Concessions and Truces Never Win Wars, Cold or Hot.   -   March 16, 2022

Ukraine And Russia Are Talking.  How Can America Help Zelenskyy?

Truce talks are underway, to be followed at some point by peace talks.  But Russia’s Vladimir Putin is an adamant aggressor.  He can’t be trusted to keep his word.  So any truce/peace must concede only the bare minimum necessary for Putin to save face and withdraw.

Russian and Ukrainian representatives have been holding talks to reach agreement on ending the Russo-Ukraine war.  It’s a tough situation for both sides. Consider:

  • Putin likely feels he can’t withdraw with nothing gained.  He is Russia’s “President for Life,” but that doesn’t mean he’s politically invincible.  Or that he’ll enjoy a long life.
  • Zelenskyy can continue the fight only at great cost in Ukrainian infrastructure and blood.
  • Compromise will likely involve Ukraine concessions in return for Russian withdrawal.
  • Concessions will reinforce Putin’s belief in ultimate success and guarantee renewed conflict at a future time.

To achieve a deal, Zelenskyy will have to give up something … something that Putin can spin back home as significant enough to have warranted the invasion … something that will save face.  But also something that will get Russian forces out and allow Ukraine to rebuild and prepare effectively for Putin’s likely future renewed aggression.  Terms might include:

  • Exchange prisoners, repatriate displaced persons.
  • Recognize Crimea as part of Russia.
  • Recognize independence of or cede parts of Donetsk/Luhansk Ukrainian provinces controlled by Russian separatists.
  • Agree to not join NATO.
  • Agree to not allow foreign troops to be stationed in Ukraine.
  • Trade agreements – grain, oil, minerals, etc.
  • Others

Zelenskyy must demand something beyond withdrawal of Russian troops, something that won’t detract much from Putin’s saving face, such as: no Russian military/naval exercises along the Ukraine border, and mutual prevention of cyberattacks on entities/systems within each others’ borders.  But Zelenskyy should be very wary of any concessions that inhibit Ukraine’s ability to improve its own security and defense against almost-certain future Russian aggression.

The United States can be supportive in most of these activities by assuring Zelenskyy we will support him and Ukraine in whatever terms they agree to and by keeping, with most of the rest of the world, economic and other non-direct military pressure on Putin.

Most importantly, America can help negotiations by absolute non-involvement, not even suggesting or discussing potential terms, provisions, outcomes, etc. Any Russo-Ukraine pact must be their pact, without outside pressures.

(For more, preview Adamant Aggressors here.)


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