After a year of destruction, negotation is not an option for Ukraine


Vladimir Ponomarenko '25

The author’s grandmother, who was born in Kyiv in 1945.

Since Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale attack on Ukraine one year ago, the Ukrainian people have been caught in the largest conflict Europe has seen since World War II. With entire cities leveled and scorched, tens of thousands of innocent people killed, and the deliberate targeting of civilian infrastructure, the list of Russia’s atrocities goes on.  

Of course, the Ukrainian people want peace. In recent months, many have proposed a treaty in which Putin gets to keep the pro-Russia parts of the Donbas and Luhansk, and the land he captured in the south—trading land for peace. Even if the Ukrainian people were to agree to such a negotiation, which they wouldn’t and couldn’t, there is absolutely no guarantee Putin would adhere to this treaty in the future. There is no plausible negotiation, no compromise that can be achieved without the threat of future Russian intrusion into Ukraine.  

Putin believes Ukraine to be the rightful territory of Russia. He wants the entire country, not just a fraction. In a televised address to the Russian people last year, Putin claimed that “Modern Ukraine was entirely created by Russia…” and that “Ukraine never had a tradition of genuine statehood.” He continues to claim that because “Ukraine never achieved legitimate status as a nation” (which it did in 1991), Russia is entitled to Ukrainian land.  

A “peace” treaty certainly wouldn’t erase this sentiment. Instead, any temporary peace would only give Putin time to go back to the drawing board and recuperate his military losses. Future intrusion by Putin into Ukraine would certainly be in store. President Zelensky and the Ukrainian people are urging every day for the war to stop, and it’s obvious why; the Ukrainian economy is in ruins, and the death toll continues to balloon. Yet it’s impossible to set up a solid treaty with a delusional and tyrannical leader like Putin, and suggesting such a treaty is a moral reproach and an insult to Ukrainian sovereignty.  

With a dad who immigrated from Ukraine in 1991 and a mom who grew up in Moscow, this war hits close to home for me. The entirety of my dad’s side of the family still lives in Ukraine, and the entirety of my mom’s is in Moscow and rural Russia. It’s an indescribable feeling to see people from both sides of your heritage fighting against each other.  

To get the opinion on the war from someone who has seen the Ukrainian nationality and identity develop after the fall of the Soviet Union, I interviewed my grandmother. Born in Kyiv in 1945, she raised my father and lived in the country until 2006. I asked her: “What do you think are Putin’s intentions with the war, and how do you see it ending?” She replied, “Putin is trying to take the territory under Russian rule and in the process is trying to erase every bit of the Ukrainian identity and spirit he can. The way I see it, the war can only end in one way, and that’s with Ukraine’s victory.” 

“The global support for the country has been unparalleled,” she added, “and the number of volunteers in the country willing to put their life on the line for victory is crazy. If this spirit continues, I have no doubt the country will win.”  

Negotiation would show the globe that Putin won, at least to an extent. The key reason Putin launched this war was to distract his people from the failures of his own presidency. Putin needs this victory to re-ignite public support and bolster his legitimacy. The successful capture of even some of Ukraine would undoubtedly keep him in power longer. Pushing Putin’s army back to Ukraine’s original borders would not only humiliate his regime and solidify a Russian loss; it would also crumble Putin’s entire leadership and presidency. When hundreds of thousands of Russian soldiers come back to their homes in body bags and the true effects of war become a reality for tens of thousands of families across the nation, public support for the war and Putin’s administration will plummet. Putin may never formally surrender, but by this point, he would have already lost. If we continue to support Ukraine through whatever means necessary, Ukrainian sovereignty can be preserved. Total, unconditional military triumph is Ukraine’s only option.