Zelensky Still Pitching a Peace Deal With Russia

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

It was only Friday when Vladimir Putin suggested a peace deal that could bring an end to the war in Ukraine, but it was a proposal that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky immediately rejected, calling the idea "absurd." He then proceeded to travel to Switzerland for an international conference where world leaders were attempting to craft an alternate peace plan. (They did this despite the fact that neither Vladimir Putin nor Joe Biden attended.) He came away from the meeting singing a different tune, claiming that he would present a different peace plan to Putin after the conference finished voting on the final language. I suppose we can't fault him for trying, but Putin has already put forth his terms. It seems unlikely that he would turn around and agree to something markedly different. (Moscow Times)

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Saturday he would present Moscow a proposal for ending the war once it had been agreed by the international community.

He made the commitment in Switzerland during an address to an inaugural summit on peace in his country, attended by more than 90 countries, but not Russia. Zelensky told the forum he hoped the summit would lay the groundwork for a “just” and “lasting” settlement with Russia.

“We must decide together what a just peace means for the world and how it can be achieved in a lasting way,” he said.

We have yet to see any details from the Swiss proposal but it shouldn't be difficult to guess the direction they are taking. They will almost certainly ask Moscow for additional concessions in terms of territory and some form of reparations to rebuild Ukraine's infrastructure. Other, similar proposals have been informally put forth in the past by other world leaders, but Putin has either rejected or simply ignored them all. 

Why would the Kremlin change course now? As far as they are concerned, time is on their side. Russia's forces have been steadily, if slowly advancing. Vladimir Putin has safely secured another term in office for the coming years and all of his critics inside Russia have conveniently wound up pushing up daisies. He has worked out his supply chain issues by forging new alliances with China, Iran, and North Korea, so he can keep the war machine grinding ahead for quite a while. He has similarly found ways to blunt the sanctions against his country, keeping Russia's economy in relatively good shape and dampening unrest at home.

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What Ukraine and NATO lack in this ongoing engagement is leverage. Vladimir Putin has little to worry about. If anyone else was going to jump into that fight on Ukraine's side, they would have done so by now. Putin knows this. Zelensky can stamp his feet in frustration all he likes, but unless Russia's terms are met or at least very close to being met, Putin has little incentive to consider pulling back. We shouldn't expect him to offer up any significant reparations, either. Doing so would be the equivalent of admitting that he did something wrong and he continues to insist that his invasion was justified and in the best interest of the security of the Russian people.

Yeilding to Russia's demands isn't the outcome that I wanted any more than anyone else. But somebody at that meeting in Switzerland really needs to wake up and deliver a reality check to the rest of the assembly. Unless they plan on threatening Russia with external military force (which isn't going to happen), there probably won't be any sort of peace settlement on the terms Ukraine desires. And sooner or later, if this show isn't shut down, the Russians will start closing in on Kyiv. At that point, it will probably be too late to do anything to save them.

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David Strom 12:40 PM | July 23, 2024
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