US-German 'Peace Talks Plot' Shows West on Brink of Losing Ukraine
17:28 GMT 25.11.2023 (Updated: 20:09 GMT 28.11.2023)
The two Western powers are reportedly trying to force Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky into entering into talks with Russia, per German newspaper Bild. What's behind the report and its timing?
Washington and Berlin have reportedly kicked off a plot to push Ukraine for negotiations with Russia by slashing military supplies to Kiev
and leaving Volodymyr Zelensky with little if any options, according to the German publication.
According to Bild, there is also a plan B envisaging a frozen conflict that would solidify a new quasi-border between Ukraine and Russia along the contact line.
"First, [this report] should be seen in a specific temporal context," Dmitry Evstafiev, a political scientist and High School of Economics (HSE) University professor, told Sputnik. "This is not a statement, of course, this is a publicity stunt. It appeared in the media almost immediately after the end of the meeting of the notorious Ramstein group that has made an essential decision to create the [Ground Based] Air Defense coalition to strengthen air defense. Moreover, it is quite obvious that they will strengthen not so much the air defense of Ukraine, but the air defense of the countries bordering Ukraine. Therefore, this is a kind of first proposal that it is necessary to take certain political steps that would indicate that Ukraine is ready for negotiations."
24 November 2023, 17:10 GMT
The second aspect is an interview given by the leader of the Servant of the People faction, Davyd Arakhamia, which is "clearly synchronized with the West." According to Evstafiev, it is "even more indicative against the backdrop of problems at the front."
Speaking to Ukrainian journalists, Arakhamia noted that Russia's main condition during the March 2022 peace talks with Kiev was Ukraine's neutrality and guarantees that the Eastern European country wouldn't join NATO. (It was Arakhamia who headed the Ukrainian delegation during the negotiations with Russians in Belarus and Türkiye in 2022.) In addition, he debunked the Western media narrative that Russia does not want to negotiate peace with Ukraine by saying that Moscow is open to talks and it may start them when Kiev is ready.
"At the moment, [Western] support to Kiev is becoming more and more politically expensive/costly, or whatever you want to call it, for the key countries that provide assistance, these are, first of all: Germany and the United States," said Evstafiev. "The United States has already almost halted aid [to Ukraine]. Of course, there will still be a revaluation through the Pentagon, but one can no longer expect large packages."
"Assistance from the European Union will be largely aimed at maintaining the functionality of the public administration system and some kind of social support, but not so much for military support
. Therefore, the first point is that support for Kiev has become toxic in terms of politics.
"The second point, which is absolutely clearly visible from the statements of Western sources, is that Kiev now faces the last moment when it can lay claim to more or less acceptable terms of a truce with Moscow. (…) The third point – which Westerners do not conceal – is that Russia will agree to any starting conditions for these negotiations. Arakhamia speaks about this directly, openly and without hesitation."
21 November 2023, 14:31 GMT
West Gives Nothing Short of Ultimatum to Zelensky
Per the German newspaper, the US and Germany are going to supply Ukraine with limited amounts of weapons that would be enough to hold the line but not enough to launch a new offensive. This, the publication claims, would force Zelensky to consider a peace deal.
"This proposed manipulation appears to be quite effective," said the academic. "Where else could Zelensky get weapons? [Weapons] that had remained on the territory of the former Ukrainian SSR, in the warehouses of the Soviet army, had already clearly been exhausted. The Ukrainian Armed Forces are increasingly fighting with Western weapons. That is, the number of Soviet and Ukrainian weapons is decreasing, and at a very rapid pace, especially in the last four to five months. The Armed Forces of Ukraine will be able to fight only with Western weapons, and (…) without logistical support from NATO, the armored forces of the Ukrainian Army would stop operations in about four to five weeks."
Still, Evstafiev believes that the West wouldn't waste time on convincing Zelensky to start talks. It's more likely that they would give him an ultimatum: either he joins Russia at the negotiating table or his successor will
. Zelensky is by no means indispensable in the eyes of the West, according to the professor.
The West "needs a person who is willing to buy time in exchange for territory," said Evstafiev. Someone would stabilize the state system in Ukraine, carry out some reforms, ease the pressure on Ukrainians, "because the Zelensky regime has tightened the screws in terms of political and religious freedoms much deeper than is acceptable for the Americans and Germans," per the expert.
When it comes to Zelensky, it would be very hard for him to reverse his months-long position on peace talks with Russia, according to Evstafiev. One should keep in mind that previously, the Ukrainian president issued a decree making bargaining with Moscow illegitimate. "This is absolutely unacceptable for Zelensky and his entourage," the professor remarked.
The West is well aware of that and considering changing horses in the stream: "They have already indicated – it has already been openly written – that a new [Charles] de Gaulle is needed. Ukraine needs its own de Gaulle, who will abandon Ukrainian Algeria, which means the Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics and Crimea."
(During a major armed conflict between France and the Algerian National Liberation Front (1954-1962) then-French President Charles de Gaulle came to the conclusion that continuing to hold on to Algeria, then a French colony, would exhaust France's resources and weaken its position in Europe. On July 5, 1962, Algeria won independence.)
22 November 2023, 14:22 GMT
Why Has West Started Pushing Ukrainian Peace Talks Narrative?
While some Western policy-makers apparently view Commander-in-Chief Gen. Valery Zaluzhny as Ukraine's de Gaulle, the problem is that he is unlikely to give up ambitions of taking back the Zaporozhye and Kherson regions, according to Evstafiev. Both regions voted in local referendums to join Russia and officially became Russia's new territories starting from September 2022.
Given that hardliners within the Ukrainian civil and military leadership are still strong, the West has a limited number of options. Hence plan B – a "frozen conflict" – cited by the German newspaper.
"All these negotiations are just an attempt to gain time to stabilize the internal situation in the territory now controlled by the Kiev regime. In my opinion, this needs to be paid attention to," Evstafiev pointed out.
What's behind the West's attempts to stabilize the situation at all costs? The answer is clear, per the academic:
"What scares Westerners the most is not even the defeat at the front. Most of all Westerners – and I think they have an adequate idea of what is happening in [Ukraine's] rear – are frightened by the possibility of a quick and catastrophic collapse of the public administration system [in Ukraine]. That’s why they are putting so much pressure, I might say, somewhat hysterically, to freeze the situation and try to somewhat restore the stability inside, in the rear," Evstafiev concluded.