This Month In Ukraine: More Reasons For Peaceful Negotiation

Two and a half years have passed since the beginning of Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine. The conventional wisdom in the West is that Vladimir Putin is waging a war of aggression against Ukraine and that the United States and its junior partners in N.A.T.O. supply arms to Ukraine so it can defend itself. Although emotionally appealing and intoxicatingly simple, the current narrative that dominates Western media ignores historical realities and precludes opportunities for peace. Rather than provide an exhaustive history of the decade-long conflict between the West and Russia in Ukraine, this report serves to orient the reader as to why this conflagration no longer serves the purposes of democracy, human rights or freedom, if it ever did. Continued tragedy in Ukraine greatly serves the interests of the defence industries, investment firms, and US hegemony. Ironically, as the United States becomes more entangled in Ukraine, governance under President Zelensky becomes increasingly less democratic and the United States becomes increasingly less powerful as a global hegemon. 

This month, Russian President Vladimir Putin made visits to officials in Vietnam and North Korea, with the express purpose of promoting a new Eurasian security pact. On June 21st, Putin told military graduates at the Kremlin Palace in Moscow that Russia was ready to facilitate the creation of new security arrangements with the Chinese-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the Eurasian Economic Union, and fellow BRICS nations in order to “create an equal and indivisible security in Eurasia.” Tacitly aligned with Russia in Ukraine, Chinese President Xi Jinping received Polish President Andrzej Duda in Beijing on the 24th, where Duda hoped to secure favourable trade conditions with the global superpower. Regarding the conflict in Ukraine, the Polish President expressed his country’s discomfort with changing borders “by force,” confessing hopes “that China will support, in the capacity of a world power, and a member of the U.N. Security Council, a peaceful end to the war.” Duda’s visit to China comes just a week after Chinese Foreign Minister Li Qiang’s visit to Prime Minister Albanese in Australia, where, according to Albanese, the two officials agreed to increase military communications to avoid unintentional collision.

While America’s two greatest rival superpowers establish strong rapport among the international community, the U.S. has seemingly grown frustrated with her options. At the end of May, the Biden Administration permitted the Kyiv regime to use Western-supplied weapons to strike deep inside Russian borders. On June 12th, U.S. officials quietly resumed support for the infamous Azov Brigade, and in doing so made an exception to the Leahy Law. This law prohibits the U.S. from supplying arms “to units of foreign security forces where there is credible information implicating that unit in the commission of gross violations of human rights.” Previously, the Azov Brigade was excluded from receiving support due to a report from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights which alleged the Azov Brigade was responsible for “rape and other forms of sexual violence” during the 2014 Maidan Revolution. The Brigade is also well-known for its Neo-Nazi sympathies, with members proudly sporting white supremacist insignia tattoos and touting the history of Ukrainian Nazi collaborator, Stepan Bandera. 

 As Russia and China cultivate diplomatic ties and the U.S. clamours for military strength, the death toll in Ukraine continues to climb. On June 23rd, beachgoers in Russian-controlled Sevastopol in Crimea were greeted by a grisly surprise when cluster munitions detonated within yards of the shore. At least 124 civilians were injured in the incident, with at least five reported dead. The Russian defence ministry was quick to point out that the American-made tactical missiles required an American to coordinate their flight path, declaring “responsibility for the deliberate missile strike on civilians in Sevastopol lies primarily with Washington, which supplied these weapons to Ukraine, as well as the Kyiv regime, from whose territory this strike was launched.” Referring to the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, a top aide for President Zelenskyy, Mikhail Podoliak, dismissed the casualties by declaring that beach-goers in Sevastopol were “occupiers.” One day after the Sevastopol strikes, Russia retaliated with strikes on the Ukrainian city of Odesa which damaged civilian infrastructure. On the 28th of June, four days following the Russian strike on Odesa, Ukrainian counterstrikes in Kursk killed five. Based solely upon the most recent updates to the Russia-Ukraine conflict, how could anyone reasonably assume that tensions will cool in the near term?

June 2024 is only a window into the conflict in Ukraine. No additional context serves to make the war any more palatable. For example, according to CNN reporting from January of this year, mice and rats have infested frontline dugouts on both the Russian and Ukrainian sides, with Ukraine intelligence identifying an outbreak of “mouse fever” among Russian soldiers. The disease, which is likely to affect both sides of the war, is transmitted to humans through “ingestion of mice feces in food” and gives its victims nausea, headaches, fever, rashes, low blood pressure, vomiting, and bleeding from the eyes. One would think that this war could be negotiated to an end based on this disturbing reality alone. According to the CNN piece, a Ukrainian servicewoman reportedly estimated that at least 1,000 mice shared quarters with her and four other soldiers. Prisoners are now being conscripted on both sides to fight in the war, increasing the risk of psychological breakdown and unnecessary violence on the battlefield. These soldiers have been drafted on either side to accompany massive losses on the frontlines, as the average age of fighters on both sides of the conflict has surpassed 40. The conditions of warfare in Ukraine are beyond intolerable, calling into question those with the authority to order their countrymen into such a futile and predictable squalor. 

The conflict has not always been so far from resolution. In April 2022, delegates from Russia and Ukraine were making headway on a peace plan that could have saved hundreds of thousands of lives. According to the New York Times, the delegation made significant progress in several areas, including on the status of Crimea, the membership of Ukraine in N.A.T.O. and the re-establishment of Russian as an official language in Ukraine. The deal would have seen Ukraine call on its partners to end sanctions on Russia put in place since 2014, a move that would have immediately revamped the struggling European economy that has suffered so heavily since the sabotage of the Nord Stream pipeline. The compromise would have seen Ukraine concede to one of Russia’s most critical objectives, a ban in Ukraine of “propaganda in any form of Nazism and Neo-Nazism, the Nazi movement and organizations associated therewith.” An incredible compromise was in the works over Ukraine’s N.A.T.O. membership too. Instead of allowing the country membership to the adversarial Western alliance, the Russian negotiating team instead proposed a series of guarantor states that would come to Ukraine’s defence in the event of an attack. The list of suggested guarantor states were largely N.A.T.O. members anyway with the notable exceptions of China and Russia. Through this arrangement, Ukraine would remain a truly neutral nation, as representatives from N.AT.O. and its adversaries would both have a stake in the protection of Ukraine. In exchange for this concession from Ukraine, the Russians were willing to allow Ukraine’s entrance into the European Union, a compromise which would be unacceptable to Russia today. Although reasonable and in the greatest interest of humanity, the Ukrainian President was allegedly talked out of accepting the deal by former British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. According to Ukrainian news outlet Ukrayinska Pravda, sources from Zelensky’s inner circle said that Johnson had two messages for him in April 2022: “The first is that Putin is a war criminal; he should be pressured, not negotiated with. And the second is that even if Ukraine is ready to sign some agreements on guarantees with Putin, [Johnson and N.A.T.O.] are not.” 

Why would N.A.T.O. countries not seek a peaceful settlement to the war in Ukraine? If the U.S. and its junior partners had been involved in the conflict due to sheer altruism, why then would they want the conflict to continue to a point where Zelenskyy has now suspended elections under martial law? Is the future of Ukraine’s democracy a primary concern of the West or is there something much more sinister lurking beneath the facade of benevolent democracy guardianship? Lindsay Graham provided clarity to questioning during his June 2024 interview with Face the Nation. He told his interviewer that they are “sitting on 10 to $12 trillion of critical minerals in Ukraine. They could be the richest country in all of Europe. I don’t want to give that money and those assets to Putin to share with China.” Critical minerals continue to be a strategic resource between the West, China and Russia as they are required for the production of electronics including EVs, smartphones and artificial intelligence. In addition to the possibility that Ukraine’s critical minerals are preventing N.A.T.O. countries from ceasing their war peddling, Ukraine possesses rich farmland that has befitted the country the nickname, the “breadbasket of Europe.” Control of these farmlands has fallen increasingly into foreign hands as Zelenskyy’s debt-ridden administration has opened Ukraine’s market for agricultural lands. The Oakland Institute estimates that as of February 2023, some 28% of Ukraine’s arable land is under the control of Ukrainian oligarchs or foreign interests. Finally, Ukraine’s considerable oil and gas production makes it an irresistible cocktail of precious resources to the United States, which has gone to incredible lengths in the last century to secure its access to oil and gas. 

With Zelensky’s recent “peace conference” not extending an invitation to a Russian delegation, it is clear that his diplomacy was mere theatre intended to attract additional weapons and funding for his cash-strapped army. Putin has advanced his own peace plan which includes a withdrawal of Ukrainian troops from the Russian-controlled territories in the Donbass and a guarantee that Ukraine will never enter N.A.T.O. Back in April of 2022, it would have been much more likely to get Putin’s negotiation team to accept a Russian withdrawal to pre-2022 borders. Now that battlefield realities sway in Russia’s favour and the referendums of September 2022 have shown the Luhansk and Donetsk regions’ preference for integration into Russia, it is highly unlikely that Putin will accept Russian withdrawal. At this point, Zelensky’s best option is to find a peaceful end to the conflict as soon as possible. If peace talks are to begin, Russia ought to offer economic assistance to Ukraine, as the same countries currently holding the majority of Ukraine’s debt also stand to profit significantly from its reconstruction. To remove itself from its current debt cycle, Ukraine will have to court Russian and Chinese investments in energy and mining infrastructure. A rebuilt Nord Stream pipeline could factor heavily into a revised peace plan between Ukraine and Russia, considering that such a move would greatly increase the oil revenues of both countries. At this point, Ukraine’s untapped resource cache is its greatest asset in promoting a multilateral peace solution to the current conflict in Eastern Europe, as it allows diverse actors to invest and profit off the reconstruction of Ukraine’s production capacity, but also drives the country into economic independence.


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