End of Hostilities?
Formula for Peace
There has been some chatter, mostly in Russian billionaire circles, about different people volunteering to help broker a peace agreement between Russia and Ukraine. Practicing philosopher on March 1 in his Echo Moscow blog offers (at least what I think is) sane advice. Here’s a quick xlation:
All the experience I have accumulated over almost forty years of work in the field of conflict resolution suggests that the success of any complex negotiation does not depend on the skill of the negotiators, their good or bad will, but on the presence or absence of a negotiating formula and negotiating position. If there are none, if before the start of negotiations at least one of the parties has not formulated a position that allows for the existence of points of contact, the negotiations are meaningless even if the mediator is the Pope or the Chief Rabbi.
The second condition for successful negotiations is realism. In the current situation, realism presupposes an honest and courageous recognition of the fact that there is no negotiating formula for making peace between Russia and Ukraine today. It doesn't exist in principle. That is, if Crimea, Donbas, the neutral status of Ukraine, restitution, militarization, compensation, satisfaction and so on become the subject of discussion, negotiations can be curtailed immediately, because they will yield zero results. On all these issues, Russia and Ukraine, and more broadly, Russia and the West, are now unable to agree.
The third indispensable condition for conducting any negotiations, with the exception of negotiations on complete and unconditional surrender, is to give both parties the opportunity to save face. This is triple important when it comes to negotiations between belligerent countries, where governments are backed by enraged masses warmed by bloodshed. The point is no longer what Putin and Zelensky can agree on, but what the masses behind them can accept. Putin depends on the mood of the masses just as much as Zelensky, just the format is different. Nothing that goes against the expectations of the masses, neither one nor the other can sign. We have already seen this in Paris.
Based on these three conditions, the negotiation formula looks like a very narrow isthmus with an almost illusory possibility to walk on water “like on dry land.” Speech can and should be exclusively about the conditions of a truce, and not peace. This is the only more or less working window of opportunity. Stabilization of the situation here and now without even trying to give a hint about in what direction, how and how quickly this conflict should be resolved. The limit of the possible is an armistice agreement, like with Japan, leaving all questions open, but allowing somehow to streamline humanitarian problems.
The only point of discussion and, accordingly, the point of contact today can and should be humanitarian issues. Cessation of new killings, exchange of prisoners and corpses. The only way to save face is a tear on the cheek, even if it's a crocodile tear. Crocodiles also have children and even grandchildren. Leaving the humanitarian zone means the death of the negotiation process. There can be only one general thesis now - any ideas and ambitions, grievances and claims cannot be an excuse for the nightmare into which it all resulted.
From a practical point of view, the base can be agreements on a ceasefire and the withdrawal of Russian troops to positions before February 24, with the exception of the territories of Russia-occupied areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, which Russia unilaterally recognized as independent states and which in any case were not controlled by Ukraine until February 24. Everything else should be left for later. This is in the interests of Ukraine, which needs to save the lives of its citizens, and this does not contradict Putin’s concept of “fraternal peoples”: South and North Korea are generally one people, but they can only exist on opposite sides of the barbed wire.
Thank you for your glimpse of sanity. Could you direct readers to a substantive historical account of what negotiations among the parties occurred in the last year?