Can NATO and the Pentagon Find a Diplomatic Off-Ramp from the Ukraine War?

Yves here. While Medea Benjamin’s and Nicolas Davies’ hearts are in the right place, I find it appalling that they are promoting a new Rand report which is a naked piece of bogusly-premised scaremongering to justify more NATO/Ukraine war funding. Russia is not going to attack NATO. Biden recently let the cat out of the bag that major NATO members have no appetite for going to war with Russia. The only NATO member that might, stress might, try to mix it up with Russia is Poland. As Alexander Mercouris explained long form yesterday, if that were to happen, it would be the end of NATO.

Peace advocates need to get a better grip on geopolitical and military realities rather than parrot self-serving assessments that depict Russia is set to escalate or the even more spurious claim, that Russia threatened to use nuclear weapons (that was Liz Truss; Putin merely restated Russian doctrine in response).

It is also disappointing to see the authors keep talking up negotiations when there is no good faith interest on the Western side. The Ukraine backers act as if it’s reasonable to demand Russia to shrug its shoulders and retreat to its February 21, 2022 position, and up Crimea, even before getting to the loud and proud confirmations by Merkel and Hollande that they signed the Minsk accords with Russia and had no intention of honoring it. How can Russia negotiate with the Collective West when the West has broadcast that it is completely untrustworthy?

By Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J. S. Davies, the authors of War in Ukraine: Making Sense of a Senseless Conflict, published by 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

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, known for his staunch support for Ukraine, recently revealed his greatest fear for this winter to a TV interviewer in his native Norway: that the fighting in Ukraine could spin out of control and become a major war between NATO and Russia. “If things go wrong,” he cautioned solemnly, “they can go horribly wrong.”

It was a rare admission from someone so involved in the war, and reflects the dichotomy in recent statements between U.S. and NATO political leaders on one hand and military officials on the other. Civilian leaders still appear committed to waging a long, open-ended war in Ukraine, while military leaders, such as the U.S. Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley, have spoken out and urged Ukraine to “seize the moment” for peace talks.

Retired Admiral Michael Mullen, a former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair, spoke out first, maybe testing the waters for Milley, telling ABC News that the United States should “do everything we possibly can to try to get to the table to resolve this thing.”

Asia Times reported that other NATO military leaders share Milley’s view that neither Russia nor Ukraine can achieve an outright military victory, while French and German military assessments conclude that the stronger negotiating position Ukraine has gained through its recent military successes will be short-lived if it fails to heed Milley’s advice.

So why are U.S. and NATO military leaders speaking out so urgently to reject the perpetuation of their own central role in the war in Ukraine? And why do they see such danger in the offing if their political bosses miss or ignore their cues for the shift to diplomacy?

A Pentagon-commissioned Rand Corporation study published in December, titled Responding to a Russian Attack on NATO During the Ukraine War, provides clues as to what Milley and his military colleagues find so alarming. The study examines U.S. options for responding to four scenarios in which Russia attacks a range of NATO targets, from a U.S. intelligence satellite or a NATO arms depot in Poland to larger-scale missile attacks on NATO air bases and ports, including Ramstein U.S. Air Base and the port of Rotterdam.

These four scenarios are all hypothetical and premised on a Russian escalation beyond the borders of Ukraine. But the authors’ analysis reveals just how fine and precarious the line is between limited and proportionate military responses to Russian escalation and a spiral of escalation that can spin out of control and lead to nuclear war.

The final sentence of the study’s conclusion reads: “The potential for nuclear use adds weight to the U.S. goal of avoiding further escalation, a goal which might seem increasingly critical in the aftermath of a limited Russian conventional attack.” Yet other parts of the study argue against de-escalation or less-than-proportionate responses to Russian escalations, based on the same concerns with U.S. “credibility” that drove devastating but ultimately futile rounds of escalation in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and other lost wars.

U.S. political leaders are always afraid that if they do not respond forcefully enough to enemy actions, their enemies (now including China) will conclude that their military moves can decisively impact U.S. policy and force the United States and its allies to retreat. But escalations driven by such fears have consistently led only to even more decisive and humiliating U.S. defeats.

In Ukraine, U.S. concerns about “credibility” are compounded by the need to demonstrate to its allies that NATO’s Article 5—which says that an attack on one NATO member will be considered an attack on all—is a truly watertight commitment to defend them.

So U.S. policy in Ukraine is caught between the reputational need to intimidate its enemies and support its allies on the one hand, and the unthinkable real-world dangers of escalation on the other. If U.S. leaders continue to act as they have in the past, favoring escalation over loss of “credibility,” they will be flirting with nuclear war, and the danger will only increase with each twist of the escalatory spiral.

As the absence of a “military solution” slowly dawns on the armchair warrior politicians in Washington and NATO capitals, they are quietly slipping more conciliatory positions into their public statements. Most notably, they are replacing their previous insistence that Ukraine must be restored to its pre-2014 borders, meaning a return of all the Donbas and Crimea, with a call for Russia to withdraw only to pre-February 24, 2022, positions, which Russia had previously agreed to in negotiations in Turkey in March.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told The Wall Street Journal on December 5th that the goal of the war is now “to take back territory that’s been seized from [Ukraine] since February 24th.” The WSJ reported that “Two European diplomats… said [U.S. National Security Adviser Jake] Sullivan recommended that Mr. Zelenskyy’s team start thinking about its realistic demands and priorities for negotiations, including a reconsideration of its stated aim for Ukraine to regain Crimea, which was annexed in 2014.”

In another article, The Wall Street Journal quoted German officials saying, “they believe it is unrealistic to expect the Russian troops will be fully expelled from all the occupied territories,” while British officials defined the minimum basis for negotiations as Russia’s willingness to “withdraw to positions it occupied on February 23rd.”

One of Rishi Sunak’s first actions as U.K. Prime Minister at the end of October was to have Defence Minister Ben Wallace call Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu for the first time since the Russian invasion in February. Wallace told Shoigu the U.K. wanted to de-escalate the conflict, a significant shift from the policies of former Prime Ministers Boris Johnson and Liz Truss.

A major stumbling block holding Western diplomats back from the peace table is the maximalist rhetoric and negotiating positions of President Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian government, which has insisted since April that it will not settle for anything short of full sovereignty over every inch of territory that Ukraine possessed before 2014.

But that maximalist position was itself a remarkable reversal from the position Ukraine took at cease-fire talks in Turkey in March, when it agreed to give up its ambition to join NATO and not to host foreign military bases in exchange for a Russian withdrawal to its pre-invasion positions. At those talks, Ukraine agreed to negotiate the future of Donbas and to postpone a final decision on the future of Crimea for up to 15 years.

The Financial Times broke the story of that 15-point peace plan on March 16, and Zelenskyy explained the “neutrality agreement” to his people in a national TV broadcast on March 27, promising to submit it to a national referendum before it could take effect.

But then U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson intervened on April 9 to quash that agreement. He told Zelenskyy that the U.K. and the “collective West” were “in it for the long run” and would back Ukraine to fight a long war, but would not sign on to any agreements Ukraine made with Russia.

This helps to explain why Zelenskyy is now so offended by Western suggestions that he should return to the negotiating table. Johnson has since resigned in disgrace, but he left Zelenskyy and the people of Ukraine hanging on his promises.

In April, Johnson claimed to be speaking for the “collective West,” but only the United States publicly took a similarposition, while France, Germany and Italy all called for new cease-fire negotiations in May. Now Johnson himself has done an about-face, writing in an Op-Ed for The Wall Street Journal on December 9 only that “Russian forces must be pushed back to the de facto boundary of February 24th.”

Johnson and Biden have made a shambles of Western policy on Ukraine, politically gluing themselves to a policy of unconditional, endless war that NATO military advisers reject for the soundest of reasons: to avoid the world-ending World War III that Biden himself promised to avoid.

U.S. and NATO leaders are finally taking baby steps toward negotiations, but the critical question facing the world in 2023 is whether the warring parties will get to the negotiating table before the spiral of escalation spins catastrophically out of control.

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  1. Greg

    U.S. political leaders are always afraid that if they do not respond forcefully enough to enemy actions, their enemies (now including China) will conclude that their military moves can decisively impact U.S. policy and force the United States and its allies to retreat. But escalations driven by such fears have consistently led only to even more decisive and humiliating U.S. defeats.

    This seems to echo the other thread of Mercouris’ latest video, where he discussed the neoconservative impulse to always double down on a bad war, and lie outright about previous failures to make them out as successes.

    One thing I’ve been pondering tonight is whether a (god forbid) president Harris might be the button pusher the neocons have been dreaming of. I’m thinking her excessively punitive legal history would translate easily into a tendency to follow the neocons into a series of terrible forum policy decisions.

  2. Maxine

    While it is delightful in a dark way, to see that reality is slowly dawning upon the PMC, it is also very concerning that it took 10 months for those smidgens of reality to sink in.

    While the RAND reports give a good sense on what the West thinks it can do, and thus on which logic policies are based on, it just further demonstrates that the West doesn’t understand Russia. Though if it ever fully understood Russia, it would have known that the country would react very poorly to NATO encroachment, given Russia’s history of being raided and having to deal with border conflicts and foreign invaders.

    Aside from that, there is the public of Europe and the Five Eyes – given the outright sh!t storm that arose in response to that Amnesty International article mentioning Ukrainian war crimes in Mariupol, I think it is safe to say that a significant part of these countries populations would except no other outcome other than a Russian defeat. Even if the economic situation would make some people change their minds, their would still be those that either have enough money or are ideologically entrenched to the point that they want Russia destroyed and won’t settle for anything less. The Baltics come to mind.

    In that sense, even if the EU were to sue for peace today, it would shatter the Union – the ensueing conflict of interests would be too great. Then there is Ukraine, which has lived on a base diet of historical revisionism and nationalism for the past years.

    Not to mention that while Russia has learned that the PMC doesn’t keep it’s promises, Ukraine is yet to learn that lesson. Zelenskyy has boxed himself in, in that sense – he can’t live without the West and looking at history, he soon won’t be able to live with the West either. Perhaps he can avoid the lynching that will commence by passing on his position to another unlucky fool, but given the videos of Ukrainian soldiers promising to hang Zelensky on the Maidan, that chance is vanishing. In a sense, he has long since become a caricature of himself. He should have sticked with making fun of Ukrainian presidents instead of becoming one.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Very good point that the EU can’t accept peace. Think what France would regard as reasonable (Macron regularly brings up security guaranteed) v. the Balts and Poland.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        I can stand corrected on this, but I’m pretty sure the EU as an organisation does not have standing to make any such quasi military deals. It would have to be Nato. The EU is taking much of the lead now mostly due to smaller countries having insufficient political interest in stopping Brussels making a fool of itself so far – but if it came to formalising an agreement it would run into a multitude of issues, not least that it may have to be put to a referendum in some member countries if its held to be contrary to existing EU Treaties.

          1. Ignacio

            OK, the EU has agency in the conflict, but never the initiative in such kind of agreements. Not procedural, neither by interests as explained by PK. Except for an agreement on specific terms such as ending sanctions if one wants to consider possibilities.

            1. Irrational

              Not sure what standing EU has de jure, but de facto their position will have weight. If Germany, France, Italy and Spain decide they have had it with this war thing, Poland and the Baltics will be overruled – at least that is my reading. Perhaps David can weigh/has weighed in (I did not scroll to the end). I just fear it will take them too long, so invested are they in Russia-hatred.
              Not to forget: Yves, your preface is far more incisive and informative than the article itself. As always thanks!

    2. Skip Intro

      Zelensky was a mistake, and a proper neocon president would never have allowed him in office. His survival depends on his ability to keep his banderista guards and their US masters happy.

      1. Savita

        Skip Intro at first glance I read your comment to say ‘ His survival depends on his ability to keep his barista guards and their US masters happy’. LOL

    3. spud

      the west is run by free traders, whats mine is mine, whats yours is mine, and there will be no discussions about this period. that is why yugoslavia was dismembered by vultures, and nato was ran right up to russias borders.

      “President Clinton lied about the atrocities of the Serbs and the targeting in Serbia to justify an intervention whose real purpose was to dismantle a country which refused to cooperate with the U.S. and other Western powers.”

      1. dandyandy

        The second link is particularly good in describing the circumstances as well as modus operandi of Clinton, Kohl, Blair and other war criminals in their mass destruction of lives of several hundred thousands of western Balkan civilians.

        Obligatory read for those not well acquainted with the gory details.

        Generally coinciding with reunification of Germany, birth of Euro, as well a EU’s great expansion into the Eastern Europe liebensraum. What irony, what farce.

        1. spud

          and there is even more,

          “When Bill Clinton was elected as President of the United States, it was widely understood that Yeltsin was “Clinton’s man.” According to the US Bureau of Public Affairs, Boris Yeltsin and Bill Clinton were very close. The official US government website states: “Clinton was strongly inclined not only to like Yeltsin but also to support his policies, in particular, his commitment to Russian democracy.” US President Bill Clinton met with Boris Yeltsin 18 times while he was in office.

          The US Bureau of Public Affairs goes on to explain exactly how the administration of Bill Clinton pushed Yeltsin’s free market policies : “At the time, and periodically throughout his term in office, Yeltsin faced growing opposition at home to his efforts to liberalize the economy and enact democratic reforms in Russia. At Vancouver, Clinton promised Yeltsin strong support in the form of financial assistance to promote various programs, including funds to stabilize the economy… Although not always able to deliver such assistance, Clinton also supported Yeltsin and his position on economic and political matters by other means.”
          While only 6% of the Russian public approved of Yeltsin’s “reforms,” the Clinton administration directed and sponsored the Yeltsin administration’s efforts in Russia. With the approval of Washington, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank, Yeltsin privatized state owned industries, lifted price controls, and in the process left millions of Russians in desperate conditions. US economist Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University was dispatched to Russia in order to oversee the process.

          The result was not the establishment of a free market paradise, but rather a huge catastrophe. US Senator Bill Bradley explained it this way: “30% unemployment, rampant inflation, pensions gone, savings gone, 30 or 40 years… it’s all gone. No jobs. A few people doing very well, who bought all assets from the state, but the average person, no.””

  3. .Tom

    Does someone have a link for Biden’s recent cat release that Yves mentioned in the first para?

    1. bwilli123

      Biden…”And the other piece of this is, you may recall, one of the reasons why I have spent — well, I won’t tell you the calculation, but I’ve spent several hundred hours face-to-face with our European allies and the heads of state of those countries, and making the case as to why it was overwhelmingly in their interest that they continue to support Ukraine.

      They understand it fully, but they’re not looking to go to war with Russia. They’re not looking for a third World War. And I think it can all be avoided by making sure that Ukraine is able to succeed in the battlefield.

      So, anyway, there’s more to say, but I probably already said too much. Thank you…”

      1. John k

        ‘… it can all be avoided by making sure Ukraine is successful…’
        So maybe ww3 can’t be avoided otherwise? Threat or promise? Is it time to hide under desks? Surely he knows how Ukraine is really doing, right?

  4. Carla

    Thank you so much for your commentary on this, Yves. Just to clarify, in this sentence: “How can Russia negotiate with the Collective West when it has broadcast that it is completely untrustworthy?” … the pronoun “it” needs a little help. Am I correct that you actually mean “How can Russia negotiate with the Collective West when THE LATTER has broadcast that it is completely untrustworthy?”

  5. Lex

    This is a clown show. After missing every exit the Blob is now in “how could we have foreseen that we’d get lost just because we weren’t using the map” mode. They’re obviously not going to consider that the threat of a NATO-Russia war (direct) could be ended simply by NATO nations withdrawing from the current conflict as co-belligerents. There’s an off ramp. Even just ending the massive battlefield intelligence support would go a long way.

    Small update on Ukrainian mobilization. It appears to be dire enough that Ukrainians who left the country will now have to register with the embassy/consulate so that they may be called back for military service.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      On your last point, I think it will be interesting to see if European national authorities co-operate with Kiev in attempts to register males. Some countries (I live in one) are quite content to have off-the-radar young males entering as they keep the labour force fed without demanding too much in terms of housing and social welfare. They may also be unwilling to have stories in the media about young men being ‘forced’ to return home to enter some meat grinder.

      1. Ignacio

        Best thing for them would be not to register in the embassy. As you suggest, I don’t see incentives in EU neighbourhoods to denounce young Ukrainians that haven’t registered in their respective embassies. National authorities doing that would climb a few steps higher in the hypocrisy ladder: moar meat to grind!, moar meat to grind! laaaast call! Sounds awful.

    2. Basil Pesto

      Small update on Ukrainian mobilization. It appears to be dire enough that Ukrainians who left the country will now have to register with the embassy/consulate so that they may be called back for military service.

      I’m curious how this works for Ukrainian footballers playing in Europe, or at least the top leagues. I assume they are exempt but I wonder what the official rationale for such an exemption might be.

      1. ChrisFromGA

        I’m curious how this works for Ukrainian males, period. Once you’ve made it out of Ukraine and re-settled in a sovereign country like the UK or the US, there is no way to enforce registering with the consulate. Unless the local country were to pass some sort of immigration law requiring it. Sounds like a non-starter.

        I would expect this is symbolic and from a practical standpoint, a nothing-burger. Most Ukrainian refugees will simply ignore it.

        It also has the likely side-effect of slamming the door shut on any repatriation of Ukrainian refugees back to the Ukraine. Who would want to risk the legal consequences of being called a draft evader?

        I see similarities with the Vietnam era draft evaders who fled to Canada. IIRC, Canada never forced them to go back to the US. Eventually there was some sort of amnesty.

        1. Skip Intro

          I can easily imagine EU countries being glad to be rid of the most violent segment of their new wave of refugees. Conversely, I expect their economies are already well adapted to make productive use of desperate young women.

        2. juno mas

          …on January 21, 1977 President Jimmy Carter issued an unconditional pardon to Draft evaders of the Vietnam War. I had friends who were gleeful.

    3. Skeptique

      The tidbit is quite remarkable. Not that I doubt you, but I tried to fact-check it but couldn’t find any mention of such a remarkable policy chain on Ukraine part. Would you mind sharing a source on the tidbit Lex?

  6. voislav

    The main issue is that Ukrainian government cannot agree to a peace treaty. The reality of Ukrainian politics is that any politician signing a peace treaty giving up territory would be murdered by the right-wing elements in his government that are now too deeply ingrained into the Ukrainian government at all levels.

    I’ll give parallels with Serbia, where Kosovo declared independence 15 years ago, and successive Serbian governments have been tasked with ‘conditioning’ the public for Serbian recognition of that. Even though the war ended 24 years ago and Kosovo has been independent in all but name only, even though the current Serbian president is broadly popular (even if his party is less so), the moment he indicated that recognition is in the works his own security detail would take him out and toss him into the crowd for lynching. This comes first hand from people in his office. So when Ukrainians armed Azov, Kraken and their ilk, they ensured that there cannot be a peace treaty, short of taking these guys out beforehand, order 66 style.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      IMHO Ukraine can’t agree to a peace treaty since it is not sovereign. Brian Berletic argues it lost its sovereignity in the Maidan coup. Even if you don’t take such a strong-form view, Ukraine can’t fund its own government and depends on handouts.

      1. David

        Technically, Ukraine can sign a treaty, as it’s an internationally recognised state with a juridical personality and a seat in the UN. It’s true that it doesn’t have much sovereignty de facto, but it does de jure. The analogy would be with the NSWP states during the Cold War, who could and did sign treaties as though they were independent from Moscow. Bear in mind also that it’s quite common for entities that are not recognised as states by everybody to sign agreements: that’s the way civil wars usually end. This happened recently in Ethiopia, and of course, it was the very basis of the Minsk Accords.

  7. DJG, Reality Czar

    “So U.S. policy in Ukraine is caught between the reputational need to intimidate its enemies and support its allies on the one hand, and the unthinkable real-world dangers of escalation on the other.”

    No, no, and no. It is conclusions like these that keep the war going. We all know all too well–and so do Benjamin and Davies in their long description **in this very piece** of the undermined spring peace deal–that the purpose of the war is to further the interests of an economic elite and and incompetent political elite, centered on London and Washington DC.

    The NordStream attack was designed to intimidate allies–and Germany and the new “nationalist” government of Italy fell in line. The sanctions regime has had little effect on the “enemy” (this week), that is, Russia.

    The situation requires that people point out how murderously incompetent the Western Alliance is, not fret about some cost-benefit analysis of cowing one’s allies versus dropping the Bomb.

    Escalation? Who in the incompetent political elites in the US of A was pointing out that Hillary Clinton was making dangerous allegations against Russia? Which have blossomed into a war for her reputation and virtue. Escalation? When people ask how long Zelenskyy and his meme machine can hang on–has anyone asked seriously for Clinton to shuffle off the stage?

    1. the suck of sorrow

      Thank youi DJG!
      HRC is a cancer on the body politic that must be excised!
      She lost the Electoral College, period, due to lazy campaigning and the incompetent guidance of Robby Mook. Her husband Id’ed Mook election night as culpable.
      What amazes me is there is never any question about the existence of the Electoral College. Eliminating it might be a good project for the 18-29 y.o starting now.
      Sorry for a slightly off-topic rant, but this Russia, Russia, Russia banter begins with HRC. It needs to end.

      1. Michael Fiorillo

        It may have begun with Hillary, but it was eagerly taken up, via Russiagate, by the rest of the Democratic Party, the #McResistance media and powerful factions in the national security state…. and needless to say, by a rank-and-file PMC obsessed with advertising its moral vanity as it enthusiastically signs on to every political grift coming down the pike: Russiagate (remember the Mueller votive candles? Good times!), BLM, Fauci and “The Science”, and now Ukraine…

        Longtime Clinton critic here, but awful as they are, their interests wouldn’t be served unless there was fertile soil for them to be cultivated. When I listen to close friends invest so much hysterical energy, for years, into fantasies about bringing Orange Man down (“The Times got his tax returns!”), while willfully ignoring the crimes that led to people electing him in 2016, I shudder.

        1. spud

          “The Harvard Boys were in charge of the Russian economy. Larry Summers, Jeffrey Sachs, Robert Rubin and others implemented their grand economic “reforms” with the help of handpicked Russian politicians and businessmen (future oligarchs).

          To make the long story short, Russia experienced the Great Depression for the next eight years. Hyperinflation, 40% drop in GDP, mass unemployment, widespread poverty, soaring suicides … the reforms turned out to be a cruel shock therapy.”

          “U.S. meddling in Russian politics

          While we are shocked by the Russian interference in our election, back in the 1990s, Washington elites literally picked the Russian President and the cabinet. As Bill Clinton bragged to Tony Blair, he also had tremendous influence over the Russian parliament. And when Boris Yeltsin was about to lose in the 1996 election, Bill Clinton arranged an IMF loan that went into Yeltsin’s campaign coffer; and U.S. campaign experts flew into Russia and engineered a resounding victory for Yeltsin. The U.S. media gloated about the meddling with titles, “Yanks to the Rescue!” and “Rescuing Boris.”

    2. James E Keenan

      “[T]he purpose of the war is to further the interests of an economic elite and [an] … incompetent political elite, centered on London and Washington DC.”

      While all my life experience predisposes me to that conclusion, I don’t think that this has been sufficiently demonstrated in the case of the Ukraine conflict. That position (at least as currently formulated by most commenting here at NC) tends to deny any agency to the people of Ukraine.

      1. DZhMM

        Agency? The people of Ukraine?

        Even in countries not the focal points of imperial geopolitical pressure, we only have any semblence of ‘agency’ precisely up to the point that the hegemon permits. We’ve had free elections and the one time we snuck some of our own interests in, the eyes and hands of the US turned to us and set everything back to rights before anything to our benefit could actually be done.

        If we were permitted agency, Klaipeda port would be full of ships and growing; LGK in Vilnius would be the main consolidation hub for asian rail traffic into Europe, traffic would flow freely and easily between us and our neighbors, and Latvia and Poland would still be buying electricity from Ignalina. But “agency” is a myth the Americans and their tools use to keep solidarity out of our reach.

        Ukraine and Ukrainians are no different in this regard than any other of the US’ victims. Maybe them even moreso.

      2. DJG, Reality Czar

        Unfortunately, “deny the agency” is a vogue expression along the lines of “be your own personal brand.”

        People here are fully aware of Ukraine’s aspirations to NATO and EU membership, neither of which was viable before February 2022 and won’t be any more viable after.

        Here’s the latest from The Hill, in which Robbie and Brianna Joy Gray then try to apologize for the “agency” of further legislation oppressing the opposition and the press (along with current legislation oppressing the Russian language and the rights of labor):

        Ukraine is a cat’s paw. The recent revelations about Merkel and Hollande only confirm the uses of Ukraine (not the “agency” thereof). Or to put it another way. Zelensky thinks that his memes and demands put him with the Big Boys and Big Girls. And they, frankly, don’t give a crap about his agency.

      3. Bruno

        The “war” itself is essentially a foreign intervention into an inter-Ukrainian *Civil War* whose one side is drawn from Russophone and the other mainly from Ruthenophone (“Galician”) populations. No such war is even thinkable without considerable agency among the people on both sides. Ukraine, like almost all “postcolonial” geographically-defined states, has always been in a state of larval civil war, and thus has no rational reason or right to exist. All such states are there only to preserve the power of corrupt ruling classes, especially those whose members’ disdain for each other is exceeded only by their common interest in the exploitation of their workers.

      4. Cat Burglar

        You have arrived late to the party! No worry — you have some catching up to do, that’s all.

        Get started with John Mearsheimer’s 2015 prediction of the war. This recent interview brings his account up to the present.

        If you’re interested political agency in Ukraine, you want to begin looking into the 2014 Maidan movement, and how rightful popular frustration with poverty and corruption was channeled by western-funded NGOs and governments into overthrow of the elected constitutional government, with the participation of right-wing death squads.

        That should get you started.

  8. David

    As you say, Yves, peace activists need (as often) to get a better grip on reality. Part of that reality is that the Russians have no need, as they see it, to negotiate anything other than the precise terms of Ukraine’s surrender. For its part, the West has neither anything to offer that the Russians might want in exchange for a concession, nor has it the ability to intervene militarily, nor anything to escalate with. Under such circumstances the possibility of “negotiations” doesn’t really arise. And it’s silly to write:

    “In Ukraine, U.S. concerns about “credibility” are compounded by the need to demonstrate to its allies that NATO’s Article 5—which says that an attack on one NATO member will be considered an attack on all—is a truly watertight commitment to defend them.”

    They’ve clearly never actually read the text of Art 5, which is not a commitment to do anything except such measures as states consider necessary. And nobody, even in the Cold War, believed that the US was “defending” Europe: rather, its stationed forces were seen as a disincentive for the Soviet Union to attempt an attack. The majority of forces were always European: the last time I looked, US forces now amount to two deployable light brigades. Not much.

    What the article doesn’t touch on, is the extent to which Russian public and political opinion would actually accept negotiations anyway, if the West were involved. Given the furore that Merkel’s foot-in-mouth remarks seem to have caused over there, and the frequent criticisms by Putin and Lavrov of the West’s good faith, it would surely be a massive job to convince Russian opinion that negotiations might mean something. Technically, it’s true that France and Germany were not signatories of either Minsk Accord (the parties were the rebels and the government, with the OSCE and Russia as co-signatories) and the Accords didn’t impose any obligations on anyone else, but I think that horse bolted a long time ago. Putin referred specifically to the Accords in his New Year speech, and I can’t see how it would be politically possible for him now to agree to negotiations involving states that he’s specifically said can’t be trusted. So it’s not just for “the West” that negotiations would be a problem.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      The separatists signed the Minsk Accords only as observers, not parties, consistent with their status in the negotiations. That point is regularly ignored by various summaries. Ukraine would never sign a document that gave the rebels any official standing.

    2. The Rev Kev

      Don’t forget that the Minsk Agreements had the stamp of approval by the UN Security Council in a unanimous vote on Resolution 2202 back in 2015-

      I may be wrong but I think that that Resolution put both Germany and France on the hook for seeing that agreement through as it was actually their plan which they pushed.

      1. David

        There was a declaration by the Presidents of Russia; Ukraine, France and Germany, the last two as the originators of the compromise which resulted in Minsk II, welcoming the agreement and undertaking to support it. It was “welcomed” by the Security Council, which is standard for such situations. The Resolution itself calls on “the parties” (the government and the rebels) to implement what they have agreed to. The absence of any international guarantees or oversight (except the OSCE) is striking, and probably reflects the fact that there was no consensus within the Council. It’s one of the shortest Resolutions on record, which is usually a sign of disagreement.

        There’s no doubt that the French and the Germans felt committed to the agreements that they did a lot to bring about, and they thought they’d solved the problem. But of course the problem was different then: it was the fighting in the Donbas and the future status of the breakaway areas. Minsk II is actually very limited and technical in scope- it’s closer to an armistice agreement than anything else. The issue of relations between Russia and Ukraine, or anybody else and Ukraine for that matter, isn’t mentioned at all.

        But all that’s a bit academic now. Even at the time, the French and Germans were accusing the Russians of undermining the agreement (which they of course denied), which in part explains their attitude since the invasion. And for their part, of course, the Russians have claimed that the French and Germans (and of course others) acted against the spirit of the agreement, which the latter obviously deny. So it’s a right mess, and all the poisonous mutual suspicion can only make a bad situation worse, and make any kind of peace even more difficult.

        1. The Rev Kev

          ‘And for their part, of course, the Russians have claimed that the French and Germans (and of course others) acted against the spirit of the agreement, which the latter obviously deny.’

          Well that last bit has now been officially confirmed by both Merkel and Hollande. They have both individually said that they had to stop the Ukrainians being defeated and that that country needed time to rebuild their economy but more importantly, their military in order to defeat the rebels in the Donbass – and then later on to go to Crimea by implication. And even the Ukrainian President at the time – Poroshenko – has also conformed this. They are all now at the point where they can tell people to their faces that they had no intention of following the Minsk2 Agreements and that it was all a sham so get over it.

        2. Yves Smith Post author

          I don’t understand your argument.

          The ONLY reason Russia was involved was that it and Belarus were getting a shit ton of refugees and that the persecution of ethic Russians by Ukraine was not on. Israel is allowed to whinge in all sorts of countries about antisemitism even when it’s mere questionable use of language and BDS.

          If Ukraine had implemented Minsk, problem solved.

          What you are really alleging is that Ukraine wanted Crimea back, which was outside the scope of Minsk and never gonna happen. The Donbass was a way to punish Russia for Crimea.

    3. Ignacio

      As for The Duran reporting, the current narrative run by Russian authorities as exemplified by Lavrov in a Russian TV program is that Russia is at war with the West rather than with Ukraine. Given that without Western support Ukraine would have agreed to something, surrendered or been defeated sooner there is a lot of truth about it. Yet as you said above, Ukraine has the right to sign agreements by herself but this would almost certainly require the ousting of Zelensky. The actor is possibly the most important obstacle for a ceasefire and possibly a peace agreement between Ukraine and Russia.

      1. Karl

        The actor is possibly the most important obstacle for a ceasefire and possibly a peace agreement….

        If most of the NC commentariat is right, maybe “marionette” is a better description. My guess is that when he’s outlived his usefulness, the US will be the one to send him packing. My guess is the end-game script has been written in detail in DC and has been rehearsed with the “actor” very well.

        Zelensky isn’t the only actor. All of DC is like a movie set, and everyone has their role. Zelensky’s speech to Congress, and the standing ovations, were all spectacle to my mind to show the world “See how the USA is giving Ukraine every chance to defeat the Russians.” With this subtext: It’s their fault if they lose. Just as, in past failed proxy wars, it was always the corrupt South Vietnamese, Afghans and Iraqi’s that lost, not us.

        The only question now is when the U.S. pulls the plug. Sunak may well be the one to deliver that message, the same role that Boris Johnson played last April.

        When will the American people get tired of seeing this same movie, with so many lives lost to no positive purpose, over and over?

      2. John k

        I would say the obstacle to Ukraine agreeing to a deal is he would be shot by locals regardless of any change in dc policy.
        The obstacle for Russia is there’s nobody in Ukraine or the west that Russia would trust to enforce an agreement. So imo Russia pays lip service to negotiation, but intends to determine the settlement on its own.
        My thought is Russia now wants to liberate 4 more oblasts plus some extended buffer. Neither Ukraine or the west would not agree to anything like that until some time (years?) after Russia has finished the op.

      3. Michael Fiorillo

        Not to put much if any store in Zelensky’s courage, wisdom or honesty, but when he made overtures toward Russia, he was either threatened with death by the Bandera Nazis, or slapped down by England/US.

        He’s gross and worthy of contempt, but to say he’s the most important obstacle to peace overstates his significance. The Nationalist/Fascist minority has veto power over the State in Ukraine, and has been given such sway by the US and NATO, for whom they’re the enforcers for a cat’s paw government.

        Russia will see to it that Ukraine is de-fanged and de-clawed, and will “negotiate” terms therefrom. In the end, Zelensky is but a day player in the ongoing drama/folly.

      4. Yves Smith Post author

        I don’t agree Zelensky is the problem. He campaigned on normalizing relations with Russia. He’s surrounded by Banderite goons. The military chief Zaluzhny is hard core, so replacing Zelensky with hime is no answer.

    4. Greg

      I believe Mercouris mentioned this, but Hollande has come out and backed up Merkel’s version of events – which takes it from “foot in mouth” to “masks come off”.

      Really quite terrible for any future attempt to negotiate with Russia.

  9. The Rev Kev

    I no longer think that there can be any sort of negotiated peace but that one will have to be imposed – by the Armed Forces of Russia. At it’s heart, this is a civilisational war between the US and the Russian Federation. The Rules-Based Order versus the new Multipolar World. Yes, there way be enthusiastic participants on the US side like Poland and the UK but it is the US – mostly – running this war. But here is the problem. Washington has different power bases competing for power and the neocons and their corporate backers are still ascendant at the moment. Here you are talking about people like Nuland, Blinken, Sullivan, Bolton, etc. And then you have people that at the very least have a nodding acquaintance with reality. Things like the limitations of weaponry and ammo that can be sent to the Ukraine. So dealing with Washington is like dealing with a schizophrenic person. There was an example of this at play several years ago when Obama made a deal with the Russians over Syria – only for the Pentagon to launch an attack on an outpost to help ISIS take that city which totally derailed US-Russian relations.

    So what I am saying is that no, there cannot be any negotiated off-ram for this war. There are too many players that would be totally against it and not just in the US either. The Ukraine won’t agree unless they are allowed to win. Poland and the Baltic States would spit the dummy if there was ever a peace agreement without a Russian defeat. And with over $120 billion that has already been sent – supposedly – to the Ukraine, there are far too many big players who want to keep this money train rolling and BlackRock is merely the latest player to show up at this very deep trough. The FTX saga showed one example how US money was washed through the Ukraine to be sent back to political parties in the US. And then you have people that want to see as many dead Russians as possible – so long as they don’t have to pay a price. They would be fine with sending long distance weaponry so the Ukraine could launch an attack on Civilians in Moscow’s Red Square. So it will have to be the Russian Armed Forces that will bring this war to a close.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Actually I am not so sure re the ascendency of the neocons right now. They may be running on brand fumes. Their little “create their own reality” delusion is running hard into depleted weapons stocks and unsustainable budget costs.

      The fact that discredited nutters like Ollie North and John Bolton have been making the media rounds for Ukraine and NATO on behalf of the US is a sign of weakness.

      1. The Rev Kev

        Hopefully that is true. Certainly there is a lot of rebellious Republicans that have more than a few axes to grind about this war when they take their seats soon. And all they would have to do is ask why Americans are sending over $100 billion to protect the Ukraine’s borders while the Democrats force States like Arizona not to defend their borders. Such a line would play very well with Republicans as the country slowly moves towards the 2024 Presidential elections. And maybe not just Republicans either.

        1. Skip Intro

          I see Ukraine-Biden/DNC connections revealed in Hunter’s laptop as a potential political wild card in the game. Since the neocons went full anti-Trump, their ability to control the GOP is diminished. If the Ukraine war is cast as a slush fund for the Dems, the bipartisan consensus may be disrupted.

        2. Pat

          Might work with a few Democrats as well. Colorado is now sending immigrants to NY and Massachusetts. Adams is now begging DC for millions, and fighting with the City Council* about them. Pretty sure with the various funding cuts for city services that were on tap even without the growing bussed migrants many of the voters are not down with finding the funds necessary for them.

          In the recent election more city voters voted Republican than in decades, and not just in Staten Island. This will only increase that, despite the city’s seeming inability to recognize propaganda especially about Ukraine and Biden.

          * Adams hit reality and is demanding that the council find increased funding from the city budget that they control.

    2. TimmyB

      I agree. This war will end when Russia ensures that Ukraine is longer a threat. I believe that will be when the Ukrainian military is completely destroyed and the the Russian speaking parts of Ukraine, including Odessa, are completely under Russian control. Russia won’t risk its security on another peace agreement that isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. So the issue may be decided on the battlefield.

      The US can do little to stop this result, other than use nuclear weapons. Otherwise, the US and NATO do not have the military means to defeat Russia in Ukraine or Eastern Europe. Let’s assume the worst and NATO declares war on Russia. I don’t know how the hundreds of thousands of NATO/US troops necessary to fight Russia would make it to the front lines, never mind with sufficient weapons and ammunition to take on Russia. US supply lines would extend thousands of miles from the US east coast to the front. So everywhere between the US east coast and those front lines US troops and supplies would be subject to Russian attack. These overextended supply lines would be a disaster for the US.

      And the supple line problem should be obvious to any war planner. Also obvious is Europe’s complete dependence on imported oil and gas. Russia could easily choke off Europe’s oil and gas imports. In a total war, the easiest way to defeat Europe would be to threaten Mideast oil producers with the destruction of their oil facilities or, if that threat doesn’t work, actually destroy them.

      In sum, there are many reasons why US and NATO would lose a war with Russia. Quality and quantity of weapons and ammunition is another. Plus China would do everything in its power to ensure Russia wins because it knows the US would turn its sights to China if Russia loses. In sum, the US winning a war against Russia in Eastern Europe is as unlikely as Russia winning a war against the U.S. in Mexico.

      That said, I believe that once Russia settles the question of Ukraine, it may turn its attention to US missile bases in Poland and Romania. Those missile bases, supposedly installed to protect Europe from nonexistent Iranian nuclear missiles, can also house offensive nuclear missiles. Russia has previously demanded they be removed. I believe it is possible for Russia to use military force to remove these missiles once it’s war against Ukraine is over. This makes a Russian attack on NATO possible in my opinion. That is something to look out for.

  10. IMOR

    Their article would be more palatable to me if the authors had presented its points, authorities and arguments in reverse sequence from its actual form- but I’m not part of their intended audience, and it may suck in more persuadables structured as is. If one thinks Stoltenberg, RAMD, Mullen and Miley are worth listening to on this topic, one may by the end be led partway to a better flavor Kool Aid.

  11. Stephen

    I guess if you start from the false premises that Russia is losing and is desperate for an off ramp then this article might make some sense.

    But in the real world I fully agree with comments here and especially with David’s point that Russian opinion will not accept negotiation. For example, I saw a comment elsewhere that a Russian organisation of war widows has apparently demanded that President Putin escalate. Russians behave exactly the same way that most other humans do when under attack: they circle the wagons, unite and seek revenge. Who would have thought so?

    This is notwithstanding the related points that the west has nothing that it can really give Russia other than security and peace. Basically, to stop meddling. But, as stated many times on this blog and by President Putin, the collective west is agreement incapable. Confirmed by Merkel and Hollande’s recent statements.

    I do agree with the comment in the article about Zelensky. He was prepared to make peace, was stopped from doing so and pushed to fight. Now the US / collective west is running out of equipment, is scared to escalate further and will likely leave him to dangle. Shades of South Vietnam. I have zero sympathy for him and other Ukrainian elites. If you become mercenaries of the Empire then you reap what you sow. But I do have sympathy for the broader community of Ukrainians. Strongly believe that one day the non Galician part of Ukraine and Russia will reconcile. Ukrainians who remain may then want revenge on the collective west. Stranger things have happened in history.

    1. synoia

      What a tangled web we weave when we practice to decorate.

      The US blob caused this war with the intention of controlling and profiting from control of Russian resources.

      Only the fall of the US blob can end this war, but that would end many carees in DC and the MIC.

    2. hk

      It happened very quickly in 1920s: Pilsudski wanted to establish an independent Ukraine etc as part of the “Promethean” strategy (basically, create a bunch of ethnonational states to surround and dismember Russia with), even if Poland had to make concessions on, say, Galicia. Other Polish leaders wouldn’t have it: expending resources to create and support ethnonational states (especially those who’d have issues with Poland itself, like Lithuania, Ukraine, or Belorussia) was a no go. So Poland effectively partitioned Ukraine with USSR and a full scale terrorist campaign against Poland was being waged by OUN by the end of the decade.

  12. hk

    I think, for practical purposes, the war has gone beyond Ukraine. The de facto Russian demand is (for all practical purposes) expulsion of Poland, Romania, and the Baltics from NATO (ie undoing post cold war NATO expansion that Russian leaders have brought up). A Russian “victory” over Ukraine is neither necessary nor sufficient for this. What is necessary is for the populations and leaders of the countries in Western Europe (especially France, Germany, and Italy) to be sufficiently fearful of the consequences of antagonizing Russia fecklessly on behalf of the Poles’ or Balts’ ethnonationalism, BUT not so fearful of potential Russian aggression against themselves if they do not antagonize Russia (further). This will be a tough balancing act for the Russian leadership to achieve, but, on the other hand,there really is nothing that Westerners, whether Western Europeans, British, or Americans, can do about it, I think.

    1. Keith Newman

      @hk, 10:41am
      “a tough balancing act for the Russian leadership”..
      Indeed. In a recent interview Lavrov was asked how he thought the West would react to its defeat in Ukraine. He wouldn’t answer. (see Mercouris yesterday). They must be trying to figure it out.
      IMO the defeat must be unequivocal but also allow the West some kind of an out not to appear humiliated. Then the media will take over and focus on another hot spot, celebrities, sports, etc. Who knows, maybe some negative articles will resurface about neo-Nazis in the military and secret service, overwhelming corruption and political repression. In a short time the Ukraine episode will be almost entirely forgotten by the Western public.

      1. hk

        The balancing act (and the relative irrelevance of a “victory” in Ukraine for this goal) seems to account for the Russian military strategy. A conventional military “victory” will not only be costly, it is not really necessary for the medium to long term Russian goal and potentially even counterproductive. Russia does not need to “defeat” the Western Europeans as much as teach them a lesson. However, it does need to “defeat,” in some form, UK and US so that they would keep out of Europe. Compared to these goals, “winning” in Ukraine is just the means (and only a small component thereof), not the goal (and smashing the Ukrainian regime, particularly, is not necessarily worth it, unless it serves their larger goals). .At least that’s my thinking, anyways.

      2. Karl

        In a recent interview Lavrov was asked how he thought the West would react to its defeat in Ukraine. He wouldn’t answer.

        Suppose 300,000 Russian troops reach the Western border of Ukraine and everyone knows NATO and the US are basically out of ammo for a conventional war.

        Suppose Putin then says, “I’ll stop at the border if you pull all NATO presence back to where you promised it would stay in 1989.” I.e. former West Germany. How would the West react to that?

        What could the “West” do?

        The West is in quite a pickle, yes? And suppose Putin realizes he’s got so much leverage he decides that Russia doesn’t need to be “agreement capable”?

        He might say, “Oh, I also promised Chairman Xi I’d ask you to get out of the South China Sea?”

      3. Yves Smith Post author

        I don’t think Russia/Lavrov needs to speculate about how the West reacts. It’s not helpful to Russia plus there are many possible outcomes. Doubtful the West will be unified.

        Plus Lavrov so went on tilt that I wonder if he or Russians have a superstition about tempting fate, that it is one thing to aspirationally talk about victory for purposes of moral v. depict it as settled fact when it isn’t.

    2. Stephen

      I think that is right. The Russians leaders strike me as taking a classical Nineteenth Century approach to foreign affairs. They seek a balance of power in Europe to safeguard security, which was also one of the prime goals of the Vienna Congress.

      I believe that this goal is fully achievable. But ultimately to be sustainable in the long run it needs the US to retreat back to its continent and stop meddling. That may take some doing but feels it will happen over the next couple of decades. Not tomorrow. Bit like decline of the dollar. Will not be overnight but it will happen. Just as Britain ran out of cash and got over extended so will the US. I just hope it does not take two major wars to get there. The US’s continued force projection into Europe, with the full complicity of European elites and the active enthusiasm of the UK though is the root cause of trouble in Europe in my view.

      This also needs the UK to wake up and realise that it is no longer an imperial global power but just a middle ranking regional power. Perhaps dissolution of the 1707 Act of Union might help to get us there. Not having the US to meddle with will also be important: British power shorn of the US “alliance” is pretty limited anyway.

      1. Cristobal

        Yes, the US needs to go back to its own continent but that will take a while. This whole conflict is grossly unequal, not so much betwen the Russians and the Ukranians, but between the Russians and the US. The Russians are fightng with one hand tied behind their back. Apparently it is ok for the hegemon to attack Russian territory via their proxies, but it is not ok for the Russians to respond in kind. I believe the Russians are aware that attacking a target in NATO Europe would bring on a strong response, but would not do anything to deter their actual enemy, the US. Lobbing a couple of big ones (non-nuclear) onto the Pentagon or the CIA at Langley would be an appropriate response to attacks to Russian territory, but to touch the sacred soil of the light of the world would surely result in a nuclear attack on Russia, and I think they know this. They are even reluctant to target the surely known US soldiers manning the very technically complex HMARS and other missle systems.

        I think one of the most interesting comments today was the question posed to Lavrov as to how he though the US would respond to defeat in Ukraine. He didn´t answer (I don´t have a reference but it was cited above by comentator Keith Neuman). THAT represents, to me, the greatest risk of a nuclear escalation. Based on the Russian army´s construction of defensive works, it seems that they believe that a full on NATO response is to be expected when their winter/spring/summer offensive results in the total destruction of the Ukranian military. Lets hope not. The Russians are in a pickle. It is clear that they can win the war in Ukraine, but will they be able to achive the goals of the SMO – demilitarize and denazify their neighboring country so as to provide security to the Russian Federation as well as the countries (mad dogs or not) of eastern Europe.

        There was talk at the beginning of this topic about whether the EU or NATO had standing, or agency, or whatever legaleze concept you want. Neither the EU nor NATO is at war. Neither is capable or making a decision as to an eventual settlement of the conflict. Neither is Ukraine. Only the US and Russia can settle it, as has been said by Russian government. There may be a reason the Democratic Party´s symbol is a jackass, but betweeen Russia´s military resistence and – hopefully – the resistance of a disunited Europe Uncle Sugar can be convinced.

        1. Polar Socialist

          From Russian Foreign Ministry site (if I got the right one):

          Question: Continuing the theme of real threats to strategic stability, Joe Biden said Ukraine must win on the battlefield to prevent a third world war. What do you think the US will do when Ukraine loses on the battlefield? This seems inevitable to me. They have convinced themselves that this war is not only (and not so much) for Ukraine, but for American leadership, for the notorious “rules-based international order,” that is for American hegemony. What will they do when Ukraine loses?

          Sergey Lavrov: Your question has cornered me. I usually try to think before I say something. Even so, I let things slip sometimes, I confess. When a person says such things, they probably have something up their sleeve; if they really mean what they say, that is.

          To me it reads as if the interviewer is interpreting Biden threatening direct NATO intervention if Ukraine loses while Lavrov is interpreting it as a gaffe but can’t be sure.

          1. Karl

            Biden is playing with fire if he thinks he can keep signalling via gaffes. If this is what he’s doing, such passive-aggressiveness really signals weakness. If not, a gaffe about a third world war over Ukraine is utterly inexcusable.

      2. Keith Newman

        @Stephen, 12:19 pm.
        “The Russians leaders… seek a balance of power in Europe to safeguard security…”
        I think so too. Total in your face victory with large armies poised on the Polish border or some other threatening stance works against that outcome. Currently in the West there is zero public support for a hot war with Russia and sending millions of our young people off to die to re-establish a border in some eastern European country few could locate on a map. No politician who supported that could get elected in my country (Canada). A serious threatening stance by Russia could change that.
        IMO the victory must be decisive but non-threatening. A wide demilitarised zone across Ukraine would fit the bill it seems to me. We’ll find out in due course.
        Pushing NATO (really the U.S.) away from other locations bordering on Russia might require many years during which the economies of Russia/China/Iran/others in Asia increase in size while the Western ones decline relatively speaking. Eventually the drain on the U.S. to re-establishing its hegemony will become so great that its elite will hopefully give up on it and draw back.

        1. dandyandy

          No politician who supported that could get elected in my country (Canada).

          Look up Chrystia Freeland. She’s made it her agenda to make Ukraine Canada’s prime Foreign Policy issue, in recognitiion of her grandad’s good old WW2 days in Ukraine. Similar family motivation as Blinken, Sholtz, Leyen, Vindman and so on…

          Perhaps other NC readers could chip in and help create a list of all the “Western World” politicians who, having now attained the positions of power, use that power to try and settle their old familial Eastern European “debts”, mainly against Russia, but other states as well.

      1. tevhatch

        No, the USA will wait until it’s got production up and running, then it will create a fake crisis and pull the plug on Taiwan’s production, and try to keep the monopoly for itself. It will be a version of NordStream 1&2 sabotage, take out the competitor.

  13. fjallstrom

    I think Benjamin and Davies do know what they are doing, otherwise they just happened to do it well.

    The article is an attempt to sway US liberals in the direction of peace. To get there they are effectively arguing that Ukraine can’t win the war outright, that escalation can lead to nuclear war and that a negotiated settlement is possible.

    The argument that Ukraine can’t win the war outright is supported by quotes from military figures that the target audience is prone to believe. Nuclear war risk is supported by the bellicose Rand Corporation, not peaceniks that can be ignored.

    That a negotiated settlement is possible is supported by the abortive settlement in March. Johnson is given the spotlight, but he is gone now, etc. US remains, but good liberals knows that the government is responsive to the public will, so armed with these arguments can convince their family and friends, write on Twitter and write letters to the editor to change the public will. This last part is so ingrained in the target audience that it doesn’t even have to be argued.

    (It is important for the authors to show that peace is possible in order to sell that it’s desirable. Maybe it shouldn’t be, but it is.)

    Overall a stellar performance directed at the target audience. If you know what the Minsk treaty is, or better yet Merkel’s and Hollande’s recent statement of their intentions, you are clearly not in the target audience.

  14. SocalJimObjects

    I don’t know about a diplomatic off ramp, but say the West is tired of this war, well they can always arrange Zelensky and the Azov guys to be on the same location under some kind of pretext, and afterwards they can leak this location to the Russians. Once those people have been gotten rid off, someone credible (or not) from the Ukrainian opposition can sign the peace treaty. The End.

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