Do Kissinger and Johnson’s words point the way to a negotiation for Ukraine?

The “most faithful ally of Ukraine” and the former US secretary of state whom Kiev had accused of “pro-Russian” positions have indicated the return to the status quo before February 24 as the aim of the war. Can a negotiation start from here?

In the interview published by Corriere last June 22, Boris Johnson has done something very important: after having for three months embodied the role of “Ukraine’s most faithful ally”even more convinced than America, and having tried to build an axis with Kiev, with the Poles and the Baltics for the sole purpose of weakening the European Union, has finally emerged from the strategic ambiguity of “the Ukrainians must choose” – sacrosanct in itself, but with very complicated implications – and he fixed a clear objective for the front that supports the attacked country: «The Ukrainian territory must be restored, at least in the borders before February 24ththe sovereignty and security of Ukraine must be protected ”.

Status quo antetherefore, with Johnson who admits «the risk of a fatigue on Ukrainethe risk that people fail to see that this is a vital battle for our values, for the world “: the risk that Mario Draghi had clearly signaled to Joe Biden
already in his visit to the White House in May.

Warning and denouncing this risk, looking for a way out of the war that respects interests and principles, starting with Ukrainian ones, indicating objectives that can reconcile them as much as possible, are therefore no longer signs of European subsidence and timidity, but evident traces of what it takes: a serious policy. What indicates, for example, Jonathan Powellan Englishman who knows: in fact he negotiated peace in Northern Ireland on behalf of Tony Blair. He wrote on June 23 in the Guardian: «In this debate it seems that we have not learned any of the lessons of our history. Conditions can only be imposed on a country if it is invaded and conquered, as the allies did in Germany in 1945. Otherwiseeven the “winners” must negotiate, as in Versailles in 1919. And since no one proposes that Ukraine invade Russia, (…) Russia will continue to exist as Ukraine’s neighbor and still have much larger armed forces. There will be lasting peace only if we do not leave Russia to harbor the grudge of her, isolated and waiting for the next opportunity to invade ».

That’s exactly what it is Emmanuel Macron he has argued so far – and now that the French president is weaker it is even more important to underline it – when he said and repeated that “we must not humiliate Russia”, that is, to think that we can make it capitulate totally. And that’s exactly what the British had opposed until now, right up to Johnson’s wise if belated words. Suffice it to say that even in May, when Draghi, Macron and Scholz were struggling to find a way out and were referred to by a section of the Anglo-Saxon press as cowards, the Minister of Defense of London Ben Wallace he said things like that: «With the invasion of Ukraine, Putin, his inner circle and his generals are mirroring the fascism and tyranny of 70 years ago, repeating the mistakes of the totalitarian regimes of the last century. Their fate must surely be the same in the end ».

Now that Johnson is convinced that conquering and occupying Russia and subjecting Putin and his leaders to a new Nuremberg will not be easy, we can finally begin to discuss seriously.

To do this, the starting point – not necessarily the ending – is the latest survey of the European Council on Foreign Relations
(ECFR), the one who signaled the “fatigue” now also noted by Johnson. As its authors explain, the study, “carried out in nine EU Member States (Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain and Sweden) and in Great Britain, found strong support for ‘Ukraine; however, concerns are no longer focused on war developments but on its possible consequences, including the disruption of trade, rising energy prices and inflation. This shows that, in Europe, many citizens want the war to end as soon as possibleeven if it implies territorial losses for Ukraine, and they believe that it will be the EU, not the United States or China, that will “suffer damage” as a result of the conflict“. The survey therefore found a split between a “peace camp”, equal to 35%, which has the end of the war as a priority and does not comment on ways, and a “justice camp” equal to 25%, which would instead want a total victory. With a larger field, 43%, who choose both peace and justice (defeat Russia very quickly). Since the third hypothesis is not realistic, so far we have tended to focus on the first two.

Champion of a “peace” in the name of realism is, again and again, Henry Kissingerwhich at the age of 100 can only agree with itself (also) on Ukraine.

To the last Davos Forumand in this interview -, the former US secretary of state said that peace is made trading its most recent achievements with Moscow for those of 2014, that is, giving it definitively the Crimea and the parts of Donbass which it already controlled before this war. Ukrainian President Zelensky replied that these proposals seemed more taken from Munich 1938 (theappeasement towards Hitler) than from Davos 2022, but it is exactly that status quo ante which now preaches Boris Johnson, Kiev’s “iron ally”.

The great American journalist has been the champion par excellence of the “field of justice” Anne Applebaum. Another month ago wrote in Atlantic: «The West must not aim to offer Putin an emergency exit; our goal, our endgame, must be his defeat. In fact, the only solution that offers any hope of long-term stability in Europe is a rapid defeat or even, to take Macron’s expression, humiliation ”. Applebaum does not indicate concrete military and territorial objectives, but hammers on the fact that “yet another frozen conflict, yet another temporary stalemate, yet another compromise to save face will not end Russian aggression or bring about permanent peace” .

The strong point of these arguments is the no to the “freezing” of the conflict and the fact that Moscow still does not want to end the war. As Jonathan Powell explains, “Putin is not yet ready for serious negotiations. But it could become, according to his calculations after the battle of the Donbass, so we must be prepared. He could declare a ceasefire, as he did in 2014, by keeping the conquered territory. This would leave Ukraine with another frozen conflict, which Putin would exploit to prevent the country from embarking on the road to a European future. Such a ceasefire would be a trap ».

How to avoid it, the trap? By continuing to fight, to arm Ukraine and at the same time pursuing a satisfactory negotiation.

That is to say? Now that’s it status quo ante it’s no longer a blasphemy even in London, a negotiation that obliges Putin to return at least the last part of the stolen goods, the one taken in the last four months; and stay, we Westerners and above all we Europeans, the guarantors of Ukraine, those “who hold the key to sanctions and security guarantees to dissuade Russia from invading again.” Powell is also enlightening on this point: “The biggest guarantee of a secure future for Ukraine is in the hands of the EU“. With candidate status and a clear path to membership, albeit a long one, “it will be much more difficult for Russia to invade again. This would also give the Ukrainian government the levers and incentives necessary to radically reform a system still too dominated by a corrupt legacy of oligarchs and kleptocrats of the Soviet era ”.

As we can see, this is exactly the path that Europeans have followed so far. Continuing along this path, it will soon be understood that the territorial question – which now seems to be identified as a solution status quo ante – must be framed in a wider “cake”, which makes compromises acceptable to all. This requires, to quote Powell again, “a broader negotiation on the future of European security, which includes a new agreement on conventional forces and a new relationship between NATO and Russia”. Remembering, this professional negotiator points out, that “There is always a tension between peace and justice when trying to resolve a conflict”. But it is a “false dichotomy”. And so far he has played Putin’s game.

(A version of this article was published in the Corriere Press Review, reserved for subscribers. To receive it every day via email, you must subscribe to the Il Punto newsletter: you can do it here)

June 28, 2022 (change June 28, 2022 | 17:15)

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Do Kissinger and Johnson’s words point the way to a negotiation for Ukraine?


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