Putin Delivers Ultimatum to Ukraine and the West

Mikhail Tereshchenko, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP

Russian President Vladimir Putin laid out the framework for peace talks with Ukraine in a speech on Friday. Speaking from behind a Von Stauffenberg-style desk, Putin made it very clear that the governing principle in any negotiations was that the whole of Ukraine is up for grabs.

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The conditions are very simple. Ukrainian troops must be completely withdrawn from the Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia regions. And I draw your attention to the fact that it is from the entire territory of these regions, within their administrative borders, which existed at the time of their entry into Ukraine. As soon as they declare in Kyiv that they are ready for such a decision and begin a real withdrawal of troops from these regions, and also officially announce the abandonment of their plans to join NATO - on our side, immediately, literally at the same minute, an order will follow to cease fire and begin negotiations. I repeat, we will do this immediately. Naturally, we will simultaneously guarantee the unhindered and safe withdrawal of Ukrainian units and formations. We would, of course, like to expect that such a decision on withdrawal of troops, on non-aligned status, and on the start of a dialog with Russia, on which Ukraine's future existence depends, will be taken in Kyiv independently, based on the current realities and guided by the genuine national interests of the Ukrainian people, and not by Western decree. Although there are, of course, great doubts about this. If Kyiv and Western capitals reject it, that is their choice, their political and moral responsibility for the continuation of bloodshed.

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This is what Putin is demanding as the prerequisite for negotiations. The red-shaded areas are currently under the control of the Ukrainian military

With these borders, Ukraine becomes landlocked, and Putin has a land bridge to the illegal breakaway Moldovan enclave of Transnistria. In fact, Putin's line in the sand for any peace talks is exactly what I predicted in July 2022.


BACKGROUND:

Putin's War. Week 21. New Weapons Change the Battlefield in Ukraine's Favor but Are They Stronger Than European Cowardice and Stupidity? – RedState

Putin Decides to Widen the War With Ukraine to Achieve His Objectives – RedState


It also demands international recognition of the illegally annexed Ukrainian oblasts.


BACKGROUND:

Putin’s Illegal Annexation of Ukrainian Territory Marks the Beginning of a War Without a Perceivable End – RedState

Russia’s Friends and Allies Join NATO in Rejecting Russia’s Imminent Annexation of Four Ukrainian Provinces.


Where the offer shows itself to be monumentally un-serious is that Putin has upped the ante from last month when he sought to freeze the conflict along the current line of contact. 

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BACKGROUND: The New Russian Peace Deal Shows Why Peace Between Russia and Ukraine Isn't Possible Yet – RedState


These terms exceed the demands made by Russia in the stillborn negotiations that ended in May 2022, when Russia was much more powerful.

Aside from the lunacy of demanding Ukraine evacuate territory it now holds and the international community recognize the illegally occupied territory as part of Russia, there is the matter that no one in the world believes Russia will keep its word.

Short list of the results of negotiations with Russia that it never respected: 

1. The Budapest Memorandum of 1994. Russia agreed to “respect independence, sovereignty, and the existing borders of Ukraine” as well as “refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine”. Breached by Russia invading Crimea in 2014. 

2. The Russian-Ukrainian Friendship Treaty of 1997. Russia agreed to respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity and “reaffirmed the inviolability of the borders” between the two countries. Russia breached it in 2014. 

3. The OSCE Istanbul Summit in 1999. Russia committed to withdrawing its troops from Moldova’s Transdniestrian region and Georgia until the end of 2002. That never happened. 

4. The 2008 Georgia ceasefire agreement following Russian aggression against the country. Russia agreed that “Russian military forces must withdraw to the lines prior to the start of hostilities”. That never happened. 

5. The Ilovaysk “Green Corridor” in August 2014 and other “humanitarian” death corridors. Russia pledged to let Ukrainian forces leave the encircled town of Ilovaysk in the east of Ukraine, but instead opened fire and killed 366 Ukrainian troops. In the following years, Russia attacked numerous humanitarian corridors in Syria. 

6. The “Minsk” agreements of 2014 and 2015. Russia agreed to cease the fire in the east of Ukraine. There had been 200 rounds of talks and 20 attempts to enforce a ceasefire, all of which the Russian side promptly violated. On February 24th, 2022, Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. 

7. The 2022 Black Sea Grain Initiative. Russia pledged to “provide maximum assurances regarding a safe and secure environment for all vessels engaged in this initiative." It then hindered the initiative's operation for months before withdrawing unilaterally a year later. 

Above is only focused on deals made with Russia to address specific issues and conflicts. Not mentioning almost 400 international treaties that Russia has breached since 2014. 

There are no conclusions to be drawn here, except that no one can seriously use the words "Russia" and "negotiations" in the same phrase. Putin is a habitual liar who promised international leaders that he would not attack Ukraine days before his invasion in February 2022. 

Russia's tactic has remained consistent in its many wars over the last three decades: kill, grab, lie, and deny. 

Why would anyone genuinely believe that Russia in 2024 is any different from Russia in 1994, 1997, 1999, 2008, 2014, 2015, and 2022?

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Since the proposal isn't vaguely related to the political or military situation, there has to be a reason for its release now.

My theory is that it was released today because the Ukraine Peace Summit is kicking off tomorrow in Switzerland. Around 90 countries will be represented, but Moscow has declined to take part. I think Putin's speech was to underscore to the gathering that nothing they have to say matters, as Russia has its own agenda, making the outcome irrelevant.

The takeaway for the West should be that peace isn't possible without handing Putin a crushing defeat on the battlefield and devastating Russia's economy. The actions of the past month — attacks into Russia, confiscation of Russian assets, sanctions against Russian banks, and the Moscow stock exchange — give me hope that most of the West has seen the light or reality on that subject.


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