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Post In What Way are the Three Conditions "Unacceptable" to Ukraine?
Created by John Eipper on 05/10/22 4:07 AM

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In What Way are the Three Conditions "Unacceptable" to Ukraine? (Cameron Sawyer, USA, 05/10/22 4:07 am)

Boris Volodarsky wrote: "All those ‘conditions' suggested here are absolutely unacceptable to Ukraine."

I'm sorry--"absolutely"? And who is "Ukraine"? Did she tell Boris personally what is acceptable and unacceptable to her?

There is of course no personified "Ukraine"--there are different people with different points of view, different leaders with different ideas, different political groups.

The first condition, Ukrainian neutrality, is clearly not "absolutely unacceptable" to many Ukrainians, including Ukraine's main leader, Zelensky, who has specifically stated that NATO membership won't happen and that neutrality is on the table. See for example https://www.france24.com/en/europe/20220327-live-kyiv-accuses-russia-of-destroying-fuel-and-food-storage-depots-in-ukraine . "Ukraine is willing to become neutral and compromise over the status of the eastern Donbas region as part of a peace deal, President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Sunday." In fact over the years there has rarely been a majority of Ukrainians in favor of NATO membership altogether, even without war.

The second condition, autonomy for Donbas, was already agreed to by the previous Ukrainian administration when Minsk II was signed, at least, limited autonomy. That administration was thrown out of office by Ukrainian voters for, among other things, refusing to implement that agreement. One of Zelensky's main campaign planks was implementing Minsk II and making peace with Russia, and 70% of Ukrainian voters voted for Zelensky, with this plank. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minsk_agreements#cite_note-39

The third condition, Crimea, is a fait accompli, as is recognized by a wide spectrum of Ukrainian society. It was wrong for Russia to take Crimea the way it did, and Ukrainians are right to be indignant about it, but it's a fact on the ground which must be dealt with in some way. Zelensky has on several occasions indicated that Crimea is an issue he would be willing to compromise on; see for example: https://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/library/news/ukraine/2021/ukraine-211211-presstv03.htm ; and https://www.republicworld.com/world-news/russia-ukraine-crisis/ukraines-zelenskyy-on-accepting-crimea-as-russias-part-will-discuss-and-find-compromise-articleshow.html

So I'm really not quite sure what Boris is talking about. Or perhaps Boris thinks Zelensky is a Russian agent?* That the only "real" Ukraine is that represented by extreme nationalists who, with US backing, oppose any compromise and desire to fight to the last man and woman?** Is that what Boris really wants? I don't think it's what most Ukrainians want, and it's explicitly not what Zelensky wants. Because failing Western entry into the war with boots on the ground, which has been specifically excluded by both Biden and NATO, it's either some kind of compromise to get to peace, or it's a war of attrition until one side is bled to death and Ukraine is ground into dust. We need to get beyond rage and hatred and try to think soberly and rationally about this. People are dying and cities are being destroyed.

Yes, Putin is evil. We all agree about that. But to know that is not to know nearly enough. We need more than our livers (to paraphrase Tor Guimaraes) for use as thinking organs, to figure this one out.

*US taxpayer money has been spent propagating the theory that Zelensky is, in fact, a Russian agent, or, alternatively, that Zelensky surrounds himself with Russian agents, or sells the Ukrainian energy sector to Russian agents. Until the very eve of the war, this was a main theme of nationalist propaganda. See, for example https://argumentua.com/stati/s-zelenskogo-rezidentura-spetssluzhb-ros-0 ; https://znaj.ua/politics/327130-yermak-rosiyskiy-agent-v-otochenni-zelenskogo-oleksiy-venediktov ; https://euroin.org.ua/komanda-zelenskoho-stavyt-ukrayinsku-enerhetyku-pid-kontrol-otochennya-andriya-derkacha-vyznanoho-tsru-i-minfinom-ssha-rosiyskym-ahentom/

**Some background about the complex internal situation in Ukraine, and Zelensky's problems with nationalists, here: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/10/world/europe/ukraine-nationalism-russia-invasion.html

JE comments:  Today's WAIS opens with two emphatic positions:  do not compromise with evil (Boris Volodarsky), or compromise to save lives and property (Cameron Sawyer).  Yet "compromise" as presented so far is a one-way street:  Ukraine yields on the demands, and Putin just might compromise by standing down his forces.  This looks like a victory for Putin, and certainly he would spin it that way.

Mendo Henriques recently cautioned us against the personification of nations, as what they "think" or "want."  Cameron Sawyer goes one further to make this point, using the feminine personification "she."  Very 19th century.  I believe he does this for effect.


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  • Who Suggests that Zelensky is a Russian Agent? (Alan Levine, USA 05/10/22 2:11 PM)
    Cameron Sawyer wrote: "US taxpayer money has been spent propagating the theory that Zelensky is, in fact, a Russian agent, or, alternatively, that Zelensky surrounds himself with Russian agents, or sells the Ukrainian energy sector to Russian agents. Until the very eve of the war, this was a main theme of nationalist propaganda."

    The links Cameron sent with evidence for this claim are in Russian and I did not see a translate feature so I wasn't able to examine them. But I have never heard an official of the US government suggest that Zelensky or those around him are Russian agents. So even if money provided by the US to a group has argued this, it is not the view of the US government or any of its agencies that I am aware of.


    JE comments:  An important question.  One thing we now know:  Zelensky is not a Russian agent, even if some of the nationalist (Ukrainian) hardliners believed he was prior to February 24th.


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  • In a Peace Deal, What Should Ukraine Demand? (Cameron Sawyer, USA 05/11/22 12:39 PM)
    JE wrote: "'Compromise' as presented so far is a one-way street: Ukraine yields on the demands, and Putin just might compromise by standing down his forces."

    Compromise has not indeed been "presented as a one-way street." No one ever said that the Ukrainians should just unilaterally accede to these demands. Of course not--I'm not sure where John gets such an idea. There should be a comprehensive agreement where Ukraine gets what the country needs to survive and prosper, in exchange for agreeing to these demands. Ukraine of course has a right to demands of her own, and has fully earned that right with her remarkable resistance to the invasion.


    We actually discussed this before. What should Ukraine demand? I would say:


    1. Effective security guarantees. This will be really tricky--a peace agreement which does not provide this, will just give the Russians time to regroup and do it all over again. Third countries will be required; perhaps a UN peacekeeping force.


    2. Russian withdrawal from all territories outside of Crimea and Donbas.


    3. Significant reparations.


    4. Adequate payment for Crimea. Crimea was part of Ukraine for 23 years and Ukraine invested into Crimea. Ukraine has the right to get that back and then some.


    5. The West should provide significant assistance to rebuilding.


    6. If the EU will take Ukraine on some basis, the Russians should agree to this in exchange for Ukraine's neutrality and no NATO. In any case, free trade with both the EU AND Russia would be very beneficial to Ukraine, and should be demanded by them.



    It would have been far easier to craft a deal before the war started, and I guess that Donbas might have been saved if a deal had been done then.


    Now the deal will be worse, but probably there is still a deal to be done if we will ever get serious about supporting Zelensky against his own nationalists in crafting one. Of course we have already publicly stated that what we desire in Ukraine is that Russia should be weakened, so even publicly we have acknowledged that we are not particularly interested in peace.


    John seems obsessed with the idea that Putin could call some peace deal a "victory."  Of course he will call any deal a "victory"; Putin will never settle for anything which he can't call a victory. No combatant, in fact, ever agrees to peace which can't be called a victory by that combatant, unless that combatant has been already defeated--this is kind of Peace 101. Sun Tzu wrote, in the Art of War: "Build your opponent a golden bridge to retreat across." We have to give something, to get something. Giving some appearance is the cheapest thing we can give, to save Ukraine from destruction.


    Bill Burns, the current Director of the CIA, recently said that "[Putin] is in a frame of mind in which he doesn't believe he can afford to lose." We do not want to find out what a desperate, cornered Putin will do, if we refuse to agree to any end to the war, just because it would give Putin a way to spin it as a "victory" (which of course no outcome of this war will ever be for Russia in reality), if we can even corner him at all, which is by no means certain without American boots on the ground. It would be the height of stupidity, to destroy Ukraine, and possibly the world, out of such an impulse.


    Boris Volodarsky recently opined that Ukraine will win militarily, and will reconquer not only Donbas, but Crimea. We shall see. I don't know of a single military analyst who thinks this is possible. The Pentagon recently commented that Ukrainian casualties are running even higher than Russian ones, despite Ukrainian military successes and despite Western weaponry and supplies. If that is true, how long can the Ukrainians hold out? Ukraine has 1/3 of the population, 1/10 of the active military personnel, compared to Russia. Does Boris really think that Ukraine can win a long war of attrition against Russia? Not even Hitler, not even Napoleon, was able to do that, and those were superpowers, which Ukraine is not. A failure to evaluate the military situation realistically, will have disastrous consequences for Ukraine, possibly existential consequences. Remember what Winston Churchill said: "Russia is never as strong as she looks. Russia is never as weak as she looks."


    JE comments:  Russia has always been at its strongest in a defensive war.  In this sense, the Ukraine conflict is different.  For starters, Russia in Ukraine cannot retreat infinitely, allowing the enemy to exhaust itself and stretch its supply lines to unsustainable lengths. 


    Cameron, your six tenets are spot-on, and just might work.  Yet is there any realistic scenario, short of utter defeat, by which Putin would agree to reparations?


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