Peace Talks Essential as War Rages on in Ukraine

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Yves here. While this call for peace negotiations over Ukraine is sensible, sense went out the door a while back. Russia has no reason to resolve a war that it is winning, particularly when Ukraine has been shelling civilian targets in Donetsk and used petal mines, whose use is a war crime. Too many prominent figures in the West have expressed hatred for Russians, not just Russian government policy and have supported barring performances by Russian professional musicians and athletes and restricting Russian tourist access to the EU.

The US has made clear that its aim in backing Ukraine is not to protect the country by to weaken or better yet balkanize Russia. The US and UK will not accept any resolution that leaves Russia or Russia-friendlies holding the territory it has “liberated” with the Russia getting the security guarantees that were part of its long-standing requirements.

And the Russian leadership could not enter into any peace negotiations. The Russian public would not accept it, particularly after the UN ignoring the evidence Russia presented from the Ukraine biolabs it captured, Ukraine’s continuing targeting of the water supply to Crimea, and the murder of Darya Dugina, which most Russian see as a hit by Ukrainian security services. The only way Russia might entertain an offer of peace talks from the West is if they included withdrawing most economic sanctions. You’ll notice not a single peace advocate has suggested including that as part of a package. It is clearly a bridge way too far the so-called “collective West”.

And that’s before Russia having recognized for some time that the US, which is ultimately driving this train, as not being agreement capable. So the only point for Russia to negotiate would be to show to China and its allies that it was willing to make the effort. The body language from Russia is that it will dictate terms when it has met its war aims to its satisfaction. For instance, as Andrei Martyanov pointed out Sunday:

Peskov [the Kremlin press secretary] stated today that Russia is “ready to talk to Ukraine… on how Ukraine will fulfill Russia’s conditions” (in Russian). This is a euphemism for capitulation, of course.

By Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J. S. Davies

Six months ago, Russia invaded Ukraine. The United States, NATO and the European Union (EU) wrapped themselves in the Ukrainian flag, shelled out billions for arms shipments, and imposed draconian sanctions intended to severely punish Russia for its aggression.

Since then, the people of Ukraine have been paying a price for this war that few of their supporters in the West can possibly imagine. Wars do not follow scripts, and Russia, Ukraine, the United States, NATO and the European Union have all encountered unexpected setbacks.

Western sanctions have had mixed results, inflicting severe economic damage on Europe as well as on Russia, while the invasion and the West’s response to it have combined to trigger a food crisis across the Global South. As winter approaches, the prospect of another six months of war and sanctions threatens to plunge Europe into a serious energy crisis and poorer countries into famine. So it is in the interest of all involved to urgently reassess the possibilities of ending this protracted conflict.

For those who say negotiations are impossible, we have only to look at the talks that took place during the first month after the Russian invasion, when Russia and Ukraine tentatively agreed to a fifteen-point peace plan in talks mediated by Turkey. Details still had to be worked out, but the framework and the political will were there.

Russia was ready to withdraw from all of Ukraine, except for Crimea and the self-declared republics in Donbas. Ukraine was ready to renounce future membership in NATO and adopt a position of neutrality between Russia and NATO.

The agreed framework provided for political transitions in Crimea and Donbas that both sides would accept and recognize, based on self-determination for the people of those regions. The future security of Ukraine was to be guaranteed by a group of other countries, but Ukraine would not host foreign military bases on its territory.

On March 27, President Zelenskyy told a national TV audience, “Our goal is obvious—peace and the restoration of normal life in our native state as soon as possible.” He laid out his “red lines” for the negotiations on TV to reassure his people he would not concede too much, and he promised them a referendum on the neutrality agreement before it would take effect.

Such early success for a peace initiative was no surprise to conflict resolution specialists. The best chance for a negotiated peace settlement is generally during the first months of a war. Each month that a war rages on offers reduced chances for peace, as each side highlights the atrocities of the other, hostility becomes entrenched and positions harden.

The abandonment of that early peace initiative stands as one of the great tragedies of this conflict, and the full scale of that tragedy will only become clear over time as the war rages on and its dreadful consequences accumulate.

Ukrainian and Turkish sources have revealed that the U.K. and U.S. governments played decisive roles in torpedoing those early prospects for peace. During U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s “surprise visit” to Kyiv on April 9th, he reportedly told Prime Minister Zelenskyy that the U.K. was “in it for the long run,” that it would not be party to any agreement between Russia and Ukraine, and that the “collective West” saw a chance to “press” Russia and was determined to make the most of it.

The same message was reiterated by U.S. Defense Secretary Austin, who followed Johnson to Kyiv on April 25th and made it clear that the U.S. and NATO were no longer just trying to help Ukraine defend itself but were now committed to using the war to “weaken” Russia. Turkish diplomats told retired British diplomat Craig Murray that these messages from the U.S. and U.K. killed their otherwise promising efforts to mediate a ceasefire and a diplomatic resolution.

In response to the invasion, much of the public in Western countries accepted the moral imperative of supporting Ukraine as a victim of Russian aggression. But the decision by the U.S. and British governments to kill peace talks and prolong the war, with all the horror, pain and misery that entails for the people of Ukraine, has neither been explained to the public, nor endorsed by a consensus of NATO countries. Johnson claimed to be speaking for the “collective West,” but in May, the leaders of France, Germany and Italy all made public statements that contradicted his claim.

Addressing the European Parliament on May 9, French President Emmanuel Macron declared, “We are not at war with Russia,” and that Europe’s duty was “to stand with Ukraine to achieve the cease-fire, then build peace.”

Meeting with President Biden at the White House on May 10, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi told reporters, “People… want to think about the possibility of bringing a cease-fire and starting again some credible negotiations. That’s the situation right now. I think that we have to think deeply about how to address this.”

After speaking by phone with President Putin on May 13, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz tweeted that he told Putin, “There must be a cease-fire in Ukraine as quickly as possible.”

But American and British officials continued to pour cold water on talk of renewed peace negotiations. The policy shift in April appears to have involved a commitment by Zelenskyy that Ukraine, like the U.K. and U.S., was “in it for the long run” and would fight on, possibly for many years, in exchange for the promise of tens of billions of dollars worth of weapons shipments, military training, satellite intelligence and Western covert operations.

As the implications of this fateful agreement became clearer, dissent began to emerge, even within the U.S. business and media establishment. On May 19, the very day that Congress appropriated $40 billion for Ukraine, including $19 billion for new weapons shipments, with not a single dissenting Democratic vote, TheNew York Times editorial board penned a lead editorial titled, “The war in Ukraine is getting complicated, and America isn’t ready.

The Times asked serious unanswered questions about U.S. goals in Ukraine, and tried to reel back unrealistic expectations built up by three months of one-sided Western propaganda, not least from its own pages. The board acknowledged, “A decisive military victory for Ukraine over Russia, in which Ukraine regains all the territory Russia has seized since 2014, is not a realistic goal.… Unrealistic expectations could draw [the United States and NATO] ever deeper into a costly, drawn-out war.”

More recently, warhawk Henry Kissinger, of all people, publicly questioned the entire U.S. policy of reviving its Cold War with Russia and China and the absence of a clear purpose or endgame short of World War III. “We are at the edge of war with Russia and China on issues which we partly created, without any concept of how this is going to end or what it’s supposed to lead to,” Kissinger told The Wall Street Journal.

U.S. leaders have inflated the danger that Russia poses to its neighbors and the West, deliberately treating it as an enemy with whom diplomacy or cooperation would be futile, rather than as a neighbor raising understandable defensive concerns over NATO expansion and its gradual encirclement by U.S. and allied military forces.

Far from aiming to deter Russia from dangerous or destabilizing actions, successive administrations of both parties have sought every means available to “overextend and unbalance” Russia, all the while misleading the American public into supporting an ever-escalating and unthinkably dangerous conflict between our two countries, which together possess more than 90% of the world’s nuclear weapons.

After six months of a U.S. and NATO proxy war with Russia in Ukraine, we are at a crossroads. Further escalation should be unthinkable, but so should a long war of endless crushing artillery barrages and brutal urban and trench warfare that slowly and agonizingly destroys Ukraine, killing hundreds of Ukrainians with each day that passes.

The only realistic alternative to this endless slaughter is a return to peace talks to bring the fighting to an end, find reasonable political solutions to Ukraine’s political divisions, and seek a peaceful framework for the underlying geopolitical competition between the United States, Russia and China.

Campaigns to demonize, threaten and pressure our enemies can only serve to cement hostility and set the stage for war. People of good will can bridge even the most entrenched divisions and overcome existential dangers, as long as they are willing to talk – and listen – to their adversaries.

_________

Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J. S. Davies are the authors of War in Ukraine: Making Sense of a Senseless Conflict, which will be available from OR Books in October/November 2022.

Medea Benjamin is the cofounder of CODEPINK for Peace, and the author of several books, including Inside Iran: The Real History and Politics of the Islamic Republic of Iran

Nicolas J. S. Davies is an independent journalist, a researcher with CODEPINK and the author of Blood on Our Hands: The American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq.

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49 comments

  1. Colonel Smithers

    Thank you, Yves, for this post and to readers for supporting Yves “making good trouble”.

    Yesterday evening, the francophone Swiss broadcaster RTS led with the election of Truss as Tory leader and her appointment as PM, including footage of her “political pilgrimage from republican Liberal calling for the abolition of the monarchy (at the Liberal conference in 1995) to the Queen’s latest Conservative PM”. That was before the credits and other headlines. Before jumping to the opening sequence, the newscaster added Truss’ top priority was Ukraine and the UK continuing its military and other support for Ukraine. Watching that from deepest and darkest Buckinghamshire, I was surprised to hear that the bread and butter issues that afflict, if not worse, most Britons are not the new PM’s priority.

    Last week-end, concerts in aid of Ukraine were held around neighbouring Oxfordshire. I can’t remember other causes, domestic or international, getting this sort of support. There’s a lot of poverty, often hidden in rural areas, in the county, a situation made worse by the second home(r)s in the Cotswolds and Chilterns and the city of Oxford and the wealthy colleges prioritising housing and other developments for the university and related industries.

    Reply
    1. Stephen

      From the perspective of the Surrey / Royal Borough of Kingston border country, I agree, Colonel Smithers.

      Never in my lifetime have I seen a government class that is so out of touch with the concerns of “ordinary” people who need to pay their rent or mortgage, get treatment if they are ill and keep their families fed and warm. It is unconscionable.

      Truss will be a disaster.

      Interestingly, I see hardly any Ukraine flags here and it is exactly the type of area where one would expect virtue signaling. The only exception is that one of the rowing clubs still has a flag up (guess the committee cannot agree to take it down, or no one asked) and I also cycled behind a couple the other day who each had a kind of Ukraine flag dangling out of their pockets!

      My guess is that the US will end up backing out at some point (apologies to Americans but they always do eventually) and this will leave the rather stupid Truss plus the unthinking UK deep state high and dry. Americans are even less interested in Ukraine than most “ordinary” British people I would think. America’s (and Britain’s) wars of adventure / empire can only be sustained when there is no real domestic blowback and that looks increasingly not to be the case. Of course, that time may be a long way off given that the MIC and many congressional donors benefit from the war and from tension. But the day will come.

      Russia will in the meantime just end up dictating the peace she wants in Ukraine, and then increasingly collaborate with Iran and China; turning her back on Europe.

      Reply
      1. Old Sovietologist

        I do not see a non-military solution. Without the overthrow of the Kiev regime, peace is unattainable and there is not the slightest possibility of overthrowing it, except by military means.

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        1. Old Sovietologist

          Stephen – I do hope your right on the US leaving Truss to hold the baby. However, there is an alternative scenario where the UK descends into utter chaos this winter and Truss calls in the US to restore order.

          Daphne du Maurier’s satirical novel Rule Britannia was set in a fictional world where a British withdrawal from the EEC has brought the country to the verge of bankruptcy and we see a US military takeover of Britain.

          Its deliciously anti-American.

          Reply
          1. Stephen

            I think it will be a while until America backs out.

            Russia has every incentive I think to let this play out right through the winter.

            That could ignite the scenario you suggest!

            Reply
          2. Alex Cox

            Old Soviet — thanks for recommending the DuMaurier book — I was unaware of it (somehow the author doesn’t seem to figure in ‘mainstream’ science fiction) and will order a copy today for my collection of English apocalyptic novels!

            [Just ordered a copy. A hardback from Alibris: strangely the book didn’t make it into paperback]

            Reply
        2. Stephen

          I agree. Russia will impose a military solution and there may well be a frozen conflict of a similar type to Cyprus or even Korea. Sanctions will probably never be formally removed but may fade away quietly and get circumvented anyway.

          The US will lose interest in Ukraine itself once it is no longer usable against Russia and will move on to the next adventure leaving a trail of devastation, as always.

          “Peace” in the sense of an agreement in the traditional European way that involved a Congress of some form between the powers is clearly not on the table either. It would require regime change in Europe and the US. And the US is, of course, agreement incapable.

          When Europeans eventually reflect on all this over the next decade or so though they will eventually realise what a disastrous road they have taken with the US. Will the next generation of leadership overcome their fear of America and rediscover the inner de Gaulle or will we remain in vassal status? That is a key unknown.

          Reply
    2. Ignacio

      I concur, this was a good post, thanks for it. Regarding the UK and Truss, the new government election looks like doubling down on previous idiocy by B.J. I sense that Truss selection will mean the next step on the final rupture of the UK with the rest of the continent. Only geological drift will be able to take the UK further away. The apparent similarities of UK’s government position and, for instance, German Government position regarding Ukraine hide the political drift below the radar.

      Yves comment above the article states that any cease fire or peace negotiation would require, from the part of Russia, the end of sanctions (and possibly the elimination of a few before negotiations start as a sign of good faith?). For European countries (including the UK, mind you Truss), starting negotiations and ending the sanctions would be even better outcome being the countries poised to suffer the most from those. Yes, sanctions hurt Russia but Russia (barring war disaster for Russia) will probably be vindicated in their position and with more global political power that before the war started. On the other side, the US will very much become debilitated geo-politically but at least might learn that being the bully in the classroom has its own risks.

      If that analysis holds, a ceasefire and ending sanctions looks like win-win-win for all no matter if bad previous decisions debilitate some positions: the losers will have time to recover if this is their will, to recognize mistakes and change course to more reasonable goals. The winners (only one?) will have the chance to be generous. This will require sharp changes of direction, real commitment and a lot of wrongdoing recognition. Difficult, extremely difficult. I think that BICS (BRICS without Russia) taking the lead, might be the ones bringing some sanity into this. Clearly the bully would be the more reluctant to be brought to the table. Truss’ UK as well but if there is US cooperation, Truss is not relevant).

      Reply
      1. David

        If I were the Russians, I wouldn’t want a negotiated end to sanctions, because sanctions could always be re-imposed later. Rather, I’d wait for an economically desperate Europe to decide it had no choice but to lift sanctions, and to ask the Russians to be nice enough to restore normal relations. I’d be trying to create a political and economic environment where, for twenty-five years, a government that even talked about sanctions against Russia would be brought down within the day.

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        1. nippersdad

          I agree. The true belligerents must not only fail, they must be seen to fail. Too many bridges have been deliberately burned for there to be any other outcome acceptable to the Russians in this conflict. I suspect that Russia will be generous in its’ victory, but only if their conditions are met unconditionally.

          Unlike with promises not to expand NATO East in the Nineties, there is not going to be any wiggle room this time and any agreement is going to come with a leash.

          Reply
        2. Yves Smith Post author

          I don’t think our position is that different. The US/EU are so wedded to the sanctions that having to throw them into the mix would be an admission of weakness/desperation.

          Given the Russian need to play to the Global South, it can’t be seen to let EU citizens be sitting in the cold and dark to gain maximum advantage. But yes, they could get most of the way there with tight triggers for withdrawal of Russian commodities in the event of misbehavior.

          Reply
          1. David

            I suspect the sympathy of the Global South would be quite limited in such a case. But as I’ve argued lower down, I don’t think the Russians are looking for, or even necessarily want, a negotiated end to sanctions. I think they’d be happy if I what I suspect will happen happens, and the sanctions slowly crumble, bit by bit, country by country, as discreetly as possible and without any public acknowledgement. They just have to sit and watch.

            Reply
            1. JTMcPhee

              Aren’t the sanctions already getting Swiss-cheesed by the desires of the business class and the needs of ordinary people that demand to be met, at some level of pain, if there’s not to be “civil disorder” beyond the oppressive powers of the governments/kleptocracies that have brought on the hot conflict? https://advisorscapital.com/portfolio/sanctions-against-russia-failing-what-now/

              Even NPR concedes that in the short term, Russia’s preparations for the sanctions attack have rendered it ineffective (though of course the authors persist in saying that “Russia will eventually be weakened” over the long term.) https://www.npr.org/2022/07/01/1109033582/are-sanctions-actually-hurting-russias-economy-heres-what-you-need-to-know

              It seems to me that the Russian ruling structure values ordinariness and policies that benefit the larger population, and not just Russians. Whereas it’s pretty clear that the kakistocracies of the “combined West,” knowing (or at least hoping) that they individually and personally are insulated from the consequences of their dead-end idiocies, are trying to strike a death blow to any ordinary aspirations of all the rest of the world.

              What are the objects of the Western ruling elites, anyway? Financialism does not feed people, power complex society, or present any path out of ecocide. And barring the resort to nuclear idiocy, it sure looks like the Russians have taken the measure of the “combined West” with its insatiable greed and delusional war games, and found it wanting. “Negotiation” in this situation would be seriously unwise for Russia and the other 80 percent of the world.

              Reply
              1. Ignacio

                The sanctions are doing damage elsewhere too. Pricey LNG freight is damaging India and Pakistan that have been forced to reduce this summer LNG imports by much. Sanctions don’t help making good friends anywhere.

                Reply
              2. HotFlash

                This may be a trifle cynical, but I think that our elites are confident that their goons can manage “civil disorder” just fine. Witness, Prez Darth Brandon (re)funding the police by a bunch o’bucks just now. If the enforcers can keep their families fed and warm, what matter we?

                I don’t actually miss the flying cars we were promised, or even the hoverboards, but whatever happened to the age of Aquarius? That would have been so cool…

                Reply
          2. Kouros

            I am sure that the Global South will not shed a tear and experience in fact some Schadenfreude if witnessing the hard times Europeans are heading to…

            Reply
  2. The Rev Kev

    If there were going to be negotisations, the US would have to be present along with Zelensky. The truth of the matter is that it is the US behind this war and if the US negotiated a treaty with Russia, then the Ukraine, the UK and the EU would fall all over themselves to sign their own names to this treaty. But right now I can see no signs of any such negotiations and I can only conclude that the Washington set are convinced that if they only keep this up, sooner or later Russia will buckle and will ask for negotiations themselves. But that is not likely as Russia has come out and said that they are not interested in a meeting with Zelensky just for the sake of a meeting so they will only attend if there is a negotiated peace ready for both leaders to meet and to sign. Meanwhile, as there are no negotiations, the Ukraine feels free to make all sorts of threats and commit all sorts of dubious actions. So you just had a Ukrainian Presidential adviser tell the people in “occupied” territories to get ready for ‘de-occupation measures’ and people should ‘prepare a bomb shelter, stock up on a sufficient amount of water and charge power banks right now.’ To me that sounds more like a military occupation of hostile territories that a liberation of occupied lands.

    https://www.rt.com/russia/562233-kiev-crimea-prepare-shelter/

    Reply
  3. fjallstrom

    Thanks for highlighting this effort to bring peace back to the agenda.

    Some time ago I read Gilbert Doctorows peace proposal on his blog. IIRC, his basic thrust is to make the Russian dominated oblasts in Ukraine independent, but with the option to join Ukraine or Russia down the line. Crimea is accepted as Russian and the rest of Ukraine as neutral but with the option to join the EU (but not NATO). Economic sanctions are lifted and the newly independent republics gets to trade with both sides And then fight it out over the newly independent republics with economic carrots, rather than sticks. .

    Russia gets what it has already won, but gets international recognition for the newly independent republics, and can show to the world (most importantly the global South) that they were not in a war of conquest. Ukraine gets a chance to win them back with politics. Everyone gets peace. The soldiers gets to go home instead of killing and dying.

    I would add negotiated demilitarisation of both Ukraine and the newly independent republics (including foreign troops), to avoid war as a future solution. UN peacekeepers from India or other non-involved nations might be necessary to monitor the demilitarsation.

    And while I am at it – one might as well dream – a start of negotiations for a European security order that guarantees security for all.

    Yes, this is extremely unlikely. As the former neutral nations of Europe has abandoned the role as negotiators, I guess it is up to Turkey to bring parties to the table (while invading Kurdish territories in Syria and Iraq).

    However slim the chance, there is still a point in showing that other ways are possible. It highlights that continued war is also a choice, and a poor one.

    Reply
    1. Morrison's Revenge

      Any “demilitarized” state, particularly one living in the shadow of a military power, is not a sovereign state. No state has the right to demand another sovereign state cannot have a viable military to defend itself and its interests. For similar reasons, Gaza can never be part of a two-state solution until and unless it was its own sovereign military to defend its borders. Like any and every other sovereign state must have.

      No nation has the right to demand another sovereign state cannot arm and protect itself as it sees fit and make whatever defensive alliances it wishes to pursue. There is no, and has never been such a thing as a sovereign state that lacks these fundamental pillars of sovereignty. Asking Ukraine to agree to “demilitarization” is asking it to completely renounce its own sovereignty, which no functioning independent state can survive. It would be equally absurd for Ukraine to demand that Russia agree to “demilitarize”.

      Reply
      1. Kouros

        The two OECD agreements that Russia is very found of speak very clearly about security for all… Your clarion call for sovereignty, is only used by the West when it serves them…

        Reply
      2. JTMcPhee

        At this point, how can “Ukraine” be described as a sovereign state? Convenient fiction.

        There’s a reactionary (to be charitable) gang of oligarchs and looters who rule viciously and arbitrarily, connected in all kinds of ways to “the West” (including the Biden family trust) who benefit from the power that comes out of the barrel of a gun, the gun being provided by “the West.”

        How many of us have “Ukraine” in mind as a shiny symbol, purged of the realities of the place and the nature of the conflict, of our own fervent wishes that our own “nations” might be healthily “sovereign?” And that somehow intoning “Slava Ukraini” will give wings to their own stillborn hopes that the “nations” they are born into might be other than repressive and destructive oil-igarchies?

        Reply
      3. hk

        “Demilitarization” in some form was central to every arms limitation agreements since time immemorial and was often central for maintaining peace agreements. The talk of “sovereignty” as justification for not demilitarizing has usually been the resort of warmongers.

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      4. Simple John

        You’re saying there will always be war, at least for the next few hundred million years?
        I’d counter that the states with nuclear weapons are the only states that get to define sovereign.

        Reply
  4. David

    Peace advocates have to advocate for peace talks, I suppose, it’s what they do. But as you’ve suggested, Yves, the time has probably gone. Let me propose two things.

    First, wars seldom end in the Carthaginian solution any more; I can’t think of a recent example. Wars may end in an imposed settlement (as in 1919, itself preceded by an armistice agreement) or just in a surrender, as in 1945, but there has to be agreement on certain practical issues. But this is not the same as peace negotiations, which suggest an exchange of proposals and the willingness to compromise. For an agreement, you need essentially two things (1) objectives which are not completely incompatible and (2) a willingness to make concessions if necessary to achieve (1). You can think of two Venn diagrams, where there has to be enough overlap for there to be something to talk about. In addition, each side has to believe that its objectives are more likely to be gained by negotiations than by further fighting. It’s not obvious to me that the situation in Ukraine contains any of these elements. I can imagine things like an armistice, safe passage for UA forces out of cities like Odessa, release of prisoners etc. But those are not peace negotiations, because they don’t address the underlying political problems. I don’t see why the Russians should be interested in anything more than local deals, unless Ukraine collapses totally. But if Ukraine collapses totally, then the Russians can dictate the terms anyway, without negotiation. The situation is reminiscent of early 1918, when Ludendorff believed that his offensive could force the Allies to negotiate on favourable terms: one of the German objectives, as I recall from his autobiography, was control of the Belgian railway system, which shows you what kind of a world he was living in.

    The second point is that this war is now only incidentally about Ukraine, and a peace accord limited to that country – no matter how one-sided – would be pointless. It’s clear that the offensive always had wider geo-strategic aims, even if early on the Russian government itself couldn’t necessarily define them very precisely. But they now seem to be getting clearer. Russia wants the effective end of NATO, Europe as a militarily weak and divided continent, partially dependent on Russia economically, and the US out of Europe. But notice I say “effective” end of NATO. A body that meets once a year, whose Commands are inactive, which issues ringing political statements but has no ability to back them up, where the US has only a vestigial presence and which is riven by disagreements, is functionally indistinguishable from a NATO that has agreed to commit suicide at a negotiation. So actually, from the Russian point of view, why bother with negotiations? After all, the Soviet Union took over Eastern Europe after 1945 essentially by brute force and military presence. The negotiations, such as they were, came long afterwards. Negotiations will happen only if Russia decides that there is something it wants that the West can give it, which it is easier to get by negotiation than by fighting, and where Russia is prepared to offer something in exchange. At the moment, it’s hard to see what that might be.

    Reply
    1. Yves Smith Post author

      This is all very sensible but the people in charge in the West are the antithesis of sensible. Just with the sanctions blowback, they may be unwittingly engineering close to Carthaginian outcomes.

      Military types who have current contacts like Douglas MacGregor and Scott Ritter say they have never seen a worse climate for dealing with Russia. Even during the worst of the Cold War, communications channels were kept open. They’ve been shut now. This may be an artifact of having total amateurs like Blinken and Sullivan in charge. But if no one is even willing to talk to Russia, how do you negotiate? I think the US has way too much ego to let someone like Gerhard Schroeder be a go between.

      I would love to be wrong, but absent a new government in 2024 (and no assurance any Rs will be less hawkish) I don’t see how the US will be willing to allow negotiations to proceed.

      So Russia takes the war as far as it intends to. I don’t know how it deals with rooting out the Banderites or Western Ukraine, absent somehow getting Poland to eat most of it up. So it has some very big problems to solve. How does the West deal with a fait accompli?

      As for NATO, the only reason needs an effective end is that it seems highly unlikely that the US will give up on using it as a big tool v. Russia and China. But if the EU is economically prostrated, the US has spent a fortune on Ukraine and not won, and NATO has had its weapon caches largely emptied where is NATO?

      Reply
      1. David

        Yes, this is why I don’t think there will be negotiations, and indeed why I think that the Russians would prefer there not to be any. The default assumption for negotiations, after all, is that each side has something to gain, and each side is prepared to concede something. I suspect the Russians feel that there is nothing they could be promised in negotiations, that time and the weather will not give them without negotiating. The longer the actual resolution of the issue takes, the weaker and more disunited the West will be when the situation finally settles down.

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        1. Stephen

          I think that this is a position that has evolved.

          The Russian leaders are Clausewitzian and Westphalian. They see war as part of diplomacy and believe in nation states running their own affairs rather than the US / west’s desire to intervene everywhere allegedly to promote “democracy”. But in reality in the pursuit of power.

          Back in March / early April an embryonic deal was on the table and the Russians were not the ones who killed it. In the run up to this conflict, they also tried negotiations and were rebuffed. Right now, though they have no doubt realised that western Russophobia is off the scales and that the US is not agreement capable anyway (they probably already knew that). So negotiations are now out of the question except as a way of showing reasonableness to the Global South.

          Ukraine may end up as a frozen conflict on the Cyprus or Korea model. The main question is the extent to which a broader armistice of some form is then agreed, possibly tacitly. The US is the only player who matters in that and the 2024 election cycle may be the real key to it. European “unity” may fray in the mean time but European elites seem determined to double down and continue dancing to the master’s tune. Revolutions from below without some form of elite support are rare so my guess is that they will succeed in keeping their countries on side, whatever the hardship. Unless they snap out of the hypnosis that they are in. The Ukraine government itself is the model they may seek to emulate as an example of sheer irrationality and puppetry. That is until America herself changes tack. Other than the 2024 election cycle perhaps she will decide that pleasing the Global South by showing willingness to negotiate matters as an alternative to bullying them but I am not betting on it.

          The Soviets get a bad press for overrunning Eastern Europe in 1945. Given the history of two wars with Germany that they fought in the previous thirty years, plus the western interventions in the Civil War, one can explain without condoning the desire to create buffer states. Also worth noting that the US had nuclear weapons in 1945 but the Soviets did not. They did not occupy Finland, which would have been easy and left Austria peacefully in 1954. Yugoslavia was left as non aligned too. They did occupy countries that are pretty much on a direct line of advance from Germany. Standard Cold War history is, of course, deeply one sided.

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  5. Matthew G. Saroff

    When I agree with Henry **family blog**ing Kissinger, I know that someone has **family blog**ed up something beyond belief.

    Reply
  6. John R Moffett

    This war was instigated by NATO and the US on purpose – “to weaken Russia” and therefore it’s obvious that the US and NATO do not want to talk peace. That doesn’t get them to a weakened Russia. So the war was essentially started by the West, and is being perpetuated by the west. Ukraine is just collateral damage as far as the west is concerned. What is surprising to me is that the public in the US and Europe aren’t raging over this in the streets considering it has done nothing good for the public in either place. Even though the war is not popular (except among the war profiteers and their friends in the Corporate Owned News) there are only scattered protests, like those in Czechoslovakia. I expect that may change come winter, at least in more EU countries.

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    1. digi_owl

      Because European MSM is saturated with the image of Putin as the modern day Satan, and has been for decades.

      Yes, the guy is no saint, and his tag team with Medvedev was a faux pas, but the downright anger and fear on display when you mention him to random people on the street is both impressive and worrying.

      And the war coverage is myopically focused on crying women and children.

      Thus for most it started with Russia invading, and will end with Russia withdrawing, nothing less. It is like everything that happened up to the start of the invasion has been memory holed.

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    2. Kouros

      Jared Diamond in his book “Collapse” describes very vividly the annihilation of the two Christian Norske settlements in Greenland. They ended dying of starvation because learning and getting along with the heathen Innu was inconceivable for their higher status.

      EU reminds me of that collapse, but at a far greater scale…

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    3. Tom Stone

      When you speak of “The West” you are speaking about remarkably few people who decide what the narrative is and how wide the Overton Window will be opened.
      A few thousand people at most.
      Those driving America’s Foreign Policy in Ukraine are .delusional, agreement incapable, hard working and not very bright.
      True believers all.
      Pursuing a Martingale Strategy at home and abroad.
      Maybe we’ll get lucky and avoid a Nuclear exchange…

      Reply
  7. digi_owl

    Yeah, no way Russia gets to run away with the best bits after the north Atlantic globalists have spent so much time and USDs on fattening it all up for slaughter…

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    1. Polar Socialist

      If you believe the eastern Ukrainians (including Crimea), the fat has been filtered out for decades now. According to them basically no investment has been done east of Dniepr since the independence.
      The oligarchs took what they could and what they couldn’t was left to rot away.

      Reply
  8. Adam Eran

    Sadly, I doubt even a negotiated peace, if that’s even possible, would quench U.S. imperial aggression. It’s just everywhere! It's as though the U.S. has now extended the Monroe doctrine (the New World countries are not your colonies any more, Europe, they're ours!) … to Europe.

    What's even more profoundly discouraging is that the "progressives" from Sanders to AOC to Jayapal have all voted to fund this war. I have yet to hear a coherent reason why they're doing this (and I've written them).

    As my wife says "A pox on them all!"

    Reply
  9. Tom Stone

    Erm, does “They can get you six ways from Sunday” ring a bell?
    Plus lots of nice carrots for those that sing the Company song with joy in their voices.
    Show me the incentives…
    .

    Reply
  10. Russ

    I would suggest that anyone reading this blog and accompanying comments, read today’s piece in the Atlantic by George Packer: Ukrainians are Defending the Values Americans Claim to Hold. He writes: “…Ukraine under invasion is not a place where the clever refinements of a detached intelligence have much use”. The Ukrainians are fighting heroically and sacrificing everything for their very existence. As an independent, democratically governed, and unified country it appears they have no intention of laying down for Czar Putin. How dare anyone suggest/demand that negotiations with Russia by anyone other than Ukraine, decide their fate.
    “http://https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2022/10/ukraine-invasion-civilian-volunteers-survival/671241/”>

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    1. OnceWereVirologist

      It’s interesting as a handy distillation of literally every pro-Ukrainian talking point ever invented and an object lesson in how hard it would be for Russia to win hearts and minds in Western Ukraine but as a investigation of the right and wrongs of each side it’s ludicrously one-sided.

      I offer this section for its instructiveness.

      “Olena Styazhkina, the historian from Donetsk, fled the Donbas amid heavy shelling not long after the start of the pro-Russian insurgency in 2014. She asked herself how, if she lost and regained consciousness, she would know she was safe: “If the people around me spoke Ukrainian.” She called Russian, her native tongue, “a weapon of death and blood. I don’t want to speak Russian anymore.” Instead she has taught herself to speak and write in Ukrainian. Styazhkina predicted that Russian would gradually disappear from Ukraine.

      She’s certainly an interesting case, but also massively psychologically abnormal. I think its obvious to all that the vast majority of people fight tooth and nail against foreign cultural assimilation not volunteer for it. The journalist then goes on to wonder what would be the post-war fate of the populations of Donbass and Crimea if Ukraine were victorious. He concludes that the question should be ignored while Ukraine is fighting for its survival but then gives the floor to a director of a Ukrainian NGO who says that the Ukrainians aren’t fighting over anything as petty as ethnic divisions, land or resources but for freedom and democracy. See, nothing to worry about. Of course parties, newspapers and television stations that didn’t hold the “right” opinions on the Russian threat were often banned even before the war, but elections were held, votes were counted, that’s technically a democracy and that’s all the democracy that the Western powers are really interested in. We can supply all the weapons we want to the Banderite-led Ukrainian security forces and not feel the slightest guilt when it inevitably leads to mass deportations, reeducation camps and people disappearing in SBU dungeons should they win. Ukraine is quite obviously not an independent, democratically governed, and unified country. The entire 30 odd years of its history since independence shows it conclusively. And that’s why we in the West should support a negotiated settlement. Quite frankly if the Western Ukrainians were so dissatisfied with a unified Ukraine that swayed back and forward between relatively pro-Western and pro-Russian governments, then it’s they that should have declared independence back in 2014 not tried to impose their views on the rest. If they had tried that and the Russians had supported a Kiev-led military campaign to retake the West, I’d be as resolutely pro-separatist Western Ukrainian as I am resolutely pro-separatist Eastern Ukrainian.

      Reply
      1. Russ

        OWV I appreciate your in-depth analysis of how we got here. But at this point I think the results of this poll (8/11/2021, 1600 responses) is all that matters. Based on opinions from those directly affected by the illegal invasion 98% of Ukrainians believe they will win the war. 91% approve of Zelensky. 72% back joining NATO. And a large majority believe they will not cede any territory back to Russia. And if the results on the ground the last few days are any indication of the direction of the war it is easy to understand why they believe as they do. Negotiations with Putin? Sure, after Ukraine has been cleared of the invaders and joined NATO. That should end Putin’s imperialism and his colossal foreign policy failure. Maybe he will accidentally fall out of a sixth story window as well.<a

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    2. Lambert Strether

      > George Packer: Ukrainians are Defending the Values Americans Claim to Hold

      George Packer got Iraq wrong, too. So it’s no surprise Bush-era war criminal David Frum would be publishing him in The Atlantic, which he edits. I wasn’t aware that Banderite fascism was an American value*, but liberal hawks gotta liberal hawk.

      To his credit, Packer recanted. (Frum may have, but I don’t recall.) No doubt he will recant over Ukraine as well.

      NOTE * I suspect that the really virulent Ukrainian nationalism we’re seeing with Zelensky and the Azovs only really started propagating after the 2014 coup that we sponsored. Perhaps, then, it’s not too late to uproot it. That would be a good thing, even if Russia does it (or Poland, if they happily accept the gift of Galicia).

      Reply
      1. Polar Socialist

        OSS and then CIA did protect Bandera and his ilk from extradition in the late 40’s and then funded the “UPA resistance” (terror campaign) in Ukraine to early 50’s. So there’s already a tradition of USA supporting Banderite fascism.

        Regarding more recent Ukrainian nationalism of Banderite variant, it rose immediately in 1991, but as a local phenomena in western parts. By 2002 they were already organizing celebratory marches in Kiev. After 2014 UPA and Bandera became national heroes celebrated nationally, and only in 2020 all criticism of UPA was banned.

        Reply
        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Scott Ritter says CIA funding went beyond the 1950s, basically to the fall of the USSR. Your chronology suggests they had to look for new patrons/business models then.

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          1. Polar Socialist

            I was mostly referring to UPA actions inside USSR that petered out when they were eventually caught/killed and people just had had enough and preferred normalcy.
            I’m sure the ideology was kept alive outside Soviet Union and likely even inside, but in secrecy and in whispers.

            Reply

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