A week ago I welcomed the talks between CIA director Bill Burns and the director of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service Sergei Naryshkin but was skeptical of any outcome:
There will be no ceasefire now but the talks are good anyway. Both sides should do there best to keep them going.
Russia has asked for a lot: a pullback of NATO to its 1997 position, four parts of Ukraine to become parts of Russia, a guarantee that Ukraine will never join NATO. The U.S. is certainly not willing to commit to those steps – at least not yet.
It will need time and many more talks for the U.S. to come to its senses and to make the necessary concessions to end the conflict.
It will also require the defeat of the Ukrainian military, and anyone who joins it, on the battle field. Russia can do that if it concentrates on that effort.
Since then Russia released another salvo of missiles on the electricity network of Ukraine. This confirmed that the talks were not moving in a positive direction.
Now Yves Smith and Gilbert Doctorow name additional handicaps to the necessary compromises that could end the war.
Smith starts be examining the recent utterances from the U.S. side. There is no sign in them that anyone within the Biden administration is seeking some way towards peace. General Milley, who went public with talk suggestion after he had lost the internal discussion, was in fact whistled back:
Some of the close watchers of the Russia-Ukraine conflict have been talking up the prospects of peace talks. As we’ll discuss shortly, your humble blogger thinks this view is not currently well aligned with reality. Yes, things look to have thawed to the point that the US has backed off of worst-than-the-darkest-days-of-cold-war non-communication with Russia. But while thawing from close to absolute zero to a mere deep freeze is technically warming, it’s still awfully frigid. The two sides have zero bargaining overlap in their positions, which means no basis for discussions.
Another problem with talks is that there is no one to talk to. The Ukrainian comedian Zelensky is not in a position where he can give up and stay alive:
And one of the biggest impediments to any settlement, other than Russia eventually dictating terms, is the leader the collective West has put on a pedestal: Zelensky, with the additional baggage of his Banderite inner circle.
Smith affirmatively quotes the former Russian president Medvedev who had explained the issue:
Vice Chairman of Russia’s Security Council, in a recent Telegram comment summarized in TASS, correctly depicted how Zelensky is boxed in:
Nevertheless, “Zelensky does not want any negotiations for quite obvious selfish reasons. Moreover, they [negotiations] are very dangerous for him,” Medvedev continued.
“After all, unless he acknowledges the realities of Ukraine’s break-up, it makes no sense to sit down at the [negotiating] table. Once he admits it, he will be bumped off by his own nationalists who are connected with the army top brass, and of whom he is scared out of his wits,” Medvedev said, describing the situation by the chess term ‘Zugzwang’ (in which each move of a player will worsen his/her position).
This scenario also underscores the mess the West is in if it were actually to get serious about wanting to negotiate (per above, my read on the rash of news is they amount to a combination of optics management plus some personal jockeying; there’s no sign Biden, Blinken, Sullivan, or Austin have changed position), they can’t maneuver around the neo-Nazi infestation the US bred. Zelensky will have to resist any peace overtures. If he were killed, the neo-Nazis would blame it on Russia and use it as a pretext for even more radical positions. After all, how much would it cost the US to provide intel and other support for terrorism?
Over the last months Russia had made a number of statements that could be seen as requests for talks:
In the last month, the volley of calls for negotiation from Putin has intensified. On September 30, Putin called on Kiev “to return back to the negotiating table.” On October 11, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia “was willing to engage with the United States or with Turkey on ways to end the war.” Two days later, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Moscow is “open to negotiations to achieve our objectives.” On October 26, Putin sent a message to Zelensky through President Umaro Mokhtar Sissoco Embalo of Guinea Bissau, saying that “He wishes and thinks that a direct dialogue should happen between your two countries.” On October 30, Lavrov said that Russia is “ready to listen to our Western colleagues if they make another request to organize a conversation” as long as Russia’s security needs were considered. And on November 1, Putin said that “necessary conditions” could arise that would be a catalyst to talks.
The phase of Russia seeking negotiations now seems to be over.
Gilbert Doctorow finds that Russia’s society has moved on and that prominent politicians are following its lead:
The fact is that Russian society from top to bottom is very unhappy with the present state of the war – but their discontent is with what they see as the pusillanimity of their own government in not responding more resolutely to Ukrainian provocations in the form of continuing artillery strikes on the Kursk and Belgorod regions from the Kharkov oblast just across the border or through atrocities such as the just released video of the cold-blooded murder of Russian prisoners of war by gleeful Ukrainian soldiers. The withdrawal from the city of Kherson inflamed the passions of the Russian public who demand better explanations in their parliament and on their television than they have received so far.
The pressure on Mr. Putin is from his own patriotic supporters, and an untimely truce for negotiations right now could lead to civil disorder in Russia. This is not idle speculation: it was perfectly clear from the latest edition of yesterday’s talk show Sunday Evening with Vladimir Solovyov in which a deputy speaker of the Duma from the ruling party United Russia and a Duma committee chairman from the Communists took an active part, meaning that the nation’s elites are moving with the popular current against Defense Minister Shoigu if not against those still higher in the Kremlin.
As Yves Smith closes:
So I don’t see any alternative other than for Russia to continue on its current path of prostrating Ukraine. And I’m sure the Russians had worked that out a while back and see nothing that suggests it would make sense to change course.
The senseless war will for now continue.
Meanwhile it is freezing here in north Germany which will likely have a very expensive winter.
Britain continues to buy Russian oil from third parties while the EU will receive its Russian gas through Azerbaijan. The prices per unit will be much higher than any direct imports from Russia would be. The price differences will enrich a number of middleman at the cost of British and European consumers.
One wonders how long European politicians will be able to justify that charade.