Kyiv and Moscow Backing Further and Further Out of Negotiations

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Analyzing the state of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, most Western experts agree that any negotiations now would mean a strategic victory for Moscow. Kyiv firmly disagrees to this Sergiu CEBAN, RTA: Although they are unable to provide concrete practical assistance, our authorities are nevertheless trying to show Kyiv signs of concern and solidarity in other available ways. Last week – on the eve of another anniversary – the parliament decided to pass a declaration condemning the Holodomor in Ukraine in 1932-1933. For many, this historical period has become a source of parallels with the current situation in the Russian-Ukrainian confrontation, which has lately been shifting to an entirely different plane from the classic hostilities. For several months, the idea of possible U.S.-EU-mediated negotiations has been hanging in the air. The international press actively covered this, citing a variety of sources. The peaceful withdrawal of Russian troops from the right bank of the Dnieper and from Kherson, accompanied by a relatively calm situation on the battlefields, reinforced the view that Kyiv’s intrusive invitation to negotiations must succeed. However, the massive missile attacks of the past two weeks have dashed hopes. The G-20 summit, seen by many as a symbolic starting point, in fact did not become one. Moreover, the uncompromising content of Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s speech, followed by the ultimatums of the Russian speakers, in effect marked the failure of the negotiation efforts. At least for the near future. The Ukrainian president made it clear that in order to start negotiations it is necessary to restore Ukraine’s territorial integrity within the borders of 1991 and therefore Kyiv is not going to make any territorial concessions and the offensive will continue. The Ukrainian military also voiced their position through Valerii Zaluzhnyi. In a conversation with the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mark Milley, the AFU Commander-in-Chief said that the military would not accept any negotiations, agreements or compromise solutions. Thus, at least at the current moment the positions of the sides, if we talk about their public expression, are very far from a compromise and aim at a complete surrender of the enemy. Both Ukraine and Russia seem to count on a military victory: the former by de-occupying the territories, the latter by destroying the home front and critical infrastructure. This means that, despite the coming winter season, the war in one form or another will be in an active phase and an escalation of hostilities can be expected in the very near future. By using large-scale missile attacks on energy infrastructure, the Russian Federation is trying to put pressure on the central authorities and population of Ukraine to force them to accept its terms of “peace”. In addition, such missile raids not only deplete a significant portion of the air defense assets, but also undermine the supply and logistics capabilities of the AFU on the front lines. Moscow expects a double effect: to provoke a large-scale humanitarian crisis and an uncontrollable energy collapse, which, in turn, should lead to a change in Kyiv’s political stance. Amid the disruption of the Russia-Ukraine détente, global tensions are also likely to rise, and with it a resurgence of talk about the fate of the Ukrainian conflict and ways to curb it. The approaching cold season, increasing uncertainty in the global economy, rising energy and food prices are forcing the U.S. and other actors to carefully promote a negotiating agenda and a conditional “winter truce”. The European Union quite reasonably – taking into account the intentional collapse of the Ukrainian energy sector and the very likely catastrophe – fears a new large wave of refugees. In addition, the change in the domestic political configuration in the U.S. has already resulted in Republicans more often demanding an audit of expenditures allocated to Ukraine. Thus, due to the changes in the U.S. Congress, the process of allocating the next financial and military aid to Ukraine may become more complicated. One cannot ignore the fact that after the midterm elections the attention of the current White House administration will be more focused on the internal political confrontation with a view to the next presidential election. This will also inevitably affect the degree and forms of Washington’s involvement in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. For all the complexity of the situation, the interested mediators nevertheless try to maintain at least a semblance of creating conditions for “conciliation” of the war. This includes the IAEA negotiations on the Zaporizhzhia NPP, the exchange of prisoners, the possible launch of the Togliatti – Odessa ammonia pipeline, as well as contacts between the NATO and Russian military on the issue of more careful behavior in the Black Sea. The low intensity on the front and the absence of fierce fighting, except for occasional sorties by sabotage groups, contribute to this atmosphere. Despite the “nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine” thesis, political contacts between Russia and the West continue and have even become more frequent lately. Some of these contacts are demonstratively broadcast to the general public. By the way, it is the Pentagon and the U.S. General Staff that are now making statements and increasingly clear signals that the current conflict in Ukraine has no military solution, so sooner or later the sides will need to negotiate peace terms. Until the end of the year, much will depend on Moscow’s further behavior and, above all, on whether it will intensify energy and infrastructure pressure on Ukraine to get Kyiv to ease its position. Or is another tactical pause ahead to prepare for a new ground offensive closer to the end of winter, when the training of mobilized forces will be completed and the necessary military and logistics reserves to expand the front line will have been accumulated. Analyzing the current reality on the battlefield for Kyiv, as well as the intensively promoted negotiation component, most prominent Western experts agree that any negotiations in the current conditions would mean a strategic victory for Moscow. In principle, the Kremlin, having started a military campaign and not achieving super goals, has at the same time strengthened its negotiating positions and can convert them into concrete diplomatic results.