Russia has learned not to trust America’s false peace overtures

Dec 6, 2023
Chess pieces - kings in the colors of flags of Russia and the US are bent to each other, and between them a pawn in the colors of the Ukrainian flag. The concept of geopolitical struggle. Image:iStock

Western capitals now openly acknowledge the reality that their proxy war in Ukraine has run out of steam. Desperate new policy directions are being discussed in NATO circles. But a decision to end the war will be taken only by Moscow.

An article by Big Serge, Russo-Ukrainian War: The reckoning on 16 November 2023 offered an in-depth detailed analysis by a military expert of how the war is going. In summary, Big Serge claims that the war has reached a stage when:

‘ … despite Russia’s many obvious advantages (which in the end come down to a superior indigenous capacity to mobilize men, industrial output, and technology), it became “propaganda” to argue that Russia was going to achieve some sort of victory in Ukraine – that Ukraine would end the war having failed to re-attain its 1991 borders (Zelensky’s stated victory condition) and with the country in a wrecked state of demographic hollowing and material destruction.

‘At last, we seem to have reached a denounement phase, where this view – allegedly an artifact of Kremlin influence, but in reality the most straightforward and obvious conclusion – is becoming inescapable. Russia is a bigger fighter with a much bigger bat.’

The Economist lead article on 29 November (‘Russia is poised to take advantage of political splits in Ukraine – politics has returned, but the fighting has gone nowhere’) came to similar gloomy conclusions. Relations between President Zelensky and military commander-in-chief Zaluzhny are said to be terrible. A blame game is now underway about who is responsible for the failure of Kiev’s summer counter-offensive which went nowhere at huge and tragic cost in Ukrainian lives and weapons. Public trust in the president has fallen to a net +32%, less than half that of the still popular General Zaluzhny (at +70%).

The Economist claims that Russia is already trying to capitalise on the ambitions and tensions in play now in Kiev. But it admits that Russian propaganda has gained traction because it has material to play with: ‘corruption, ineffective management, incomplete mobilization’.

A much-discussed article by Seymour Hersh on 2 December (‘General to General’, Substack paid) reported leaks to him from unnamed US officials that secret peace discussions are already underway between Generals Gerasimov and Zaluzhny, and that Ukrainian acquiescence in the loss of Ukrainian territory already occupied by Russia followed by Russian acceptance of Ukraine joining NATO is the package under discussion.

It is clear from my reading of London and Washington media that Washington elite speculation on the need for policy change in Kiev towards greater realism, and possibly accompanied by US-engineered regime change there, is now mounting. Zelensky’s usefulness to the US may be coming to an end.

There is growing speculation, e.g, Hersh, that a Zaluzhny-supported new government in Kiev could credibly enter into peace negotiations with Moscow, framed by the present military and political situation in the war; and that Russia would keep Crimea and all the areas it now holds in Lugansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhie and Kherson oblasts. Once such an outcome had been agreed with Russia, the diminished state of Ukraine – no longer at war with Russia – could be quickly and legally fast-tracked into NATO and thereafter enjoy the security protections of NATO’s Articles 1 and 5.

With Ukraine safely in NATO, any further outbreak of fighting between Ukraine and Russia would by necessity bring in as combatants the other front-line NATO states: Romania, Poland, the three Baltic States, maybe Finland as well. The theory is that with the active military participation of these NATO countries – especially of well-armed and well-motivated Poland – the West could have more success in ‘containing Russian aggression’, i.e. acting aggressively towards Russia, than it has had in the Russo-Ukrainian war which has not gone well for Kiev since the Russian strategic recast in September 2022.

It is argued by some in the West now that only Zelensky’s obstinacy stands in the way of such a desirable peace process. The Ukrainian people are desperate for peace and would be ready to give up claims to Crimea and the four lost provinces for the sake of peace under a NATO security guarantee.

What could go wrong with this scenario? In my opinion, a great deal.

First and foremost, its utter unacceptability to Russia. Russia’s main objective in starting the Special Military Operation on 24 February 2022 was to return Ukraine to a treaty-guaranteed neutrality between East and West that had prevailed before the 2014 Maidan coup. It has been a basic objective of Moscow since 1991 to keep Ukraine out of NATO. Russia would have no reason, now that Russia is on the cusp of winning the war decisively, to risk or compromise this objective. Too many lives have been lost on both sides in this essentially, as Russia sees it, fratricidal war.

Russia knows that a future anti-Russian Banderist administration in Kiev, protected by NATO membership, could provoke resumed hostilities with Russia whenever it and its Washington patrons thought the time was ripe, as they did in early 2022; but this time, with the NATO front-line states necessarily brought into the fighting as Ukraine’s military allies. Meanwhile, NATO plus Ukraine could keep the pressure up on Russia, by further remilitarizing Eastern European states against Russia.

Secondly, the emerging public scepticism in the NATO frontline states themselves. Hungary and Slovakia already have opposed such a plan. The Czech Republic is wobbly.  Even in Poland and the Baltic states, there are emerging voices pointing out the dangers to them of letting Ukraine into NATO. Even in Western Europe (as seen by the recent electoral success of Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, and Macron’s increasing scepticism), anti-NATO views are gaining force.

Might this trial balloon then be more of a US/UK information warfare ploy: an attempt to wrong-foot Russia in the court of world opinion?

Such a script might run:  We in the West are genuinely trying to bring peace in Ukraine. We have removed the failed Zelensky and installed a realistic pro-peace government in Kiev that accepts unavoidable losses of territory, and wants now to join NATO and enjoy full NATO protection. Isn’t this the best road to peace now? Would not Russia be intransigent if it rejects such a stable peace?

This scenario is possible. I can only trust that Russia and its friends in China and the Global South will continue to see through and expose the essential deception of any such Western ploy.

Russia has effectively won this tragic war. It will not let itself be fooled by a regime change in Kiev manipulated by Washington and London, trying desperately to snatch some sort of diplomatic victory out of their military defeat in Ukraine.

Russia has learned not to trust American false peace overtures. It remembers the treacherous Minsk peace accords process. It remembers that Boris Johnson was sent to Kiev in April 2022 to destroy a peace agreement initialled by Moscow and Kiev negotiators in Istanbul: 400,000 Ukrainian lives and much former Ukrainian territory would have been saved had that peace agreement been upheld by the West. But the US and UK wanted the war to proceed: they thought they had made Ukraine strong enough to exhaust Russia in war and to provoke regime change there. How wrong they were, and how the people of Ukraine have paid.

Russia will be on its guard this time. Russian morale is excellent. The war will continue until the Russian National Security Council led by Russia’s President decides that it is safe for Russia to bring the war to an end.

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