Amidst recent Ukrainian battlefield gains, nothing says “Russia knows it can’t hold its ill-gotten gains” more than the sudden flurry of propaganda selling “negotiations” to end the war.
At the start of the war, Russia attempted to decapitate Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s government in Kyiv, installing its own pro-Russia puppet regime. It famously failed to do so.
Russia further attempted to accomplish its Novorossiya dream—expanding Russia’s boarders through eastern and southern Ukraine to the Russian-held breakaway region of Transnistria in Moldova. That failed when Russia realized it wasn’t going to take Odesa in an amphibious assault, and its advances around Mykolaiv were beat back.
But there was one final strategic goal that Russia did pull off, and that was the creation of a “land bridge” between mainland Russia and the Crimean Peninsula, through portions of Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson oblasts. It is Putin’s biggest war success in Ukraine, and it’s where Ukraine decided to deploy its new Western-trained and equipped forces, despite softer targets elsewhere along the front lines.
Ukraine now aims to sever that land bridge by driving to the Azov sea to the south. If they manage to accomplish it, Russia’s forces in Kherson and Crimea will be severed from their largest supply lines from mainland Russia to the east. Furthermore, Ukraine will be in missile range of the Kerch Bridge, allowing it to sever Russia’s other major supply line to that region from the south.
It was always a risky gambit. Russia built its strongest defenses in the area, and Ukraine has attacked them head-on. But the reward, if they can punch through to the Azov Sea, would dramatically reshape the state of play, denying Putin his one current victory and threatening his hold on Crimea, his last big 2014 victory.
With Ukrainian breakthroughs at Urizhaine and Robotyne, Russia’s defenses are looking increasingly rickety. Russia has had to redeploy its best forces from its northern offensive to the south, which has now led to Ukraine retaking lost positions in that direction.
So with Russia suddenly on its back heel, we’re seeing a concerted effort by Russian propaganda to sell the idea of “negotiations” to freeze the conflict, allowing Russian to retain at the diplomatic table what it can’t hold on the battlefield.
Online, it’s a million useful idiots and bots making some variation of the argument that “NATO/Europe/America want more Ukrainians to die.”
The same people that turn a blind eye to Russia’s daily terrorism campaign against Ukrainian civilians are suddenly pretending that they care about saving Ukrainian lives—unlike that dastardly NATO! It’s insultingly absurd, but provides these Putin-loving sociopaths a veneer of moral authority. They just want peace!
But of course, a peace in which Ukrainians remain in occupied territory, to be raped, murdered, and subjugated by the Russian occupation, is no peace at all. That can’t be tolerated any more than if Jason Voorhes from the Friday the 13th franchise moved into their living room, and everyone said, “let him keep it, for peace!”
Yet this is exactly what we’re seeing more and more these days, like Edward Luttwak, a military historian:
To be clear, Luttwak literally considers Putin to be a friend. This is a direct quote:
One of Putin's virtues is that he never forgets his friends. For years, I was invited to his presidential conferences -- he would send me business class tickets to go to the conference. He is a wonderful fellow in many ways, and I am very sorry that he tripped up over Ukraine. But, if he loses power, he should be allowed to have a decent life. Why not?
There is literally no way in which the murderous Putin is “a wonderful fellow.” But if you’re that far up his ass, then sure, you’re not going to want to see him disgraced by a military defeat in Ukraine. Best to lock in those gains today!
There’s this deranged a-hole, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who pretends to run for president as a Democrat while talking to Tucker Carlson.
I’m so happy no one is fooled by him anymore. Well, other than long-gone QAnon/MAGA conspiracy types.
The New York Times gave voice to the poor, downtrodden plight of those who advocate for negotiations.
[Georgetown professor Charles] Kupchan knows of what he speaks. He and Richard N. Haass, the former president of the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote a piece in Foreign Affairs in April, urging Washington and its allies to come up with “a plan for getting from the battlefield to the negotiating table,” and were widely criticized for doing so.
That criticism worsened considerably when the two men, together with Thomas E. Graham, a former American diplomat in Moscow, had private conversations with Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, to explore the possibility of negotiations.
Oh noes, the guys conspiring with Putin’s government on a “peace plan” were criticized! The article notes that the two men got a “storm of criticism and abuse”! What has the world come to, when people can’t work in secret with a murderous regime to reward their blatant flouting of international norms and human rights?
Hungary continues to carry Putin’s water.
Victor Orban’s authoritarian government in Hungary is an increasing threat from inside both NATO and the European Union. Neither institution has a mechanism for expelling members, which now seems like a glaring oversight.
Ultimately, with former Wagner CEO Yevgeny Prigozhin, we’ve seen how Putin operates:
And given that Russia’s opening bid in any negotiations is the recognition of their occupied territories, the notion of negotiations is patently absurd … unless you actively want to reward Russia.
Anyone who thinks we or anyone else can negotiate with Putin is spectacularly blind to even immediate history. Why anyone would think negotiations would solve anything, at this point, is beyond me.
There are two factors that will play into Putin’s willingness to negotiate:
1) Can Russia’s armed forces hold on to their gains, or possibly make new ones, and
2) The 2024 United States presidential election.
At this point, the best chance of actual fruitful negotiations, the kind that get Russia out of all Ukrainian territory, is predicated on giving Ukraine what it needs to win, and winning the 2024 election. We can't let Donald Trump bail Putin out. This is right: “We have to strengthen Ukraine’s position in every frontier,” before negotiations can happen, and Ukraine’s territorial integrity has to be a starting point to any future negotiations.
In the meantime, Russia continues to strike civilian targets instead of military ones, reminding the world that it really doesn’t pay to negotiate with terrorists.
I get more excited seeing Russian logistics eliminated than tanks.
This was near Verbove, just on the other side of Russia’s main defensive line around Robotyne.
Ukrainian artillery is absolutely pounding Russian defenses near Verbove.
Remember when it was the Russian side that could rain this kind of steel? Yet here is Ukraine laying it down thick, with no apparent Russian counter battery response.
Must feel great to be those Ukrainians in that trench, seeing the other side get a taste of their own medicine.
The now-nightly Ukrainian drone barrage against military targets in Russian cities has resumed:
Albania’s prime minister laughing at Putin’s expense.