The New StatesmanThe New Statesman

What realists get wrong about Ukraine’s counteroffensive

By Lawrence Freedman

11 Jul 2023 · 13 min read

informed Summary

  1. The war in Ukraine is a territorial conflict, with Russia aiming to complete its occupation of certain regions and Ukraine seeking to liberate all occupied territories. This zero-sum game makes a negotiated outcome difficult to achieve, Lawrence Freedman writes in The New Statesman.

“Strategy is the art of making war upon the map.”

Antoine-Henri Jomini

The Russo-Ukrainian War is all about territory. Russia wants to complete its occupation of the oblasts of Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson; Ukraine seeks to liberate all occupied territories, including Crimea. This is what the game theorists call a “zero-sum game” – what one wins the others must lose. This feature of the war explains why a negotiated outcome is so difficult to achieve, why the current battles matter so much, and why those commenting on the war spend so much time staring at maps.

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