Russia and Ukraine – war and diplomacy

In search of a durable peace

Sir, – Diplomacy is not an end in itself; it is a tool that states use to pursue and satisfy particular policy outcomes. For diplomacy to be productive, the relevant states must have sufficient overlap in policy goals, and a willingness to make concessions or compromises on areas of disagreement, that result in an agreement that all parties trust will be implemented in good faith.

This is clearly not the case in Ukraine. Moscow has, through brute force and sham referendums, declared that sizable chunks of Ukrainian territory (including those not under its control) are in fact, Russian.

The most recent amendments to the Russian constitution include articles which prohibit any “Russian” territory from separating or seceding from the federation.

This was, as many observers have already noted, the point of the annexations; Vladimir Putin was binding the rest of the Russian government to his Ukrainian policy by closing off any potential avenues for a negotiated settlement.


On the Ukrainian side, Kyiv has made – in descending order of importance – the restoration of its territorial integrity, the repatriation of millions of its citizens forcibly trafficked to the Russian Federation, and postwar reparations and a war crimes process of some form its conditions for ending the war.

We can see in this set of demands the room for a degree of give and take in negotiations, once the issue of Ukraine’s territorial integrity is addressed (and even there, the Crimean peninsula remains a potential area of “give”).

However, negotiations can only begin an only bear fruit if Russia is willing to relinquish its claim to Ukrainian territory – again, something Russia refuses to countenance (and its government is constitutionally barred from doing).

“Diplomacy” and “negotiations” in this context can accomplish nothing. Even if a ceasefire or truce could be negotiated it would resolve none of the underlying causes of the war, while giving Russia breathing space to reconstitute its forces and return to the offensive. Kyiv has, rightly, rejected this approach a priori as simply sowing the seeds for future Russian aggression.

How do we cut the Gordian knot? By compelling one side or the other to abandon key commitments. The way to that is by inflicting costs on them, through military and economic actions, that make their continuation of the war politically untenable.

In other words, the war ends when one side concludes it has lost.

That leaves us with two options: either the West abandons Ukraine and coerces it into capitulation, or the West supports Ukraine until Russia accepts defeat.

In addition to the obvious moral preferability of the latter scenario, it also offers the greater chance of a durable peace, rather than a series of bloody “continuation wars”. – Yours, etc,