What Might A Ukraine Peace Agreement Look Like? 427


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

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  • Allan Howard

    This is interesting, from February last year:

    ‘Ukraine: Zelenskiy shuts down opposition media’

    On 2 February, the Ukrainian president issued sanctions on three of the most popular television news channels in the country. Media outlets getting shut down is nothing new in Ukraine, ever since the Euromaidan brought a right-wing government to power in 2014. However, the recent events represent the most concerted move to shut down opposition media in Ukraine’s history…..

    The rationale of Zelenskiy was that this action was against propaganda by the aggressor Russia, the order stipulating that “putting under question the competence of the government” was part of this. Not surprisingly, these “propaganda channels” happened to include the most popular news channels in the country (see chart). For Zelenskiy, “truth & European values” do not include reporting on the continued selling of Ukraine to foreign interests and the mortgaging of Ukraine to the IMF.

    https://www.marxist.com/ukraine-zelenskiy-shuts-down-opposition-media.htm

    • Allan Howard

      I was just having a gander round the In Defence of Marxism website, which I’ve never heard of or come across before, and did a search re >ukraine<, and the following came up in the results, which is an ultra long read (I just read about the first five minutes worth), but looks very, very interesting:

      'NATO lies exposed! Former agent speaks out!'

      And their introduction to the 'former agent' begins thus:

      Note from the editorial board: Today we are reproducing a pair of very important articles that blow sky high all the lying western propaganda that has surrounded the war in Ukraine from day one up to the present. The author of these remarkable documents is not a Marxist. Far from it. He is Jacques Baud, a former colonel in the Swiss army and ex-member of the Swiss Strategic Intelligence Service. He also worked for NATO, during and after the 2014 Ukraine crisis, following which he participated in programmes related to Ukraine.

      https://www.marxist.com/nato-lies-exposed-former-agent-speaks-out.htm

      • Ian Robert Stevenson

        It is indeed interesting. I have only spent an hour or two on it.

        First I looked up J, Baud. The only reference I found was a site called Conspiracy Watch which give several examples of his giving information which they regard as wrong or deliberate distortion. It includes the alleged Syrian nerve gas attack , confirmed by the international OCPW. I gave read things which suggest it might have been a false flag operation. He has a distinguished record of service. There is too much material to review. So I will give a sample.

        His thesis is that the Kyiv govt. were planning to attack Russian -Separatist areas and cites the OSCE records of increased shelling. Putin had no/little choice but to intervene to protect the people there. He gives the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission figures of the increase in recorded explosions in mid February and one is lead to the conclusion that it is due to govt shelling as a precursor to attacking the separatist areas. Consulting the website, it is obvious that the shelling went in both directions.
        Putin told ( this is not on Marxist site) France 24 that genocide was taking place. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the OSCE Special Mission and Council of Europe, did not accept that.

        Baud claims that the Territorial forces had a high percentage of foreigners but the Reuters link he gives doesn’t confirm it as far as I can see. He refers to the Royal Institute for Strategic Studies ( RUSI) but RUSI is the Royal United Services Institute, The one he cites doesn’t exist.

        I did find a 63 page document which gave accounts of human rights abuses by Ukrainian forces. There are also sources documenting abuses by separatists.

        It is probably true that in a complex situation, one can find two narratives which contradict each other and have evidence to support them. The neat trick is to find a balanced conclusion.

        He claims the Russians have superior intelligence services with ‘superior analytic capabilities’. At strategic level, we don’t have access to the real aims or the reasons for them. At tactical level, I will go with the consensus of military commentators. Their tactics have been rigid. Massive bombardment followed by frontal attacks. He tells us that the Russian method is less destructive than the west but the available video evidence doesn’t support this.

        He praises the Russian lead from the front “follow me” philosophy , which explains the higher loss rate of superior officers. Military analysts in the west, point to the centralised command structure and the role of non-commissioned officers in the Russian forces, where they have less scope for initiative.

        The document could do with more analysis by those with better access to source material.

        I have reservations about ‘Whistleblower exposes the truth”-type articles where the ‘establishment’ story is shown to be, not just mistaken or partial, but ‘lies’. It can happen. However, it is what we see in the ‘anti-vaccination’ posting on the internet.

      • Laguerre

        Jacques Baud has done quite a number of articles and interviews. There’s at least one on YouTube (Sud RadioJacques Baud: “Les Américains ont instrumentalisé l’Ukraine de façon perverse.”, 51m 31s, unfortunately in French). He’s a very serious figure, who worked in the business, and had access. You don’t need to look at Marxist.com. C2FR.org, a semi-official institute for the history of French intelligence, published his articles, and were subsequently widely abused and attacked for diverging from the official western line.

  • yesindyref2

    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.

    Good grief, this is very bold, and you would wonder if Russia would be remotely interested in that, but see [1].

    The one thing I’d add to your list is “An international fund for reconstruction … of Ukraine”, and note carefully this would be nothing at all like the foolish reparations that caused WW2 after the Versailles Treaty, it would be more like the Marshall Plan – but without repayment.

    [1] A factor would be whether Russia could afford a long-term war, specially if that meant the sanctions continued and perhaps got more severe. An interesting analysis of Russia’s defence budget is here:

    https://ukdefencejournal.org.uk/a-look-at-the-russian-defence-budget/

    But I wonder if the value of the Purchasing Power Parity is greatly underestimated. As it stands though:

    Employing PPP, Russia’s defence budget goes from $62.2bn (in market exchange rates) to a value within the range of $150-180 billion, more than double of Britain’s spending of $71.6bn.

    An additional factor for me, is how Russia managed in WW2. A lot of people think the Arctic convoys were about planes and tanks – they were mostly about trucks. Once they moved tank production east of the Urals, Russia spat out tanks as fast as you like. I see no reason why they can’t do the same these days.

    HOWEVER on the other side – defence budgets are always thought of as being spent on ships, planes and tanks. People tend to forget missiles and bullets. And inventories of these are often not that large for a long-term war …

    • craig Post author

      There is a wonderful passage in Fitzroy MacLean’s Eastern Approaches where he encounters Uzbek Soviet troops battling their way through Yugoslavia – in a battered old Bedford truck.

      • yesindyref2

        That sounds like an interesting book. His name rang a bell and I think it’s from reading long ago about the LRDG / SAS, and the Tobruk Commando. Anyways, I checked it out a bit, and with what he seems to have done in Yugoslavia, and bearing in mind Tito had just about all world leaders at his funeral, and in my mind the independence of Yugoslavia during the Cold War might be another reason why this planet is not a molten radioactive heap, it could be that MacLean played a small part in our survival as a species.

        Stranger things …

  • U Watt

    You’re a good man, Mr Murray. But talk of peace settlements has been rendered academic by that Congressional vote to flood Ukraine with $40 billion worth of US weapons. The Hegemon intends an endless bloodbath .. and that includes people like Bernie Sanders, Ilhan Omar and AOC, all of whom voted for the tsunami of instruments of death. What hope is there when these supposed peaceniks and anti-imperialists are assuring the psychos they are doing the decent and honorable thing?

  • Ilya Grushevskiy

    Let the people vote. UN Charter, Chapter I, Article 1, paragraph 2.

    It’s simple as that – every oblast gets a vote for independence or not.

    Having family in Odessa, I know what the outcome will be.

  • Michael K

    In an ‘ideal world’ Craig’s ideas and proposals appear, on the face of it, to be eminently sensible and a way forward towards some kind of settlement, stability, and peace. These are the ideals of a trained diplomat, a sophisticated balancing act where everyone gets ‘something’ and nobody gets ‘too much.’ Unfortunately, we’ve gone way, way, beyond all that. The West is at war with Russia over far more important things than Ukraine.

    Craig’s ideas seem remarkably close, de facto, to the proposals the Russians tabled years ago and were linked to the Minsk agreements. That’s all water, or blood under the bridge now, unfortunately. Powerful actors in the West didn’t want Minsk to succeed because they wanted conflict with Russia in order to weaken the Russian state, isolate China and then confront them over Taiwan. Killing two birds with one stone so to speak.

    I think the main question now, Ukraine as a viable state is lost already to the West, is, does Washington want a limited nuclear war confined to Europe in a last desparate attempt to avoid defeat in the Ukrainian conflict? As the Russians are clearly ‘winning’ the war on the ground, slowly but surely, they don’t need to use nuclear weapons against the cities which contain their own people. This is a kind of ‘civil war’ in contrast to what the nationalist militants in Ukraine dream of.

  • Jen

    I am astonished to see that what CM proposes as part of his Ukraine peace agreement is more or less what Ukraine, under much egging and pressure from the US and probably the UK as well, refused to accept and carry out under the Minsk I and II agreements brokered (but unfortunately not enforced) by France under Hollande / Macron and Germany under Merkel.

    The big problem with the Minsk I and II agreements was not so much that Ukraine refused to abide by their conditions and requirements, it was that Kiev was encouraged by NATO to flout them and those who were supposed to ensure Ukraine did what it was supposed to do turned a blind eye to Ukraine’s continued harassment of Russian-speaking Ukrainians in the eastern and southern parts of its territory, climaxing in what would have been a major military assault on Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics with a 250,000-strong force in February or March 2022 if the Russians had not pre-empted the attack.

    • John Kinsella

      Evidence for “what would have been a major military assault on Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics with a 250,000-strong force in February or March 2022”?

      Cos it didn’t happen in February 2022 and the Putin regime did invade Ukraine in February 2022.

      Which means that your claim is nonsense.

      • James Galt

        That’s the problem with pre-emptive invasions – the side caught out, in this case Ukraine – can bleat out its “victimhood” ad nauseum.

      • Bayard

        Your logic is faulty: Russia did not invade Ukraine on the last day of February, therefore the Ukrainian army could still have attacked the breakaway republics “in February or March 2022”, if Russia had not invaded first.

        • Pears Morgaine

          Yes the poorest country in Europe was preparing an invasion of one of the best armed and largest countries on earth. We all believe that.

      • Beware the Leopard

        No, John Kinsella, it is not nonsense. The “Outbreak of War” section in Jacques Baud’s 1 April article discusses this. If you are so incredulous, perhaps you would like to read it.

        For instance, did you know about the Ukrainian artillery bombardment of Donbass that began on 16 February?

        On 11 February, President Joe Biden announced that Russia would attack Ukraine in the next few days. How did he know this? It is a mystery. But since the 16th, the artillery shelling of the population of the Donbass increased dramatically, as the daily reports of the OSCE observers show. Naturally, neither the media, nor the European Union, nor NATO, nor any Western government reacts or intervenes. It will be later said that this is Russian disinformation. In fact, it seems that the European Union and some countries have deliberately kept silent about the massacre of the Donbass population, knowing that this would provoke a Russian intervention.

      • Yuri K

        1. The order displayed by Russian Ministry of Defense https://img04.rl0.ru/1680574919dbc041c08573daa4bc5186/765x-i/https/store.rambler.ru/news/img/dd97e69f47f600dfb628f62d41f606b8

        2. Despite repeated warnings from the USA that Russia will attack Ukraine from Belarus and from Crimea, the bulk of the Ukrainian army at the start of Russian attack was located opposite the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. This allowed Russians to capture Melitopol, Berdyansk and Kherson almost without firing a shot by March 2nd; Mariupol was surrounded by Feb 28th, just 4 days after the operation started. On the 1st day of invasion, Russian troops made up to 90 km in the south and in the north they were in Kiev suburbs the next day, on Feb 25th. This means that the disposition of the Ukrainian army was for the attack on Donbass, not for the defense.

  • DiggerUK

    Some of you seem to think this war will be over by xmas with a victor. Sorry to burst your warmongering bubble, but it will not be.

    The civilised who are on these pages need to speak up against those urging more war.
    The prospect of Russia conquering, AND HOLDING, all of Ukraine is pie in the sky. Although it seems plausible they could take the entire southern sea coast of Ukraine, all that would do is give Russia more negotiating clout.

    The Maidan Coup is history, the Minsk Accords are history, the advance of NATO/EU across Europe is history and Russias invasion is history. By that, I mean there’s nothing anybody can do about what’s happened, all we can deal with is the here and now and the future.
    When it comes to NATO/EU expansion it needs to be borne in mind that this wasn’t achieved at the point of a bayonet, it was welcomed by all the countries who signed up.

    Posters here should declare their position without ambiguity. Are you with the warmongers, or are you with the peacemakers…_

    • Dean Clark

      The question in a war is only for or against if you don’t understand the reasons for it. If you don’t understand them then you are never going to be able to fix them… My position, since you ask, though, is truth, and from that position I can see that both sides of the conflict have plenty of blame to share but also valid points. The reason I’m on this blog incidentally is that the E.U. is in full propaganda mode and has closed access to Russian news channels and are currently censoring websites that post content from them… I think it’s only a matter of time before Craig is labelled a commy and the site is gone.

    • Tom Welsh

      “Posters here should declare their position without ambiguity. Are you with the warmongers, or are you with the peacemakers…”

      For my part, I am on the side of truth (first) and humanity (second). Not because I don’t value humanity, but because if you spurn the truth you cannot accomplish anything. Truth is reality, and you must respect reality.

    • Bayard

      “When it comes to NATO/EU expansion it needs to be borne in mind that this wasn’t achieved at the point of a bayonet, it was welcomed by all the countries who signed up.”

      It was not, as far as I know, put to a popular vote in any of the NATO countries as to whether they should join, so it seems that, in most cases at least, the welcome was only from those who were leading the country at the time.
      In any case, NATO doesn’t need to use bayonets, it just points out what happens to countries that don’t join NATO, a bit like the Kray Twins pointing out to shopkeepers what would happen to businesses that didn’t join their protection scheme.

      • SF

        There was a referendum in Spain in March 1986. I was in Andalucia a month before and happened upon an anti-NATO (OTAN is the acronym in Spanish) demo in Seville. I still have the badge I was given by the protester I spoke to, indicating my support.

  • Brianborou

    “ Currently nobody in power wants peace”.

    At the beginning of this conflict the Russian Federation stated that if the Ukrainian government would accept the implementation of the 2015 Minsk accords, which the Ukrainian government had signed but never implemented, they would stop the military operation. Unfortunately, the Ukrainians are not in control the US/ U.K. elites are pulling the strings and don’t want a peaceful solution. They have publicly stated the intention is “ to weaken the RF” !

  • Politically Homeless

    Heh. The risks of escalation in Ukraine are obvious. Those risks are simply what happen when you have an aging irredentist psychopath in charge of Russia. Ending the conflict on these ideal terms has never been offered by Russia. This piece seems to be an exercise in typically clever equivocation; of pretending that if only Putin was offered an “off-ramp” he would take it. He may well have been. But bellicose rhetoric and quasi-genocidal rhetoric and behaviour from the Kremlin suggests it is the Russians and not NATO or the US or Ukraine driving escalation. NATO has been precisely as “provocative” in Ukraine as the Chinese were during the US occupation of Vietnam or the Iranians were during the US occupation of Iraq.

    So I do have to wonder why the Left didn’t emphasize the pressing of “peace settlements” on the people of Vietnam in 1968, Palestine at any time since 1948, or the regime of Iraq in 2003. Clearly this is not about peace, it’s still, after a century of misplaced sympathies for the USSR, about the misplaced sympathies for the chief successor state of the USSR.

    • Bayard

      “Those risks are simply what happen when you have an aging irredentist psychopath in charge of Russia.”

      Which we don’t, so the rest of your comment is meaningless.

    • Jimmeh

      > of pretending that if only Putin was offered an “off-ramp” he would take it.

      He’s made speeches and written essays explaining why he believes that Ukraine doesn’t exist, there is no “Ukrainian people”, and pushing his vision of a Russian empire reaching from the Baltic to Vladivostok.

      The closest he’s come to compromise has been to propose that Ukraine must disarm, while Russia is not required to disarm. He hasn’t ever suggested willingness to surrender captured Ukrainian territory.

      NATO is not a country, and has no policies apart from the agreed policy of its constituent members. Germany, in particular, has been pro-Russia since the days of Willi Brandt. The fact is that NATO members have been shocked by the invasion and its manner, and have never been so united. NATO is often represented by Putinistas as nothing but an instrument of US foreign policy; but half of US voters seem to support a party that is pro-Putin, and anti-Europe. The USA is the least pro-NATO member of the alliance.

      I don’t think Craig’s peace-plan is a runner, because I don’t think Putin can settle for anything less than the whole of Donbas, up to the Western borders of Donetsk and Luhansk. I don’t see the people of that region tolerating that, and I don’t see the West imposing Russian domination on them. I’m afraid I can only see Putin fighting on, even though he knows he can’t win.

      I keep seeing commenters declaring that Russia is on the verge of victory; I have no idea where that notion is coming from. Is that what RT is saying? I’m also seeing claims that the attack on Kiev was a feint, and the withdrawal was planned. I don’t buy it, especially given that Putin himself said that his war aims included removing the present Ukrainian leadership (I know, he doesn’t call it a “war”). If that was a feint, then he’s sure lost a lot of troops and materiel doing it. He doesn’t seem to be losing in the East, at least in terms of territory. But I don’t think “winning” ever included being fought to a standstill.

      He needs to take the South for his plans to have a chance. He can’t sustain Crimea without a land-bridge; the Kerch Bridge is simply too vulnerable as the sole means of resupply, and Sevastopol is a naval base, not a cargo port. I’ve heard of exactly one successful Ukrainian missile attack on the bridge; I’m surprised it hasn’t already been demolished. And nobody recognises the Russian annexation of Crimea. For that to happen, there would have to be some really dramatic concessions from Moscow. Maybe something like no Russian missiles within 200km of Ukraine’s border, the restoration of Transnistria to Moldovan control, arms inspectors inside Russian and Belorusian sovereign territory, that kind of thing. It’s not even worth proposing; Russia won’t accept it.

      I realise that this view is rather depressing, especially for Ukrainians. I don’t see this ending until sanctions bite, which might take a few years, because Russia has built up strong currency reserves. Even then, I don’t see how an impoverished Russian people can unseat their despotic leader; only the army can do that.

      I’m a bit surprised that Russia hasn’t already resorted to popping a nuke.

    • Allan Howard

      PH, I can’t help but wonder why you’re wondering about something that bears absolutely no resemblance to reality!

      And why do you bring ‘escalation’ into the debate? Provocation… was the catalyst to the conflict – ie Nato and the West’s provocation.

      Remember Cuba? Well it was the US that provoked the Soviet Union in the first place by installing nukes in Turkey in 1961, which at the time bordered the Soviet Union. I’m sure Putin would have infinitely preferred that the US/Nato addressed Russia’s security concerns regarding Ukraine etc, but they – the West – had OTHER plans!

    • Godfree Roberts

      an aging irredentist psychopath in charge of Russia?

      Putin is multilingual, holds three black belts in different disciplines, a PhD, put his daughters through grad school, raised Russia from devastation to superpowerdom in 20 years, and has been begging the West almost daily to support the Minsk Agreements lest Ukraine ignite another war.

      • Pears Morgaine

        His PhD was written for him by Vladimir Litvinenko and large sections were plagiarised. His Taekwondo black belt was merely honorary and has been revoked. The rest of his achievements are probably just as bogus and anyway none of them are a barrier to being a psychopath.

        • Yuri K

          His honorable black belt was revoked but in Judo he was the champion of Leningrad multiple times and his black belt is very real. The accusations of plagiarism are also somewhat exaggerated because Putin gave references to King’s book he copy-pasted several times. Sloppy work, in my mind, nothing more.

    • Blodders

      A refreshing piece of sanity in this particular comment section! I think the prevailing view on foreign affairs here is summed up succinctly by commentator Squeeth’s earlier admission that “I’ll support anyone who fights nazis and Americans.” Doesn’t venture into detail about who they’d support in the case of Nazis vs Americans, but I wouldn’t be 100% surprised if it was the Nazis who enjoyed Squeeth’s full-throated backing.

      • Jimmeh

        I don’t know Squeeth, but he seems to be a sort of rent-a-commie; he’s against the things that lefties are supposed to be against. I’m pretty sure that in a nazi-vs-USA situation, he’d be anti-nazi.

  • Jack

    Part of the problem why the western world do not pursue peace is because they believe the win is near for Ukraine and Russia just should give up, the constant proapganda in the media is awful and fool so many westerners: so if peace is near, why pursue peace is the sentiment.The western world hail freedom of speech but clearly live in a echo chamber, you cannot reach these people, they believe they are on to something good but they only hurt themselves with all the anti-russian measures.

    When Merkel disappeared from the scene, the german lunatics calling themsleves socialists and greens that are now ruling Germany, went into full warmongering mode. Closing down Northstream 2 and thus hurting themselves while making way for US gas/oil interests by cutting off Russia from the market!

    And yes, Macron is indeed the only one who has any sense of creating a peace in the EU.
    Meanwhile EU announced yesterday more military aid is going to Ukraine.

    And just today Zelensky urged Macron to stop his peace efforts!
    “Zelensky says Macron talking to Putin ‘in vain’”
    https://www.kyivpost.com/world/zelensky-says-macron-talking-to-putin-in-vain.html

    On top of creating peace Russia and the EU really need to initiate a dialogue, a summit, and sit down and create a peace that both parties can accept and live with. Diplomacy must rule. Not arms!

    • Jack

      Putin and Scholz just spoke.
      Very obvious that Scholz still do not have any peace efforts in mind, he put the blame all on Russia, whine about sanctions only being lifted when the west decides to, insinuate they have no power over Ukraine and Ukraine itself is to decide what efforts they want might pursure diplomatically with Russia. On top of that Scholz seems to humiliate Russia, claiming no goal that Russia put up before the war have been met and so on..
      https://tass.com/world/1450869

    • Jimmeh

      > Russia and the EU really need to initiate a dialogue, a summit, and sit down and create a peace that both parties can accept and live with.

      Inteersting that you chose not to include Ukraine in your summit! Great powers creating settlements without the involvement of the affected people invariably leads to more wars down the road.

  • Ewan2

    While Ukranians are being kicked off their land, it doesn’t appear to be such a big problem when Ukrainians, Russians and a host of other nationalities steal Palestinian land and kill their people to almost no criticism, in fact something approaching praise from the govts comprising The Tyranny of Democracy.

    Zelensky actually made a speech in the Knesset without anyone noticing the blatant hypocrisy that he can get an Israeli passport and immediately starting stealing Palestinian land.

    Don’t any good-hearted Ukrainians want to house a Palestinian refugee, or, perhaps, return them their land.

  • uwontbegrinningsoon

    The freedom fighters in the Donbass could end up dead at the hands of the Ukrainians. I suspect they would not trust Zelenski. The 14000 killed, so frequently mentioned before the current conflict were, as I understand it, mainly Donbass residents killed by Ukrainian forces. OSCE records indicate that upwards of a thousand shells a day were being fired at the Donbass by Ukrainian forces prior to Putin taking his decision to invade. These are not smart bombs. They cause indiscriminate devastation and death. Not that smart bombs are really that different. A UN peacekeeping force would not work for obvious reasons. The military build up by the Russians prior to the current invasion was mirrored by a Ukrainian force facing the Donbass. It would seem that the USA and Zelinsky forced Putin’s hand. There are articles I have seen that indicate that the Ukrainian far right threatened Zelinski if he sued for peace. Zelinski was elected on a mandate of negotiation. A bit like Starmer’s ten pledges. He will not now be trusted by Putin and his offer of dialogue is for public consumption only. If you think any of these points have no merit then please point them out.

  • john

    I am Scots and similar age to Craig, and as I grew up my view of the world was pulled this way and that, first by boys’ comics, later by tv and newspapers. Germans were bad then it was just the Nazis that were bad, and Germans were admirable ….the Soviets were deadly bad, then we had cuddly Gorby,and the Russians became nice, just like us. Then Putin disrupted all that, and I actually believed the Wikipedia description of his hidden millions, etc. Bad man.

    I retired around the start of the Syria conflict, and having time on my hands was able to investigate outside of the mainstream media….the inestimable MK Bhadrakumar and Pepe Escobar for example, and pretty soon I developed an enduring admiration for V Putin and S Lavrov. They said what they would do, and they did what they said…they became the ONLY honest brokers in West Asia as they defanged the NATO-sponsored terrorists.

    And so to Prof Mearsheimer¨s assessment of NATO’s expansion into Georgia and Ukraine as aggressive actions against Russia, and again the Russians walking the walk…negotiating, saying what would happen if their red lines were crossed, and unfortunately having to implement the “military, tecnical” measures which we see playing out today, as they root out the neo Nazis whom NATO sponsors there.

    Unlike Craig, I am convinced by Scott Ritter’s argument that Russia will win this war, and I do not believe that the Russian objective is to gain territory. Their stated objective is to achieve a neutral buffer to their west, and that is what they will do.

    As for the government in Finland, they seem to have forgotten that they lost a territorial war with their eastern neighbour, and their security depends on abiding by the terms of their surrender, which is to remain militarily neutral. Putin has already pointed this out…why does no-one seem to believe him?
    As for

    • Sunfacejack

      Very sensible post.

      “I grew up my view of the world was pulled this way and that, first by boys’ comics, later by tv and newspapers. Germans were bad then it was just the Nazis that were bad, and Germans were admirable ….the Soviets were deadly bad, then we had cuddly Gorby, and the Russians became nice, just like us. Then Putin disrupted all that, and I actually believed the Wikipedia description of his hidden millions, etc.”

      Trump was also bad according to the Western Media and the UN & IPCC & WEF & WHO….. I agree with you from far away in the tip of Africa. I too was confuddled by the (Western) media. I too am retired for the last 5 years and my eyes have been opened.

    • John Kinsella

      Ritter also thought that the Saddam Hussein regime would win the (illegal imo) war against the US invaders.

      No military guru he.

      • uwontbegrinningsoon

        Nobody is right all the time. Whoever you are. But some folks are more right than others. Thought John’s post was more articulate than my post and spot on !!

      • John Monro

        He was wrong to say Saddam Hussein would prevail, obviously, but in what way can you today say that the US/UK “won”? Scott Ritter’s assessment of what is happening in Ukraine is likely to not be very accurate to events as they unfold, OTOH they’re likely to be much less inaccurate than what we’re hearing in the Western media.

    • Jimmeh

      > They said what they would do, and they did what they said

      This is true (but I disagree with nearly everything else you said, john).

      It’s normal and routine to dismiss the statements of Russian leaders as being lies. But they’ve signalled clearly what their aims were since the beginning; the only lies they told were about the exercises in Belarus and the “peaceful” build-up of 150,000 troops on the Ukrainian border. And those lies were transparent. No decent general signals his invasion plans in advance, but we all knew what was about to happen.

      Apart from that, the Russians seem to have been as good as their word.

  • Cornudet

    The putative amnesty for war crimes will rankle in direct proportion to the subject’s hypocrisy. For as you have, at various times pointed out on this very site, sundry people have been punished for reporting the West’s own war crimes in Iraq and elsewhere; very few individuals have been punished for perpetrating them.

  • Robert Dyson

    A sane and humane plan. No one ever gets everything they want. I agree that shutting down the destruction and death should be a prime objective. I especially agree about Crimea. Even Putin does not have many more years of life, so letting him live those to save the lives of thousands of young people also seems worth it. The truth will be evident at some point in the future though we never seem to learn those lessons as those Russian families find out what happened to their sons.

  • RogerDodger

    An interesting read Craig, and on the face of it your proposal strikes me as reasonable. Certainly it is hard to think of any other carrot which would both allow Putin to save face and be remotely acceptable to the hawkish West. But I’m afraid I share your pessimism at reason winning out.

    Putin is a war criminal and belongs in prison, as Blair and Bush do. But a realpolitik that allows for peace is preferable to a political prolongation of the war.

  • Dean Clark

    The U. S has now coincidently turned a profit for the first time on its shale mining via the sudden unexpected European demand for LPG so it seems fairly unlikely that the head of NATO will be endorsing any kind of peace plan that removes sanctions… It’s so strange that behind so many conflicts lay (or should that be lies?) the U. S and big energy companies.

    • Lapsed Agnostic

      Shale gas extraction in the US has been profitable for many years, Dean, otherwise their corporations simply wouldn’t be doing it. Much increased demand for LPG in Europe makes it considerably more profitable though.

    • Jimmeh

      > unlikely that the head of NATO will be endorsing any kind of peace plan

      What’s Jens Stoltenburg got to do with peace plans or shale mining?

  • Andrew Shewan

    Dear Craig,

    “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”

    Not sure how you would reconcile ‘joining NATO’; ‘restricting weapons’.
    And I have no idea what Russia’s war aims are, medium to longer term. Short term I think it’s to secure Crimea and the Donbass.
    Best regards
    Andrew

    • Laguerre

      “And I have no idea what Russia’s war aims are, medium to longer term.”

      Why not read what Putin says about it? That would be a good start.

  • Anderson

    “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”

    The third clause here makes the first two meaningless. Nothing will stop Ukraine from reversing the devolution once NATO troops are in.

  • Jack

    Did anyone else notice the over-the- top-opinion piece by the prime minister of Poland the other day in the UK media?

    Vladimir Putin is ‘more dangerous than Hitler or Stalin’, Poland’s prime minister warns as he calls for the Russian leader’s ‘monstrous ideology’ to be wiped out
    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10803463/Vladimir-Putin-dangerous-Hitler-Stalin-Polands-prime-minister-warns.html

    How can the world build peace with such lunatics in power?

  • pete

    The BBC seem to be determined to cast Putin as the evil henchman, I can’t quite believe this, he is at the least a product of the regime that produced him, he will be surrounded by people who sympathise with his aims, the Nomenklatura, the Old Guard, they will have the same aims, get rid of Putin and you will have Putin2. This is why,while what Craig says seems perfectly sensible and rational, I find it hard to believe it possible. At this stage peace is not what is wanted, I am not an optimist so I fear what lies ahead.
    I hope I am wrong, it took many years for the war in Vietnam to end, America took twenty years before they realised their mistake in Afghanistan and withdrew. There are many beneficiaries who would seek to prolong the present Ukraine conflict in order to justify their own careers and businesses. The main problem for the West is that they have the wrong people as leaders, it’s not just Russia. The only possible way forward is a compromise. History shows us that maps are constantly being redrawn, what we are likely to see at the end of all this are many redefined borders, setting the groundwork for the conflicts of tomorrow. The search for intelligent life on earth continues.

    • J Galt

      One of the surprises of the present situation is the emergence of Dmitry Medvedev as a hardliner and hawk (for Russia’s interests) where once he was seen as a “pro Western” counter to Mr Putin.

      • John Monro

        There will be many Russians who initially doubted the wisdom of this “special military operation” and who had little time for Putin, who, in the face of Western extremism, will now be backing Putin to the hilt; this is, as Putin has said all along, an existential matter for Russia. It has been confirmed by almost every utterance by Western leaders since the start of this war. Support of Putin by the Russian citizenry has not faltered, but has been manifestly strengthened by the neocon agenda and our duplicity and exceptionalism.

    • Bayard

      “History shows us that maps are constantly being redrawn, what we are likely to see at the end of all this are many redefined borders, setting the groundwork for the conflicts of tomorrow. “

      Yet we have the position taken by so many in the West that this process should come to a halt, that borders, some agreed as recently as the 1950s, are now, after centuries of changes set in stone and never should be changed. There are people alive today who have lived in four different countries without budging an inch.

      • Jimmeh

        Actually, the position is that borders are *not* set in stone; they can never be changed *by marching armies across them*. Really, just about everyone in the world objects to acts of forced military cartographic revision, with the exception of a handful of tyrants and demagogues.

        • Bayard

          Name me a European border that has changed since WWII.

          “Really, just about everyone in the world objects to acts of forced military cartographic revision, with the exception of a handful of tyrants and demagogues.”

          Unless they are talking about a certain European colony in the Middle East, of course.

  • Ewan Maclean

    If SecDef Austin were “weakening” Russia as he proclaimed the US war aim to be, I doubt he would be phoning Shoigu asking for an immediate ceasefire. There is any number of veterans warning that Russia is beating the bejeesus out of the VSU. The US & the neo-Nazis have led the Ukrainian people into a wholly avoidable catastrophe. The US is delusional about how its war is going. The EU has allowed itself to be cut off from the energy it needs; it will now be entirely reliant on the US; in the meantime its economy will collapse. Yet Russia long offered economic & security cooperation that would have allowed all to prosper. This is not in Russia, but the US.

    • Wikikettle

      Evans Maclean. Exactly! Short sharp and to the point. Peter Berletic of The New Atlas being the most articulate veteran on the war and providing us with the references (from western sources!) to make the case.

  • Courtenay Francis Raymond Barnett

    Craig,

    I noted your comment and related elements as stated with regards to seeking peace:-

    “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.”

    Just can’t see this in practical terms for quite specific reasons.

    i) With or without any further formal recognition Crimea is already a fait accompli for already being Russian.

    ii) The Russian full entry ( i.e. into Ukraine) is inextricably linked to events from 2014 and the attack on the separatists by the Ukrainian army and indeed some neo-Nazi elements. Russia with force has opposed and intends to claim a portion of the eastern section of Ukraine.

    iii) Zelensky in a way is being used by the US ( i.e. I ;say US versus NATO for I see the US pulling NATO’S strings). Why otherwise would European nations seek to cut off their assured gas and oil supplies to be substituted with or by what? Anyway, with the level of funding and military hardware being supplied it seems that the beneficiaries on the receiving end ( on the Ukrainian side) have incentive to make this the ‘long war’.

    Obviously, there are more dynamics at play. I note and respect your practical experience and willingly diminish mine as being but a few thoughts from a maybe ‘armchair revolutionary’. However, the perspective, from my end, being advanced is that gamechangers such as confidence building, humanitarian corridors and the like are elements within international peace making – but there are currently dominant belligerent incentives at play to make an early peace deal unlikely.

    I do not see Putin recoiling from his objective in east Ukraine any time soon; I do not see Zelensky recoiling from the financial and military support which he is receiving any time soon on his part.

    Put it all together and the situation on the ground spells – ongoing war.

    Wish I were totally wrong – and do convince me to that position – but I see what I see and am still wish I were wrong.

    • Courtenay Francis Raymond Barnett

      A fourth consideration I must add is:-

      iv) There are ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine who are contented with a return to Russia ( i.e. in the sense of an annexation of eastern Ukraine to Russia). Furthermore, it is highly unlikely that having undergone and experienced all that has transpired since 2014 that they would readily relinquish the gains they have made to date.

      • Jimmeh

        > There are ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine who are contented with a return to Russia

        Evidence?

        > highly unlikely that having undergone and experienced all that has transpired since 2014 that they would readily relinquish the gains they have made to date.

        Here, “they” refers to the Russians, not the ethnic Russians of eastern Ukraine. I don’t believe the ethnic Russians to become part of Russia?of Donbas are united in supporting the invasion. I suspect the opposite is closer to the truth; why would anyone want their home to become part of Russia? Perhaps because Russia is famous for the freedom to express yourself, for the amazing standard of living, and for the certainty you won’t be conscripted and sent to be killed by your brothers?

  • Conall Boyle

    Craig, this is possibly your worst piece in a long time. Sanctimoniously criticising others, swallowing dubious western narratives and treating Zelensky as if he were a free agent.

    Such tetchiness such poor analysis. Overdoing the single malt?

    • RogerDodger

      “Your worst piece in a long time”. Funny how every piece which is even mildly critical of Putin or Russia attracts this comment. “A long time” has been getting shorter and shorter!

      • Conall Boyle

        Oh dear! Reductio ad Putin aka Hitler. Is this the most intelligent thing you can say? No hint of him in my short analysis. You do seem to have a single barrelled reflex for all these occasions. BTW this is my first ever posted critique of Craig, and no, I am not going to cancel my monthly sub either.

  • Kaiama

    Donetsk, Lugansk, and now Kherson fully function on Russian funded local administration, medical, pensions and have all adopted the rouble. The West having sanctioned the hell out of Russia and stealing 300 billion of central bank funds. Just how are they now going to abandon local ethnic Russian speakers to another Bucha revenge “cleansing”? Anything next to the Black Sea and east of the Dnieper will eventually become part of the Russian Federation. You don’t trade away your people.

  • Ewan Maclean

    Any serious peace proposal has to reflect the state of play on the battlefield. It is presumptuous for a diplomat to dismiss the assessment of a military professional trained in combined arms operations in Europe, and Russian military doctrine, with battlefield experience. Russia offered terms early on. Ukraine accepted them until the US imposed its veto. Why would Russia discuss these terms now? Also, after Russia has demonstrated what a red line means in Ukraine, why would Sweden and Finland be stupid enough to join NATO? If they ever agree to host US hypersonic missiles (assuming the US catches up with the technology), they will be incinerated.

      • Ewan Maclean

        Surely it is more prudent to act on what an expert says? We can all have opinions. In time the outcome may coincide with our opinion. That does not make our opinion now a good basis for our actions now. This holds for anything that requires expertise. (Presumptuous is not an insult. You write on the presumption that your opinion carries weight. High intelligence, wide diplomatic experience, and heroic efforts in human rights do not qualify you to assess combined forces operations on a massive scale.) … In my ‘umble and wholly unqualified opinion.

  • Wally Jumblatt

    I think this is the problem with diplomats trying to find a solution.
    They insist it’s a game of chess, and you just trade pieces.
    I suspect if you asked the Russian-speakers in Donbas / Luhansk
    a) did they mind being a trade-off so Crimea could get legitimised?
    b) did they expect the bombing and brutalising of them since 2014 to stop if they accepted Kiev’ ‘adoption’?
    c) did they think there would be any national Ukrainian investement in their region ‘after it all settled down’?
    d) did they still expect to be in control of their farms, workshops, homes after 10 years, or even have a majority of Russian-speakers?
    e) did they expect any UN peace-keeping force to provide a meaningful guarantee, given the history of under-armed soldiers in light blue helmets and neatly pressed fatigues, if Kiev got back control over them?
    f) did they expect the Azov battalions to pack up and go home once a settlement has been signed?

    Why not try and establish the rights and wrongs of the situtation, and talk to the locals.
    At the very least, and settlement must be based on the current front line, if not a logical geographical line further west (river) or logical language and cultural line (Russians & Russian native-tongue speakers).

    • Stevie Boy

      IMO we are at the position now where Donbass will be treated the same as Crimea, ie. no discussion, fait accompli, they are now autonomous Russian states/provinces – the Ukraine has lost them, get over it, move on.
      Next will be the Odessa region and Transnistria. Ukraine ‘could’ prevent this by declaring neutrality, rejecting NATO/EU and laying down their arms. The USA and UK won’t let them do this, so they will lose their coast.
      Once access to the Black Sea is lost the West will lose interest and probably shift their focus to the Baltics (Finland and Sweden).

  • Mark Sharkey

    “Russia hands back all other Ukrainian territory, including the Donbass”.

    As someone who wants independence for Scotland, I find this rather puzzling. Donbass is not Russia’s to hand back. Their position in Ukraine was intolerable so they declare themselves independent. I would have thought you would have supported this and it is what should happen if this ends. If the territories should subsequently want to rejoin Ukraine or join Russia, surely it would be up to themselves to decide.

  • Kaiama

    The chances of CM sticking his oar into this comment section is IMHO precisely zero.
    Still, he did provoke the commenters… there’s a lot of provocation about these days.

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