The war in Ukraine: are we going to negotiate?

The interview

December 2, 2022

After more than 9 months, the Ukrainian conflict seems to be entering a new phase. Last month’s withdrawal of Russian troops from the city of Kherson, which fell into Russian hands a few days after the offensive began, was a major strategic setback. What is the current situation on the ground? And Vladimir Putin’s support abroad? Can we move forward with negotiations? Update with IRIS research director Jean de Gliniasty, former French ambassador to Moscow.

What is the current situation on the ground? Are we headed for a frozen conflict?

The current situation is preparation for new military operations. The fighters went through a period where we can say “. rasputitsa”, the time of the year when the rains turn the ground into mud. Tanks are swamped and troops are paralyzed, which has resulted in attacks, especially in Ukraine. Now we’re entering a period where the ground is starting to freeze, so the armor will be able to maneuver again. The Ukrainians will try to use their advantages on the ground, especially to the North.

At the same time, the Russians are increasing their efforts to take Bakhmout, which has gained symbolic value as a lock towards the capital of Donbass, Kramatorsk. The Russians are trying to encircle it at the cost of heavy losses. The fighting will continue even more fiercely. We are on the brink of a resumption of military action, which, if unsuccessful, could lead to negotiations.

Is Putin’s support abroad decreasing?

The word support is an extreme word. Neither out of reluctance or general hostility toward the “collective West,” as the Russians put it, nor because they have special interests that overlap with Russia’s, do they want to impose sanctions, nor do outright condemning countries. The occupation of Ukraine. However, these countries cannot be understood as a homogeneous group. Some of them stay away from the occupation, but do not apply the sanctions, while others apply only a certain part of them. For example, the Chinese do not supply military equipment, but are eager to import Russian oil at low prices. However, what is certain is that at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in September, the Collective Security Treaty Organization summit in Samarkand last week, and the G20 summit in Bali in mid-November, many countries expressed their desire to leave this country. war. They “condemned” him, to use a word used in Bali.

Therefore, there is a general fatigue from this war, which hinders the economic development of these countries in particular and is the beginning of a kind of serious economic crisis. In addition, support for Russia—or at least attitudes—hasn’t changed much: those who don’t impose sanctions are still unchanged, and those who say they won’t recognize the four new regions created by Russia have never changed their position. minds. Against the background of this general reluctance to war, there is a kind of multipolarity outside the Western bloc. Depending on the interests of each, we support Russia more or less.

Can we move forward with negotiations? Which actors are in favor of it? Who is against?

Ukrainians are the first to directly oppose the negotiations. They are in a strong position, their military is motivated, they have modern equipment – and they just got a promise from the US Congress less than a year ago to supply them with 155 mm ammunition and HIMARS missiles. One week – ; they want to score maximum points. There is no question of them negotiating when victory seems out of reach. The Russians said they are ready for unconditional negotiations at any time. And for good reason, they want to capitalize on their share of Ukrainian territory. Therefore, a truce would be a way for them to catch their breath and strengthen themselves.

We should also look at the position of the “masters of the game”, the United States, which provides $19 billion in military aid to Ukraine, and is the mainstay of the Ukrainian army and government. Currently, many rumors and statements indicate that the time has come for the United States to sit down at the negotiating table. US Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley said recently that Washington is helping the Ukrainians to put them in a strong position during the negotiations. It is interesting because the United States is integrating the prospect of negotiations into its planning. The Chief of the General Staff also said that the time will come when both sides will realize that they cannot go further in their military project and will end up sitting around the same table. The spokesman of the White House immediately justified the words of General Mark Millay and reminded that it is up to the Ukrainians to decide when or if they want to start negotiations. But such a formula shows that the prospect is now possible.

That’s why we’re in the early stages right now. But if we add these American declarations, the war weariness that is manifesting itself in true unanimity in Bali, the Russians showing interest in negotiations for obvious reasons, we really feel the background noise that this is the time for talks. What is certain is that these talks will not take place before a new test of the balance of military power, where if the Russians collapse, the Ukrainians will rush to increase their advantage before any negotiations.

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