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On the one hand, it’s progress of sorts that it’s no longer verboten to talk about peace in the context of the war in Ukraine. Recall that when Kissinger tried to revive the idea of a negotiated end to the conflict after the UK (not doubt with US backing) scuppered the talks in Istanbul, the prevailing reaction was of revulsion. Russia must be comprehensively defeated!
And recall that Kissinger’s proposed terms were ones Russia would never accept, yet they were deemed unacceptably generous.
But even though peace is no longer a four letter word, for most commentators, it’s become a new way to fantasize about Russian rout. Putin needs an off ramp. The systematic demolition of Ukraine’s grid is a desperate last ditch measure, proving that Russia’s military is failing on the battlefield. The Russian public is revolting against the conscription. Ukraine troops are advancing.
It was not entirely surprising to see Biden, in a press conference yesterday with Emmanuel Macron, willing only to entertain a peace with Russia that amounts to capitulation. But major press outlets like the Financial Times presented Biden’s position as a softening….because he is now willing to talk to Putin, albeit with the precondition that Putin be the instigator, as in come to the West seeking, meaning needing, peace.1 The transcript of the germane section of the Q&A, courtesy Yahoo:
INTERPRETER: We hear that you will be talking to President Putin any time soon. What is your approach? And as the Ukrainian War seems to be at a turning point, do you feel realistic that President Zelensky is putting a condition to open negotiations that is the return of Crimea to Ukraine?
JOE BIDEN: Look, there’s one way for this war to end, the rational way, Putin to pull out of Ukraine, number one. But it appears he’s not going to do that. He’s paying a very heavy price for failing to do it. But he’s inflicting incredible, incredible carnage on the civilian population of Ukraine, bombing nurseries, hospitals, children’s homes. It’s sick what he’s doing. But the fact of the matter is, I have no immediate plans to contact Mr. Putin. Mr. Putin is– let me choose my words very carefully. I’m prepared to speak with Mr. Putin if in fact, there is an interest in him deciding he’s looking for a way to end the war. He hasn’t done that yet. If that’s the case, in consultation with my French and my NATO friends, I’ll be happy to sit down with Putin to see what he wants, has in mind. He hasn’t done that yet.
In the meantime, I think it’s absolutely critical what [? Emmanuel ?] said. We must support Ukrainian people. The idea that Putin is ever going to defeat Ukraine is beyond comprehension. Imagine, I’m trying to occupy that country for the next 2,5, 10, 20 years– if they could– if they could. He’s miscalculated every single thing he initially calculated. He thought he’d be greeted with open arms by the Russian speaking portions of the Ukrainian population. Go back and read his speech when he invaded– when I said they were going to invade, and they did when we said they were. Go back and read the speech he made. He talked about him with needing to be another Peter the Great. He talked about the need for the people of Kyiv as the mother load of Russian identity in the beginning, et cetera, et cetera.
He just miscalculated across the board. And so the question is what is his decision– how does he get himself out of the circumstance he’s in? I’m prepared if he’s willing to talk to find out what he’s willing to do. But I’ll only do it in consultation with my data allies. I’m not going to do it on my own.
It is a certainty that these remarks are not posturing, that Biden believes what he says. He sees Russia as needing to exit a war it is losing, as defeat for Ukraine being impossible. He also decries the pain suffered by civilians of Ukraine, a theme that will resonate far more with Europeans than with Serbians, Yemenis, and other civilians on the wrong side of US regime change efforts.
And it’s clear these views are still widely held. For instance, if you read the comments on the Financial Times’ Joe Biden says he is prepared to speak to Putin about ending Ukraine war, those who dare suggest that Ukraine can’t win are attacked as Russian puppets. For instance:
irritated by almost everything
Biden stabbing Ukraine in the back, throwing away a once in a lifetime opportunity to bring Russia to its knees, Epic incompetence.
There in nothing to talk about, except to debate if Putler goes to The Hague or to Guantanamo.
Sadly, Biden’s hopeful words on Ukraine are mere words. The US has no incentive to end this war. Russia is cornered and losing, while the war ensures Europe will seek out long term contracts for American energy and weapons. If Europe had real leaders they could stand up to America’s belligerents and find a peace deal.
“If Europe had real leaders they could stand up to America’s belligerents and find a peace deal.”
— No. If Europe had real leaders they would stand up to Russia’s belligerence and force a peace deal by giving the Ukrainian Army all the tools it needs to finish the job..
I doubt it is the end game Russia wants, but a Western Ukraine with no power would come to resemble the Unorganized Territory of Maine, whose 14,500 square miles has a population of roughly 9,000 (Lambert calls them “Men in the Woods” or following the locals, “Beardos”.) That low a population density can’t constitute a military threat.
1 If memory serve me correctly, the last time Biden was willing to talk to Putin, Biden stipulated that imprisoned basketball star Brittany Greiner be the first agenda item.