If there is one thing that has become clear, there is no point in negotiating with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Ukraine is considered the gates of Europe, or a borderland with a brutal past. It is time to develop a permanent solution to the Ukrainian problem. And there is only one country that can lead the way.
Every day that passes comes with more atrocities committed by Russia against Ukrainians. The current phase of Russia’s supposedly “rapid” special military operation (now teetering on 11 months) is focused on disrupting the everyday lives of Ukrainian citizens.
This means deliberately bombing critical national civilian infrastructure with a focus on electricity and water. It has included a Russian missile attack killing a newborn baby when a rocket struck a maternity ward in southern Ukraine. Evidently to Russia, maternity wards are military assets.
This phase of Putin’s war with Ukraine is about trying to force President Volodymyr Zelensky to enter negotiations that might end with some form of temporary truce. Any truce would indeed be temporary as Russia would use this period to rearm.
It is critical that no negotiations or truce occurs whilst Russia continues to occupy Ukrainian territory. Any truce would represent a defeat for Ukraine and a win for Putin. Moreover, Russia’s military capacity and capability must be eroded to ensure that there is no possibility for Putin to restart his so-called special military operation.
Zelensky is acutely aware of the dangers of negotiating with Russia. On Nov. 21, his predecessor, Petro Poroshenko, outlined Ukraine’s reaction to any proposed negotiations with Russia to the Council on Foreign Relations, a U.S. think tank. He asked his audience to imagine sitting at home and “the killer comes to your house and kills your wife, rapes your daughter, opens the door to the second floor and says, ‘OK come here. Let's negotiate on how to live further.' What would be your reaction?” He then went on to note that “from my personal experience… don’t trust Putin.”
So, negotiations should be avoided. But how will Russia’s war with Ukraine end?
Perhaps Ukraine will be forced to negotiate when Russia has destroyed all the country’s critical civilian infrastructure? Nevertheless, responsible nations should try to prevent this from happening. An important question to consider is which organizations have the interest and power to persuade Russia to cease its actions?
The answer to this question is intriguing. The United Nations (UN) is just a talking shop and has no power. Most UN members are against Russia’s war, including all actions targeted at civilians. U.S. President Joe Biden appreciates the plight of the Ukrainian people and is ensuring that the American people provide assistance. Nevertheless, Biden is powerless as he has no authority over Russia.
The same is the case for Emmanuel Macron, president of France. Macron has tried to negotiate and influence Putin and discovered that he has no influence and no power. Macron’s current plan is to try to resume direct contract with Putin, but to what end and for what purpose? What right does Macron have to try to negotiate on behalf of Ukraine?
Meanwhile German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who initially hesitated in supporting Ukraine, has more recently appealed to Putin to “stop the senseless killing, withdraw your troops completely from Ukraine and agree to peace talks.”
Putin will likely not even hear this appeal and will certainly not take advice from the German chancellor, the French president, or the president of the United States.
The implication is that the UN, various prime ministers and presidents are powerless in the face of Putin’s aggression in Ukraine.
Who has the power to persuade Putin to cease and desist?
There are only three stakeholders who have any power over Putin. First, there are the Ukrainian people who have shown that they have the capability, persistence, power, and courage to stand up against Russia. The best outcome is that Russia is defeated on the battlefield and is forced to leave Ukraine.
Second, there are the Russian people. They have the option of revolting against Putin and declaring that they have had enough, and it is time to stop sending Russians to their death.
Third, there is Russia’s political elite or the country’s political, economic, and military decision makers. They are increasingly concerned over Putin’s war but have yet to reach a tipping point that would lead to action.
This brings us back to the original statement. There is no point in negotiating with Putin. Developing a permanent solution to the Ukrainian problem can only be achieved by Ukraine continuing to stand united against Russia, and with the support of all nations and their leaders interested in supporting an independent nation against unwarranted aggression.
John R. Bryson is Professor of Enterprise & Economic Geography, at Birmingham Business School
The views expressed are the author’s and not necessarily of Kyiv Post.
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