What Might A Ukraine Peace Agreement Look Like? 434


Currently nobody in power wants peace. Both sides believe they might yet improve their position on the ground. Thousands are needlessly dying horrible deaths in Europe. But the West now has a proxy war with Russia itself that is weakening Russia militarily, economically and diplomatically. Putin has to keep going, hoping to show something he can portray as victory and worth all the pain. Meantime the arms manufacturers and related interests are profiting enormously – and never forget that applies to both sides.

NATO is cock-a-hoop with probable expansion to include Sweden and Finland. That is one of very many ways in which Putin’s war is counterproductive for Russia and makes its strategic problems worse.

The most alarming aspect of all this is the blithe brinkmanship with which the West is pushing Putin towards a position where his only chance of claiming victory is to use tactical nuclear weapons. [And yes I have read Scott Ritter, I both know and like him but think he is very wrong about Russian ground superiority].

It does not have to be nuclear Armageddon. There is a more likely scenario where the war carries on for years, and probably Russia inflicts increasing damage on cities with long range weapons. That would be unlikely to involve radical change from current frontlines; we could have hundreds of thousands of casualties over as much as three to five years. I believe this is what NATO actually want to happen. It would in effect leave a frozen conflict looking not too different to today, but with much more destruction.

This is the time that true statesmen would be trying to end the conflict. The only person who in the least appears to have been making genuine efforts is Macron, for which he is reviled. The UN evidently judge it too early to talk about more than ceasefires and humanitarian corridors. Do not be discouraged by or critical of that. These “confidence building measures” – ceasefires, evacuations, prisoner exchanges, humanitarian relief – are how conflict resolution classically starts.

So, if I were in the UN working on an outline peace proposal, what would it look like? Well, here are some first thoughts.

Now I know some people will ask why anybody should look at any proposals from me. Well, plainly I have no current standing. But I do have experience. Together with then Head of UN Peacekeeping, my late friend Kofi Annan, I while Head of Cyprus Section at the FCO drafted the Cyprus peace plan that we then took into proximity negotiation with Denktash and Clerides. We did not have total success but the process did contribute to the island’s current peace and prosperity.

Further as UK Representative to the Sierra Leone Peace Talks, I was deeply involved in the drafting and the negotiation with all sides of the Sierra Leone Peace Accord, as detailed at length in my book The Catholic Orangemen of Togo. That conflict probably had more casualties than the Ukraine War to date and was just as bitter, with its own extremely complicated history and causes.

So in suggesting ideas for the draft of a “Peace Plan”, this is something I have done in “real life”, not just a fool opining from his armchair. For that look to some of my other posts!

The first and most difficult question is territory, as it is in most armed conflict. Russia currently occupies large areas of Ukrainian territory. This is a powerful negotiating position. Ukraine has recovered significant ground around Kiev following that particular defeated attack, and smaller parcels elsewhere. In the last couple of weeks, gains and losses by both sides have been broadly in balance, though Western media emphasises the Ukrainian gains.

If we are starting from broadly the current territorial position, my basic proposal would be this. Ukraine formally cedes Crimea to Russia, and Russia hands back all other Ukrainian territory, including the Donbass.

This gives Putin a boast he can make to his people – the World, which had refused to recognise the Russian annexation, would now have bowed to Russia’s rule. The US, UK, Germany, all had been made to acknowledge Crimea is Russian and to eat humble pie. It would play well for Putin.

On the other hand, neither the West nor Ukraine would really have lost anything at all but pride. It would simply be bringing the de jure and de facto in line, which is generally a good thing. Few seriously believe the Ukrainian army is going to be able to retake Crimea. To do so would indicate an extremely bloody war, with very serious potential to escalate to the nuclear.

Crimea is in practice now Russian. It makes sense to base a peace deal on acknowledging this reality.

Is Crimea enough of a prize for Putin to give up all of Russia’s other gains? I believe so. There is a realistic chance that Russia could suffer humiliating loss of some of the areas it holds. Much better to negotiate them away while you have them.

Could Zelensky survive giving up the Crimea? Well, his personal prestige is now enormous. His people are brave but would welcome an end to the war, and the number of Ukrainians still in Crimea is now low. In return for getting back all of the Donbass lost in 2014 plus Kherson and Mariupol, and getting an end to the war, I think it is not impossible for Zelensky to sell giving up the Crimea as the price of peace.

The Donbass was of course Putin’s given reason for invasion. It would be hard for Putin to give up Donbass because it is central to his consistent programme of bringing Russophone areas of ex-Soviet states into Russia. But his domestic position in a long war would weaken if not successful. Given guarantees on Crimea and an end to ruinous war and sanctions, I think he could accept it after negotiation, with a number of figleafs.

It is worth noting that a bilateral agreement is not possible. Any agreement is going to need to involve a much wider group of parties, on for examples the lifting of sanctions and recognition of Russian annexation of Crimea.

So here is a start to my proposed bundle:

Ukraine to cede Crimea to Russia
Russia to hand back all other occupied Ukrainian territory
A devolution settlement for Donbass
Russian again to be an official language in Ukraine
Ukraine to be acknowledged as a sovereign state free to join NATO or EU if it chooses
An Arms Control Treaty restricting weapons systems in Ukraine and neighbouring Russia
An end to all EU and US sanctions on Russia imposed following the invasion
A joint War Crimes Commission, and Truth and Reconciliation process, but immunities for agreed persons (including Putin)
An international fund for reconstruction, including provision for relocation assistance for Russian speakers wishing to leave Donbass or Ukrainians wishing to leave Crimea.

Now here is the moral dilemma. If you want to insist on no immunity for war crimes, you would need to be willing to pursue total war to the utter defeat of one side. You cannot get a peace deal that involves putting Putin on trial at the Hague. Equally neither side can get all it wants on any subject without total victory.

Peace otherwise means compromise.

When discussing Cyprus with Kofi Annan, we agreed any peace deal would involve Turkey giving up some land in proportion to its percentage of population. The possibilities were Morphou or Karpass. We realised that this land deal would need to entail some assistance with population relocation of those who wished to move. It is often impossible to resolve a geographic conflict without some element that can be portrayed as endorsement of ethnic cleansing. These are the problems of peace.

I do hope that gives you some material for your own thought. It will no more interest the partisans on either side than it currently does those in power. Thus I sadly expect the killing to continue. I am off to Turkey tomorrow for a briefing on the limited peace talks that have taken place to date. That does not mean I will necessarily be able to spread information further at this stage.

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434 thoughts on “What Might A Ukraine Peace Agreement Look Like?

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  • JohnA

    “If we are starting from broadly the current territorial position, my basic proposal would be this. Ukraine formally cedes Crimea to Russia, and Russia hands back all other Ukrainian territory, including the Donbass.”

    That is an idiotic proposal and total non-starter. The people of Donbass have been indiscriminately terrorised, shelled and 14,000+ murdered by the Ukrainian forces since 2014. They will never acknowledge being part of a murderous regime again. That is the whole root cause of this conflict. If Kiev had implemented the Minsk II accords they had signed up to, that would have been possible with greater autonomy for the Donbass. Now, never in a million years. Russia will control Donbass and most of the Black Sea coast. Too bad the Ukrainians felt they could bully the east and their big bully friend US would kick sand in Russia’s face. At least you have finally acknowledged Crimea will be Russian, as the Crimean population overwhelmingly prefers. A step in the right direction. Now to acknowledge Donbass and the coast as either independent or part of Russia again.

    • Bramble

      Oh dear. You aren’t supposed to go back before February 2022. Nothing ever, ever happened before. Nothing. Claiming otherwise shows you are a Putin puppet and do not regard the USA and NATO as immaculate and infallible. Next you will be saying there are real live Nazis in Ukraine!

      • Tom Welsh

        Harold Pinter explained what happened in Donbass between 2014 and this year, in his famous Nobel Prize speech 17 years ago. The key words: “it never happened”.

        “Hundreds of thousands of deaths took place throughout these countries. Did they take place? And are they in all cases attributable to US foreign policy? The answer is yes they did take place and they are attributable to American foreign policy. But you wouldn’t know it.

        “It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest. The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It’s a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.

        “I put to you that the United States is without doubt the greatest show on the road. Brutal, indifferent, scornful and ruthless it may be but it is also very clever. As a salesman it is out on its own and its most saleable commodity is self love. It’s a winner. Listen to all American presidents on television say the words, ‘the American people’, as in the sentence, ‘I say to the American people it is time to pray and to defend the rights of the American people and I ask the American people to trust their president in the action he is about to take on behalf of the American people.’

        “It’s a scintillating stratagem. Language is actually employed to keep thought at bay. The words ‘the American people’ provide a truly voluptuous cushion of reassurance. You don’t need to think. Just lie back on the cushion. The cushion may be suffocating your intelligence and your critical faculties but it’s very comfortable. This does not apply of course to the 40 million people living below the poverty line and the 2 million men and women imprisoned in the vast gulag of prisons, which extends across the US”.

        — Harold Pinter, Nobel Lecture December 7, 2005.

    • Pears Morgaine

      ” 14,000+ murdered by the Ukrainian forces since 2014 “

      Totally untrue. Ten thousands were combatants and roughly half Ukrainian.

      One problem is that as with Crimea Russia won’t allow Donbass a vote on independence. It’ll be a choice between rule from Kyiv or rule from Moscow.

  • Mary Bennett

    Mr. Murray, do you believe that Mr. Zelensky is his own man? I do not know; I am asking.

    I think I can state with some confidence that the Republican administration which is almost sure to take over in 2024 will not welcome Ukrainian displaced persons; the R’s own constituents won’t stand for it. The part of the Republican Party which despises Mr. Trump has by now figured out that the source of his wealth, whatever that really is, and prominence is his alliances with emigre Russian gangsters in NYC. Right wing news and opinion organizations are already reporting in most unflattering terms about Ukrainian so-called refugees being waved past checkpoints at our southern border while Haitians, for whose plight one might think we do have some culpability, are not admitted. Multiculturalism is widely now seen in the USA as a failed ideology, responsible for the elevation of such uninspiring incompetents as Neera Tanden. I am not by any means the only American to wonder and ask how well dressed persons who, we are asked to believe, fled their homes with only what they could carry, managed to make it to Mexico within weeks after their arrival in Poland. Needless to say, none of these “refugees” are to be seen sweeping floors or picking crops. They will, of course, be slotted, somehow, into the increasingly top heavy PMC superstructure which we already can ill afford to maintain.

  • Gideon Anthony

    Hi Craig, it would break Russia if Donbass was given back to Ukraine.

    Compare liberalism ‘We want to weaken Russia so it doesn’t do this kind of stuff again’ to Russian multiethnic statism.

    ‘Donbass is behind us. God is behind us.’
    ‘Russia is with us God is with us’.
    ‘When I heard ‘God is great, I knew that the Russians had finally come and we would be saved’

    The Russians think this is a remarch of the second world war with the americans as fascists. The actions of the Latvians and the poles, let alone the americans and the ukrainians confirm it.

    Until the US recognises the Russian point of view, Ukraine will be a sacrifice zone with its monist government using the tactics of the dog days of the 3rd reich, destroyed by Western Intrigue.

    Europe will be broken and for what?

    Every soldier and civilian injured is a human being with father, mother, son and daughters who are grieving and traumatised.

    Curses on the Kagans and Nulands. Curses on European exceptionalism and on the corporate cabals which benefit fron this horror. Not to mention the neoliberal ideology which finds a scapegoat for its openly and inhuman world destroying oppression.

    The establishment left is the single biggest blocker of progress.

  • T

    Thanks, Craig. Peace is imperative but Boris Johnson was sent to Kiev specifically to tell Zelensky that the U. S. will not accept any peace deal Ukraine might negotiate with the Russians. Quite a significant obstacle to any settlement. Any thoughts on how we get round it?

  • no-one important

    If we view matters from the ‘reported’ standpoint then Craig’s suggestions represent as good a starting point as any. My question is: who is it behind the UN/NATO bloc who are so desperately keen to continue this conflict and why? I accept fully that I am but a humble peasant who should not be questioning his betters, but it is my money they are chucking at this.

    It occurs to me that there is a good deal more to this than meets the eye and that the folk of Ukraine are being used as the whipping boys for Dog knows what true purposes by people who are not readily identified in what passes for the news these days. Until we understand what precisely it is that they want, any attempts to resolve the conflict – however well-meaning and genuine – will be casually cast to one side while the killing continues. I do not trust what I have seen of Zelensky in all of this; why is he always asking for more weapons and never for food or medical supplies?

    • Allan Howard

      The following is from an article by John Pilger posted on Feb 17th:

      Setting aside the manoeuvres and cynicism of geopolitics, whomever the players, this historical memory is the driving force behind Russia’s respect-seeking, self-protective security proposals, which were published in Moscow in the week the UN voted 130-2 to outlaw Nazism. They are:

      – NATO guarantees that it will not deploy missiles in nations bordering Russia. (They are already in place from Slovenia to Romania, with Poland to follow)
      – NATO to stop military and naval exercises in nations and seas bordering Russia.
      – Ukraine will not become a member of NATO.
      – the West and Russia to sign a binding East-West security pact.
      – the landmark treaty between the US and Russia covering intermediate-range nuclear weapons to be restored. (The US abandoned it in 2019)

      These amount to a comprehensive draft of a peace plan for all of post-war Europe and ought to be welcomed in the West…….

      The Russian proposals were given to the US Embassy on December 17th, but were completely ignored and/or dismissed, and as far as I’m aware, they didn’t get a mention in either the British or US MSM, which of course implies that the PTB didn’t want such information getting out into the public domain, and we soon learnt why!

      The point is that a conflict could have been prevented if Russia’s security concerns had been addressed, but THAT wasn’t the plan, and the plan was to force Putin’s hand and then start the process of destroying Russia’s economy with endless sanctions etc, whilst conducting a proxy war against Russia. The West planned all of this years ago, and all the endless fraudulent claims about Russia during the past six/seven years – including ‘Salisbury’ – were all part of the long term plan to take Russia out. And take it it out for good!

      And they undoubtedly had all their propaganda narrative worked out and ready months before they finally forced Putin’s hand and, as the propagandists do of course, repeat it as often as you can – eg that the attack was ‘unprovoked’ and ‘unjustified’, which Biden and Johnson and Stoltenberg et al were saying on more-or-less a daily basis from the outset.

      And the reality is that the vast majority of people are not aware of the following:

      ‘Many predicted Nato expansion would lead to war. Those warnings were ignored’

      https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/feb/28/nato-expansion-war-russia-ukraine

  • Ian Robert Stevenson

    I have read Consortium news where Scott Ritter often contributes. Like him, I didn’t expect Russia to actually invade ( see his article 11th Feb) he then thought that “NATO is finished as an alliance”, and “the Russian military would defeat any force NATO could assemble in a stand up fight”. I had accepted the assumption that the most likely aggressive action would be a quick Georgia type incursion and then withdrawal. I could see no rationality in an occupation of the whole country on any sort of permanent basis.
    As the war developed I sent a few contributions to Consortium News which were not supportive of the view that Russia was forced to take action and was behaving in a moderate way. Two of the three were ‘moderated out’ but a few later ones have made it through. There are few of us not supporting the line it takes. (Quite a lot of their material I have no quarrel with – Chris Hedges I admire – but I feel objectivity and truth are important, even when it doesn’t suit the usual mindset.)

    Nato and the EU have come together (for the present) in a way few expected. The Russian military have been seen to be lacking in skills, the equipment often badly maintained, the soldiers poorly trained , and even un-motivated, and the logistics have been a disaster. So we have to re-think. I have a friend who used to live in Belarus and he was sent, by a mate, a page from Novesti the day of the invasion. It spoke about taking Ukraine back into Russia. It was taken down after two days.

    It seems IMHO that Putin, increasingly remote from anyone who would do what Allen Brooke did with Churchill (tell him when his ideas were unworkable), miscalculated on an enormous scale.

    I remember my history teacher telling me that events usually have several causes, and I doubt if the ‘NATO expansion to the East” is the most immediate cause. Those opposed to western polices quote Yanukovych’s deposition, the Azov brigades, and the CIA involvement as the the causes of the events since. However, the parliament of Ukraine did vote to be associated with Europe and Yanukovych wanted to be part of the Eurasia Economic Union. The CIA and State Dept may well have been involved but it doesn’t necessarily mean they were the main cause.

    In 2020 the election in Belarus was declared to be won by Lukashenko with 80% of the vote. It was obvious from the demonstrations, and other measures, that it was rigged. He has managed to suppress dissent. He was then very publicly congratulated by Putin. The body language around their recent meeting showed it is not an equal relationship. My take on that is that most people in Ukraine do not want to be part the Eurasia group but allied to the West. If they can do so, Lukashenko is undermined. If two former SSRs become part of the west, the many family relationships will take back ideas which do not conform to Putin’s vision of a Russian civilisation.

    So where I am at present, is that it does look a bit like a Cold War scenario where the main threat is ideological. Other factors may well have pushed the decision. Putin IMO thought he could lance the boil of western influence by a quick military action which would discredit NATO (Ritter’s high water mark in his 11th Feb article) and indeed the EU, while building up his prestige.

    As you suggest, he now has to find a way to save face. The outcome may be different compared to a solution based on land retention which some assume is what this war is about. Or it may not.

    Finally, I think your suggestions for peace are a useful contribution. Enjoy the trip!

    • Lysias

      The U.S. was determined to have this war, and so more and more they provoked Putin until he felt he had to respond. The last straw was when Zelensky at the Munich Security Conference on Feb. 19 indicated in a speech that the Ukraine was getting nuclear weapons. Kamala Harris was at that conference, and spoke with Zelensky. Surely he at least cleared his speech with the Americans. More likely, they wrote the words for him to deliver.

      Putin, in his recent Victory Day speech, underlined the importance of that factor for Russia’s decision to invade.

      One of the first things the Russian forces did upon invading was to occupy Chernobyl, where there were radioactive materials that could have been used to make a dirty bomb.

    • Baalbek

      The foreign policy of a smaller, weaker country that exists in the shadow of a large and powerful neighbour will never be fully independent. Imagine how the US would react if Canada wanted to join a military alliance with China. It would never be allowed to happen. Doesn’t matter what the “Canadian people” want.

      Ukraine wasn’t prevented from leaning towards the west. The ride line for Russia is NATO membership. Talking about the “Ukrainian people” wanting to join NATO and how this has to be respected is disingenuous liberal claptrap for the reason mentioned above. Besides, I think Ukrainians would have put a functional economy, decent employment prospects and a government that isn’t run by corrupt politicians and oligarchs before joining a military alliance that antagonizes Russia.

      In your eagerness to absolve the west – still the most powerful military bloc in the world – of any responsibility for the Ukraine debacle you seem to have forgotten about the Minsk Accord, an agreement that, had it been ratified, would likely have prevented this war. Unfortunately it was kiboshed by Washington.

      Also take note of what the US and its EU poodles are saying about this war. They have acknowledged that it is a proxy war against Russia and that their goal is to weaken and degrade Russia. It’s not about freeing Ukraine, it’s about crushing Russia (before they move on to China). They are doing everything they can to prolong this war and they don’t care a whit about the lives of Ukrainians.

      As for the Russia-Belarus relationship not being one of equals, do you think the US treats Canada and its European “partners” as equals? Western leaders (and people like you) seem to think the west has a right to demand every country it deems deficient submit to its rule.

      But you are correct, there are plenty of problems in other countries and with their conduct on the world stage. The west is no angel here wither. Far from it. The solution, however, is not to demand countries submit to the west or become “democracies”. A real solution would involve giving other countries, imperfect as they inevitably are, room to breathe and cooperate with them on mutual issues like climate change and poverty and working through differences via diplomacy and negotiations within an international system.

      But the west doesn’t even want to try cooperating and assuming good will. It prefers antagonistic relationships based on zero-sum thinking. China and Russia are just as flawed and imperfect as the west. But one thing they do that the west never does is seek to cooperate and work out mutually acceptable solutions. All you get from the west is finger pointing, new Hitlers, human rights accusations, economic warfare, agreements that it doesn’t uphold, wars of choice, absolutely staggering hypocrisy and no introspection or self-reflection whatsoever.

      The west has absolutely no moral legitimacy whatsoever. Instead of telling others what to do and how to do it, it needs to fix its own issues and also change how it deals with the rest of the world. Or else it will destroy itself and take a big piece of the world with it.

      • nevermind

        with you all the way Baalbek, surely.the starting point is the one both sides agreed to, which is Minsk2.
        To forget about that MUTUAL agreement and hope that any new agreement will dissuade those who still guided by past imperial games and global grandeur, means that we do not value past agreements; we are not in a race with Israel regards ignorance of international norms.

        Any future agreement here in Europe must be taken with long-term security in mind for all of Europe, we should refrain from short-circuit clambering to join NATO, giving them credence for their past attack-dog aspirations in Afghanistan Libya and Syria; it would be wholly wrong imho.
        Without observers on the ground to monitor any cease fire agreements we would be foolish to trust an unaccountable US to keep to it, especially if there are so many different mercenary groups and special forces involved. A cease fire should make it mandatory for them to return to wherever they came from.
        Continuing to deploy weapons from all over the world is a destabilising move that can escalate and should be taken out of the equation.
        NATO should stop its expansionary policies that allow a free arms trade into dangerous regions/countries subject to constant flare-ups. Its actions were frivolous to say the least.

        US aims must prioritise the security of all of Europe, but Europe itself should prepare for its own defense.
        ‘its the economy, stupid’, is apt, as China and Russia will want to press ahead with their Silk road plans. Sanctions must be addressed and a timed step-by-step reduction must be acceptable to the US and Europe; we can’t expect to be a limiting factor, bar competing in markets, to the ecpnomic asspirations of either country.
        This conflict is marking and determining the future of all of us. We should not accept or expect a hegemonic solution driven by hate.
        First must be a comprehensive monitored cease fire, imho.
        A big thanks to Craig for starting off this debate.

      • Ian Stevenson

        I didn’t mention membership of NATO. That was problematical anyway – at least for the fore seeable future. The “people of Ukraine’ did vote mainly for parties that want association with the EU. The people of Belarus did not vote for Lukashenko. He is in power through repression and this is sanctioned by Putin. There is an ideological challenge and it is not the same the sort of thing assumed by the American Heritage Foundation. The people of those countries can see what association with Russia means.
        ‘Disingenuous liberal claptrap’ is called democracy. It is still imperfect in Ukraine but it is pretty clear they don’t want to be part of the Russian Federation. Putin even says that Ukraine is not a proper country and should be part of Russia. The opinion of the Ukrainians? It doesn’t matter. In Putin’s eyes they are led by Nazis and Drug addicts (address to his army). Future membership of NATO and ‘missiles on their doorstep’ (there are no nuclear weapons stored in any former Warsaw Pact country) seems a pretty thin excuse for invasion and levelling huge areas of the country and killing thousands of civilians. I think you are probably right that most people would prefer decent employment prospects, functioning economy and country run by Oligarchs. Unfortunately that also describes Russia.
        I hadn’t forgotten Donbas. It is difficult to disentangle the competing narratives. If it were as it superficially seems, then enhanced autonomy and dual use of languages, could have been an acceptable compromise. My reading is that is the presenting issue and the nature of government – Russian civilisation as opposed to western values – which drives the thinking of Putin and his circle. IMO Russia is dealing in realpolitik domination of neighbours and probably an eventual reincorporation of Belarus and Ukraine. Democracy in Russia is much more controlled than in the west, so he is less influenced by public opinion. He controls most of the media. Public opinion is not necessarily a good thing. I look at the MAGA crowds and shudder. I actually don’t think all countries should conform to the western model. That is projection on your part. I do agree there are different possibilities.
        While we can analyse all we want, it seems clear that even with a military victory over Ukraine and taking Lugansk and Donbas into Russia, Russia has miscalculated. NATO and the EU have been galvanised, the Ukrainians will hate Russia and the possibility of union is gone, the Russian military have been shown to be defective and the economy weakened.
        I don’t know what you seem sure of, that the US has a long-term plan to destabilise Russia and then China (I don’t have much faith in the US having any long-term plans – as opposed to desires), is true but Putin seems to have handed them a gain on a plate.

  • Radu Floricica

    US was pretty clear that their goal is the erosion of Russian armed forces, which means yeah, they as good as admitted they want this war to last as long as necessary for that to happen.

    Which is not a bad position to have because of another complication: Russia is about as untrustworthy as a country can get. They’re actually close to being easier to predict by assuming the opposite of what they’re saying. This btw is true in both external and internal affairs – Russians are getting used to living in a world where governments routinely lie. I can say from experience that’s gonna take many many years for them to unlearn, even if they have the opportunity.

    This means that any settlement – aka agreement between parties – is meaningless. Russia won’t respect it longer than it’s convenient, and quite likely they aren’t even capable of trusting their partners. This is how we came to NATO’s position, that the only solution for ending this conflict is simply making sure they don’t have the capability to wage war.

    It’s not about gaining political points by sacrificing lives in Ukraine. It’s simply that the best solution we have for saving the largest overall number of Ukrainian lives is the hard, long way. It’s a functional problem, not a political one.

    • nevermind

      what do you expect Radu, if the NATO aligned world refused to engage with Russia’s security concerns, for years, and plans show that there was an underlining aim to destabilise it…for decades?

      • Jimmeh

        It would be mischievous, of course, to suggest that Russia’s aim, for decades, has been to destabilise and undermine the West?

  • David Warriston

    Putin can hardly withdraw and leave Donetz and Lugansk to the tender mercies of the Azov battalion, otherwise he would be back where he started with nothing to show bar the death of thousands of Russian troops. Since Mariupol is identified with neo-Nazism much like Nuremburg was for the original Nazis I cannot see that being returned to Ukraine either.
    I agree that Scott Ritter’s war diary is less than reliable but amidst NATO sourced tales about mass mutinies, horrific losses, decimation of generals etc the absence of Ukraine maps in western MSM tells its own silent story. A landlocked Ukraine will be forced to the negotiating table through time and the longer it delays, the greater the danger it will cease to exist as a recognisable entity.

  • Michael Droy

    Sorry Crag – you are wrong and Scott Ritter and many others are right – Russia has almost completed the defeat of the Ukrainian armed forces. Ukraine is sending the territorials to the front.

    Consequently your peace proposals are way out of line with what Ukraine can achieve.

    • Joseph Mellon

      Craig’s analysis and ‘peace treaty’ assumes: Russia has suffered serious almost fatal loses, ‘Putin’ (it is always personalised) is looking for an ‘off ramp’. This is completely factually wrong.
      Ukraine has no airforce, air defenses, little armour or artillery, and in the Donbass, especially Severodonetsk (c. 8000 troops), is cut off from resupply. The bulk of the highly trained professional army has been worn out: that means they have little ammunition, are exhausted, incapacitated or tragically dead. Circa 8000 were lost in Mariupol alone. They are being replaced with aging conscripts with little or no military experience. If you follow the reports closely – including the Ukrainian ones – it is clear that the Ukrainian fronts are currently collapsing dramatically: Poposnaya, Izyum, Severodonetsk, ,,,
      Generally the ‘West’ has not succeeded in resupplying the Ukrainian army with materials, especially to the Donbass: the railway system is largely inoperable, and there is little fuel or transport, bridges have been destroyed. Western weapons are destroyed shortly after entry to Ukraine: they are anyway a mishmash of incompatible material, much of it sub-standard from decades old unused Soviet systems, or requiring months of training.

      • Tom Welsh

        I completely agree with Michael and Joseph. The “special military operation” is going more slowly than many foolish Westerners expected, because the Russians have made it their top priority to avoid civilian casualties. They even do everything in their power to avoid killing Ukrainian soldiers. The idea is to save Ukraine as a civilised nation, by minimising bitterness and resentment. In all the cases I have read about, Ukrainian civilians welcome the Russian forces when they take over and restore law and order.

        Everything is going as planned. We will see, in a few months, how silly some comments being made today look.

        • Joseph MELLON

          …and the Soviet way of war is not to make dramatic territorial advances after shock and awe bombing: it is to destroy the substance of the enemies military capacity, while manoevering as is opportune. The Ukrainian ‘stand and fight’ ‘not an inch’, ‘no surrender’ policy prevented tactical withdrawal from hopeless positions and effectively tethered the lambs to their posts for slaughter. NATO – including the UK tactical geniuses, the ‘victors’ of Basra and Helmand reinvented WW1 trench warfare: pre-digging the graves of the Ukrainians in fortified trenches they could not leave as they were subjected to the Russian speciality: artillery.

    • Joseph MELLON

      Happily we know that BoJo (and the US) often do not have the slightest intention of honouring the treaties they sign: and Finland in signing that treaty, broke one they signed with Russia in 1992. In other words 3 liars are trying to BS each other…
      Further in stealing Russia’s reserves the US and UK outed themselves as common thieves: not a good admission if you also wish to be the world’s banker.

      • Tom Welsh

        “Happily we know that BoJo (and the US) often do not have the slightest intention of honouring the treaties they sign…”

        Happily Moscow is fully aware of that. They have often described Washington and NATO as not agreement-capable, which is a polite way of saying dishonorable and treacherous.

    • Joseph Mellon

      Happily we know that the UK (and the US) often do not have the slightest intention of honouring the treaties they sign: and Finland in signing that treaty, broke one they signed with Russia in 1992. In other words instances of doubtful integrity are trying to fool each other…
      In stealing Russia’s reserves the US and UK outed themselves as common thieves: not a good admission if you also wish to be the world’s banker.

  • Pnyx

    Giving up the Donbass again and putting it in the hands of the Banderistas is an absolute no-go for Russia. This would have been possible if Ukraine had honoured the Minsk agreement it signed. Now it is too late, there is no turning back.

    Your assessment of the military situation is obviously overly influenced by Western propaganda. The ground gained in recent weeks in the Donbass is weighty; the moment will come when things will move much faster. The Ukrainian defenders lack everything: personnel, weapons, ammunition. The daily air strikes are having their impact.

    More importantly, the usa is not even thinking about negotiations. And therefore there will be none. At least not ones that would start from a realistic basis.

  • Mist001

    It was obvious from the very beginning that this was a proxy war, as I indeed wrote here a few weeks ago. Ukraine is just incidental in all of this. I maintain that the goal is to oust Putin and install a more West friendly, more malleable puppet leader in Russia. If it was drilled down, I bet the bottom line is for the USA to get its hands on Russias oil reserves. It’s always about the petro-dollar.

    The way this ‘war’ will end is when Putin goes, either by nature or popular uprising.

      • El Dee

        People forget that Biden was there in 2014 in Maidan with Right Sector. Much publicised at the time, forgotten now. He was supposed to be negotiating but Right Sector’s demands grew and grew as the govt acceded to them. The intention was obvious..

      • Lysias

        Western economies may well collapse before there’s any trouble in Russia.

        Russians believe Putin is standing up for the Russian people. How many people in Western countries think that about their governments?

    • Tom Welsh

      Yet again they are hopelessly misinformed. Mr Putin IS the most malleable, West-friendly leader Russia could conceivably have. If he goes, he will certainly be replaced by someone far tougher and more hard-nosed.

      • Allan Howard

        If you’re referring to the ‘West’ Tom, I don’t think they were misinformed or, as you put it, hopelessly misinformed. I mean if you ARE referring to the PTB in the West, who was it that misinformed them. Yes, Putin was more than amenable to working with the West – ‘our partners’ as he referred to them – so they had to invent numerous stories so as to ‘transform’ him and Russia into an enemy of the West – ie ‘our’ enemy, including the whole Salisbury poisoning episode. And then later on the ‘Navalney’ episode, as if anyone on the planet who HAD used Novichok to try and assassinate Sergei Skripal AND repeatedly denied that they had anything to do with it, would THEN – a couple of years later – use Novichok again to try and assassinate someone else.

        It’s so ludicrous it’s laughable, or WOULD be if it wasn’t so serious.

  • Henry Smith

    Ukraine and Russia signed the Minsk 2 agreements – that was the peaceful solution right there. The USA, and UK, engineered failure and a Nazi coup.
    If Donbass was returned to Ukraine then NATO would be right there again on Russia’s doorstep. This would never work and there would be the Ukrainian genocide in Donbass to also consider.
    The only solution is for Russia to completely take the coastal regions and make Ukraine landlocked and then, maybe, have Polish ‘peacekeepers’ take over the Ukrainian remnants.
    There would be peace tomorrow if it wasn’t for the USA, UK and NATO.

  • El Dee

    Sounds a lot like the Minsk Agreement but it might cause the Russians to balk at it when there’s no agreement to Ukrainian neutrality. It sounds reasonable and it also sounds like something that should have been implemented to prevent the war..

  • Kermit

    I usually agree with Craig and have a lot of respect for him for his support for Assange, however this article reads like something the lazy and clueless Guardian writers would publish.
    US defence chief Lloyd Austin is calling a ceasefire. Best clue yet that Russia is winning and the Ukrainian Army is about to collapse.
    Donbas can never be part of Ukraine again, otherwise its population would be exterminated by Kiev.
    In my opinion, Zelenski’s handlers in Washington are more desperate for an end to the war so that they can start the next war with China, and the European minions need a settlement otherwise their economies will go caput. In other words, Russia is not in a hurry, her adversaries are.

  • Joseph Mellon

    Craig, I would normally bow to your wisdom and experience, but think you are simply wrong with this one.

    1) The Russian narrative wrt. the military situation is IMHO believable:
    – Ukraine has lost and badly, Russia is currently mopping up in the Donbass.
    – the open questions are whether Russia wants to take Odessa and Karkov.
    2) You underestimate the role of the ultra right elements in controlling the Ukrainian government
    – they may ultimately have been installed by and answer to the US,
    but I doubt the US (or anyone) can control them.
    – they are not just ‘right wing’, nor even comparable to say the English Defense League, they are an evil comparable to the darkest nightmares of Nazi Germany
    3) You ignore the fact that this conflict is not ultimately about Ukraine: it is about (crumbling) US hegememony,
    and the rise of the BRICS, particularly China.
    All the Best
    Joe MELLON

    • Allan Howard

      Caitlin Johnstone posted the following article a few days ago, which brings to light a factor that changes the whole equation regarding the two sides reaching a settlement:

      ‘The US Could’ve Prevented This War Just By Protecting Kyiv From Nazis’

      As we hydroplane toward the brink of nuclear armageddon while Bono and the Edge play U2 songs in Kyiv, it’s probably worth taking a moment to highlight the fact that this entire war could have been avoided if the US had simply pledged military protection for Zelensky against the far right extremists who were threatening to lynch him if he enacted the peacemaking policies he was elected to enact.

      And in a piece that she links to it says the following:

      The headline of the interview carries his main message (machine translations):

      Yarosh: if Zelensky betrays Ukraine, he will lose not his position, but his life

      The link – and there are quite a few – is the one where it says ‘responded one week after Zelensky’s inaugural speech’ highlighted in red, and if this threat to his life is new to you, as it was to me, then the piece in question is a must read:

      https://caitlinjohnstone.com/2022/05/09/the-us-couldve-prevented-this-war-just-by-protecting-kyiv-from-nazis/

  • Laguerre

    The question at issue here is what is really the military situation in Ukraine. I have no doubt we’re being gaslighted to a fair degree by a very well-organised narrative from the Ukrainians. The Russians don’t lie so much, just give their version. What is the reality, though? We don’t really know.

    There are factors here that never get mentioned. The most important is that Russians, notably the soldiers, regard Ukrainians as their friends and relatives, so they are not willing to go in hard against them, even if so ordered. I am certain this factor plays a very big role in the Russian strategy. The generals are not certain that their military will obey if they order ruthless treatment, and the generals may feel the same themselves. The choice of a paratroop landing at the Kiev airport at the beginning, rather than a bombing back to the stone age, which the US would have chosen in their place, is an obvious example, but the same has been going on ever since.

    A decapitation must have occurred in the first hours, if not the Ukrainian air force would have still been in action, but it is not, apart from the rare sortie to make the headlines.

    There are more military issues to discuss, but in the end we will just have to wait and see which one of the military narratives turned out to be right.

  • Giyane

    The Atlanticists in Europe are even more right wing than Biden or Trump. Top right-wing Atlanticists meeting in Istanbul are Nato’s Erdoğan and MI6’s Boris Johnson.

    The idea that European Atlantascists could broker any peaceful solution in Ukraine between the Biden and Putin camps is sadly deluded. European aspirations to recover their dashed French, British Ottoman etc Empires will not interest either the US / Canadian Banderites or China/Russia new Asia alliance.

    Well done for trying. The brokers of peace in this war will be in Washington and Beijing.

  • Ascot2

    My hope, for the sake of the Ukrainians, is that this war ends quickly and convincingly.
    I also hope that it ends in a way that clearly shows the world, and the public everywhere, how this whole event has been engineered, from the start, with no regard for the Ukrainian people, or the Europeans. It has been designed to be a US/UK proxy war, intending to weaken Russia and get rid of Putin, who they believe betrayed the Western establishment when he stopped the looting of Russia during the Yeltsin years.
    Russia’s mistake was to think it could come to a peaceful resolution through diplomacy, but once the US/UK had displaced the democratically elected Ukrainian government, in 2014, they only wanted this proxy war. Numerous US politicians and state department hawks now have little hesitation in admitting that this was and remains their intent. They don’t really care how it ends as long as it lasts as long as possible, and weakens Russia in the process. With hindsight it is clear it would have been better for all Ukrainian ethnicities, if Russia had absorbed the Donbass with Crimea.
    Luckily, using only a small part of their military, Russia is overwhelmingly defeating a NATO trained force of equal or larger size, and they are doing it in a way avoiding the kind of death and destruction typical of how Western countries have conducted their military incursions.
    The irony is that, despite the political crocodile tears being shed by Western politicians, amplified by a complicit media, the US/UK couldn’t really give a hoot for Ukraine and it’s people. In contrast, there are 5 million Ukrainians living in Russia and I gather 10% of Russian families have Ukrainian relatives. It appears that they care deeply about the damage taking place.
    A further irony is that rather than making Russia weaker, it seems to be getting stronger, with an economy that is booming and a public showing overwhelming support for Putin.
    The West must never be allowed to do this again.

    • Ian Stevenson

      Sorry Ascot but this begs a few questions.
      1) “the US/UK displaced the democratically elected government.” The democratically elected parliament voted for association with Europe. It was the President who repudiated their wish. That wish was confirmed in the election some months later. The US may have been involved ( do you have a shred of evidence that the UK was involved?) but manipulating a whole population is not easy.
      2) “the avoiding of death and destruction.” Have you seen the videos ? I don’t just watch BBC , but France 24, Euronews, Al Jazeera, Sy News. Many of the several million refugees are in phone contact with home and video can be, and is, being sent to thousands of people. It is not just official news organisations. Are we really to believe that all the news media are controlled by the governments? I know a country where it is and one can face prison terms for contradicting the official line. BTW The Russian army have followed similar tactics in their other wars.
      3) “the overwhelming defeat of the Ukrainians.” We are now almost 80 days in to the war and fighting is still going on. Military think tanks like RUSI will give their specialist views -they are not journalists or politicians-and they do not confirm your point. We may consider them biased but I don’t think it means they will publish nonsense. They have a reputation to preserve. Truth emerges eventually.
      4) if this is a proxy war , why are the Ukrainians putting up such a resistance? Most commentators in January and February were saying the Russians would soon overrun the country if they invaded.

      • Allan Howard

        Sorry Ian, but I don’t follow your last point (and completely disagree with it). How is ‘putting up such a resistance’ evidence/proof that it’s not a proxy war? And if – prior to the invasion – most ‘commentators’, as you describe them, were saying that it would be a walkover for Russia if they were to invade, then either that’s because they knew that the West were ready to supply Ukraine with £billions of weapons if and when Russia DID invade (the PTBs propaganda machine, that is), and it was a ruse, as such, OR, it hadn’t occurred to them that THAT is what the WEST would do if and when Russia invaded.

        Numerous independent thinkers/journalists concluded that it was a proxy war within a few weeks of the invasion, and Craig himself refers to it as such at the beginning of the above piece.

        • Ian Stevenson

          Hi Allen

          there are two parts to the answer. One, that the military assessment I read in several publications thought the Russians would prevail in a few days-or weeks at the most. That was based , I presume, on the amounts and capabilities of the weapons and numbers. But morale and tactical innovation can nullify or greatly reduce a quantitive superiority. The will to fight and their tactical skill was underestimated.

          The more important point addresses that will to fight an enemy known to have more heavy weapons and numbers. If the regime of Zelensky is basically there because Americans orchestrated a coup on a population seemingly unaware or uncommitted to what they voted for in the election which followed Yanukovych’s deposition, then I would expect the population to let the Russians roll, in even if they were not welcome. More like Czechoslovakia in 1968. They would preserve their cities and infrastructure intact as far as possible and avoid casualties. There is little doubt that fighting has been fierce and the resistance determined. The promise of outside arms being supplied -and it was rather measured at first-is one thing. Being prepared to put oneself on the front line and use them is quite another. They will have seen the scale of the bombing and shelling. It is enough to dampen any shallow enthusiasm for war.

          Once into conflict outsiders may well have their own motivations for aiding Ukraine. For some perhaps it was a chance to fight a proxy war. However, look at Poland offering their Soviet era jet fighters -though the USA refused to approve. Their motivations are probably quite different to many of the American ones. The former Warsaw Pact states have joined NATO. They could have voted for parties which objected. They probably see Russia as a threat and may have a better understanding of the Russian regime than those in Western Europe or the USA.

      • Ascot2

        Ian, yes I watch BBC and Al Jazeera too, but typically then I go to see what the other side is saying on say Tass or Sputnick.
        Of course there are fundamental differences, so to find out where the truth lies one must look deeper.
        There are excellent, independent, journalists, with military or conflict reporting experience, on the ground in Eastern Ukraine, where the heaviest fighting is. See Patrick Lancaster and Eva Bartlett.
        Outside the western Orwellian bubble, delving deep into all the topics you raise, there is, from Thailand, Brian Berletic and the New Atlas. The Duran, The Dreizen Report and The South Front all do regular, excellent, detailed analysis on what is going on. There is even a site, operated by a fellow in Singapore that tracks the fighting incident by incident.
        Checking back to the western mainstream media, comparing it to what for example Tass reports, it doesn’t take long to realize that the western public are not being told the truth. The government narrative, which is almost word-for-word the same in almost all the western countries, is pure propaganda. I heard on one London station that Putin has cancer and is fretting over an expected coup of his government!
        As best I can tell Ukrainian losses are in the region of 5-10 to 1 in favour of the Russians. This in military terms is a rout.
        Once Russia has reached a point where they decide they have achieved what they set out to do they will no doubt simply stop fighting and start consolidating what they have taken as autonomous regions, perhaps with the option for joining the Russian federation.
        The US/UK propaganda clique will declare victory. “Look, the Russians were only able to conquer one third of Ukraine!” they will say, ignoring that that was all, or even more than, the Russians set out to do.
        Then the US/UK neocons will start looking for countries where they can start their next proxy war.
        Finland perhaps?

  • BabsP

    I would suggest that like so many of the US wars this is once again about oil and gas. US world dominance depends on domination of the largest land mass ( which the US is not part of) and it is surely no co-incidence that this all blew up when Nord Stream 2 was ready to start the gas flowing to Europe. The US cannot allow the Europeans to depend on/have a good working relationship with Russia. If the US world dominance is to be maintained there must be disunity in the Eurasia. Hence the Germans were asked repeatedly if they would cancel Nord Stream 2 if Russia invaded Ukraine – at a time when everyone was puzzled at the very idea.

    Biden however was pretty confident that an invasion was going to happen. And then the US puppet state of Ukraine sends a large army to the border of Donbas ( over 60,000 troops) and increases the shelling against the Donbas significantly. The Donbas asks Russia for help. Russia refuses. Within a few days the shelling by this large, well equipped and NATO trained army increases by 30 times. The Donbas again asks for help. What is Putin to do? Allow the ethnic Russians in the Donbas to be slaughtered? As they had been since the US backed coup while the west sat back and refused to encourage a settlement in terms of the Minsk Accord. As far as I can see Biden ( or whoever writes his autocue) forced Russia to take up arms to prevent a massacre of the ethnic Russians in the Donbas. This was all set up to destroy Nord Stream 2.

    Putin, for his part, decided that he would resolve the Ukraine problem once and for all. His aims were to get rid of the Nazis who certainly exist in large numbers, to demilitarise and get rid of all the US weaponry installed in Ukraine, thus getting rid of the threat to Russia, and finally to liberate the Donbas and allow them the autonomy that the Minsk Accords were supposed to secure.

    Russia is done with the west. It’s over. Contrary to what the MSM tells you the world is not unified in their condemnation of Russia. China, India, Brazil, South Africa, Saudi Arabia are all on side. I suspect many more countries would be heartily glad to see the US lose its “indispensable” status . As the great Stephen Cohen said , if the US is the one indispensable nation what does that make everyone else?

  • Pears Morgaine

    I can’t imagine Putin agreeing to withdraw from Donbass in return for making Russia’s annexation of Crimea legal. I doubt the Russian people would accept it either after all the blood and materiel that has been lost. Austria’s Chancellor Karl Nehammer visited Putin last month and found him unresponsive to any talks of peace and why shouldn’t he be whilst he thinks he’s winning.

    https://www.politico.com/news/2022/04/17/austria-putin-nehammer-russia-ukraine-00025702

    Sadly the way I see this war progressing is it settling into a stalemate which drags on for years. Russia might occupy the whole of the country but any battle for hearts and minds is lost and they’ll face constant guerrilla warfare (funded and supported by the west) draining their manpower, economy and will until they realise the struggle just isn’t worth it.

    • Wikikettle

      Craig’s proposals are nearly the same as the Minsk Agreements, signed by Ukraine under UN France and German auspices. Ukraine did not comply and weren’t allowed to by US. The populations of Donbas who asked for Independence soon after the coup, were rejected by Russia in a hope for autonomy and repeal of anti Russian speaking laws by Kiev and maintain Ukrainian Sovereignty. Crimea and its existential importance as a naval base for Russia, was never going to be allowed taken over by Ukraine US Nato. Eight years of shelling was endured by the populations of Donbass, without a word from the west. I can only see a resolution of this tragedy by the Ukrainian Army itself. It has to overthrow its own government, purge the Nazis and hold new elections and inshrine Neutrality and ask all foreign forces to leave. The poor Ukrainian people are lumbered with being between Russia and Nato. Nearly half of them are ethnic Russians and would have found economic prosperity being friendly with both East and West. Yet the few as always took the Dollar and sold their country out to destruction and break up. There are an increasing amount of Ukrainian families who are hearing from their men in the front lines of desertion of their own comanders. The outside world can postulate all it wants, launder billions of dollars, dump old weapons to clear out old inventories, increase their ” defence ” budgets, demonise Russians, their culture, cry false tears, yet dare not fight Russians themselves. No, the only people to stop this madness is the Ukrainian Army itself.

      • Pears Morgaine

        In the 2001 census 17% of Ukraine’s citizens described themselves as ethnic Russians. I think that’s a long way from half.

        The Ukrainian’s realise that the outcome of this war is going to mean the difference between western democracy or being a vassal to Putin’s mafia state. With all its faults and shortcomings they still prefer the former and are prepared to fight for it.

        • Ilya Grushevskiy

          “all its faults” being terrorist nations that slaughter millions per decade.

          And Putin is the supposed pirate!

        • Squeeth

          How will the Ukrainians be able to tell the difference between western democracy and vassalage? Every condemnation of the Putin regime I’ve seen is a description of Britain. Oh and did the Ukrainians fight for democracy during the US-Ukronazi coup d’etat? Yes, especially in the east….

  • Nick

    Your proposals are unrealistically slanted in favour of Ukraine, because:
    1. The people of the breakaway regions of Donbass have been under attack by Ukraine forces since the Maidan coup of 2014. They won’t want to be ruled from Kyiv.
    2. Ukraine with its old borders inside NATO means US missile bases within only 50km of vital Russian cities like Rostov. The USA doesn’t have hypersonic missiles yet, but it will have pretty soon, and then it will take only 4 minutes for nukes launched from northeast Ukraine to obliterate Moscow. This gives the US (dropping the pretence that NATO isn’t just a US subordinate) a first-strike capability, because Russia’s leaders have the codes required for Russian nukes to be launched; and 4 minutes isn’t enough time to detect and attack, react, wake up Putin, explain the situation, and transmit the codes. That’s what the US wants. It is not in Europe’s interest for Russia to be obliterated and the entire planet to come under US rule.

    As a Brit, I want peace and security, for everybody in Europe, including Russia. If Russia is insecure, nobody is secure, because Russia will take steps to change the situation. Here are my proposals.
    1. Plebiscites in the Russian-speaking parts of Ukraine: let the people choose which country they want to be part of – in accordance with the principle of self-determination in Chapter 1, Article 1, para 2 of the United Nations Charter.
    2. Ukraine to agree to be neutral in perpetuity. NATO can’t adhere to the promises given by G. H. Bush (no eastward expansion of NATO) because it’s already broken them, but maybe it can agree to stop its relentless expansion.
    3. NATO to plan to transform itself into a defensive, not an aggressive, alliance. That was what it was sold to us as, in the first place. “Defensive” means: ready to retaliate if any member state is attacked, and otherwise doing nothing. Libya, Iraq, and Serbia were not defensive retaliations. They were wars of aggression.

    A “war crimes commission” is a sick joke. You’d prosecute Russians and Ukrainians for war crimes affecting maybe a thousand victims, while leaving untouched the people responsible for the war of aggression against – for example – Iraq, with estimated numbers of victims in the hundreds of thousands. It would be nice to do something about Russian and Ukrainian war crimes, but the whole process is too tainted. “War crimes trials” have never been anything but victors’ justice wrapped up in sham legal mumbo-jumbo.

    • Lapsed Agnostic

      The US already has missiles capable of accurately hitting targets in Moscow within five minutes of launch, Nick: specifically, Trident II missiles launched from Ohio-class subs in the North Sea – or possibly the Baltic, if it’s navigable. That’s why the Soviets developed the Dead Hand / Perimeter system in the 80’s, which would automatically launch their ICBMs if it thought that their General Staff had been eliminated by a nuclear strike.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dead_Hand

      St Petersburg, Russia’s second-largest city (population five million, compared to Rostov-on-Don’s one million), is already only about 100km from a NATO border – and has been for 18 years.

      The vast majority of the victims of the War in Iraq were killed by terrorist / sectarian violence over a decade, not by direct action of the US and allied forces. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has already killed at least 20,000 people (and probably a lot more) in less than 80 days.

      • Shaun Onimus

        Surely if Westerners can squint so hard and attribute the deaths to the so called terrorist violence, what’s stopping Russians squinting as hard to attribute it to the now labeled Azov terrorist group? Was that violence going to happen if we hadn’t destabilized Iraq (and lets be honest probably funded those terrorist cells directly or indirectly)? It’s such hypocrisy on the global stage that gives way to further shenanigans.

        • Lapsed Agnostic

          Thanks for your reply Shaun. I’m sure a lot of Russians will try to blame most of the civilian deaths since 24th Feb on Azov etc, but the reality is that the latter will almost certainly only be responsible for fewer than a thousand, as most of the shelling in Mariupol has been Russian. The Russians may already be directly responsible for more civilian deaths in Ukraine than the Americans in Iraq.

          Even though most US war crimes in Iraq will have gone unpunished, some have been, e.g. the gang-rape and killings in Mahmudiyah in 2006, for which Steven D Green was given life imprisonment without parole (and would have been placed on death row if the jury’s verdict had been unanimous – he committed suicide in 2014 anyway) and three of his comrades made plea deals so they could be eligible for parole after a minimum 10 years – although I believe they are all still incarcerated 16 years later.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahmudiyah_rape_and_killings

          Contrast this with the 64th Motorized Rifle Brigade, dubbed ‘The Butchers of Bucha’, who have subsequently been honoured by Putin, and are now officially known as 64th Guards Motorized Rifle Brigade.

          • Shaun Onimus

            LA, I suppose we will believe what we want to believe. If Azov group sets up in civilian hot spots or even hospitals and schools, you will say the Russians are reponsible for shelling those areas, I will say Azov are. Unfortunately the poor civilians will get it worst, wont matter to them.
            It took Biden less than a day to yell ‘Butcher of Bucha’, with having just learned about it, no need for forensic evidence, because ‘Russia/Putin baaad’. I do think it was orchestrated just because it is how the West plays, quick to throw dirt and smear(because they think it automatically makes you better if you point out someone is bad).
            It reeks to high heaven for me, with the lack of decomposition of the bodies and lack of attention to the ‘butchering’ from the mayor when he announced the retreat of RF.
            Info wars dont have too many tactics, I try to question both versions(and likely fail at times), I am just more used/numbed out to Western media lies since I have been exposed to it since I can remember. When the West stopped everyday life to point at the next ethnicity I need to hate/hope for its demise(again), it stunk of the Islamaphobia days.
            At this point I think N Korean sources are more credible than most Western media institutions, and they have only themselves to blame. ‘Fool me once, shame on you…’ or maybe Cry Wolf also applies (tbf, I havent even looked at any NK sources, but hope you catch my drift)
            We can wait ten years and see if any RF caught slaughtering/raping are given sentences, which I hope happens to those who deserve it. What I dont expect is immediate sentencing(by their own) while the smoke hasnt cleared yet and neutral forensics allowed.

          • John Monro

            Lapse Agnostic. Goodness, the lack of any secure knowledge from either side in regard to the war raging in Ukraine seems to be no barrier to adopting a firm and settled opinion – neither in you nor the Western media and its client politicians. What blogs like this one, and Alexander Mercouris etc are attempting to to do is to place what we do know in context – if they seem more “supportive” of Russia, then that’s only a needed correction to the information we are getting in the West, much of which is outright lies and propaganda, such as your claim in regard to Russian caused civilian deaths already exceeding those in Iraq. The lowest professional/organisational count of civilian deaths in Iraq is around 150,000 and the highest is over one million – the UN calculated figure of around 3.500 civilian deaths so far in Ukraine is but a tiny fraction of the US/UK invoked carnage in Iraq. Every death is a tragedy, but the US/UK is a magnitude or more profligate in causing it. Your claim bears no serious scrutiny, much like the rest of your opinion.

          • Lapsed Agnostic

            Thanks again for your reply Shaun. I’m no fan of Azov, but they were charged with defending Mariupol – if its civilians initially refused to leave, what could they do? They also allowed the women & children to be evacuated from the Azovstal plant, when they could have used them as bargaining chips in an attempt to negotiate safe passage to a neutral country.

            The lack of decomposition in Bucha can be explained by the fact that back in March the temperature barely rose above freezing during the day*. Maybe the mayor was unaware of the bodies, or perhaps he had been instructed not to mention them until the Ukrainian authorities had formulated their response.

            I doubt whether any members of 64th motor rifles will ever face Russian justice, seeing as the authorities specifically decided to honour them rather than other units who had fought on the frontlines but not been accused of committing war crimes. They might want to watch out for some Mossad-style extrajudicial executions though.

            * Bodies don’t decompose as fast as you might think. People’s earthly remains are still in recognisable form in their coffins long after they have disappeared from people’s memories.

          • Lapsed Agnostic

            Thanks for your reply John. If you read my comment carefully you’ll find that I never stated unequivocally that 64th Motor Rifles carried out war crimes in Bucha, just that they were labelled the ‘Butchers of Bucha’, and later honoured by Putin. Both of these statements are undisputable facts. Satellite pictures from Maxar appear to show that the bodies were lying on the road in Bucha on March 20th, well before the Ukrainians regained the area. The Russians claim that they’re fake – but then they also claimed that the invasion of Ukraine wouldn’t occur, shortly before it did.

            Further careful reading will also reveal that I wrote that the Russians *may* already be *directly* responsible for more civilian deaths in Ukraine than the Americans in Iraq. Most civilian deaths in Iraq were caused by terrorist / sectarian armed insurgent groups. US armed forces members were directly responsible for far less than 150,000 non-insurgent civilian deaths – and probably less than 20,000. The UN calculated figure for civilian deaths in Ukraine is almost certainly an underestimate – I doubt it includes Mariupol. None of this excuses the War in Iraq, of course.

          • Shaun Onimus

            LA, to be honest, the figures from Iraq mean very little to me since we conveniently labeled any able-bodied male casualties as enemy combatants. I can assume these numbers would be an order of magnitude more if we didn’t fudge the numbers. Also, I find it unrealistic to compare the Shock and Awe tactics with how RF has been moving. Let’s hope Western leaders to allow for peace soon.

          • Lapsed Agnostic

            Thanks again for your reply Shaun. No doubt unarmed Iraqi civilians were killed by US troops and labelled terrorists, but I doubt whether the US would have been able to cover up hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths. Even the Shock & Awe campaign in the first two months, which saw huge amounts of ordnance being dropped on Baghdad, only resulted in 7000 civilian deaths. The fact is that US created a power vacuum in Iraq, that led pretty much to an anarchy in which there were hundreds of thousands of people with guns and grievances, and which continues to some extent to the present day. The Beeb’s ‘Once Upon a Time in Iraq’ is very good on this and is still available on iPlayer if you haven’t seen it.

            https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episodes/m000kxws/once-upon-a-time-in-iraq

            I, too, hope that peace arrives as soon as possible and, unlike our excellent host, think that Ukraine should be prepared to relinquish the separatist areas in the Donbas(s), as well as Crimea, though doubt very much whether it will be.

  • bevin

    Your suggested Peace Plan is similar in several ways to that put forward by Russia last December and rejected by Biden and NATO. And in the Minsk II accord which the US also vetoed. There are some differences- most of which favour NATO.

    What is missing is a free and fair election to allow the people to make up their own minds and cast their votes without the terrorism of the Nazi militias and the Nazified Ukrainian Security Services. The basic problem since 2014 when a coup was imposed on the Ukraine is that a very large part of the population has been barred from political activity. It simply is not acceptable to ban the Communist Party and other parties which might challenge the regime.

    It must be said too that the forces supporting Zelensky are of two basic kinds. The first are the pro Nazis and they are to a large extent either foreigners or inspired and organised by emigre communities with long and real ties to western security services including the CIA. It is these forces which have attempted the ludicrous language policies aimed not only at Russians but at other minorities stranded after Yalta in the ‘soviet buffer state’ Ukraine. It is these people too who have adopted the ideology of the Bandera nationalism, which is pretty well a celebration of, and incitement to, war crimes.

    The second, more powerful force is that of the oligarchs who have lived unregulated existences of growing power since the 1990s. They own the Presidency and just about everything else. They cannot be allowed to retain their power or the wealth that they employ to lower the living standards of what has become, under their rule and with the approval of the western imperialists, the poorest country in Europe.. And that is in one of the richest countries, in every respect, in the world. Any reconstruction funds directed at the current Ukraine would evaporate long before reaching the people.

    And then NATO has to be dissolved. It has one purpose, the maintenance against all historical logic, of US hegemony.

    And then there is the matter of what Ukraine is, what its borders are and what is to become of New Russia which, like Crimea has never been part of the same nation as the Galicians who deny that they are Ukrainians, in that they view Moskals as subhuman.

    Finally, there is the clear non-starter of calling for arms limitations on Russia. This comes from a US dominated alliance which has torn up successive Arms reduction treaties made during the Cold War. The suggestion is incredible and suggests that Craig believes that the Russian forces are close to collapsing. That is a view widely shared by the NATO think tank world. And nowhere else.

    As to war crimes trials these should, and will, include an explanation of the bio-labs, their purposes and the secret activities in which they have been engaged. They should also examine the role of foreign nationals, most of whom appear to be in the pay of their own governments, in taking part in the campaign against the Russian army.

  • DiggerUK

    I think Craig’s “bundle” is a good opening package.

    If Ukraine bites the bullet and lets Russia have its strategically important naval bases in Crimea, then Russia could bite the bullet over withdrawing from the east Ukrainian occupied territories.

    However, most of the other points in the opening bundle will be down to the international community for a smooth passage.
    Silent backdoors chit chat will need to allow for such things as NordStreeam 1 & 2 to work as planned. Lets not forget, it’s only six months to winter in Europe…_

  • Squeeth

    Bloody hell Craig, your liberal slip is showing. This is a war to the finish against Nato, hiding behind the US-Ukronazi putsch regime. I’ll support anyone who fights nazis and Americans. I hope the Russians defeat the Seppoes because that will give us all a chance to avoid perpetual servitude to Wall St.

    • Wikikettle

      Squeeth. Russia is independent, divorced and free from Wall St now. Setting an example to the whole world by confronting the bully with a military and technical response.

      • Squeeth

        In Replenishing the Earth: The Settler Revolution and the Rise of the Angloworld (2011) James Belich, a New Zealander with a dry sense of humour, remarked that the British and US-British states of the C19th couldn’t afford to alienate too many people by repression, because the populations could easily up sticks and piss off. In the 1770s – 1780s migrations from the new US to Canada and Africa, 1812 migrations from New England to Canada and Africa, 1840s migrations from Ireland and the Highlands to everywhere, the C19th migrations from GB to the US. With the modern US empire being balanced by free Russia and China a measure of balance to world affairs is being restored. It’s a horrible bloody business but US hegemony is far worse.

  • Chris

    Craig, the “devolution settlement for Donbass” was at the core of the Minsk accords. Ukraine signed on, and then Zelensky refused to take any steps towards implementation (possibly because his Azov minders threatened physical violence if he did). Ukraine has been consistently shelling civilians in Donetsk and Luhansk since 2014 (14,000 dead, including 10,000 civilians, 500 of them children) and Russia interpreted the increased shelling in early 2022 (as reported by OSCE observers) as evidence of a planned invasion by Ukraine.

    And as I understand it, effective control of Crimea was already ceded to Russia as part of the negotiated agreement on the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

    There is no way that Russia will allow the territory it has taken in the East and South of the country to be returned to Ukrainian control – the persecution of ethnically and linguistically Russian Ukrainians would inevitably be resumed.

    I acknowledge and respect your distinguished diplomatic career, Craig, and often find your views refreshing and insightful, but in this case you seem overly swayed by the Western narrative about the conflict. The narrative from the other side is also biased, to be sure, but there may be a version of the truth to be unearthed between the two versions, as is often the case.

  • Baalbek

    “Ukraine to be acknowledged as a sovereign state free to join NATO or EU if it chooses”

    Were it not for NATO’s relentless eastward expansion, its encirclement of Russia and quietly working to hook Ukraine’s military into the alliance, this war would not be happening. A neutral Ukraine that stays permanently out of NATO is non-negotiable for Russia. (EU membership is a different matter.)

    This seems an unusual oversight on your part, Craig, given your expertise and what Russia has been saying about NATO’s actions for years. If a neutral Ukraine isn’t on the table there will be no peace negotiations. Even Zelensky, in the war’s early days, said he is open to discussing neutral status for Ukraine.

    Expecting Russia to budge on this issue is highly unrealistic, even more so with Finland and Sweden now clamouring to join the alliance.

  • Allan Howard

    The following is from an interview David Frost did with Vladimir Putin on 5th March in 2000:

    DAVID FROST:
    Tell me about your views on NATO if you would. Do you see NATO as a potential partner, or a rival or an enemy?

    PUTIN:
    Russia is part of the European culture. And I cannot imagine my own country in isolation from Europe and what we often call the civilised world. So it is hard for me to visualise NATO as an enemy. I think even posing the question this way will not do any good to Russia or the world. The very question is capable of causing damage. Russia strives for equitable and candid relations with its partners. The main problem here lies in attempts to discard previously agreed common instruments – mainly in resolving issues of international security. We are open to equitable co-operation, to partnership. We believe we can talk about more profound integration with NATO but only if Russia is regarded an equal partner. You are aware we have been constantly voicing our opposition to NATO’s eastward expansion.

    DAVID FROST:
    Is it possible Russia could join NATO?

    PUTIN:
    I don’t see why not. I would not rule out such a possibility – but I repeat – if and when Russia’s views are taken into account as those of an equal partner……

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/static/audio_video/programmes/breakfast_with_frost/transcripts/putin5.mar.txt

    And in a radiofreeurope article entitled ‘Putin Says He Discussed Russia’s Possible NATO Membership With Bill Clinton’, published on 3rd June 2017, it says the following:

    Russian President Vladimir Putin has claimed that he once raised the possibility of Russia joining NATO with then-President Bill Clinton, and that Clinton said he had “no objection.”

    Putin delivered this account in a series of interviews with U.S. film director Oliver Stone set to air later this month on the U.S. television network Showtime.

    Excerpts of the four-part series have been released online in recent days, including one obtained by Politico in which Putin discusses NATO, whose eastward expansion following the collapse of the Soviet Union has long angered Moscow.

    Speaking with Stone in what appears to be Putin’s presidential plane, the Russian leader recalls one of his final meetings with Clinton, who left office in January 2001.

    “During the meeting I said, ‘We would consider an option that Russia might join NATO,'” Putin says. “Clinton answered, ‘I have no objection.’ But the entire U.S. delegation got very nervous.”

    Well, I guess Clinton wasn’t gonna say ‘Yes, but you see we need an enemy, so I’m afraid that’s a non-starter’.

  • DunGroanin

    I actually almost wholly agree with the great assessment barring one point I make at the end.

    I don’t see why CM couldn’t be part of an independent conciliatory body in brokering an end to the Special Operation before it escalates to a Declared War.
    Heck Abrahmovic the football club owner has already been!

    Some US representatives are claiming/admitting they are already at war with Russia . The U.K. FO & MOD appears to be also with its daily 3 point statements from Whitehall – a PR War on top of the one fostered for a decade with military support. Nato and wannabes are behaving as they are, as are the French too , even if Macron rushed around like a Little Prince, to be re-elected, along with another compliant parliament next.

    Once in place I fully expect he will rejoin the ranks of the West is the Best Gang.

    The process as listed by CM, is the way to go and will leave Russia as rightful, again.
    It also adheres to the SCO declared principles and Russia would be able to demonstrate that.
    However there can be only one way to guarantee that fresh water wouldn’t be cut from the Crimea ever again.

    BUT to my main difficulty- it’s about the Nazis, duh – isn’t it?

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