And this is a fundamental difference from World War II, where the Nazis' guilt is indisputable. Moreover, no one worried whether the Germans or the Japanese would be offended after the war. And they weren't offended, it's an amazing thing! Because they realized their guilt (albeit not immediately). So on the part of Tierney, it is inconsistent to recall the humiliation of the Germans after PMV and "forget" even more humiliation after WWII.
Secondly, the war in Afghanistan was not the only reason for the collapse of the USSR. And there is no reason to believe that the current Putin regime will stop attacking its neighbors and fall apart on its own if it is allowed to honorably leave the "golden bridge" when it gets tired of fighting. Iran, for example, lives under sanctions.
Thirdly, let's talk about modern Russia with its strongest resentment and sense of resentment against the West. Unlike the Germans after the Peace of Versailles, Russia after the collapse of the USSR was not humiliated, conquered, did not imposer reparations on it, on the contrary, it was helped (for example, Operation Provide Hope). The Russians learned about their terrible resentment en masse only 15 years later, or rather, after Putin's Munich speech in 2007. Therefore, real facts are not needed for resentment, it is enough to rave about conspiracy ("you will still answer us for Sevastopol" (c) "Brother2").
The absence of real grievances from Ukraine did not prevent Russia from carrying out a full-scale invasion in 2022. And do not say that this is exclusively Putin's war: Putin personally does not bomb cities, does not rape women and children in Ukraine, does not rob or kill. And only a negligible percentage of Russians dared to openly oppose it. The big question is who gave birth to whom - Putin's Russians or Putin's current Russians. And if you put all the blame on Putin, there is no guarantee that in a few years the future leader of Russia will not want to attack one of the neighbors again, if in the memory of people the previous attack did not end with some problems for them personally.
Fourthly, Dominica Tierney (like Macron, Scholz, Berlusconi, and Kissinger) for some reason is not concerned about the possible humiliation of Ukrainians. It's one thing to stay under Russian occupation in Melitopol, under bombing in the basement of Avdeevka, or in a filtration camp near Mariupol, and another thing to suffer because Solovyov promised to take Kyiv on TV in three days, and he was not captured in three months. So whose humiliation is more significant?
Fifthly, the proposals for a "gilded bridge" violate the fundamental principle of the modern world order-independent countries have the full right to self-defense, and legal status is more important than "compromise". What is, in fact, the proposed compromise? This is Zelensky's old formula: we take your wishes, our wishes, and "meet in the middle." The absurdity of this approach was obvious initially. The basis of the strategic balance is not the arithmetic mean of desires, but international law. Compromise encourages the aggressor to demand more and more and there can be no other way - demand more, you will get more, that's all.
Sixth, if we are talking about the precedent of a "gilded bridge", this practice only encourages the aggression of other countries monitoring the situation in Ukraine. Let's say the same China, which carefully analyzes its prospects for the capture of Taiwan, can judge, they say, an attempt is not torture, if anything, let's run down the "gilded bridge". And what then?
1. Instead of constantly remembering the Peace of Versailles, Western leaders should remember the "Munich conspiracy" and its consequences. Germany, France, and some other countries (as well as some Trump supporters in the United States) are more concerned about their own short-term economic problems than about Ukraine's victims.
It makes no sense to appeal to conscience, but at the level of common sense, an instinct of self-preservation and historical parallels is very possible. Putin has already actually proved that he will stop at nothing, so trying to appease him is simply ridiculous. There were already two Minsk agreements, it didn't help.
2. The current costs for Western countries are not so high, especially if you make a final bet on the demilitarization of Russia, even if by Ukraine. You can't and are afraid to fight - well, give weapons to those who are not afraid, it's in your interests. Otherwise, you will pay a lot more. And not just money.
3. There is a certain logic to wait for the change of generations of Russian power without the risk of nuclear war in the hope that the future leader of Russia will not be the carrier of conspiracy injuries of elderly Soviet security officers.
But it does not follow from this that it is necessary to limit the supply of weapons to Ukraine right now, as some European countries do, which promise and say more than they give.
4. There is no need for the whole world to think about how to "save Putin's face." It's an erroneous construction. Did Hitler have to help save his face, too? Let Putin think about his face himself, he has Kiselev and Solovyov for this. Putin sees this only as the weakness of the West and tries to achieve his goals at a time when the potential of the Russian VPK weakened. And if they manage to restore their VPK thanks to the "compromise," what then?
5. The situation at the moment is very far from parity. Yes, the "second army in the world" did not impress with its quality. But with the number, there is complete order, and Ukraine categorically lacks ammunition and artillery to achieve parity.
And it seems to me that respected Western thinkers need to firstly think about achieving parity in armaments as soon as possible, instead of anticipating the "gilded bridge", which will only be crossed, if one lived up to it.