The West shouldn’t worry about saving Russia from humiliation

Anton Protsiuk
2 min readMay 18, 2022


One of the most maddening narratives about Russia’s war in Ukraine is that “we should leave an off-ramp for Russia to somehow save face in the war” and for Putin not to be humiliated. Because, supposedly, otherwise Putin will feel cornered and will nuke the world.

But it would be both morally bad and not practically necessary.

Photo: Presidential Office of Ukraine, CC BY 4.0

The moral case is obvious. For Russia to hold onto the territories it occupied would be a terrible outcome — not only for Ukraine but for everyone who cares about liberty and democracy. The world will be a darker place unless Russia gets humiliated in this war. In the long term, Russian imperial ambitions will not stop in Ukraine.

Not only that, but as the last months have shown, Ukraine can realistically win the war. We won the battle of Kyiv, we’ve practically won the battle of Kharkiv. The morale in the Ukrainian army is high, the number of volunteers is higher than the army can take in. Western support is making a difference — and we need a steady supply of heavy weapons from our allies in Europe and North America.

The best scenario for ending this war would be for Putin and Russian leadership to be removed from office and stand trial for the war crimes perpetrated under their direction, for Russia to pay reparations for all the damage inflicted upon Ukraine — for the Russian people to see their complicity in enabling the war, working towards building a democratic state. Maybe that will happen.

But even if the first scenario doesn’t end up practically possible, the second one is more realistic — for Russia to be humiliated on the battlefield in Ukraine and be forced to leave the territories it occupied, and for seized Russian resources in Ukraine and in the West to be used for rebuilding Ukraine.

In this scenario, Putin will not feel cornered because he totally controls the Russian propaganda machine — which will sell to its people whatever scenario the Kremlin is forced to accept on the battlefield. Russian state TV will still broadcast bullshit about Ukraine being already “denazified” and “demilitarized”. Enough Russians will eat it up for Putin to remain in power.

But every sane person outside Russia (and plenty of people inside Russia) will understand that Russia has been humiliated and defeated in Ukraine. At least for some time, Russia will be forced to focus on internal problems and won’t have the resources to wage an aggressive war.

The first scenario is the ultimate goal. The second scenario might become an unfortunate necessity. But nothing less than that.

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Anton Protsiuk

Editor at Ukrainian Wikipedia, manager at Wikimedia Ukraine, writer & journalist.