“Eight Reasons Why Now is a Good Time for a Ukraine Ceasefire and Peace Talks”

Yves here. It is not pleasant to have to play Voice of Realism, which often means Skunk at the Party. There are many reasons to want peace in Ukraine, starting with the horrible and only mounting human, materiel, and financial cost. But even though parties who are experiencing those costs, as well as humane bystanders, understandably very much want this war to be over soon, that is simply not in the cards.

Ukraine’s leadership continues to take a derangedly uncompromising position, insisting Russia must and will be driven out of Ukraine, including the Donbass and Crimea, even as Russia is demonstrating that it can force mass exodus by turning out the lights. The US has gone all in propaganda-wise, which means it can’t quickly go into reverse even if the US accepted that (absent a massive Russian screw-up), the war will end when and how Russia wants it to end. For NATO, the stakes are even higher. A failure to defeat Russia calls the very existence of NATO into question.

And Russia-knowledgeable commentators report that even though the Russian public does not relish the war, they accept that it is an existential fight, and they are also now prepared for a long war if that is what it takes.

By Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J. S. Davies, the authors of War in Ukraine: Making Sense of a Senseless Conflict, available from OR Books in 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.

As the war in Ukraine has dragged on for nine months and a cold winter is setting in, people all over the world are calling for a Christmas truce, harkening back to the inspirational Christmas Truce of 1914. In the midst of World War I, warring soldiers put down their guns and celebrated the holiday together in the no-man’s land between their trenches.This spontaneous reconciliation and fraternization has been, over the years, a symbol of hope and courage.

Here are eight reasons why this holiday season too offers the potential for peace and a chance to move the conflict in Ukraine from the battlefield to the negotiating table.

  1. The first, and most urgent reason, is the incredible, daily death and suffering in Ukraine, and the chance to save millions more Ukrainians from being forced to leave their homes, their belongings and the conscripted menfolk they may never see again.

With Russia’s bombing of key infrastructure, millions of people in Ukraine currently have no heat, electricity or water as temperatures drop below freezing. The CEO of Ukraine’s largest electric corporation has urged millions more Ukrainians to leave the country, ostensibly for just a few months, to reduce demand on the war-damaged power network.

The war has wiped out at least 35% of the country’s economy, according to Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal. The only way to halt the meltdown of the economy and the suffering of the Ukrainian people is to end the war.

  1. Neither side can achieve a decisive military victory, and with its recent military gains, Ukraine is in a good negotiating position.

It has become clear that U.S. and NATO military leaders do not believe, and possibly have never believed, that their publicly stated goal of helping Ukraine to recover Crimea and all of Donbas by force is militarily achievable.

In fact, Ukraine’s military chief of staff warned President Zelenskyy in April 2021 that such a goal would not be achievable without “unacceptable” levels of civilian and military casualties, leading him to call off plans for an escalation of the civil war at that time.

Biden’s top military advisor, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, told the Economic Club of New York on November 9, “There has to be a mutual recognition that military victory is probably, in the true sense of the word, not achievable through military means…”

French and German military reviews of Ukraine’s position are reportedly more pessimistic than U.S. ones, assessing that the current appearance of military parity between the two sides will be short-lived. This adds weight to Milley’s assessment, and suggests that this could well be the best chance Ukraine will get to negotiate from a position of relative strength.

  1. U.S. government officials, especially in the Republican Party, are starting to balk at the prospect of continuing this enormous level of military and economic support. Having taken control of the House, Republicans are promising more scrutiny of Ukraine aid. Congressman Kevin McCarthy, who will become Speaker of the House, warned that Republicans would not write a “blank check” for Ukraine. This reflects the growing opposition at the base of the Republican Party, with a Wall Street Journal November poll showing that 48% of Republicans say the U.S. is doing too much to help Ukraine, up from 6% in March.
  1. The war is causing upheavals in Europe. Sanctions on Russian energy have sent inflation in Europe skyrocketing and caused a devastating squeeze on energy supplies that is crippling the manufacturing sector. Europeans are increasingly feeling what German media call Kriegsmudigkeit.

This translates as “war-weariness,” but that is not an entirely accurate characterization of the growing popular sentiment in Europe. “War-wisdom” may describe it better.

People have had many months to consider the arguments for a long, escalating war with no clear endgame—a war that is sinking their economies into a recession—and more of them than ever now tell pollsters they would support renewed efforts to find a diplomatic solution. That includes 55% in Germany, 49% in Italy, 70% in Romania and 92% in Hungary.

  1. Most of the world is calling for negotiations. We heard this at the 2022 UN General Assembly, where one after another, 66 world leaders, representing a majority of the world’s population, eloquently spoke out for peace talks. Philip Pierre, Prime Minister of Saint Lucia, was one of them, pleading with Russia, Ukraine and the Western powers “to immediately end the conflict in Ukraine, by undertaking immediate negotiations to permanently settle all disputes in accordance with the principles of the United Nations.”

As the Amir of Qatar told the Assembly, “We are fully aware of the complexities of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, and the international and global dimension to this crisis. However, we still call for an immediate ceasefire and a peaceful settlement, because this is ultimately what will happen regardless of how long this conflict will go on for. Perpetuating the crisis will not change this result. It will only increase the number of casualties, and it will increase the disastrous repercussions on Europe, Russia and the global economy.”

  1. The war in Ukraine, like all wars, is catastrophic for the environment. Attacks and explosions are reducing all kinds of infrastructure–railways, electrical grids, apartment buildings, oil depots–to charred rubble, filling the air with pollutants and blanketing cities with toxic waste that contaminates rivers and groundwater.

The sabotage of Russia’s underwater Nord Stream pipelines supplying Russian gas to Germany led to what may have been the largest release of methane gas emissions ever recorded, amounting to the annual emissions of a million cars. The shelling of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants, including Zaporizhzhia, the largest in Europe, has raised legitimate fears of deadly radiation spreading throughout Ukraine and beyond.

Meanwhile, US and Western sanctions on Russian energy have triggered a bonanza for the fossil fuel industry, giving them a new justification to increase their dirty energy exploration and production and keep the world firmly on course for climate catastrophe.

  1. The war has a devastating economic impact on countries across the world. The leaders of the world’s largest economies, the Group of 20, said in a declaration at the end of their November summit in Bali that the Ukraine war “is causing immense human suffering and exacerbating existing fragilities in the global economy — constraining growth, increasing inflation, disrupting supply chains, heightening energy and food insecurity and elevating financial stability risks.”

Our long-standing failure to invest the relatively small proportion of our resources required to eradicate poverty and hunger on our otherwise rich and abundant planet already condemns millions of our brothers and sisters to squalor, misery and early deaths.

Now this is compounded by the climate crisis, as entire communities are washed away by flood waters, burned out by wildfires or starved by multi-year droughts and famines. International cooperation has never been more urgently needed to confront problems that no country can solve on its own. Yet wealthy nations still prefer to put their money into weapons and war instead of adequately addressing the climate crisis, poverty or hunger.

  1. The last reason, which dramatically reinforces all the other reasons, is the danger of nuclear war.Even if our leaders had rational reasons to favor an open-ended, ever-escalating war over a negotiated peace in Ukraine – and there are certainly powerful interests in the weapons and fossil fuel industries that would profit from that – the existential danger of what this could lead to absolutely must tip the balance in favor of peace.

We recently saw how close we are to a much wider war when a single stray Ukrainian anti-aircraft missile landed in Poland and killed two people. President Zelenskyy refused to believe it was not a Russian missile. If Poland had taken the same position, it could have invoked NATO’s mutual defense agreement and triggered a full-scale war between NATO and Russia.

If another predictable incident like that leads NATO to attack Russia, it can only be a matter of time before Russia sees the use of nuclear weapons as its only option in the face of overwhelming military force.


For these reasons and more, we join the faith-based leaders around the world who are calling for a Christmas Truce, declaring that the holiday season presents “a much-needed opportunity to recognize our compassion for one another. Together, we are convinced that the cycle of destruction, suffering and death can be overcome.”

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  1. John R Moffett

    While I usually agree with these peaceniks, I think they are not correct in their assessment that Ukraine is in a good negotiating position. Ukraine is in the worst situation they have been in since the war started, and that is pretty obvious. I think that every day, Russia’s negotiating situation improves, and will continue to do so. But I do agree, Ukraine is killing itself due to extreme Russiophobia, which, along with salivating over NATO weapons, has led them to their current self immolation.

    1. DJG, Reality Czar

      John R. Moffett: I agree. The lights are out. Water can’t be pumped. Heat is off. Fatto Quotidiano gives an estimate in today’s paper that a third of the population is displaced, and 7 million have left the country.

      Another indication is that the Ukrainians moved into Kherson and are now complaining that the Russians are shelling them. What did they expect?

      There is a side to this war that strikes me as a bunch of business majors and MBAs in a room in “The West” conducting a deadly operation via spreadsheets and game theory. Ursula van der Leyen’s statements come off as either whacko business professor or housemother of limited experience: Oh, we’ll just make the Russians pay for the damage. (And I note that Roberta Metsola, empty suit in charge of the Euro Parliament, makes the same mindless statements.)

      In Ukraine, the government seems to have persuaded itself that its habit since 2014 of beating up minorities and shelling the Donbass is viable.

      I can’t chalk all of this up to Russophobia. Are people truly that deluded?

      And yet Medea Benjamin lets Zelenskyy off much to gracefully, which is why there is no real pressure from “peace activists” in the U S of A: He “refused to believe.” Come on, Medea. First, who cares what he “believes”? He tried to lie his way into an escalation.

      Fatto Quotidiano estimate for U.S. spending on Ukraine since 2014: 21.9 billion USD. With 19.1 billion of that since the conflict exploded in February 2022.

      Yet Biden can’t be bothered with the railway unions and their legitimate demands.

      1. Mike

        Agreed, and let’s not forget the $5 billion spent by USA USA as admitted by none other than Victoria Nuland during her National Press Club speech in 2013. Could we assume that much more was spent under the table both before and after???

      2. NotTimothyGeithner

        Re: making Russia pay for the damage

        Hiding the state of Ukraine is harder now. The Western elites like to con proxies into fighting for them. Part of their problem since Libya has been everyone has seen what the US will deliver. The Azov types likely believe they are special because they are white. It’s important to pretend the G7 has aims other than weapon sales and resource extraction.

        1. bdy

          From the handful of videos I’ve seen (some linked in NC comments) the Azov types have always had realistic takes on widespread suffering in a war with Russia. They seem to welcome a cleanse by fire that will lead to (1) a militarized, nuclear Ukrainian NATO state, and/or (2) a well organized, well armed, trans-national far right direct action network — Olya Semenyaka’s “Intermarium,” top candidate for the next Al Qaeda, c. 2035.

          The second outcome seems frighteningly possible, especially if Poland uses the pretext of war to extend “protection” to western Ukraine. That’s a possible extinction event if Russia decides de-nazification is worth going toe-to-toe with a NATO state.

          I have always thought the De-Nazification plank may be the Achilles heel to the whole Russian enterprise. Reminds me of the battle for hearts and minds. Mind control over one’s enemies is a big ask.

    2. Paul Damascene

      Though Benjamin is one of the last of the noble peaceniks, with the courage of her convictions, unfortunately her 8 reasons fall on reason #2. Moffett’s point about Ukraine being in the worst position since the beginning of the war would be true even if #2 were true. But doubly true insofar as Russia is entirely capable and on the brink of a decisive battlefield victory, but indeed has reasonable prospects of demilitarizing, denazifying, deindustrializing and ultimately breaking the financial back of the Western empire.

      But that will require a long war of attrition, and not a quick battlefield victory permitting the West to go back to the status quo ante. Deindustrialization is a process of years, as is the now rapidly accelerating shift away from the dollar as global reserve currency, the Petrodollar reinvestment pump, the West as safe haven for financial assets, the IMF, BIS & World Bank, WTO as financial enforcers, and just perhaps the prospect of a Global South debt default, and the freezing out of the West from nonWestern resource access.

      Russia may have preferred a bad peace that nevertheless saw long-term trends in her favor; but, with war finally forced upon it, one suspects that they (with India, Iran, China, Africa, the Gulf, Turkey behind them) are now committed to choking the Western imperialist oligarchy the f*ck out.

      1. ks

        but, with war finally forced upon it, one suspects that they (with India, Iran, China, Africa, the Gulf, Turkey behind them) are now committed to choking the Western imperialist oligarchy the f*ck out.

        Yes. Russia knows it can’t trust the West – why on earth would it negotiate away what looks like a winning hand against implacable Western predators? I think that, unlike the Americans and Europeans who’ve lived in the Donbas and understand the socio/psychopaths they’re dealing with, anti-war groups here are too far removed from that reality to be effective.

  2. JohnA

    I got as far as

    2. Neither side can achieve a decisive military victory, and with its recent military gains, Ukraine is in a good negotiating position.

    This is such a deluded belief, based on Ukainian lies and fantasy propaganda, that there is no point continuing to read.
    Even if Ukraine were in a good negotiating position, Ukraine is not sovereign to negotiate but beholden to the dictates of the US.

    1. timbers

      I got as far as

      1. The first, and most urgent reason, is the incredible, daily death and suffering in Ukraine…

      Not because it’s not true but because after the rabid deletion of Ursla’s post admitting to reasonably accurate death figures plus any reference to it, The West is still in denial that anything other more glorious victory is in store for Ukraine on top of it’s already glorious victories. Plus Russia has run out of missiles and morale.

    2. Acacia

      Yep. Me too.

      Ukraine was maybe in a position to negotiate earlier this year — giving up all claims to Crimea and the Donbas —, but that ship has sailed.

  3. Stephen

    We must applaud any attempt to find a rationale to end this human tragedy.

    But, these eight reasons do not include any form of settlement or outcome that all the warring parties might agree to: neither on the ground in Ukraine itself nor more comprehensively with respect to Russian / European security. Any form of peace presumably needs that. This is quite apart from the related challenge of no party wanting to stop the war without achieving its objectives, and these are mutually incompatible. To stop now would be interpreted as losing.

    In line with John Moffett’s comment, both sides then still think too that they can “win”, which negates reason 2. The west may be deluded but they do seem still to think that they can bleed Russia, which is far more their real aim not the stated one that Ukraine has of recovering territory.

    And, of course, the people driving the decision making are not suffering the problems that the eight reasons allude to: they are not sitting in trenches up to their waists in mud; nor unlike in the world wars are their children and other relatives. Western decision makers even seem boastful that they have found a proxy set of people to fight Russia. This asymmetry complicates matters even more.

    Your realism seems spot on, Yves.

  4. Stephen

    A further reflection.

    This is a terrible thought but one could also list a whole number of reasons for why the people driving decision making have an incentive to maintain the war.

    Especially in the west:

    1. Not being seen as having lost with domestic audiences
    2. Avoiding a defeat that the Global South would interpret as the end of US power, especially after the Afghan debacle
    3. Maintaining the justification for the existence of NATO and the role of US power in Europe
    4. Creating career opportunities for military staffs in new HQs and support commands to assist Ukraine, contain Russia
    5. Maintaining the money flow for MIC donors, think tanks and politicians

    Am sure there are more. A real tragedy.

    1. The Rev Kev

      I think that both your comments really nail it. None of those eight points take into account Russia’s demand that they are not left at the mercy of NATO forces on their border alongside tactical nuclear missiles. But that is precisely what NATO wants to do. And at the end of the day, until a settlement is reached that will not result in this war re-igniting again in another ten years, then the only solution being left to pursue is a military one. But before this war ends, you can bet that certain people will be making billions off of it.

      1. hk

        The delusion is that Western “peaceniks” think that the problem is that the West is dictating wrong terms, and that they should dictate different terms, I think. The problem is that Russia does not care for any terms that are “dictated” by the West and the West has nothing through which they can compel the Russians. Westerners, of all stripes, still imagine themselves masters of the universe. That is the problem, the biggest stumbling block facing a resolution to the Ukraine conflict.

        1. JTMcPhee

          Russians need to and I hope they will prosecute the war until the West has exhausted itself. At least so I hope. The neocons and oligarchs will always be hankering after the dismemberment of Russia and China and Iran, etc. into easily digestible chunks. Until a fair world order develops enough mass and momentum to counter the greedy shits. Which itself may be a vain hope, given human nature — Russia per Putin displays a touching faith that nations pursuing their individual interests some how will make nice with each other. Each of those nations will have people like Wilson and the Dulles brothers and Netanyahus and such, popping up to define the national interest as identical with their personal interests and perversions.

          The lords of the West has signed their own death warrant, far as I can see. Too bad we get dragged down with them.

          “So long, and thanks for all the fish!”

  5. Louis Fyne

    Read the transcript of Putin’s recent “summit” with mothers of military members.

    Putin issued a mea culpa re. Minsk. Reading between the lines, Putin now knows he was played as a chump in the 2014 Minsk II talks, particularly by Germany and France.

    The West is not agreement capable.

    IMO, The likely equilibrium is defacto unconditional surrender by NATO—-rump Kiev failes state..

    The West is going to lie in the bed that it made

  6. Polar Socialist

    I think this is the first time I’ve seen it mentioned in a public discussion in The West that Ukraine was just about to launch an attack on Donbass in spring 2021. To any observer with at least a few critical synapses this was quite obvious at the time – and also the fact that it was prevented mostly by amazingly quick deployment of Russian forces on the Ukrainian border.

    I recently saw a claim that a retired Ukrainian general admitted that Ukraine was indeed implementing a military plan to re-conquer Donbass this year and Crimea in 2023. So given what Poroshenko and Arestovich have said (Ukraine was not just preparing for war, but needed one) perhaps the Russian “narrative” that this was about to happen this year no matter what has more backing it up than the “unprovoked, brutal assault” claim has.

    1. The Rev Kev

      Funny about what you said about that attack last year that was called off because of rapid Russian deployments. I have been watching for mention of this but have only ever seen it mentioned once – and that was a coupla months ago. I suspect that after that, Washington, Brussels and Moscow knew that it was only a matter of time when the war would actually kick off and spent the intervening months finessing their plans.

      1. Lex

        I suspect that Biden’s decision to run for president was primarily about Ukraine’s plans in 2021 (might have been earlier if not for trump). This has been his personal project since he was VP. In the dem field only Biden could be fully trusted to stick DoS with the right people at the right positions and prioritize this war from the WH.

        1. The Rev Kev

          That is a very interesting thought that. The implication of that is that it is maybe why the entire political/media/deep-state establishment was so obsessed with getting rid of Trump. If Trump was still President, then he would never have given the go ahead for such a war. He didn’t even want to leave a battalion of US soldiers in Syria.

        2. mrsyk

          Thank you Lex, an interesting take. I seem to remember shortly after Biden taking office an article on how the Clinton Foundation was baaack! after four years of nothing doing during the Trump years. I imagine they are in this up to their eyeballs. An inventory of Ukraine based rice bowls would be fascinating indeed.

        3. GramSci

          It’s been his personal project a lot longer than that.

          Biden’s interest in Yugoslavia dates back to the late 1970s when he accompanied W. Averell Harriman and his wife Pamela on a trip to Yugoslavia to attend the funeral of Eduard Kardelj, Tito’s intellectual mentor.

          A son of one of the original robber barons who founded the legendary Wall Street firm, Brown Brothers & Co., Harriman served as U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union 1943-1946, Secretary of Commerce 1946-1948, Governor of New York 1955-1958 and Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs under John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.

          Biden wrote in his memoir that he had been “adopted by Harriman” when he got to the Senate in 1972 as a “thirty-year old kid.

          During their visit, Harriman predicted that the Soviet Union would collapse and told Joe that he should “get to know Yugoslavia” because it was an “area we could bring into the 21st century as an ally.”


        4. David in Santa Cruz

          Very insightful Lex. I have suspected this to be the case for some time. When Joe Biden is bought he stays bought!

          Why else put that bloodthirsty amateur Blinken in charge of State, other than his ingrained Russophobia, family roots in Kiev, and demonstrable willingness to set about the violent destruction of other countries in Libya and Syria?

          With all of Trump’s mendacity, economic self-dealing, and fraud, it was his withholding of arms from “Ukraine” that got him impeached.

          Putin and Zelenskyy had a “deal” brokered by Erdogan back in March that could have ended this carnage and suffering. It was scuppered by BoJo on behalf of NATO.

          There can be no negotiated peace so long as Biden is in power. He clearly wanted this war all along.

  7. LawnDart

    Delusional sums it up best. There were plenty of opportunities for peace, there were accords, agreements…

    It makes no sense at all for Russia to cease its operation until the tasks are fulfilled, unless they want to face a re-armed enemy in but a few short years, an enemy that is likely to seize the initiative at the first opportunity to do so: Ukraine must be denazified, and the multipolar world born if there is to be any chance of peace and stability in not the not distant future.

    1. nippersdad

      I agree. The only good end to this war will be one of a decisive defeat for NATO; one that cannot be ignored or spun.

      The old order will need to die so that a new one can rise to take its’ place.

  8. hank

    The weird, one sided poo-pooing about propaganda or disgrace or stakes aside, none of these points are taking into account the Russian (or Putin’s) perspective.
    Remember the whole “giving them off ramps” discourse.
    Remember the whole “Russian winters, Russian tanks” armchair stratego.
    Remember all the “NATO aggressors” victim complex narrative.
    There’s no way Russia can justify merely “liberating” Donbass and Crimea, they are not in a position to do so, and any agreement wouldn’t be worth the paper it’s written on.

    While the end of the war is good and there’s a lot of reasons to do that, as long as Russia/Putin will still have the motivations to continue invasion, the invasion will continue.

    So what’s the point of Pollyanna opining about the benefits of peace, if there’s no proposed mechanisms to get there?

  9. Lex

    Any and all sane and thoughtful people hope for the conflict to end as soon as possible. However, the article doesn’t explain why a truce is beneficial to Russia. It has lots of reasons why a truce is good for Ukraine and the west; in fact, it reads like an appeal for Russia to surrender out of the goodness of its heart.

    Zelensky can’t go for a truce and by all appearances the proxy is off the leash so shy of blocking aid I’m not sure DC can force him to do anything. But stopping aid defeats Ukraine. Biden got himself stuck in the bear trap. A truce is just a face saving ploy to delay what appears to be inevitable. It’s time for negotiations to end the conflict and those will have to be real negotiations that will cost Ukraine and the west more dearly than either are willing to consider.

      1. Amfortas the hippie

        seconded, re David’s substack.
        i read the whole thing a few days ago.

        one thing that pretty much everyone here has mentioned, is the authors repeated inclusions of the recommended adjectives from the NYC/deep state style manual…”russia’s UNPROVOKED—BRUTAL–“….etc.
        i noticed the same thing this am when i got around to that FP bit by Stephen Walt.
        in that, he makes a bunch of rational and clear eyed(to the point of obviousness,lol) statements and prescriptions…but couched with enough of the Approved Adjectives to where it, apparently, passed muster with the rabid editor cabal at FP.
        but this phenomenon looks a lot like Galilleo’s trial,lol…where he says the right words, etc…but, sotto, “and yet it moves”…
        the Deus Volt! aspect of all of this, from the beginning, is something that ive found particularly troubling.
        i’m not gonna knock Media and Nic…nor Mr Walt…for having to gently pry the scales off the eyes, and maybe surreptiously introduce some xanax to the cocktails…if that’s what it takes to penetrate the herd reinforced hysterical warmongering crusaderism.

    1. Ignacio

      To add some more sauce to the issue one has to ask whether the world is being prepared for more war/confrontation or trending to agreement or peace. The answer is, obviously, preparing for more war and confrontation with military spending on the rise here and there. More weapon manufacturing (possibly the only “bright” industrial sector these days). Wars are extending to all domains: financial, economic, social, ethnic, religious, class wars etc. We live in a world of escalating sanctions and confrontation well beyond Ukraine. And you don’t see any relevant player trying to push back, on the contrary. Difficult waters to navigate. As an instance I am starting to feel that the UK changing from Johnson to Sunak is an improvement for such difficult navigation. Next elections everywhere we should seek for such abilities…

      1. NoFreeWill

        Climate change increases overall (but esp. summer) heat, which is historically linked to wars and revolutions, as well as resource (particularly water) scarcity, and atmospheric CO2 concentrations actually do affect intelligence & decision making (see any scientific papers about indoor CO2 concentrations) on some meaningful level… all of this combined with the US world police empire disintegrating and lashing out as it falls will lead to a lot of conflicts. We might even get a Big Old WW3 style one if we’re lucky! China India for control of water (they’re building dams) that runs down to much of SE Asia, US vs. anyone that we suddenly don’t like, etc. there’s lots of opportunities! And bonuses for oil company CEOs and defense contractors!

  10. Brooklin Bridge

    Frankly, this sort of bent framing is a little embarrassing, like the coach who says, “We’ve got them on the run, now we just need to make goals.” in a game where his team is 0 to 8. But more than just embarrassing, it pollutes any chance of real discussion and thus of any realistic outcome. And the stakes aren’t just goals.

    Thinking itself clever, the US is not simply agreement incapable, it is way out of orbit with its own reality and making Europe as an economy and Ukraine as flesh and blood pay for its own moral and political corruption.

  11. Maxine

    I’m for peace – a stabil peace that can’t be achieved through a Christmas truce. Both sides firmly maintain that they are winning the war, with one side set in reality, the other in fantasy.

    There is also the matter a shakey peace won’t shatter the delusions that Western leaders and their henchmen are holding. In the cause of a peace truce now, said delusions would either only lead to a renewed war in Ukraine after a matter of time, a big war with China, or both at once. Granted, anything other than a severe economic depression effecting the West will probably lead to that.

    And that is also what is so terrifying about what is unfolding. Most of the ruling elites in the West are so caught up in the clouds, that they would only come to their senses if they were to violently crash to the ground. It really makes me worry about what the future holds. Figures like von der Leyen are leading us into the abyss, and they are merrily playing the flute while doing so.

  12. Thuto

    The faulty assumption underlying this is that the people making the decisions in Ukraine and the west operate on the same moral plane as the rest of us. They don’t, and the patronage networks they’re part of and that got them to where they are select for sociopathy as a desirable trait, so appeals to their moral instincts are unlikely to move them even one inch towards peace.

    1. Michaelmas

      Exactly so.

      Though at the same time almost all of them will honestly believe that they’re the good guys. Human beings, not least the sociopaths — though technically you actually mean psychopaths — almost always do.

      1. Thuto

        I’ve heard it mentioned that “psychopaths are born and sociopaths are made”. I must admit the transformation of Zelensky from humble, likeable actor with guy-nextdoor characteristics to what he is today leaves me wondering whether Kolomoisky “made him” or saw the psychopathy lurking beneath the nice guy facade.

    2. Cetra Ess

      Yes. These people in particular are much closer to the violence and death, are witness to the devastation, loss, blood and gore, and yet wish it to continue, are willing it on every last Ukrainian man, woman or child.

      There isn’t a sense of humanity here, nor a sense that murder is wrong, nor that what they’re fighting for, an imaginary line, an abstract concept, is not worth the loss of life. That’s pretty cold. I’m reminded of the downfall scene in the bunker.

      1. JBird4049

        >>>I’m reminded of the downfall scene in the bunker.

        Well, he was determined to make the whole of Germany and all its people into a funeral pyre for himself.

        If they did not win, they deserved not to live. The reason he was not quite as successful as he wanted to be, besides his increasing insanity, was that some people like were economical with the facts when reporting back and ignored those orders.

    1. Maxine

      Since the Donbass and Lugansk Peoples Republics invited Russia into what was until 24.02.2022 a civil war, the term “invader” isn’t completely correct. Other than that, the word delusional is mainly used here to the insane insistence of Ukraine that they are winning the war. And that the West has to insure its victory at all costs

    2. Lex

      I don’t know, the Iraqis have demanded that the US leave a couple of times. You can call that statement whattaboutism, but the fact is that precedent matters and in the grand scheme of things it becomes difficult to establish precedents and then expect others to ignore them.

    3. nippersdad

      It is a delusional rationale insofar as we have no standing to make it. You forget that we routinely invade countries for fun and profit. Mayhem is our primary export; It is what we do.

    4. tegnost

      You’re oversimplifyling…
      From 2014

      The closing sentence of a long, worthwhile, and prescient read from Micheal Hudson.

      The post-feudal real estate and financial oligarchies, the landed aristocracies of Europe and the great banking families and American trust builders have made a comeback, and the New Cold War is intended to lock in their victory. Ukraine is simply the latest battlefield, and battlefields end up devastated.

      Read it and weep, because Trump really screwed the neolibcons. Along with ditching the TPP (on as I recall his first day in office) he kept the wolves at bay (that would be hillary, et.al.) for long enough that Russia had more time to prep for the inevitable encroachment envisioned by the western invaders.

    5. Michael Fiorillo

      It became delusional when the parties who eagerly provoked the attack convinced themselves that inflating themselves on their own propaganda was the path to victory.

    6. Kouros

      UN Charter 51: “Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. Measures taken by Members in the exercise of this right of self-defence shall be immediately reported to the Security Council and shall not in any way affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council under the present Charter to take at any time such action as it deems necessary in order to maintain or restore international peace and security.”

      Ukraine has attacked in early February 2022 both the Donbas and Lugansk self proclaimed republics. Russia has officially recognized them and has invoked UN Charter 51 as an legal justification for responding to Ukrainian attack.

      The West has created the Kosovo precedent… so it reaped what it sowed…

  13. Michael Hudson

    If for any reason NATO did want to talk truce (pretending to freeze the situation where it is, before Russia solves the problem militarily), Russia would have an excellent tactic in appearing to join such a “settlement.”
    It could say that the first item to be negotiated would be to appoint a War Crimes commission to ascertain guilt.
    That would drag on and on, as NATO would insist of a commission led by Poland, Latvia and Japan, with maybe one of the Pacific Islands that always votes with it.
    The result would be to leave Russia’s military operations in place, while preventing people from accusing it of “blocking peace talks.” It also would focus the issue on NATO aggression instead of “Russia’s unprovoked invasion” crap.

    1. nippersdad

      I have been wanting to see a war crimes tribunal ever since I first heard we were filling trenches with Nicaraguans in the Eighties. That would be an excellent tactic; they have a lot to work with and it would be delightful to see the Chinese fire drill that would ensue at the State Department and in Congress.

    2. Raymond Sim

      The result would be to leave Russia’s military operations in place, while preventing people from accusing it of “blocking peace talks.” It also would focus the issue on NATO aggression instead of “Russia’s unprovoked invasion” crap.

      I think the western response to such a call on Russia’s part would largely consist of information ops. Part of which would be for western media to pump out ever more stomach-churning tales of Russian evil on an ever greater scale, targeting, as they are now, primarily their own PMC’s.

      This kind of stuff does have an effect on Russian public opinion though, which I would imagine the American big thinkers have at least some awareness of. Even if they don’t their Russian counterparts certainly do. And unless I badly misread Russia that effect is to intensify desire for military action.

      All of which is to say, in my opinion a call for a war crimes commission would exacerbate VVP’s most notable domestic problem.

  14. All Ice

    “Neither side can achieve a decisive military victory, and with its recent military gains, Ukraine is in a good negotiating position”

    The author appears to be projecting back to 2014 when Russia still believed that a negotiated peace was possible. But Russia clearly does not believe US/NATO/Ukr can be trusted to comply with any agreement. So there isn’t anything to negotiate here.

    The author also appears to be discounting the facts that Russia has achieve a decisive military victory here. The massive destruction of Ukr’s grid since Oct 10, is already decisive and virtually assures a further decisive military victory for Russia. I think the full extent of that victory will be negotiated only within Russia.

    If our US military/intelligence/political geniuses regarded Russia as an easier target than China, the events in Ukr should convince them that their judgment is so flawed that continuing to poke China is a really bad.

  15. orlbucfan

    I went back and read up on some central European history. Russia, Ukraine, and Poland have been fighting each other off and on for centuries. Very depressing as well as informative. I am a war/MICC weary Yank who is sick of watching the same greedy, stupid human mindset claw its worthless way to the top of the power pole. This pattern repeats over and over again. I wish I had an answer, but I don’t.

  16. Cat Burglar

    Somebody had to try this, and I take it as a positive sign that the peace wing of the US left is showing some signs of life.

    Other commenters are right about the problems with the ceasefire proposal; I just take it as a first-draft of a peace platform that will at least serve as a start for discussion for opponents of US policy within the imperial center. It is flawed, but the process needs to happen unless the US left is going to remain the slave of the MIC, as it is now. You have to start somewhere — so I support the ceasefire proposal.

    Realistic consideration of policy and power is necessary if you intend to intervene in events. Coming from people below the sightlines of the men and women of power, adds another realistic perspective: that most people swept into the war are being treated as mulch. Their lives would be hands-down better without the war. Right now all the interests of those in power run toward continuing the conflict, but a program for people who just want to live needs to be put forward, and Benjamin has at least looked over the parapet.

    1. Paleobotanist

      With all the screaming for MOAR WAR in Canada, I find it refreshing that someone is at least saying let’s have a ceasefire and negotiate, even if the scenario presented is unrealistic.

      Note at least I am in french Quebec which doesn’t seem to be pro-war in Ukraine rather than in Anglo-Canada which has gone insane as Trudeau fans the flames for war, trying get his majority from Ukrainians on the Prairies (probably not going to happen). I don’t think anyone would dare write this article in Canada.

      These are crazy times, things are shifting.

      1. Kouros

        Yeah, I have been permanently banned by The Tyee just for quietly raising some questions on their comments section…

    2. NoFreeWill

      Please don’t use left when you mean liberal. All leftists (aka anarchists, socialists, etc.) are anti-war (except for self-defense) and oppose imperialist wars like this one and all the American ones. The “progressive” caucus who all still vote for this crap are barely even liberals, and US “liberals” are right wing. There may be people posing as leftists who support this war, and I can see that my argument reads like a no-true-Scotsman, but if you aren’t an internationalist you aren’t actually socialist, sorry. See the tiny weirdo Patriotic “Socialists” who only exist on the net and everyone on the left makes fun of for being basically nazis.

      1. Cat Burglar

        I meant to use “left.”

        Being older and living in an isolated rural area may mean my sample is misleading, but I have many friends that are at least social democrats and anti-imperialist, and many of them strongly support US policy, even when they have a completely clear understanding of the events from 2014 on. National self-determination has always been important to the left, and in this case, a person might ask, “Which one do I choose? Is it Russia, the Donbass and Crimea, or Ukraine?” They chose Ukraine. You can hear a Ukrainian socialist interviewed on KPFA radio, supporting the war. I read that at least some anarchists have gone to fight alongside Azov. Propaganda power is so effective that I often have to go over what people already know about US policy to show them that it is in the fight neither to defend national sovereignty (…Yemen, Syria, Libya…) nor democracy (as in the 2022 National Security Statement, where the minimum criterion for being a US ally is to acknowledge US primacy) — it is often very difficult to get them to think about that in relation to Ukraine. So I think the left has some internal consciousness raising to do if it wants to exercise any beneficial effect on the war.

        I am in agreement with what you say about liberals, and we should not spend much time on their media or political leaders, but we should consider what tactics would be necessary to educate liberal and other people of good will. I think this proposal could be a first try at doing that, and getting nominally left-wing people to open their eyes to what the US is using Ukrainians for.

    3. fjallstrom

      I think the target audience for the article is clearly pro-Ukrainian liberals who thinks Ukraine’s capture of Kherson and land around Kharkiv means that Ukraine has the upper hand.That target audience is pretty substantial, isn’t it?

      From there Code Pink argues that now is the time for peace.

      This is in my opinion a good strategy, and a good thing to do. If you want to convince people on a single issue – like peace – you need to meet them where they are, not where you want them to be. I am also supportive of conservative arguments to conservatives for peace. Or a libertarian argument to libertarians for peace. Or a socialist argument to socialists for peace. And so on. Getting people to feel that peace is in line with what they already believe. That is how you build a counter force to the war propaganda, step by step.

  17. Tom Bradford

    “Victory” for the Ukrainians defined as reclaiming Crimea and the Dombass isn’t going to happen this side of Doomsday.

    The real problem is, I suggest, that it’s not obvious what ‘victory’ for the Russians would actually be either. When Putin launched the SMO what he defined as ‘victory’ was pretty clear cut – protecting Lugansk and Dombass from Ukranian agression and getting a peace deal that would secure their ‘Russianness’ even as still notionally Ukrainian, with a guaranteed non-NATO Ukraine as a side order.

    This almost happened, but US and Europe’s crashing the party has muddied the waters. The peace deal that would have been Russia’s victory is now out of reach – what, after the West’s cynical betrayal of Minsk 2, would Putin be able to trust? – so what is now ‘victory’ for the Russians? A DMZ along the Dnieper? What good is that against missiles with a 700km range? A total occupation of Ukraine? That just takes Russia up to NATO’s borders rather than vice-versa and would be a ruinous burden for Russia to finance, administer and police.

    The US and Europe’s taking Ukraine’s part in this mess has severely limited Russia’s options as to what it could accept as ‘victory’. In fact I’ve a worrying feeling even Russia doesn’t know now what would be a ‘good’ outcome it could label ‘victory’ and stop. So all it can do is keep on pounding Ukraine and see what develops.

    1. Starry Gordon

      The peace proposal above seems to naively assume that it’s all up to the US. Putin and company, having been attacked or threatened by the West in grand old Drang nach Osten tradition, may now have larger ambitions then being left alone for awhile.

    2. Stephen

      Yes. Ultimately, Russia wants the US / west to leave her alone, cease fomenting colour revolutions and stop surveying potential missile silo locations all around her borders. Ukraine is simply one dimension of this need.

      Other than a total defeat of the west it is a tricky objective to achieve. Like swatting away a wasp that just keeps coming back. You do not want to kill it but might end up with no choice.

    3. Kouros

      I think this multidimensional war needs some more time to unravel. A Europe starved of cheap energy and other resources and starting to break at the seams do to internal problems and due to the cost of the war itself (supporting Ukraine itself and all those many millions of refugees) will be what Russians are banking on mostly and not necessarily the military victory over Ukraine, which is of course necessary but definitely not sufficient.

  18. Bort Numerals

    Margherita Simonyan hit upon another reason for Russia to negotiate a truce. On live television, mid-sentence, it dawned on her as she was railing against the supposed timidity of the Stavka and their fear of facing trial at the Hague, that she herself, as a senior cabinet member, might be facing war crimes indictments and life imprisonment. Without Ukraine waiving such charges, Simonyan’s vacations are limited to Belarus, Syria, North Korea, and Iran.

    During the same state-television appearance another pundit pointed out Russian troops don’t have electricity, heat, nor running water either. Russian troops also lack the unity of purpose Ukraine possesses, portable generators, and a clear idea of what to do if they indeed encounter Satan as Putin’s objectives suggest. All of which suggest the Russia public is being prepared to accept, if not defeat, than a draw. Russia will never be able to profit from the Donbas oil/gas reserves without a ceasefire. The Russian govt is already hitting up India, rather than China, for railroad parts needed to keep it’s energy production from collapsing. Further, the refugee crisis actually means a substantial number of Ukrainians are already contributing economically to NATO now.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Russia needs better TV pundits. The Stavka is being cautious because Putin does not like war and temperamentally prefers not to actu ntil he has good information.

      As for the comment re Russian troops not having electricity, Russia has not yet occupied any of the areas where it has taken out power. Russia was also very fast to switch over “liberated” areas to the Russian grid. Russia does have the transformers and other equipment needed to repair the Ukraine grid. I assume they will do it in a prioritized way.

  19. TimmyB

    I greatly admire Medea Benjamin. However, her claim that neither side can obtain a decisive victory is flat out wrong. Russia can obtain a decisive victory. Soon, an additional 380k fresh Russian troops will be joining the battle. If that number is not enough for a decisive victory, Russia can call up more.

  20. GW

    “The US has gone all in propaganda-wise, which means it can’t quickly go into reverse even if the US accepted that (absent a massive Russian screw-up), the war will end when and how Russia wants it to end.”

    Sorry Yves, but I think you’re pushing the envelope here. For the time being, it’s not absolutely certain Russia has the power to stop the UAF’s advance. Today’s news includes reports that Russia might be evacuating its forward positions on the eastern bank of the Dniepr, just opposite Kherson. If that’s not shocking enough, be aware the same is said of Russia’s front lines further east, in Zaporizhzhia.

    Russia’s army needs to prove it’s strong enough to keep the UAF west of the Dniepr, in addition to repulsing the UAF’s coming offensive in Zaporizhzhia. If and when Russia accomplishes this, then it will be time to speculate about a Russian victory on the ground. But not before then.

    I’d hope you’re correct, because I am very much pro-Russian. Let’s see what happens in the next four weeks.

    1. Raymond Sim

      Today’s news includes reports that Russia might be evacuating its forward positions on the eastern bank of the Dniepr, just opposite Kherson. If that’s not shocking enough, be aware the same is said of Russia’s front lines further east, in Zaporizhzhia.

      Sounds consistent with establishment of the type of defenses previously in place in Kherson, which would be consistent with, among other things, preparation for the widely anticipated offensive – even if the plan is to storm across right at Kherson.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Dima said early on the Russians might pull back from the bank proper just to be out of immediate shelling range, but they’d still be able to be very effective at preventing Ukraine from crossing the river at this slight remove. So this sounds at best like moar Russian Telegram doomsterism.

  21. GW

    “For NATO, the stakes are even higher. A failure to defeat Russia calls the very existence of NATO into question.”

    I’m not sure I agree. That’s because, at this point, it appears US/NATO has gotten away with turning Ukraine into a militarily strong proxy state.

    Even if Russia wins a military victory on the battlefield (which is anything but certain), it’s hard to imagine Russia having enough leverage at the peace conference to force US/NATO to divest itself from its position in Ukraine.

    At worst – and this is assuming Russia somehow “wins” – US/NATO will be free to continue its military investment in Ukraine, just as the West did in the 2015-2021 period. Nothing short of Russia toppling the Ukrainian state will prevent such a post-war outcome. But Russia’s opportunity to achieve that goal seems to have passed.

    When this war is over, maniacs in Washington and Brussels will still have a position in Ukraine sufficiently strong to begin plotting their next military move against Russia, which could occur later in the 2020s. Not good.

    1. tegnost

      (which is anything but certain)
      I told my dear mom on the 24th of feb (her bday is that week) that russia was not going to lose a war over nukes in her borders, I have seen nothing to make me change that perspective, if anything, the west has been surprisingly ineffective overall, wonderwaffles notwithstanding…

      Nothing short of Russia toppling the Ukrainian state will prevent such a post-war outcome
      The old all or nothing argument…if russia tried to take all of ukraine they would suffer constant terror attacks, a likely western goal from the beginning of the SMO. It’s also not one of russias stated goals.

    2. Raymond Sim

      … at this point, it appears US/NATO has gotten away with turning Ukraine into a militarily strong proxy state.

      I absolutely do not understand how you perceive that.

      A militarily strong state without a functioning rail network? Whose economy is dependent on remittances from nationals working abroad? Which is the proxy of a power which lacks the manufacturing capacity to sustain the (necessarily largely non-local) proxy forces in combat?

  22. Dean 1000

    I didn’t like the 2014 coup. My respect and congratulations to those in east Ukraine who picked up their rifles to defend their homes and cities against a gang of cutthroats and the unlawful assembly in Kiev.
    I’m for peace when Russian soldiers are on the western border of Odesa oblast. Russia may not do it. The people of the European countries would be better off if it did. I mean the people rather than the political class.

  23. John k

    Us is spending a lot, emptying their arsenals, and exposing the fact the us does not have the capacity to replace things within some years. And somebody here mentioned 48% of reps have lost interest in the war, a big change since feb. I expect support to decline further, even among dems. I assume Russia has been taking note.
    Eu is in worse shape, and falling. A majority of Germans unhappy, nearly the same in other parts, and again much worse than in feb.
    Granted, ROW is unhappy, but seemingly very interested in moving to multi-polar – how could that be worse than the crappy terms on offer from the west? Imo they will find the patience to let russia finish what it’s doing.
    So russia might be thinking the west is weakening/disarming themselves with each passing day but emotionally unable to sue for peace, even though that was their best move in march and continues today.
    I first thought this would be over mid year, then by march 23… but what’s the rush?
    What about the danger of Poland invading? Poland would be crushed. Nato doesn’t have the troops without turkey, and has disarmed themselves this year. The us is too far, and anyway is de-industrialized. Fighting russia with conventional weapons is hopeless. 25-mill reservists is a big number. And the winters…
    A slow grind has worked pretty well so far. The extra troops should stop the embarrassing retreats. Why change? Nothing will stop the exodus of a huge army of refugees about to arrive in eu now that Ukraine cities are unlivable. 10-mil? More? Eu might become unhappy with their leaders. Time looks to be on russias side.

  24. Deschutes

    At the bottom of this article, the author presumes- “We recently saw how close we are to a much wider war when a single stray Ukrainian anti-aircraft missile landed in Poland and killed two people.”

    It is highly doubtful that that Ukrainian missile was a ‘stray’; to the contrary it most likely was a deliberate false flag attack done by Ukrainian nationalists with the clear intent to suck NATO into the Ukraine war, with vile intent of tricking the Poles, USA, and NATO into believing that the Russians fired it.

  25. Marc Van den Bosch

    Negotiations are only a good idea if parties can agree on the topics to negotiate about. At present, I would guess that topics like prison exchange are on the table.

    As for other topics (the status of Crimea, the status of Donbas) neither party is willing to come to an agreement because they genuinely believe that their goals can be achieved through military means. This belief is very clear in all public statements but it might be less firm than it appears to be.

    For Ukraine, they heavily depend on ‘the West’. For the West there is a high a palpable cost (inflation, economic crisis, the cost of supporting Ukraine) and a less palpable benefit (security in eastern europe, longtime impairment of a longstanding adversary). The second variable is the population of Ukraine. War inflicts a lot of pain on the people and they might grow tired of it. For now, Ukrainians still seem very committed . For Ukraine to change its mind that negotiating about fundamentals is a good idea both of these pillars would need to weaken substantially.

    For Russia, longterm security has been the goal of the entire operation. It is fair to say that even if the war would end today and Russia would get to keep all of the territory it has conquered, the path to that goal has gotten longer and not shorter. Relations with ‘the West’ are shot for at least a decade, relations with nations in the so-called russosphere (Armenia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan) are degraded (except for Belarus).
    Furthermore, with friends in short supply, China is likely to use the weakened position of Russia to its advantage and secure longterm access to Russia’s natural resources in exchange for helping them back on their feet. For Russia to consider negotiating the army would have to be close to a collapse and/or a some major political instability would cause Russia to revise its priorities. This would not resolve the longterm problem. Alternatively, in case of unexpected success on the battlefield, Russia would only stop when the territory conquered is so large and Ukraine as a country so destroyed that it would beg on its knees to be reincorporated in the russosphere (cfr Chechnya).

    What scenario’s are realistically possible?

    – Stabilization of the front with gradually decreasing hostilities. This would be a victory for Russia, allbeit a pyrrhic one because its security situation had deteriorated and the economic damage is substantial. This would be a defeat for Ukraine and probably a prelude for a next phase somewhere in the near future
    – Further ‘strategic retreats’ for Russia to the borders of February 24th. This would be a victory for Ukraine and a defeat for Russia. Also a prelude for a next phase in the near future
    – Reversal of battlefield fortunes, perhaps not through territorial gains but utter destruction of Ukraine. (This is the Chechnya scenario). An outright win for Russia.
    – Some form of collapse of Russia. An outright win for Ukraine.

  26. veronius

    “Good negotiating position” is a question of optics. I doubt the Russian or Ukrainian military genuinely believe Ukraine is in a good negotiating position. For that matter, I’m willing to bet Medea and Nicolas don’t really believe it either. For me the point is that for any negotiations to occur neither of the negotiating parties can afford to appear – to their own populations – to be negotiating from a position of weakness. And in a climate where it seems to have been quite easy to persuade a critical mass of Western public opinion that Russia exploded its main negotiating chip with Europe as a deviously clever way of negotiating with Europe, it’s gotta be pretty easy to present the Russian withdrawal from Kherson – or a couple of YouTube videos of Su-25s being shot down, or whatever – as a major Ukrainian victory, placing Ukraine in “a good negotiating position” and enabling both sides to sit down at the table without looking like they’re begging for mercy.

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