Does Putin want to negotiate a ceasefire with Ukraine

Does Putin want to negotiate a ceasefire with Ukraine?

In late December, the New York Times published an article saying that despite bellicose public rhetoric, Russian President Vladimir Putin was actually willing to negotiate a ceasefire in the war in Ukraine. The article says Putin has been letting the United States and other Western countries know through discreet “intermediaries” since at least September that he is ready to end the fighting while maintaining the current situation on the front lines, which is experiencing significant Part of the front is Eastern Ukraine is occupied by Russia: we are talking about 19 percent of Ukrainian territory.

It is not the first time that Putin has made it clear, more or less privately, that Russia would be willing to accept a ceasefire that confirms its major territorial gains in Ukraine, but the New York Times article was widely commented on for both sides The newspaper is important for the current situation in Ukraine: the war is at a standstill and political and military support from the West is weakening.

However, despite the difficulties, there are some reasons to doubt the sincerity of Putin's offers and to believe that Ukraine would not accept a ceasefire on the terms proposed by the Russian president.

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First, we must try to understand what these conditions would be. The New York Times claims that Putin is ready for a ceasefire in which the current front line would be “frozen” and Russia would militarily retain the Ukrainian territory it captured. Contrary to what has been claimed since the beginning of the war, Russian targets no longer include the “denazification” and “demilitarization” of Ukraine (based on the idea, supported by Russian propaganda, that Ukraine was ruled by a Nazi regime), but rather Putin would accept the existence of a sovereign Ukraine with Kiev as its capital, even if it were severely disadvantaged territorially.

The New York Times also gives a date for the agreement, shortly before the Russian presidential election in March, and argues that state propaganda would be quite capable of portraying a ceasefire as a victory for Russia, even though the goals when the war began were much more ambitious .

Such a solution, a freeze on the conflict, has also been suggested by some analysts, with insistence increasing in recent months as Ukraine's military difficulties have become increasingly serious. Some have spoken of a “Korean model,” recalling that after the 1950 Korean War, an armistice was signed between North Korea and South Korea, but never a peace treaty: the two Koreas are still formally at war, but they have a balance This enabled peace to be maintained for decades.

The problem with such a solution is that no Ukrainian political leader, neither President Volodymyr Zelensky nor members of the opposition, could ever agree to freeze the conflict. There is a political reason for this: For much of public opinion, losing 19 percent of its territory after hundreds of thousands of soldiers were killed or wounded defending the country would be unacceptable.

But there is also a more practical reason: With the east of the country occupied by Russia, Ukraine would have very little chance of revitalizing its economy and becoming the free and prosperous democracy that its citizens hope for.

A current freeze on the conflict would mean Russia could threaten Ukraine's access to the Black Sea, the country's most important trade route. In addition, some of Ukraine's most important industrial cities, such as Zaporizhzhia, Dnipro and Kharkiv, are so close to the front that they are constantly under threat from Russian artillery. Under these circumstances, it would be impossible for Ukraine to attract foreign investment, restore its industrial capacity and revive its economy: with a large part of its territory controlled by Russia and another part under constant threat, the Ukrainian economy is virtually ruined.

This also applies to international alliances: with part of its territory occupied, Ukraine has no hope of joining NATO or the European Union, which, according to the Ukrainian political leadership, would guarantee it greater security and economic stability.

Some analysts also point out that a frozen conflict would give Russia the opportunity to rearm, reorganize and attack again. This happened back in 2014, when, following the invasion of Crimea and part of eastern Ukraine, various Western countries negotiated a ceasefire between Russia and Ukraine in the hope of restoring the status quo. The situation remained unstable for several years until it finally collapsed with the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022. With a ceasefire, Russia would have the opportunity and time to reorganize itself economically and militarily, while Ukraine would risk becoming a failed state.

Therefore, any attempt to negotiate a ceasefire on Russia's terms is currently inadmissible for Ukraine. However, at the same time, Ukraine finds itself in a rather complicated situation, both from a military point of view and in terms of help from allies. Both the United States and the European Union, the main backers of the Ukrainian resistance, are delaying the delivery of new weapons and new economic aid mainly for domestic political reasons. Ukraine has a few more months of autonomy, but then the situation could become catastrophic.