Putin Is Ready To Negotiate. But On His Own Terms.

Last Friday, May 24, 2024, Reuters reported on what lies ahead for Russian President Vladimir Putin in the ongoing conflict with Ukraine. According to the media outlet’s sources, the Kremlin is ready to discuss a negotiated ceasefire, an agreement that should be based on current battlefield lines.

A senior Russian source who worked with the Russian President told Reuters that “Putin can fight for as long as it takes but is also ready for a ceasefire – to freeze the war.” Even the Russian President himself, at a news conference in Belarus, said it was time for peace talks to resume. Additionally, he pointed out that negotiations should be based on “the realities on the ground”, and “not on the basis of what one side wants.”

Putin’s latest move was not well-received, with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeting that the Russian leader was trying to draw attention away from the upcoming Ukrainian-led peace summit in Switzerland by sending out “phony signals” about his alleged willingness to agree to a ceasefire. He also added that “Putin has no desire to end his aggression against Ukraine.” When asked about this issue, a US State Department spokesperson told Reuters that any initiative for peace must respect Ukraine’s “territorial integrity, within its internationally recognised borders”, therefore rebuking Putin’s statement. They then added that “the Kremlin has yet to demonstrate any meaningful interest in ending this war.”

Ever since February 24, 2022, numerous ceasefire proposals have been introduced, with both parties willing, at some point, to sit down and talk about a solution to the conflict. As we know, a long-lasting agreement has never been reached. The possibility that Putin’s latest proposal will be considered by the two countries is very remote, especially since Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky signed a decree in 2022 that formally labeled “impossible” any peace talks based on Putin’s terms.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Kuleba argues that Putin’s willingness to commit to a ceasefire could be seen as a strategy to divert attention away from upcoming peace talks in Switzerland, which do not include China, the Kremlin’s long-time ally. The Russian President might try to make Ukraine and its Western allies look as if they are prolonging the war and are unwilling to reach an agreement. Moreover, Putin could use this situation as a justification for his upcoming offensive, which many analysts, including the Institute for the Study of War, believe will begin in June.

Another problem that could complicate peace talks is the fact that Russia doesn’t recognise Zelensky’s presidency as legitimate, since his five-year term has expired. Ukraine is currently in a state of war, which means that elections can be postponed until the conflict ends. This provision ensures the legitimacy of Zelensky’s rule and is backed by Ukraine’s allies.

Looking at the reality of the conflict today and the positions that each party holds, we can hardly imagine a scenario where a ceasefire on Putin’s terms will be discussed or even considered plausible by Ukrainians. Unless both actors show a willingness to discuss putting an end to the war, and genuinely take into consideration the legitimate interests of the other side, peace talks and negotiations will remain a distant pipe dream.  We can only hope that the suffering of the people will prevail and that world leaders will finally decide to cast aside their geopolitical interests and focus on what is best for their citizens.