Ukraine pressured to come to peace deal


European leaders have had enough of the conflict and would be directly impacted by an escalation.

In a wave of a broad leak of US secret documents, whose authenticity has not been disputed by the Pentagon, it has come to light that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been planning bold actions such as bombing Druzhba pipeline that provides Russian oil to Hungary (a NATO member), and even occupying Russian villages and targeting the Russian Federation with long-range missiles. The Washington Post reported on it on May 13.

As Pulitzer Prize winner American investigative journalist Seymour Hersh wrote last week, this is a huge problem for the US and its allies. Zelensky’s deal with the West, either implicit or formalized in closed-door conversations, consisted in employing the Western weapons provided to target Russian forces only “inside Ukraine’s borders”, as Western power consider Donbass to be Ukrainian territory – even after Kiev has over 8 years of conflict consistently targeted and alienated the population there.

In any case, by using Western arms to launch attacks outside the disputed Donbass region and right within the territory globally recognized as being the Russian Federation, Zelensky would be crossing a red line. According to Hersh’s US intelligence community sources, countries such as Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and the Czech Republic, led by Poland have been pressuring Ukraine’s president “to find a way to end the war, even by resigning himself if necessary, and to allow the process of rebuilding his nation to get under way.” Germany reportedly also plays a big role in that. Hersh writes that, according to CIA reports, Zelensky is not “budging”, and is losing support of the aforementioned neighbors.

For the US, Zelensky alleged plans are a breach of trust, to say the least. During their famous joint press conference in December 2022, Biden made it quite clear to his Ukrainian counterpart, who was standing next to him, when he said that giving Ukraine long-distance missiles “would have a prospect of breaking up NATO.” Biden added that his NATO allies were “not looking to go to war with Russia. They’re not looking for a third world war.”

This means that Washington basically wanted to keep arming Kiev and using it in a proxy war against Moscow in the border conflict area without ever escalating it too much. As I wrote back then, the problem with such games is that proxy actors are sometimes unpredictable and tensions may escalate too far and spiral out of control. Could this be the case with Zelensky now?

For Europe, there are other problems too, which are felt more directly for now. The more than eight million Ukrainian refugees are now at the center of a European migration crisis, and albeit not a part of the European Union, Ukraine’s citizens can travel to and through the European Schengen Zone without a visa. Some European nations whose economies have been badly hurt by the 15-month confrontation are starting to reintroduce some kinds of border control. The only thing that could solve the refugee crisis would of course be a peace agreement.

Among sectors of Kiev’s political elite, there have also been talks of a compromise for peace – the problem being that the Ukrainian far-right would never welcome any kind of compromise. As I have written, back on May 27, 2019, Dmytro Yarosh (then adviser to Valerii Zaluzhny, the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine) stated quite simply that President Zelensky would “lose his life” and “hang on a tree on Khreshchatyk” if he ever “betrayed” Ukrainian ultra-nationalists by negotiating an end to the civil war in Donbass. These same military and paramilitary factions still have a lot of power in Kiev, to put it mildly, and maintain the same reasoning.

This makes Hersh’s reports quite credible, especially when he writes that, according to an unnamed American official, Zelensky would “rather go to Italy than stay and possibly get killed by his own people.” This means a peace agreement could cost lots of money, considering all the corruption scandals permeating the high echelons of Kiev that can also spill over the US Democrat Party and US President Joe Biden’s own family. In the neighboring countries, according to Hersh, quoting his source: “the European leaders have made it clear that ‘Zelensky can keep what he’s got – a villa in Italy and interests in offshore bank accounts – ‘if he works up a peace deal even if he’s got to be paid off, if it’s the only way to get a deal’.”

Mateusz Piskorski, a political analyst writing for Polish newspaper Myśl Polska notes that Hersh’s sources might be getting indirect confirmation from other developments, such as the fact that a lobbying group has been created to support transferring F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine and so far there is no sign that Poland or the other Eastern and Central European countries are participating in this group together with the UK and Netherlands. However, Piskorski also wrote that Poland is largely driven by “instructions” given by Washington rather than national interest.

I wrote on how Warsaw has been making itself available to be used by Washington as a proxy in its quest for regional hegemony in Europe. The problem once again, from an American perspective, is that proxies sometimes can get unpredictable or can get tired of being used. For one thing, a war escalation with Russia would not do any good to Polish plans for a Polish-Ukrainian confederation. It remains to be seen how far the US is willing to bring the world close to a nuclear world war, before responsible leaders start engaging in diplomacy towards a peace deal. It seems some of the European leaders are already onto that.

Uriel Araujo


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