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4 key global elections will determine the outcome of the war in Ukraine

Presidential votes in the US, Russia and Ukraine in 2024 may be as important as events on the battlefield, writes political scientist Ivan Krastev in the Financial Times

It is generally accepted that wars end with negotiations. But they often end or are frozen at the ballot box. The American war in Vietnam and the French war in Algeria ended there, and Slobodan Milosevic’s election loss in 2000 marked the real end of the wars in the former Yugoslavia, writes political scientist Ivan Krastev in an article for the Financial Times.

Today, the war in Ukraine is being fought in the shadow of critical elections scheduled for 2024. Elections in Russia, Ukraine, Taiwan and the US will be decisive in shaping the course of the war in 2023. The outcome of these votes

may determine the shape of the future international order
In March 2023, there will be presidential elections in Russia and Ukraine. It takes a lot of imagination to imagine Vladimir Putin losing an election organized with the sole idea that he would win it. But saddled with his failing “special operation”, he has every reason to worry that in the event of military defeat or a freeze in the conflict to his detriment, he will find himself facing opposition not only from the few liberals left in the country, but also from a mobilized nationalist right.

This has not happened in his administration of more than two decades but an election campaign combined with losses at the front

can unlock that anti-Putin impulse,

long awaited by Europeans and Americans – although it is highly unlikely that this is an impulse for freedom in Russia.

The political scientist then analyzes the upcoming elections in Ukraine. They will also strongly influence the strategic decisions of President Volodymyr Zelensky in 2023. He could not accept any territorial compromise if he did not want to lose the vote. Postponing the election is not an option.
Holding elections during wartime, when the majority of the population is outside the country or internally displaced, will be a huge logistical challenge for Zelensky. The organization of free and fair elections will be of paramount importance to strengthen the image of Ukraine as a democratic David fighting against the autocratic Russian Goliath.

In the election cocktail in 2024, the presidential election in Taiwan may also turn out to be an unpredictable factor in the dynamics of the Russian-Ukrainian war, Ivan Krastev’s analysis continues. Fear of a nationalist victory could affect Beijing’s “unification” strategy. It is not yet known what conclusions President Xi Jinping has drawn from the Russian invasion. Did he conclude that Putin was wrong to start the war, or that his mistake was to start it too late?

The desire to keep the Americans at bay may lead the Chinese government, sufficiently humiliated by the failure to contain the Covid-19 pandemic, to step up its support for Moscow in the hope of keeping US attention trapped in the European conflict.

The US presidential elections, and to a lesser extent the European Parliament elections, will also have a direct impact on the course of the war, writes Ivan Krastev.

The US presidential election may prove more decisive for the outcome of the war

compared to any military operation in the field. Ukrainians could not resist Putin’s killing machine if the Americans and Europeans cut back their substantial military and financial support.

Ukrainians therefore have reason to worry that the Democrats could lose the presidential election, as US support for their war effort could weaken if certain Republican constituencies were to win. For both Democrats and their European allies, Putin’s success in the Donbass or NATO’s direct intervention in the war would have a dramatic impact – both on the election of the next American president and on the elections for the next European Parliament.
A Russian success on the front or a more serious involvement of NATO in the conflict could tilt the balance of the upcoming US elections in favor of the Republicans. The last thing Democrats and their European allies need is for voters to blame the White House for starting World War III.

For Joe Biden and his European allies to succeed in winning the election, it is crucial that the Ukrainians continue to win on the battlefield,

thinks Ivan Krastev.

We know how economic interdependence and the proliferation of nuclear weapons have changed the nature of modern warfare. However, we are still blind to how the upcoming elections could change the course of the war in Ukraine, especially at a time of global hyperpolarization.
What is the lesson? To win a war in the 21st century, it is not always enough to have superiority on the battlefield. It is also necessary to win elections, and not only in your own country, concludes the political scientist.

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