Ukraine: international pressure needs to be on Moscow, not Kyiv

Three reality checks.
Image: Bloomberg

Having crossed the 100-day mark, the war in Ukraine is having an ever more obvious, and negative, impact on a wide range of issues. From a global food crisis that could last for years to serious problems with the cost of living and the prospect of a world recession, the lack of an end in sight in the war has western leaders worried and uncertain how best to respond. There are arguments for delaying Russian progress or even attempting to defeat it by strengthening Ukraine militarily, but equally for a quick negotiated settlement based on Ukrainian concessions.

On the settlement front, there have been reports that western pressure has been building on Kyiv to make concessions to Russia to bring the war to an end. These have included former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger’s comments at the World Economic Forum in Davos in May and French president Emmanuel Macron’s warning that Russia must not be humiliated.

Such international pressure that exists on Ukraine does not appear particularly effective, however. The political track on an actual settlement remains obstructed, while humanitarian negotiations and discussions on unblocking Ukrainian Black Sea ports only continue thanks to Turkish and UN mediation.

Nonetheless, efforts to revive political negotiations between Ukraine and Russia are under way. Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov is currently visiting Turkey, which creates an opportunity to explore resuming Turkish-mediated negotiations. In a recent phone call with Russian president Vladamir Putin, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and President Macron urged him “to hold “direct and serious negotiations with Ukraine’s president”. Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has not closed the door to negotiations, insisting in a recent interview that “any war should be ended at the negotiating table”.

But the positions of Moscow and Kyiv remain as far apart as in March. This is unlikely to change until both sides decide they cannot further improve their positions on the battlefield.

Entrenched positions

Such a change is hardly imminent. We are seeing an ongoing battle in Donbas and endless Russian rhetoric about liberating the region. For Moscow, trying to secure Ukrainian territory and entrenching its control in the east and south remains a priority.

As for Ukraine, its often stated of “pushing Russian forces back to positions occupied before the February 24 invasion” and eventually restoring “full sovereignty over its territory” shows no signs of seeking any kind of surrender. Moreover, western partners, including the United States and the United Kingdom continue to supply Ukraine with weapons while the EU keeps tightening sanctions on Russia.

Fighting therefore remains intense and costly for both sides. The military situation on the ground in Ukraine has changed little in recent weeks, with both sides gaining and losing territory in different areas along an approximately 500km front line. Despite predictions to the contrary, Ukrainian defences have not collapsed. Ukraine has lost some ground in Donbas, but made important gains around Kharkiv which strengthened its determination to prevail over Russian invaders.

For Kyiv and its western allies, any agreement that consolidates the Kremlin’s control over Russian-occupied territories in the Donbas and Black Sea region plays into Putin’s hands. In fact, pushing for a defeat of Russia in Ukraine has become a key message from several western capitals. This is considered by some as the best way to curb future Russian adventurism and reassure key allies inside and outside of Nato, from the Baltic states to Moldova and Taiwan.

Three reality checks

Talk of western pressure on Ukraine is also misguided for three additional reasons. One is the fact that no settlement will stick that does not have Ukrainian backing, including public support which at the moment does not favour concessions of any kind.

Second, there is ultimately not much western appetite for putting pressure on Ukraine. After all, pressing for Ukrainian concessions would be self-defeating in the quest for security and stability in Europe.

Unless Russia realises that the west is willing and able to push back, a new, stable security order in Europe will not be possible. Concessions to Russia, by Ukraine or the EU and Nato, are not the way to achieve this. That this has been realised beyond Ukraine’s most ardent supporters in the Baltic states, Poland, the UK and the US is clear from German support for strengthening Nato’s northern flank and a general increase in Nato members’ defence spending.

And finally, ending the war is not just about Ukrainian concessions. It takes two to negotiate a peace settlement and stick to it. Pressure on Ukraine would be insufficient to bridge the deep gap in trust that currently exists. Peace between Russia and Ukraine – whether by military victory or a negotiated peace deal – is not the end of the much wider current crisis of the European and global security order which must be resolved.

The focus of the west, therefore, needs be on continuing pressure on Russia, rather than Ukraine. This may not bring about a quick end to the Russian invasion, but a permanent one.The Conversation

Stefan Wolff, Professor of International Security, University of Birmingham and Tatyana Malyarenko, Professor of International Relations, National University Odesa Law Academy

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


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Kiev must clear its own mines.

Washington must stop planting weapons.

Moscow must stop the special operation.

the ukranians did not need mines to sink the pride of the russian army…

Time to change things

putin has realised his army cannot win man to man so he is now carpet bombing with longrange missiles and artillery. It is time the rest of the world gives ukraine weapons that can reach as far as the systems that attack them. Satellite systems can pinpoint the location of russian missile batteries seconds after they fire on Ukraine. Anti missile systems can intercept the missiles and at same time offensive missiles can destroy the attackers.

If that is 100km inside russia, so be it. Putin can choose to attack from deep inside russia or not. Actions always have consequences.

Buys, you are blindly following US and UK narrative, like it takes just one to tango.

The story has more dimensions that what you want to sprout.

Kiev wouldn’t have planted mines, if they weren’t invaded by Russia.
Europe and the USA wouldn’t send weapons if Ukraine wasn’t invaded.
Yeah, a ceasefire would be nice to start with, but I don’t think Putin will easily agree.
And although nobody likes a long, protracted war, with enormous number of casualties, and massive material, economic consequences, getting Russia completely out of Ukraine, should be the only real outcome that can make clear to the Kremlin that they simply cannot continue annexing, impounding parts or complete neighbouring countries.
This is not a bad article, the original on The Conversation drew also plenty of interesting comments, introducing me to the term: Putin versteher.
Putin apologist.
The arguments in that article of a well known SA economist married to a Russian lady here on MW about a week back, that Ukraine is highly corrupt, and that the Ukraine would have acted violently, and even murdered a few Russian speakers in East Ukraine, can never be enough reason for a wholesale military invasion of a whole country that must have caused probably already 40,000-100,000 casualties.
And it is in many ways a case of the pot and the kettle. There is also massive corruption in Russia. How did those oligarchs accrue so quickly such enormous wealth ? Corruption and cronyism.
At least there is a far more open press in Ukraine, a better working democracy, and more freedom for citizens in Ukraine.

According to Transparency International, Ukraine is indeed rated badly in corruption at Nr 122. They are however ahead of the Russian rating at 136. Neighbor Iran at 150 is lucky that putin did not invade it first as part of its efforts to clean up corruption…

The victim must stop being difficult, sympathisers must stop helping and it would be good for the rapist to stop.
You should experience it yourself first..

It is wrong referring to “western” opposition to russia. With exception of china, india, rsa, north korea and assorted basket cases there is global opposition to the little poison dwarf. Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Mexico, Europe, Canada, USA, UK, Australia and NZ, most of Africa and most South America, etc etc.

“Emmanuel Macron’s warning that Russia must not be humiliated.” I wonder how Macron would feel if the following happened to his personal family or relatives.

So in a more domestic scenario, a gang of thugs breaks into your home, strips you naked, kills your wife, rapes your daughters, steals or destroys anything of value and yet you must be nice to them because the neighbours don’t want their gang boss to feel “humiliated”?
Get a life Macron …

And if Mr Kissinger thinks that “We should strive for long-term peace.” … on who’s terms? The thug boss or the helpless family? In Mr Kissinger’s case, it’s “follow the money”. As usual.
Since the rule of Stalin in 1922, Russia has never wanted to assimilate and integrate in global economics or policies in a productive fashion but has constantly been a divisive force. Why, is probably though their lack of commercial competitiveness, innovation and sense of inferiority in global culture as a consequence of the abject failure of communism as a style of life and economics. Greed and corruption has always been at the root of it (now nicely accepted by the ANC and their clique) and this is the result: a despotic thug at the helm who’s psychopathy and sense of inferiority is expressed in violence and brutality in the same way that he and his fellows did when he was an intrinsic part of the KGB.

Be “nice” to Putin? You would have more success putting your hand into a sack of rattlesnakes.

Oh! And hello Putinistas!

End of comments.



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