Will Zelenskyy fight … give in … sell out?
There are three theories floating around the media sphere regarding the eventual end of the Ukraine War. The first is that President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will never surrender to any of the demands of Russian Madman Vladimir Putin. In the extreme, those proffering this opinion is that Zelensky will not settle for going back to the pre-invasion situation with Russia controlling the Crimea and extending hegemony over the Donbass Region.
The second speculation is that Zelenskyy will have to make some concessions – that Putin will not give up without minimally a face-saving “victory.” Then there are those who believe that at some point, Zelenskyy will cut a deal with Putin – perhaps even having Putin bribe the Ukrainian leader. In that case, Putin would get some real victories.
The latter two assume that in the long run – and despite the impressive showing of the Ukrainian defense forces – Putin has the power to win the War.
Recently, there are reports that some sort of peace agreement is being advanced – actually put into words. Another report indicated that there is a now “probability” of a meeting between Zelenskyy and Putin to close the deal. The Putin people are not so optimistic.
All things considered, I think that is undue optimism or merely propaganda talk. The obstacles to an agreement at this time are more than enormous. They are virtually insurmountable. In the first place, there would have to be a cease-fire. Any agreement would have to be voted on by the Ukrainian people. And the sides are so far apart on the basic issues that resolution cannot happen unless … unless Zelenskyy completely folds. That would certainly give suspicion to option three above.
So, what are the issues that need to be settled?
- Zelenskyy has already indicated that he would give up the option of joining NATO. NATO is not an important issue since it is unlikely that the Alliance would accept Ukraine’s application for the foreseeable future. But still count this as a small victory for Putin.
BUT … Zelenskyy wants a rock-solid defense agreement from the western nations – and Turkey and Italy have already said they would do that. Since one of the most important provisions of the NATO treaty is mutual defense (Article 5 – an attack on one is an attack on all), Ukraine would have the existential protection without official membership. And Zelenskyy still wants admission into the European Union – meaning that Ukraine officially shifts to the west. That is a big loss for Putin’s dream of restoring the old Soviet evil empire and uniting the Slavic people.
- The land issues. Zelenskyy has been insisting that Russian troops must leave Ukraine – all of Ukraine. He does not get too specific, but it is reasonable to assume that he means the Crimea and the Donbass regions, as well. That would mean more than a draw. The Ukrainians will have totally defeated Russia and totally humiliated Putin. Russian negotiators have indicated that returning the control of the Crimea to Ukraine is non-negotiable. If Putin can retain the Crimea and get an agreement that cedes the Donbass Region to Russia, that would be a HUGE victory for him.
- Another issue are the sanctions. If the shooting stops – and Putin gets some wins in the final agreement – does the west remove the sanctions? The idea of sanctions is to punish Putin for all the bad things he has done. Remember that sanctions are not used to deter, but to punish – and President Biden has told us. To lift the sanctions would be like letting a criminal go free on the promise that he would not commit the crime again.
And along with the sanctions is the question of war crimes. Would a peace agreement include a provision not to pursue the murders of thousands of people? You have at least 300 mostly women and children murdered while taking refuge in that theater in Mariupol. In fact, the entire brutal attack on that city could be considered a war crime. Also, the carnage in Bucha.
If the lifting of sanctions and the lack of war crime prosecution is part of a peace agreement, Putin wins BIG.
- And then there is one issue that I have not seen discussed by all those experts on the telly. Reparations. Will a peace agreement include making Russia compensate Ukraine for all the damage Putin did? Not only the physical damage to the buildings and infrastructure, but compensation for those innocent civilians who died in Putin’s maniacal scorched earth bombing and war crimes.
And should Putin be held accountable for all the damage he did to the world economy? One option could be surrendering a portion of Russia’s oil to the world market to drastically reduce prices.
Returning the Crimea to Ukraine and boot the Russian Navy out of the Crimean port facilities could be seen as a form of reparations – or punishment.
The problem with a negotiated agreement is that Putin is more likely than not to get away with murder … literally. The only just outcome is total defeat. The Russian army in Ukraine must be pounded and pounded until they retreat to Mother Russia. That is why NATO, the European Union and the rest of the free world MUST provide Ukraine with all the support necessary to defeat Putin – including the possibility of military intervention. There is no such thing as a compromise or a stalemate. That is just another word that means “Putin wins.”
Unfortunately, the pointy-headed, pin-striped diplomats – along with their wimpish heads-of-state – do not seem to have victory in their vocabulary. My answer to the headline question is that Zelenskyy will not give in or sell-out … unless the western democracies do so first.
So, there ‘tis.