Speculations are in the press that Ukraine's western partners are putting pressure on Ukrainian authorities to negotiate with Russia.
There are a number of possible reasons why western partners would desire to push Ukraine to negotiate with Russia.
The war in Ukraine has been the main topic in world media for quite an extended period of time. The world's attention on the Russian-Ukrainian war has become a unique phenomenon. News fatigue, joined by a resentment among Europeans and Amercans over economic repurcussions, is increasing.
Republicans, on their recent campaign trail, implied how record inflation, increased fuel prices, and growing unemployment was caused by a protracted war in Ukraine draining America's pocketbook. The US has already sent Ukraine 66 billion dollars in military and financial aid this calendar year. Ukraine's successful counteroffensive, and the liberation of occupied cities whose infrastructures have been devastated, reinforce the need for the USA to provide even more additional assistance in the future.
NATO member countries have already given Ukraine significant parts of their arsenal, potentially weakening NATO's own defense. “The military stocks of most [European NATO] member states have been, I wouldn’t say exhausted, but depleted in a high proportion, because we have been providing a lot of capacity to the Ukrainians,” said Joseph Borrell, the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg held a special meeting of the alliance’s arms directors in September to discuss ways to refill member nations’ weapons stockpiles.
The winter season has some in panic among the citizens of EU countries. Refusal to supply energy resources from Russia due to sanctions has led to utility bills being doubled. EU citizens and businesses are largely unprepared to deal with these rising costs.
All this and more, indicate how negotiations between Ukraine and Russia to achieve a ceasefire or truce would benefit the West.
However, officials from President Zelenskiy's office clearly state there have been no direct actions to push Ukraine into negotiating with Russia.
On September 30, 2022, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy declared that Ukraine would not negotiate with Russia while Vladimir Putin is president of the Russian Federation.
"Ukraine was and remains a leader in negotiation efforts. Our state always offered Russia to agree on coexistence on equal, honest, dignified, and fair terms. This is impossible with this Russian president. He does not know what dignity and honesty are. Therefore we are ready for a dialogue with Russia, but with another Russian president," Zelenskiy said.
The President's position is understandable knowing Russia's proclivity to violate agreements and break norms of international law. Putin cannot be trusted to conduct legitimate and fair negotiations. Under Putin's dictatorship, Russian national policy is unlikely to change.
The Ukrainian government believes that Russia can be defeated only on the field of battle. This policy has strong support among the population of Ukraine. According to a recent social study by Gradus Research 69% of Ukrainians think that a peace agreement with Russia is unattainable, 26% of Ukrainians believe that Ukraine should negotiate with Russia, and 5% couldn't give a clear answer. It's clear that any state movement in the direction of negotiations will have a significant public pushback. Also, taking care of his current high presidential rating, President Zelenskiy is unlikely to go against the views of the majority.
Ukraine demonstrated outrage at the suggestion to surrender parts of their eastern territory and Crimea in a peace deal. Billionaire Elon Musk, (who has helped supply Ukraine’s military with satellite communication devices), announced a proposal on Twitter that would allow Russia to cement its control of parts of Ukraine via referendum and officially give Crimea to the Kremlin. The twitterverse exploded in anger from Ukrainians who would have no part of that!
Consider that 84% of Ukrainians are not ready to give up the Russian occupied territories, including Crimea and the Donbas region. The Ukrainian spirit is not broken.
On November 7, 2022, President Zelenskiy revised his perspective on negotiating with Russia. During his G20 speech, Zelenskiy named five points for possible talks with the Kremlin:
- Complete restoration of territorial integrity;
- Respect for the UN Charter;
- Compensation for all losses caused by the war;
- pPunishment of every war criminal;
- Guarantees that the invasion will not happen again.
Politico and the Washington Post both point out that President Zelenskiy no longer says he will not negotiate while Putin is President.
This shift, according to Politico, took place after the US President’s National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan's visit to Ukraine. According to the article, US officials did not directly tell Zelensky and his assistants to change their position. It was discussed that Kyiv should demonstrate its willingness to end the fighting, and show the world that Russia remains the unreasonable aggressor.
Why Russia Would Like to Negotiate?
Russia is not doing very well on the field of battle. Since the beginning of the invasion in February 2022, Russia has lost over 80,000 personnel and hundreds of military vehicles and hardware, comparable to the military arsenal of several small countries. Their financial expenses are also staggering - around 82 billion dollars, a quarter of Russia's annual budget.
Despite heavy losses, the aggressor doesn't want to stop the war. The Kremlin frequently repeats that they haven't given up on achieving their goals in Ukraine. Additonally, the military budget will be increased by 40 percent in 2023.
At the same time, Putin continues to assure the media he is looking forward to negotiations with Ukraine. Losing tactical advantage on the battlefield forces Russia to consider negotiations for ulterior reasons: to regroup their forces and replenish their missile and drone fleets, and much of that through Iranian supply lines.
Recently, the Russian news agency Interfax cited Putin's press-secretary Sergey Peskov, who stated that by attacking Ukrainian critical infrastructure, the Kremlin tries to pressure Ukraine to negotiate, achieving the same goals they try to accomplish on the battlefield.
What are Russia's Goals?
The Kremlin has not abandoned the ultimate goal of regaining control over Ukraine, but it has obscured them in order to mislead Western countries and force Ukraine to demand peace.
According to ISW, on October 26, Putin declared that Ukraine had "lost its sovereignty" and had come entirely under the control of NATO.
During a speech at the “Valdai Discussion Club” on October 27, Putin again denied Ukraine's sovereignty, stressing that Russia "created" Ukraine and that "the only real guarantee of Ukrainian sovereignty" can be Russia.
Putin has also consistently maintained that Ukraine is a Nazi state that should be 'denazified.' Putin's demands are tantamount to regime change.
In fact, behind all Putin’s statements is the genocide of the Ukrainian people, and the destruction of all Ukrainian culture, language, and history.
Unable to resist the Ukrainian armed forces, Russia has increasingly resorted to terrorism, frequently shelling Ukrainian critical infrastructure and expending its remaining missile stock targeting electric power stations. On November 23, the European Parlament declared Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism.
Diplomacy Doesn't Work
Ukraine already has a notorious experience negotiating with Russia. Putin used the Minsk agreements, which Ukraine signed on September 5, 2014, as a smokescreen while they accumulated their arsenal, spun the flywheel of disinformation and propaganda, sowed hatred for the people of Ukraine, and сreated an enemy image of the whole western world.
There have been five rounds of peace talks to halt Russia's 2022 invasion in Ukraine during the Spring of 2022. In Belarus, the Ukrainian delegation demanded the withdrawal of troops, including from Crimea and Donbas. Russia insisted on its own terms, and by default the parties agreed on only a few issues regarding humanitarian corridors. Even the agreements on humanitarian corridors were repeatedly violated by the Russian side. Russian troops fired on humanitarian and evacuation convoys.
Russia stated that the withdrawal of its forces from Kyiv and Chernihiv regions was a result of these peace talks; but in reality, their troops left these territories due to the many failures and defeat. The negotiations stopped in April-May 2022 when photographic evidence of Russian war crimes in Bucha, and other cities of the Kyiv region, spread around the world.
"With every new Bucha, with every new Mariupol, with every new city, where dozens of innocent people are killed, cases of rape, with every new Russian crime, the desire and opportunity to negotiate, as well as the opportunity to resolve this issue diplomatically, is lost."' President Zelensky said in May.
All statements by Putin about his desire for negotiations and truces are only attempting to find a way to put the war on pause. There is no doubt that time is one weapon in Putin's arsenal, and after eight years of playing a diplomacy game, Ukraine shouldn't give him the possibility to use time as a weapon again.
Having different views on negotiations and the conditions of a possible “peace deal,” Ukraine and Russia will continue the war on the front line. Ukraine achieved a breaking point in the war - the liberation of Kherson. After this, negotiations with Russia would be a step backward for Ukraine, and allow Russia to avoid the responsibility for the war crimes they have committed, or allow them to commit new ones.