Is there any real prospect of negotiations between Russia and Ukraine?


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The writer is a senior lecturer in conflict and security at King’s College London, specialising in the Russia-Ukraine relationship

The recent Jeddah conference on Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s 10-point peace plan was an attempt to build international support for a negotiated end to the devastating Ukraine conflict. The proposal stipulates the complete withdrawal of Russian forces and the restoration of Kyiv’s control over its sovereign territory. The next big step would be a summit of world leaders to endorse Kyiv’s resolution formula and increase pressure on Moscow to end the war.

This new approach by Ukraine and its western allies could suffer the same doomed fate as the other peace proposals by Brazil, China and South Africa. However, the presence of delegations from China — Russia’s largest strategic partner and one of its key export markets — as well as India, a major importer of Russian crude oil, seemed to indicate that a global consensus was finally emerging around the principles necessary for a resolution in the conflict.

China’s presence in particular was arguably a sign that Vladimir Putin’s most important ally wanted him to start making the necessary concessions to end the war. It is more likely, though, that Beijing is shoring up its own role in any future negotiation. Pressurising Russia to change its course on the war is a dangerous game: if Putin has to compromise and his grip on power weakens, China could lose a strategic partner. Furthermore, any settlement over Ukraine risks loosening Moscow’s economic and diplomatic reliance on Beijing. Betting on a Chinese change of heart seems unwise.

The bigger question is whether Russia, which did not participate in the Jeddah talks, will make concessions. Despite official silence from the Kremlin, the US appears to be in informal discussions with Moscow. While it is possible that the Russian president may contemplate compromises, his plans to double defence expenditures in 2023 and to increase the maximum conscription age suggest otherwise.

The key challenge lies in differing notions of what “meaningful concessions” might look like. For the Kremlin, accepting Zelenskyy’s peace plan would be seen as an unconditional surrender — even though Russia has not been occupied by foreign troops, nor is it being asked to demilitarise and surrender any of its original territory. The restoration of Ukraine’s full territorial integrity and the protection of its people are rightly seen by Kyiv as vital for both moral and pragmatic reasons. Yet for Russia, the total or partial loss of the currently occupied territories — and especially of Crimea — is considered intolerable.

This is because what began as a war of choice, under the pretext that Ukraine belonged to the “Russian world”, has now become an existential fight not only for Putin but also for Russia itself. The Kremlin used Nato’s enlargement eastward to justify its invasion, even though there were no concrete plans to grant Ukraine Nato membership; this has backfired. For Russia, Ukraine’s western-armed military forces now represent a real threat. Ukrainian forces have shown their effectiveness on the battlefield, despite the difficulties, and Moscow is clearly concerned that they may advance deeper into Russian occupied territory, and potentially dislodge its forces from Crimea.

Furthermore, Nato is planning to have 300,000 troops at high readiness to deploy to its eastern flank if necessary. As a result, Moscow no longer describes Ukrainian territories controlled since 2022 as belonging to the “Russian world” (after all, Russia has bombed the area); they are seen as buffers against Ukraine and Nato.

The Kremlin is increasingly coming to terms with the fact that Ukraine will neither be “de-Nazified” (there will be no pro-Russian “puppet” government in Kyiv) nor “demilitarised”, nor will it remain neutral. It is now clear to Moscow that Ukraine will probably become part of the EU and anchored to Euro-Atlantic security structures. For Russia, accepting these new realities is a significant concession. Moscow’s priorities appear to be safeguarding itself against Ukrainian and Nato forces, retaining some of the land it currently occupies in Ukraine (especially Crimea and possibly in the Donbas) and ensuring Putin saves face after a compromise is found.

Yet, accepting Russia’s conditions — that it keeps part, if not all, of the seized territories, in exchange for an end to the war and its tacit acceptance of Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic alignment — is highly risky. Not only would this undermine Kyiv, it would justify Russia’s aggression and might even encourage new assaults, for instance by China in the Indo-Pacific. There is no guarantee that Russia will not regroup its forces after a ceasefire agreement is reached, putting Ukraine under renewed threat.

A negotiated outcome, therefore, remains elusive. As the belligerents test their strength on the battlefield, their positions remain far apart. This could change, however, if neither side gains the military advantage and a cold winter stalemate sets in.

Video: Ukraine tech sector goes to war | FT Film

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Lisa Holden
Lisa Holden
Lisa Holden is a news writer for LinkDaddy News. She writes health, sport, tech, and more. Some of her favorite topics include the latest trends in fitness and wellness, the best ways to use technology to improve your life, and the latest developments in medical research.

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