Sep 12, 2023
Ukraine's leadership remains committed to liberating all territory now under Russian military occupation. This includes parts of the eastern Donbas region whose villages have been depopulated and its infrastructure destroyed in nearly a decade of war, if we date the origins of the current conflict to the outbreak of the separatist revolt in 2014. Historically, the Donbas was home to pro-Russian and pro-Soviet political forces who resisted integration with the West. This is why the political scientist Alexander Motyl once argued Ukraine "should let the Donbas go." Today, however, with a full-scale war underway for 18 months, Motyl argues Ukraine simply cannot cede territory to Russia. Moscow aims to subjugate Kyiv, not merely occupy the eastern fringes on the country. Much of the Donbas may be rubble, but ceding it to Putin would not bring Kyiv a lasting peace, Motyl contends.