Empty Words

Russian President Vladimir Putin, through one of his representatives, is claiming to be reducing military activity in the vicinity of Kyiv and Chernihiv because “peace talks” are making progress. Chernihiv is on Russia’s secondary invasion corridor aimed at Kyiv, on the east side of the Dnieper River. Putin’s Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Formin:

Due to the fact that negotiations on the preparation of an agreement on the neutrality and non-nuclear status of Ukraine, as well as on the provision of security guarantees to Ukraine, are moving into practice, taking into account the principles discussed during today’s meeting, by the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation in order to increase mutual trust and create the necessary conditions for further negotiations and achieving the ultimate goal of agreeing on the signing of the above agreement, a decision was made to radically, at times, reduce military activity in the Kiev and Chernihiv direction.

Sure. What Putin, through Formin, is ignoring is the fact that Russian ground activity on those axes has largely stalled, and the Ukrainian military has been achieving some success at pushing the Russians back a ways and regaining control of/liberating from Russian occupation some villages along those axes. It’s also the case that Russia, already having stopped and dug in defensively, may simply be pausing to refit, refresh, and deliver combat loss replacements before renewing its assault.

[P]rovision of security guarantees to Ukraine? On what basis can Putin be trusted with any of this? Recall his invasion of Ukraine’s Donbas and Crimea and his occupation of a significant fraction of the former and all of the latter, in abrogation of his Budapest Memorandum commitment. Recall his continuation of that in the face of his Minsk Accord “commitment” and his pretended negotiation of Minsk II. Recall his claim that the Donbas actually consisted of two newly sovereign nations and are not part of Ukraine.

Nothing Putin says can be trusted. And he is ignoring the terms Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has offered through Ukrainian negotiator David Arakhamia:

…their key demands included guarantees for Ukraine’s security from the US, the UK, France, Turkey, Germany, Canada, Poland, and Israel. “This is the system we would like to build the future of Ukraine on[.]”

“We want an international mechanism of security guarantees where guarantor countries will act in a similar way to NATO’s article number five[.]”

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak added [as cited by The Wall Street Journal at the link just above] that the arrangement would be subject to a referendum of the Ukrainian people, as well as the approval of the guarantor countries.

Notice that. Zelenskyy wants security guarantees secured by countries not aligned, even tangentially, with Russia. And he will not accept a deal before Russia has left Ukraine.

Zelenskyy has a very good understanding of Putin’s trustworthiness and of the uselessness of anything Putin says.

Despite that recognized untrustworthiness, and in a major concession,

Mr Podolyak said that Ukraine had offered Russia a 15-year period of negotiations on the status of Crimea, which Russia annexed by force in 2014.

This shouldn’t even be a matter of discussion. Crimea is Ukrainian. Full stop.

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