For Some in NATO, War in Ukraine Is Preferable to Quick Peace Deal
WaPo: Some NATO states prefer Ukrainians continue “fighting and dying” over “a peace that comes too early”
Source: The Libertarian Institute
As the Russian invasion of Ukraine grinds on and the two sides continue negotiations, the Washington Post reports that some NATO states prefer Ukrainians continue “fighting and dying” over “a peace that comes too early,” rejecting any outcome that could be sold as a “victory” for Moscow.
Though Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has repeatedly acknowledged that his country will not join the NATO alliance in recent weeks, some members are loath for Kiev to accept that key Russian demand, according to officials and diplomats cited by the Post.
“Even a Ukrainian vow not to join NATO could be a concern to some neighbors,” the outlet reported. “That leads to an awkward reality: For some in NATO, it’s better for the Ukrainians to keep fighting, and dying, than to achieve a peace that comes too early or at too high a cost to Kyiv and the rest of Europe.”
The revealing Post report comes as Turkey and Israel attempt to broker an agreement that will bring a resolution to the war. While NATO is not a direct party to the talks, a number of member states are likely to play a role in the outcome.
To date, Moscow has made several core demands from the Ukrainian side, seeking territorial concessions in both Crimea and the Donbass in addition to the neutrality pledge. Some NATO states are reluctant to hand Russian President Vladimir Putin “any semblance of victory,” however, fearing he could be “inspired” to launch attacks on other neighbors to gain similar concessions.
“It’s a little tricky for the US and other allies… They don’t want something to come out of the negotiation that isn’t implementable,” former NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow told the Post.
“If the Ukrainians accepted a deal that does involve territorial concessions, it may be good enough for Ukraine in some circumstances, depending on what else they get, but it could set a bad precedent in terms of further legitimizing changing borders by force and by brutal, rapacious conquest, as the Russians are doing in many parts of Ukraine,” he added.
UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has said British sanctions on Moscow will not be removed until all Russian forces have left Ukrainian soil and the country’s full “territorial integrity” is restored, appearing to set conditions regardless of what Kiev decides. Western penalties, then, may persist even if Ukraine agrees to Russia’s terms over disputed territory, potentially dissuading Moscow from any negotiated compromise.
Russia has long protested the continued expansion of NATO toward its borders, presenting security proposals to the US and other member states in December urging the alliance to halt its growth eastward. The offer came amid a major military buildup on Ukraine’s borders and was ultimately rejected, with the Russian invasion commencing just two months later.
With the latest round of face-to-face talks concluding in Istanbul in late March, Russian and Ukrainian negotiators have reportedly arrived at some preliminary agreements, while officials in Kiev predict a future summit between Putin and Zelensky “with a high probability.” It remains to be seen how a final deal will go over in Western capitals, however, or whether NATO states will attempt to scuttle any arrangement they deem too friendly to Moscow.
Source: The Washington Post
Ukraine’s Western backers have vowed to respect Kyiv’s decisions in any settlement to end the war with Russia, but with larger issues of global security at stake, there are limits to how many compromises some in NATO will support to win the peace.
How to end the fighting and support Ukraine will be among the sharpest discussions at a gathering of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels that starts Wednesday. The United States and its allies say that Ukraine must be the ultimate decider as it defends itself, and that it shouldn’t be pushed to make compromises or encouraged to fight longer than it is willing.
But Kyiv’s decisions — and any concessions President Volodymyr Zelensky might embrace — will help determine whether the Kremlin is chastened or emboldened, and nations that have territorial ambitions over their neighbors, such as China, will be watching the outcome. Some NATO allies are especially cautious about ceding Ukrainian territory to Russia and giving Russian President Vladimir Putin any semblance of victory, according to alliance policymakers and analysts.
While Biden administration officials remain skeptical that the Ukrainian government’s negotiations with Russia will lead to a swift deal, officials say they are considering how a settlement — or any end to the fighting, however that might occur — will impact the security of NATO nations.
“We believe that our job is to support the Ukrainians,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan said this week. “They will set the military objectives. They will set the objectives at the bargaining table. And I am quite certain they are going to set those objectives at success, and we are going to give them every tool we can to help them achieve that success. But we are not going to define the outcome of this for the Ukrainians.”
Some European countries, especially formerly communist ones with bitter memories of Russian invasion or occupation, are especially nervous about how the conflict will evolve, seeing themselves as next on the Kremlin’s target list. If Putin feels he has profited from the invasion, by winning territory, political concessions or other benefits, he may eventually be inspired to try the same thing against other neighbors, policymakers say.
The Ukrainians, as a result, are involved in a broader fight on behalf of Europe, NATO leaders say.
“I hope they will be hard as steel. I support maximum military support and maximum sanctions,” Latvian Defense Minister Artis Pabriks said in an interview. “Russia must lose and criminals should stand in court.”
Even a Ukrainian vow not to join NATO — a concession that Zelensky has floated publicly — could be a concern to some neighbors. That leads to an awkward reality: For some in NATO, it’s better for the Ukrainians to keep fighting, and dying, than to achieve a peace that comes too early or at too high a cost to Kyiv and the rest of Europe.
“Many of us have, and it’s absolutely human, a willingness to see that the war ends as soon as possible, that people are not suffering, not dying, and that there are no bombings,” said a senior European diplomat who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk frankly about sensitive security issues. “There is an unfortunate dilemma. The problem is that if it ends now, there is a kind of time for Russia to regroup, and it will restart, under this or another pretext. Putin is not going to give up his goals.”
The Kremlin, too, may be unable to back down, since its citizens have been fed a steady stream of lies and propaganda about what is happening on the ground, and they have been told they are winning.
Ukraine has said that in exchange for agreeing to give up its NATO aspirations, it would want legally binding security guarantees from the United States and others to defend it if it were attacked. A U.S. official said the U.S. military has not been consulted about what Western security guarantees for Ukraine would look like. The official said there wasn’t a lot of appetite among senior military leaders for such a notion.
“It appears like they’re looking for the same thing as Article V without being a NATO nation, and that probably would be a very rough row to hoe with the international community,” the official said, referring to NATO’s core collective-defense guarantee.
No matter how the war ends, the United States plans to review its military posture in Europe. Before the conflict, there were more than 80,000 U.S. troops on the continent. Today, with temporary deployments designed to shore up NATO’s eastern flank, there are more than 100,000, the official said.