Has the West stopped diplomatic negotiations over Ukraine?
by David Goessmann
As U.S. critic Noam Chomsky points out in an interview, a diplomatic end to the war remains possible. But only if the West, led by the U.S., does not continue to block negotiations. The decisive stumbling block for negotiations is Ukraine’s possible membership in NATO. The U.S., however, continues to leave this open, while Russia is strictly against it.
Ukraine: has the West stopped diplomatic negotiations?
by David Goeßmann
[This article posted on 9/6/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet,
Russian and Ukrainian presidents meet in Minsk in 2014. After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, promising negotiations continued until spring, but then ended abruptly. Image: MYKOLA LAZARENKO / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
In the spring, an agreement between Ukraine and Russia was within reach, Foreign Affairs reports. But negotiations suddenly broke off. What does this have to do with a visit by the British prime minister at the time?
A diplomatic solution, he said, was not possible as long as Russia was at war in Ukraine. At least not one that is acceptable to Ukraine. Therefore, he said, the only way left is the military way of pushing Russian troops out of Ukraine and thus calming the conflict. This is the logic that prevails in the U.S. and Europe in the face of the Ukraine war.
The chances for negotiations are indeed slim at the moment. It looks very much as if the Ukraine war could continue for a long time, with all the consequences that means, especially for Ukrainians:inside.
The gloomy outlook is reinforced by the fact that late last week Ukrainian President Volodymyr Selenskyj cancelled all decrees on the formation of the Trilateral Contact Group (TCG) to settle the situation in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions and disbanded the negotiating delegation. Telepolis has reported on this.
But, as U.S. critic Noam Chomsky points out in an interview also on Telepolis, a diplomatic end to the war remains possible. But only if the West, led by the U.S., does not continue to block negotiations. The decisive stumbling block for negotiations is Ukraine’s possible membership in NATO. The U.S., however, continues to leave this open, while Russia is strictly against it.
As the U.S. journal Foreign Affairs now reports, during negotiations with Russia in April, the Ukrainian leadership appears to have been willing to agree on a deal to end the war. Author Fiona Hill refers to statements by several former U.S. officials:
Russian and Ukrainian negotiators appeared to have tentatively agreed on the broad outlines of a negotiated interim solution (…): Russia would withdraw to its Feb. 23 position, when it controlled part of the Donbass region and all of Crimea, and in return Ukraine would promise not to seek NATO membership and instead receive security guarantees from a number of countries.
But the negotiations eventually broke down. U.S. journalist Branko Marcetic, editor of the U.S. magazine Jacobin, points out that a visit from then British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was likely the reason. He refers to a report by the Western-oriented news site Ukrainska Pravda.
Based on sources close to Selensky, it reported on May 5 that Johnson had paid a surprise visit to Kiev. Afterwards, the Ukrainian delegation had suddenly announced that a high-level meeting between Vladimir Putin and Selenskyj, which had been within reach before, was now no longer possible.
Johnson clarified the West’s collective position at the meeting in Ukraine and delivered two messages, according to Ukrainska Pravda:
Putin is a war criminal and must be pressured instead of negotiating with him. And the second is that even if Ukraine is ready for an agreement with Putin, they will not go down that road.
If it is true that the West stopped diplomatic negotiations in the spring, it also means that the path of negotiations is still open if direct talks between Moscow and Kiev are resumed. For that to happen, however, the U.S. would have to give Russia a promise that it does not want Ukraine to join NATO.
Journalist Connor Echols on Responsible Statecraft believes it is conceivable that recent agreements between Ukraine and Russia on grain exports and regarding the visit of inspectors to the Russian-held Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant could provide a foundation for diplomacy.
Both Kiev and Moscow have shown that they want to mitigate the secondary effects of the conflict, and they are willing to negotiate with the other side to achieve this. But as long as this war drags on, people around the world will continue to suffer, and the specter of disaster-whether from an accidental attack on a nuclear power plant or an uncontrolled escalation to nuclear war-will continue to loom. It is time for Russia, Ukraine, and the West to recognize that there is only one way to put an end to these risks: Put down your weapons and sit down at the negotiating table.