And in one sense or another likely will.
Remember this is a nationalistic conflict between two groups going back centuries. It’s not about Putin or Zelensky, it’s not about what happened at any particular date. Those are just some of the latest triggering mechanisms. Russians and Ukrainians both deeply resent each other and view this as their home soil. Nothing is fixing that except the kind of defeatist apathy and cultural decline that set in across Western Europe. Unlike the British or the French, both sides are willing to go on fighting to the death over what they consider their national birthright.
The short version of that is that even if this ends in some truce or temporary agreement, it will pick up again.
A lot of people are expecting Putin to use nukes. It makes no particular sense for Russia, which can pick up and come back 5 years from now, to do that, but there’s no way Putin survives in power after a defeat. If he were to come back with nothing, he’d likely end up committing suicide by falling backward out of a window. But there’s no reason for Russia to give up.
Western analysts repeatedly underestimated Russia’s willingness and ability to keep going.
The only potential nuclear scenario, a small battlefield nuke (which would have nothing to do with us and despite what people on social media would tell you, wouldn’t lead to WWIII) would damage territory that Russia wants with little strategic gain.
The alternative is to just keep going.
If history has taught us anything, it’s that Russia is willing and able to absorb insane costs while losing a war. Until the enemy runs out of steam. Russia doesn’t have the population growth it once did, but that’s even better because it can just keep throwing Muslim men from the ‘republics’ into the meatgrinder which Moscow would find a win-win scenario anyway.
From the Western point of view, Russia’s position looks pretty bad. But Russia isn’t a western country and what looks bad can, from Putin’s point of view, actually have a positive flip side.
Military losses mean an opportunity to clean house, push out non-performing generals and revamp doctrine. Economic pain and domestic protests will drive further political and economic centralization.
As long as Putin keeps the war going, he won’t be perceived as having led Russia to defeat and he can wait until the appetite of western countries for the self-inflicted economic pain runs out. And there’s every reason to think that point has already passed. Russia is a lot more likely to wait Europe out than the other way around. But whatever happens, the centuries-old conflict will just continue in one form or another.