Peace deal to end Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could bring its own dangers into line with Vladimir Putin’s record

As peace talks resume in Turkey on Tuesday, the lure of an agreement – any kind of agreement – to stop death and suffering is enormous.

Ukraine has been skilfully led by a brave and politically savvy president and served well by its brave military. But the dominance of the Russian army is undeniable.

Weapons from Western allies will strengthen Ukraine’s negotiating position. But without NATO’s direct involvement in the war, which is not going to happen, Ukraine can not hope for direct victory. The Zelensky government is unable to stop the bombing of civilian and military targets. Already a major city, Mariupol, is a burnt out skull.

So in peace talks, Ukraine is facing a painful balancing act – acting to preserve its sovereignty, but ending the murderous bombing as soon as possible.

NATO member Turkey has close ties with both Ukraine and Russiaand some hope that it can succeed in mediating an agreement in which France and others have failed.

However, an early agreement could bring new dangers for Ukraine and Zelensky. A compromise could give Putin time to regroup – and even undermine Zelensky’s popular support.

Matthew Kroenig, Deputy Director for Atlantic Councils Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Securitysuggests in US news release Foreign policy that there is a danger that Zelensky would “lose public support after throwing himself at Putin and could be removed from office. And Putin will get his desired regime changed in the easy way.”

He adds with this in mind: “I think the West should and will therefore continue to try harder before accepting a bad deal.”

That, of course, is easy for experts out of range of Russian cruise missiles to say.

But one must remember that one can not trust Putin. Earlier – more recent – is about Moscow to end interference in what it (incorrectly) claims to be its territory – does not bode well.

IN 2008 Russia invaded Georgia and snatched 20 percent of the country – as it holds until today. The fighting lasted only a few days. But the ceasefire agreement reached by French President Nicolas Sarkozy gave Moscow too much leeway (the subsequent EU report on the Five-Day War mistakenly blamed Georgia for firing the first shots).

John Herbst, director of Eurasia Center, Atlantic Councilhas noted that Russia still “regularly moves the boundary line between South Ossetia and the rest of Georgia a few meters further inland”.

After Putin’s invasion of Crimea and Donbas in 2014, more unsatisfactory peace agreements were concluded. The Minsk agreements, negotiated in the Belarusian city in 2014 and 2015 in an attempt to end the fighting between Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists, have merely served as a prelude to the current conflict.

Putin tapped the Minsk negotiations to ensure Ukrainian neutrality (on his terms) and to weaken Ukrainian sovereignty by creating a breakaway semi-autonomous zone (Donbas) in the country’s east. But after seizing a piece of Ukraine – and only slightly under minor sanctions, it was only a matter of time before he invaded again – to overthrow the Western-oriented government.

Given his army’s slashing performance in the current invasion, Putin may have reduced his main goal of incorporating Crimea into Russia and annexing the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of the Donbas together.

This would violate Zelensky’s conditions for maintaining sovereignty over the whole of Ukraine. But if the besieged Ukrainians accept it, then the West should support them. But again, Putin is untrustworthy – and any deal would have to be monitored with security guarantees involving Western powers like Russia, to finally ensure that Putin’s army does not go any further.

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