The Perils of Premature Negotiation Over Ukraine

March 2, 2023
Michael Kimmage and Hanna Notte

The following is an excerpt from the Wall Street Journal.

One year after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the engines of diplomacy are revving up. China has proudly put forward a plan to end the war, which Hungary has just endorsed. Throughout the conflict, Turkey has presented itself as a go-between, a NATO member with a direct line to Moscow, joining a long line of states—Brazil, Indonesia, Israel, South Africa and various Arab countries—that have offered to mediate. France, Germany and the United Kingdom have recently floated the idea of giving Ukraine a security guarantee. With increased access to NATO weaponry, it is hoped, Kyiv could work toward a settlement with Russia.

The Biden administration has repeatedly pledged to support Ukraine for “as long as it takes.” But Washington isn’t free from constraints. There is a limit to the money and materiel the U.S. can send to Ukraine. Some Republicans have no stomach for a fight with Russia, and neither the Republicans nor the Democrats wish to be responsible for another “forever war.” As a new election season takes shape, pressure will mount on the Biden administration to find the finish line. Absent the decisive defeat of Russia or Ukraine, the war will have to end with a negotiated settlement.

But in this terrible war, a rushed settlement that fails would be worse than no settlement. A lasting resolution in Ukraine would need to meet three conditions. It will depend on Russia’s acceptance of Ukraine as a diplomatic interlocutor rather than a poker chip on the European playing field. It will depend on Russia and Ukraine reaching an agreement on the territorial configuration of Ukraine, including Crimea and other parts of Ukraine illegally occupied by Russia. And it will depend, above all, on some general agreement between Russia and the West about Russia’s place in Europe, especially in relation to the independent states on its borders. None of these conditions is close to being met.

Continue reading at the Wall Street Journal.

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