On Wednesday, Financial Times reported that Ukraine and Russia were actually making substantial progress toward an agreement to end the war. By any measure, the “15 point plan” described seems like an admission of defeat for Russia, with barely any effort to brush over their defeat.
The draft agreement would supposedly start with a ceasefire and a withdrawal of Russian forces. In exchange, Kyiv would “declare neutrality” and accept some limits on its armed forces. However, where Moscow went into the war demanding that Ukraine be disarmed, that no longer appears to be on the table. Instead Ukraine would keep its military, with unspecified “limits” on what might be added. The idea of neutrality has also been dialed way back to something that the Kremlin has described as “like Sweden.” Ukraine would reportedly declare that it’s not seeking to join NATO, but would be able to seek some form of protection agreement from the U.S. and European partners. Ukraine would not host foreign military forces, but would be able to call on this new alliance in a conflict. Which … seems very much like Ukraine joining NATO in all but name. In fact, for Ukraine, it may be better.
According to the Financial Times,
“The biggest sticking point remains Russia’s demand that Ukraine recognize its 2014 annexation of Crimea and the independence of two separatist statelets in the eastern Donbas border region.”
If that’s where the negotiations are standing, then the real question is will Russia get anything? Ukraine could easily agree to the mutual protection deal being proposed and the meaningless statement of neutrality that now seems to be the Moscow line. That they’re negotiating on whether Russia gets some kind of formal stamp on the areas it controlled at the outset of the invasion, is an amazing level of Not Winning.
It’s worth nothing that Zelenskyy’s chief of staff responded to this article with a statement that indicates Ukraine has agreed to nothing except a ceasefire, Russian withdrawal, and that Urakine will get security guarantees from multiple countries. Which makes it seem as if what FT put forward was the best that Russia currently hopes to get, with Ukraine negotiating to give Moscow even less.
Meanwhile, back in Russia, Putin’s base appears to be seriously in doubt. He declared his own oligarchs to be traitors, is attacking those trying to flee the country, and is making a call that sounds very, very much like a demand for a Stalin-esque purge of Russian leadership — if not a general purge of Russia. With the possibility of a default looming as soon as today, Russia’s economy is falling apart, the educated class is leaving in droves, and oligarchs are scrambling to find a financial haven elsewhere—anywhere—as connections to Putin turn poisonous.
Thousands of Ukrainians have died for Putin’s mistake, but now he appears to be ready to extend this war into Russia. Predictions that the future of Russia looks like a cross between the USSR and North Korea are appearing all too accurate.
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