How do wars end today?

Posted by

For many young Europeans, the conflict between Russia and Ukraine in 2022 is the first time that the shadow of a great war has appeared in such close territories, with visible consequences in daily life due to the interruption of exports and trade routes. The question that many young people are dealing with now is: once wars start, for the most varied reasons, what must happen to end it?

The reasons can be many. There is this interesting article published by MIT, which lists the main reasons why wars have ended in the past. It is a long and detailed list, but it can be skimmed and summarized in the main possibilities that you find below. Here’s how, nowadays, a war is more likely to end:

  • The involved part in military disadvantage understands that they cannot win and surrenders to limit the damage: usually in this case the surrender is unconditional, as happened for Germany in World War II. Yet this is not the most frequent resolution of wars.
  • The parties involved in war understand the likely outcome and decide that it is no longer necessary to continue fighting: this can happen either when the probable victory of one side is clear or when there is an agreement in a fundamental equality of forces. In order to avoid the negative consequences of the war for both parts, negotiations for the resolution of the conflict are initiated. If one side has shown greater power, it will be able to make more requests, otherwise the negotiations can take place on an equal ground, with the common intention of not wanting to continue the war.
  • The nation with the military advantage achieves its primary objectives and decides not to continue: this represents the victory of the strongest nation, in cases where the goal was not the annihilation of the enemy.
  • A great power (even outside the war) pressures for the start of peace negotiations: in view of the fact that one of the most common ways of ending a war is with the start of negotiations, these can also start thanks to external pressure.
  • The attacking party ceases fire: this can happen for various reasons, for example because the waste of resources or the losses have become unacceptable compared to the original goal, or because there is the possibility that the conflict will result in a war too large to be sustained, or because perpetuating the attacks would create problems with allied nations. This option can also become real when the leader of the attacking side declares a “ceasefire” or if senior army officials suggest this option.

Each war is a story in itself, of course, and if there are also strong ideological or religious motivations behind it, things become even more difficult. The basic idea, however, is that every nation in war suffers great damage and has every intention of ending it as soon as possible, if the resolution of the conflict is respectful of the interests involved.