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Post In a Peace Deal, What Should Ukraine Demand?
Created by John Eipper on 05/11/22 12:39 PM

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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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