There Can Be No Negotiated Settlement
The only solution to the war is victory.
1. War Crimes
Please do not avert your eyes from this piece about what Russia is doing in the east of Ukraine:
Russia has deported 900,000 to 1.6 million Ukrainian citizens from Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine in a systemic “filtration” operation, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement Wednesday, in a loud condemnation of Moscow and affirmation of claims that Ukrainian officials have levied for weeks.
Many of those “forcibly deported,” including 260,000 children, some separated from their families, have wound up in isolated regions in Russia’s far east, Blinken said.
“Reports indicate” that Russian forces have taken thousands of children from orphanages in Ukraine and placed them up for adoption in Russia, according to the statement.
Reporting by The Washington Post in March showed that Ukrainian civilians were already being deported. Some were taken to Taganrog, a Russian port city on the Sea of Azov. From there, they would be sent by train to cities and towns across Russia. In March, satellite images and videos verified by The Post showed that Russian-backed forces were beginning to build a camp in Bezymenne, in separatist-controlled eastern Ukraine. . . .
Moscow “reportedly” stored biometric and personal data of civilians and subjected them to invasive searches, according to the statement, which notes that some Ukrainians have been coerced into signing agreements to stay in Russia.
“The unlawful transfer and deportation of protected persons is a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention on the protection of civilians and is a war crime,” Blinken said, drawing parallels to past Russian filtration operations in Chechnya and elsewhere.
“Forced deportation” and “filtration” are euphemisms for industrial-scale kidnapping and ethnic cleansing. I will leave it to others to debate how close to the line of genocide this is.
Here is a story from yesterday, where I am dropping you in media res, because I’m not going to show you the photo Olga Rudenko is talking about:
If you want to see the photo you can click on the first tweet. But honestly, you shouldn’t. You don’t need that image in your brain.
What we all do need is to understand that these two stories—about ethnic cleansing and the massacre of children—illustrate why a negotiated settlement will not be possible from Ukraine’s perspective. No country could swallow that after what the Russians have done to them.
This is not a moral argument. This is not a question about should. It is realpolitik. And understanding this reality is central to planning what the West should be doing with Ukraine right now—and preparing to do next.
As we move into fall and winter, it will get cold in Europe. Energy prices will be very high and dependence on Russian gas will be at its most painful. Donald Trump will likely be a declared candidate for president of the United States, holding out the prospect for Russia regaining its most important ally and eventually breaking the NATO/E.U. alliance.
With that leverage on his side, Putin may well begin pushing for some sort of negotiated peace on terms he can accept as partial victory: Russia keeps some territory. Hostilities end. Some of the sanctions ease. Europe gets to turn the heat back up at home. Food prices ease.
The West will very much want such a settlement. But the key point to understand is that such an arrangement is a mirage. It will not be possible to achieve.
The reality is that the West has only two options:
(1) Continue supporting Ukraine despite the pain, or
(2) Pull back from Ukraine and leave it to fight Russia on its own.
That’s it. Those are the options. Any attempt to force the country to come to terms from a position of weakness—for instance, by signaling that aid will dwindle—will not succeed because Ukraine will not accede to it. This is not a choice that can be incentivized. It is a fact. And Western diplomacy ought to recognize it as such, much as we recognize that Vladimir Putin cannot be incentivized.
Which means that the only thing the West should be focusing on is victory.
More weapons. Broader war aims. Plans that take into account the potential for a war that extends for years. Preparation for terrible economic shocks in Europe this winter and food shocks starting now.
And Western leaders ought to keep explaining the situation to people now, so they understand why the only choices are Ukrainian victory or Russian victory; why a negotiated peace is not possible.
2. Let’s Run It Back
Olivia Nuzzi got the scoop:
“Look,” Trump said, “I feel very confident that, if I decide to run, I’ll win.”
I fixated on If I decide. Trump is less a politician than a live-action mythological creature, and so punditry and all of the standard forms of analyses tend to fail. What would factor into such a decision for such an unusual person? “Well, in my own mind, I’ve already made that decision, so nothing factors in anymore. In my own mind, I’ve already made that decision,” he said.
He wouldn’t disclose what he’d decided. Not at first. But then he couldn’t help himself. “I would say my big decision will be whether I go before or after,” he said. “You understand what that means?” His tone was conspiratorial. Was he referring to the midterm elections? He repeated after me: “Midterms.” Suddenly, he relaxed, as though my speaking the word had somehow set it free for discussion. “Do I go before or after? That will be my big decision,” he said.
I find it darkly humorous that the cynical anti-anti-Trumpers can’t bring themselves to say, “For the love of all that’s holy, do not let this man be president again.”
That’s what they’re all thinking, of course. But none of them can say it. Instead we get a raft of “DeSantis is much less dangerous than the guy we always insisted wasn’t actually dangerous!”
And that’s mixed with other anti-antis trying to Jedi mind-trick Trump by