Negotiations or capitulation? How the view of Ukraine peace talks needs to change

The First Peace Summit for Ukraine is set to be held in Switzerland in a few weeks. World leaders will be discussing the conditions for ending the Russian war. Preparing for the summit is one of Kyiv’s top priorities.

However, while this process is ongoing, certain Western countries, by limiting their assistance to Ukraine, are pushing Ukraine towards "negotiations" and effectively towards concessions to Russia – sometimes without even intending or wishing to. And the voices of foreign leaders advocating for Russia to be involved in negotiations have grown louder.

So far, Ukraine has managed to defend its position that involving Moscow would be inappropriate. However, the camp of countries code-named "peace at any price" has no intention of giving in and is turning a blind eye to the fact that in the current conditions, negotiations would resemble consultations on the terms of Ukraine's capitulation.

And while China’s motives in calling for "peace" are understandable (an opportunity to strategically defeat the West), the statements made by some countries that sincerely consider themselves friends of Ukraine are shortsighted to say the least. Equivocal statements can even be heard from Switzerland, which is hosting the inaugural Peace Summit.

Indeed, in strategic terms, the greatest danger for Ukraine comes from states that claim to support it and publicly proclaim the importance of Ukraine’s victory but, for various reasons and in various ways, actually weaken Ukraine’s positions.


Covert capitulation

Following Ukraine's unsuccessful counteroffensive in 2023, Western approaches to military aid for Ukraine were in need of a radical overhaul. Limited and measured assistance to the Armed Forces of Ukraine had failed. The only correct option seemed obvious: to transform the "drip-feed" into an "avalanche" in which Ukraine would receive more and more weapons weekly, demonstrating the futility of prolonged war with Russia.

Instead, the opposite happened: instead of delivering massive arms supplies, key Western countries put the process on hold. And although there are no real grounds to believe this pause was deliberate, that doesn't change the consequences.

Instead of the promised support "for as long as it takes", Ukraine has been weakened.

Because of this, calls for negotiations from ChinaTürkiyeSwitzerlandSlovakia, etc. have grown louder. The camp of countries supporting Ukraine's covert capitulation, presenting it as a "freezing" of the conflict, has grown larger.

It's worth noting that Russia has significant experience of pretend diplomacy.

And not just when it comes to the war with Ukraine.

Even as it declares itself ready for negotiations, the Kremlin does all it can to sabotage them. And even if a certain agreement is reached, Moscow continues to pursue its own goals, which have nothing to do with the agreed terms. For Ukraine, this experience is fresh and very vivid: from 2014 to 2022, Ukraine held about 200 rounds of Minsk negotiations with the Russian Federation. 20 ceasefire agreements were reached, and every single ceasefire was violated by Moscow.


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There is plenty of evidence that this hasn't changed. The Kremlin has not become any more interested in restoring peace.

Russia has just launched a new offensive and has no plans to stop it.

This is the official position. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov openly admits that even if negotiations start, military action will not cease. The "pacifists" who are trying to push Ukraine into negotiations ignore this position and pretend that the start of negotiations will bring peace on the front lines. ("It's better to negotiate peace for 10 years than to kill each other for 10 years," the Prime Minister of Slovakia explained, even though Russia aims to talk and kill simultaneously.)

- Negotiations won’t be about returning what has been stolen, but about stealing what hasn't been stolen.

The Kremlin demands that Ukraine give up its claim to the occupied territories. This is Moscow's basic negotiating position. For Moscow, negotiations are another way of violating international law without military action. Russia presents this in its statements as "the need to consider a new reality".

Under the Russian constitution, Crimea and four Ukrainian oblasts (Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia) are part of Russia.

- Negotiations will take place under the threat of Iskander missiles.

In its attempts to weaken Ukraine's position, Russia threatens to strike countries which back it. The Russian Foreign Ministry sent a diplomatic note on this as early as April 2022. Since then, these threats have been voiced many times. Recently, the Russian Foreign Ministry has made nuclear threats against NATO countries.


Western panic

Any negotiations with Russia built on such a matrix are completely unacceptable. Kyiv has every reason to consider this as a form of capitulation.

But Russia’s "rules" are not immutable. The pro-Ukrainian camp in the West could firmly resist them. What we see does not inspire optimism, though.

We constantly hear that "everything depends on Ukraine", but at the same time, we see Ukraine’s partners creating circumstances that play into Moscow's hands. The limited arms supplies have contributed to the success of the Russian plan.

At the same time, the United States and Germany (the main weapon suppliers) are not prepared to discuss any political decisions that would involve real protection for Ukraine.

Mentions of bilateral guarantees, NATO membership, "closing the sky", etc. are met with either diplomatic silence or open irritation from Ukraine's partners.

And some Western countries, given the constant threats from Moscow, are afraid to acknowledge that Russia is an enemy that must be defeated.

France's proposal to send troops to Ukraine caused such a surge of panic and denials from other states, as if supporting Ukraine constituted complicity in war crimes, rather than assistance provided by international law.

Putin has created a "Russian reality" and he demands that it be accepted, and Western resistance to this is either too modest or inconsistent.