Negotiations with Russia are not a viable path to end the war in Ukraine, according to the director of the American Enterprise Institute’s Critical Threats Project (CTP).
In an article published Thursday on the website of the Institute for the Study of War, CTP director Frederick Kagan argued that war negotiations would be pointless as long as Russian President Vladimir Putin or a “Putinist successor” would remain in control of Russia.
Kagan said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine after an eight-year “ceasefire” that followed the annexation of Crimea in 2014 showed that the Russian president “will not rest until ‘he wouldn’t have conquered Kyiv’.
“The conflict is insoluble as long as Putinism rules the Kremlin,” Kagan wrote. “The negotiations will not change this reality. They can only create the conditions from which Putin or a Putinist successor will consider renewing the attack on Ukraine’s independence.”
Kagan suggested that the West consider the “dangers” of any terms Ukraine might offer Russia, as well as the likelihood that Russia will accept the terms, before “urging Ukraine to ask Russia for talks”.
He noted that Russia has already rejected all peace terms that include returning to pre-war borders, while Putin is unlikely to agree to any terms that do not include Russia’s annexation “of ‘huge tracts of Ukrainian land’.
Kagan said Ukraine’s position was “not yet strong enough” to negotiate favorably. He pointed out that although the counter-offensives succeeded in reclaiming some territory, Russia still controlled “more than half” of the Ukrainian lands it has taken since the start of the invasion on February 24.
“Negotiations at this stage of the conflict will not yield additional territorial concessions to Russia,” he wrote. “Putin has announced the formal annexation to Russia of large areas of Ukraine that he does not control… A ceasefire now will freeze the lines where they are best.”
Kagan went on to say that the war would not end even if Ukraine ceded the annexed territory to Russia, saying Putin invaded to destroy Ukraine’s independence and ethnic identity rather than gain territory. .
“[Putin] refuses to tolerate a government in Kyiv that is not de facto under Russian control,” Kagan wrote. “He has deeply embedded these ideas in his ideology and will not suppress them. Putin will never stop trying to regain control of Ukraine one way or another.”
Instead of negotiations, Kagan recommended that Western allies help Ukraine reclaim strategically important territory and “strengthen the Ukrainian military and economy to a point that will deter future Russian invasions.” He suggested that a “diplomatic agreement” with Russia would only be desirable once Ukraine had gained the upper hand.
It may be some time before Russian and Ukrainian leaders meet to negotiate an end to the war. Attempts to begin peace talks have repeatedly encountered roadblocks. This week, Russia rejected Ukrainian conditions while saying Ukraine was unwilling to negotiate.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters at the G20 summit in Bali that Ukraine “categorically refuses any negotiations and offers manifestly unrealistic and inadequate conditions”, according to the Moscow Times.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky suggested peace terms at the summit, which included demands that Russia return Ukrainian territory, withdraw troops and provide monetary compensation for damages caused during the war.
Newsweek has contacted the Russian and Ukrainian governments for comment.