There is a very strange double standard when it comes to the way any possible “peace” deal is discussed between Ukraine and Russia. Basically, nothing Putin says is to really to be taken seriously, while Ukraine is supposed to make concessions based on the fact that, regardless of what Putin does say – he is actually looking for a deal that will allow Ukraine to be a sovereign state.

It's worth noting the number of articles in the Western media which argue that Ukraine must somehow agree to a (non-existent) peace deal with Russia. This non-existent peace deal narrative is regularly pushed, most prominently I suppose by Samuel Charap and others.

The New York Times Op-Ed page had a very strange argument on the matter just this week – here the onus on searching for a peace deal is entirely on Ukraine. Indeed, if you read the text, and the earlier text by Charap, Russia is out to reach a peace deal, but it’s the annoying Ukrainians (and their partners) seemingly unwilling to do the right thing.

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In the article – Russia is a true partner for peace, and the Putin regime is looking to reach a deal. As the article says explicitly – Russia wants to negotiate a deal, but Ukraine is not working hard enough to work one out.

Russia has expressed willingness to negotiate, though it has not been invited to the conference because Ukraine suspects that Russia will just use the meeting for show.

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The fascinating example which the article uses to show how eager Putin is for peace, is the Russian dictator’s interview with Tucker Carlson

Moreover, the deal imagined has Ukraine making all the major concessions and Russia being offered sweeteners to accept a deal. Thus, Ukraine will have to recognize that it cannot get the land occupied by Russia back – and moreover, Ukraine will have to accept that it cannot join NATO for now (or really any time) as there is no specific date given when this can be allowed.

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Here is the peace deal for territory section

Yes, Ukraine is entirely in the right – but that doesn’t matter, it must cede its territory de facto and make no more attempts to regain it.

Ukraine has pledged never to cede territory. This is supported by international law that forbids the seizure of territory by force, and Ukraine should not surrender its lawful claim to its land. But to secure a lasting cease-fire, it may need to recognize that Russia has control, though not sovereignty, over portions of four Ukrainian regions and Crimea – and halt its quest to seize back occupied areas by force.

Here is the peace deal for NATO

As part of a peace agreement, Ukraine may also have to pause its NATO application and promise not to join for a number of years, say 5 to 10. This is made easier because NATO members are still far from united on allowing a nation at war into the alliance, especially given fears that membership could result in a NATO war with nuclear-armed Russia. Still, it would be a major concession.

 

Long story short – Ukraine gives up territory it legally possesses, gives up the prospect of NATO membership – and allows Putin time to rebuild his military.

But Ukraine can still sign bilateral treaties with individual NATO members for security support – something it has already started to do, for example, with France, Germany and Britain. Future security guarantees will need to include strong provisions for supplying weapons and intelligence to Ukraine, and help to prevent cyberattacks. That said, Ukraine’s allies would probably not be allowed to place military bases on its soil.

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Long story short – Ukraine gives up territory it legally possesses, gives up the prospect of NATO membership – and allows Putin time to rebuild his military.

And what concessions will Russia make? Well, none it seems. Indeed, the author argues that Putin should be given sweeteners to accept this terrible deal for Ukraine – including the relaxing of sanctions and a return to buying Russian oil at market prices – in other words, a massive infusion of capital into Russia is also something that Ukraine will have to accept.

To make a peace deal more acceptable to Russia, it could be offered sanctions relief, contingent on compliance with the agreement. Russia could then trade its oil and gas at market prices, though Western countries could institute mechanisms for the immediate reimposition – the so-called snapback – of sanctions if needed. Russia would regain access to its withheld gold and foreign currency reserves in the West.

In summary, the narrative that has been given is that Putin really wants a deal, will get all the territory he now possesses, Ukraine will stop trying to regain its territory, Ukraine will give up any short-term prospect to join NATO, Russia will be made richer by the relaxation of sanctions, and Russia will be allowed to rebuild its military.

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It's hard to think of a “peace” deal more perfectly constructed not to bring peace.

Thankfully, Putin stepped in to reveal the nonsense built into such arguments. A few hours after that piece was published, Putin announced that we would indeed discuss a ceasefire – but Ukraine would have to cede far more territory, give up NATO permanently, etc. etc.

First off – Putin starts with the basic position that he did not launch a war of conquest in 2022 (or 2014).

“We didn't start the war” Russia's president said. “It was the Kyiv regime.”

According to Putin, Ukraine would have to give up all the territory that Russia has illegally annexed (including a great deal that it does not occupy, such as the west bank of the Dnipro in Kherson oblast). And Ukraine would not only have to give up NATO wishes, it would have to pledge to limit its military in the future (leaving it at Russia’s mercy in the future). Here was one news story summary of his position.

Putin insisted that Kyiv should withdraw from all four annexed regions entirely and essentially cede them to Moscow within their administrative borders. In Zaporizhzhia in the southeast, Russia still doesn’t control the region’s administrative capital with a pre-war population of about 700,000; in the neighboring Kherson region, Moscow withdrew from its biggest city and capital of the same name in November 2022.

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To see how much territory Ukraine would have to give up – here is a map of the illegally annexed areas (and Russia actually has less of that territory now, as when the territory was annexed, Russia occupied Kherson city and some areas on the west bank).

Thankfully Putin’s intervention should make two things clear. He does not really want “peace” at this point – he wants to illegally seize much of Ukraine, rebuild his military, and keep Ukraine out of NATO. He wants a situation where he can restart the war on his terms in the future. And second, that those arguing for such a deal have placed Ukraine in an impossible catch-22. Ukraine is expected to make all the concessions, while Russia gets all the benefits. Moreover, they are basing their arguments that Putin is willing to negotiate in good faith.

 

Just this week Trump, once again, let it be known how little he cares for Ukraine.

This seems bizarre. Putin is clearly willing to slaughter his own people in extraordinary numbers to capture strategically irrelevant farm fields. He has shown he is happy to bombard civilians across Ukraine, commit countless war crimes, and continues to deny Ukrainian nationhood. This is the reality of what we are seeing. Moreover, he is almost certainly waiting to see the results of the 2024 presidential election – which hold out to him the happy prospect of a Trump presidency. Just this week Trump, once again, let it be known how little he cares for Ukraine.

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In a meeting with GOP members of Congress this week, Trump stated he was opposed to the $60 billion aid bill for Ukraine and saw no benefit for the US if Ukraine does well in the war.

Trump also criticized a $60 billion aid package for Ukraine that recently passed with Republican support, lawmakers said.

“He's like, if Ukraine wins, what will be the benefit?” Republican Representative Don Bacon told reporters.

People always like to say they want peace. However, sometimes peace is not available, and a “peace” deal does not lead to peace. We are in such a situation now. Russia does not want peace on terms except for Ukrainian amputation and strategic degradation. All this would do is set up a situation for future war in Europe.

As sad as it is, if Ukraine wishes to fight (and it does), it's up to Ukraine’s supporters to give it the aid that it needs to fight and win the war. That is the best road to peace.

Reprinted in an abridged from from the author’s blog. See the original here.

The views expressed are the author’s and not necessarily of Kyiv Post.

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