With the capital of his nation currently under fire and reportedly more than 120 Ukrainians killed thus far, Volodymyr Zelensky has put a new offer on the table for Vladimir Putin. He has suggested that the government of Ukraine could officially adopt a “non-aligned status” in its relationship with NATO and the EU. That’s about as close as they could come to taking NATO membership off of the table without NATO’s concurrence and an amendment to Ukraine’s constitution. Such a move would amount to an almost complete reversal of Zlensky’s previous positions and represent a significant capitulation to Russia’s demands. But would Putin even consider such an offer now that he has figuratively crossed the Rubicon and literally crossed Ukraine’s borders? At least according to a Kremlin spokesman, Russia will “analyze” the offer and consider it, but other officials in Moscow sound far more skeptical, to say the least. (Associated Press)
The Kremlin says it will analyze the Ukrainian president’s offer to discuss a non-aligned status for his country, as a Russian military invasion pushes closer to Kyiv.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he was ready to hold talks on the issue.
Asked about Zelenskyy’s offer, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Friday described it as “a move in a positive direction.”
He said in a conference call with reporters that “we paid attention to that, and now we need to analyze it.”
Dmitry Peskov may have been putting a positive spin on the situation, but Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was far more blunt about it. He accused Zelensky of lying and said that the Ukrainian president had “missed his opportunity” when Putin previously suggested a non-aligned status. (I must have missed that offer.) It sounds as if Lavrov is no longer interested in anything short of Zelensky’s head on a platter or at least seeing him locked up in a Moscow labor camp.
The time for negotiations may be over in Putin’s eyes, assuming there ever actually was an opportunity for a peaceful resolution. At the Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan asserts that Vladimir Putin hasn’t left himself an opening to pull his troops back at this point. And it’s likely that he never had any interest in a negotiated settlement in the first place.
It is ugly and will get uglier. Vladimir Putin isn’t going to stop anytime soon. You don’t launch a full-scale military assault on another nation and two days later say, “Oh, I think I’ve made my point,” and go home. He was never interested in negotiations, he was never open to argument, he set this in motion and will follow through to the imagined victory point in his head.
He has shocked the West. He wanted to shock the West.
In doing so he has shattered the European peace, broken international law, and attempted to re-establish brute force as a primary political determinant of the future. All this constitutes a major upheaval.
While it may seem depressing to contemplate, that sounds like a fairly accurate summation of the situation as it stands today. I’m not here to prop up Sergey Lavrov, but any offers made by someone with a gun to their head are unlikely to hold up well over the long term once the gunman leaves. And Noonan sounds correct when she states that Putin has already waded too deeply into the pool to simply hop back out and towel off now.
Perhaps Vladimir Putin sincerely considered a negotiated settlement in the beginning. Or he may have decided to invade the moment the United States and the rest of NATO’s leadership vowed there would be no military response. We will likely never know, but at this point, it really doesn’t matter. The dice have been rolled. There are only two outcomes on the horizon now, neither of them good. Either Putin will dissolve Ukraine entirely and make it part of Russia or he will replace the current government and turn the country into a Russian client state.
The first option doesn’t do much for Putin because his entire objection was based on his desire to not have any NATO countries on the border of Russia. If he absorbs Ukraine entirely, he will have Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, and Poland (all NATO members) on his border. Keeping Ukraine intact in the form of a puppet state at least gives him some sort of buffer, though that doesn’t address the question of Latvia and Estonia. If Putin is seriously looking for an entirely NATO-free border, he’s going to have to invade a lot more countries. In any event, we seem to be marching into some seriously dark times, at least as far as Eastern Europe is concerned.