Negotiations with Russia are not a viable path to ending the war in Ukraine, according to the director of the American Enterprise Institute’s Critical Threats Project (CTP).
In an article published Thursday on the Institute for the Study of War website, CTP Director Frederick Kagan argued that war negotiations would be useless as long as Russian President Vladimir Putin or a “Putinist successor” remained in control of Russia.
Kagan said that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine after an eight-year “ceasefire” that followed the 2014 annexation of Crimea showed that the Russian president would “not rest until he has conquered Kyiv.”
“The conflict is unresolvable as long as Putinism rules the Kremlin,” Kagan wrote. “Negotiations won’t change that reality. They can only create the conditions from which Putin or a Putinist successor will contemplate renewing the attack on Ukraine’s independence.”
Kagan suggested that the West contemplate the “dangers” of any terms that Ukraine might offer Russia, as well as the likelihood of Russia accepting terms, before “pressing Ukraine to ask Russia for talks.”
He noted that Russia has already rejected any peace terms that include returning to pre-war borders, while Putin is unlikely to agree to conditions that do not include Russia annexing “huge swaths of Ukrainian land.”
Kagan said Ukraine’s position is “not yet strong enough” to negotiate favorably. He pointed out that although counteroffensives have been successful in reclaiming some territory, Russia still controlled “more than half” of the Ukrainian land it has taken since the invasion began February 24.
“Negotiations at this stage of the conflict will not yield additional Russian territorial concessions,” he wrote. “Putin has announced the formal annexation to Russia of large areas of Ukraine that he does not control … A ceasefire now will freeze the lines where they are at best.”
Kagan went on to say that the war would not end even if Ukraine were to cede the annexed territory to Russia, maintaining that Putin invaded to destroy Ukraine’s independence and ethnic identity rather than gain territory.
“[Putin] refuses to tolerate a government in Kyiv that is not under de facto Russian control,” wrote Kagan. “He has built these ideas deeply into his ideology and will not remove them. Putin will never stop trying to regain control of Ukraine by one means or another.”
Instead of negotiations, Kagan recommended that Western allies help Ukraine reclaim strategically important territory and “build up the Ukrainian military and economy to a point that deters future Russian invasions.” He suggested that a “diplomatic agreement” with Russia would only be advisable once Ukraine achieves the upper hand.
It could be some time until Russian and Ukrainian leaders meet to negotiate an end to the war. Attempts to begin peace talks have repeatedly hit roadblocks. This week, Russia rejected Ukrainian terms while also claiming that Ukraine was unwilling to negotiate.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters during the G20 summit in Bali that Ukraine “categorically refuses any negotiations and puts forward terms that are obviously unrealistic and inadequate,” according to The Moscow Times.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky suggested peace terms during the summit that included demands of Russia returning Ukrainian territory, withdrawing troops and providing monetary compensation for damage caused during the war.
Newsweek has reached out to the governments of Russia and Ukraine for comment.