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Ukraine, the negotiations that are not there

The European elections are held against the backdrop of parallels between the Normandy landings of 80 years ago and an increasingly dangerous war in Ukraine. Politicians and the media are ignoring the possibilities of a negotiation, proposed by many parties as the only way to end the conflict.

Article, 6 June 2024

On June 15, a ‘Peace Conference for Ukraine’ opens in Lucerne, Switzerland, which will not have peace as its central issue. The meeting, convened by Ukrainian Head of State Volodymyr Zelenskyi immediately after the G-7 summit in Rome, will host delegations from 110 countries. But Russia’s participation is not desired, Moscow is not invited and there will be no talk of a possible end to the war. Instead, the focus of the talks will be the military and financial support from the ‘international community’ for the continuation of the war until the victory of Ukraine. They will talk about how to rebuild consensus around a Western strategy of sending new weapons and funding to the Kiev government.

In June in Lucerne there will not even be talk of what ‘victory’ actually means for Ukraine. The US position will not be questioned: the complete restoration of Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty over the four disputed regions of Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhia and Kherson, and over Crimea. In order to achieve this goal, war victims will multiply and Ukraine will be bled dry in the name of the Ukrainian people’s heroic resistance against Russian aggression. The United States, NATO and European countries are arguing on the prospects for military escalation,ranging from hitting targets on Russian territory to sending Western military instructors, as well as offering intelligence, logistical, and strategic support. The war in Ukraine is already dividing the NATO alliance and risks overwhelming the European Union when it comes to financing reconstruction after the war. 

What is the meaning of such Western positions? Since the summer of 2023, after the failure of the Ukrainian counteroffensive, it has mainly been the military who have warned against the continuation of this war. Both in the West and in the East, in the silence of the media. On 20 February, former British Chief of Staff Lord Julian Richards in a startling interview with the BBC called for an end to the war. He warned that a prolonged trench warfare with few gains in territory and thousands of senseless deaths was to be expected, and called for the willingness of the West to negotiate ‘peace for land’ as Russian gains were still limited. According to Lord Richards “we are asking very brave Ukrainians, and the population as a whole, to fight a war which we’re not resourcing them to win – we haven’t even defined victory – and that they’re unlikely to succeed in, and therefore there is a growing case for saying we need to negotiate with Russia”. No British newspaper – not even the BBC News website – reported the interview. The link to the interview on BBC Radio 4‘s PM programme has been removed, but the text is available at

In December 2023, Ukrainian High General Valerii Zaluzhnyi told the Economist: “Just like in the First World War we have reached the level of technology that puts us into a stalemate.” ( ). Valerii Zaluzhnyi was fired from his post a few weeks after the interview. Actually, Zaluzhnyi was merely repeating the words of US General Mark Milleys, Chief of the General Staff, who in November 2022 recalled the First World War “when the two sides engaged in years of trench warfare with little change in territory but millions of pointless casualties.” He added: ” When there’s an opportunity to negotiate, when peace can be achieved, seize it. Seize the moment!” (see his speech in the Economic Club of New York and in the New York Times

In September 2023 in Germany, retired General Harald Kujat and three other personalities – Peter Brandt, son of former German Chancellor Willy Brandt, Horst Teltschik, foreign policy advisor to former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, Hajo Funke, political scientist – published a realistic peace plan on how the war in Ukraine could be ended through a ceasefire and subsequent peace negotiations under the auspices of the United Nations ( They call for an immediate ceasefire along the frontline and the simultaneous start of peace negotiations. On the main issues of the conflict, the proposals provide for a neutral Ukraine, security guarantees for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Kiev, a political solution for the future status of the Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhia and Kherson regions, as well as Crimea. The negotiations are expected to follow on from the Russian-Ukrainian peace talks that were held in March 2022.

A ceasefire along the frontline of last September meant neither defeat nor victory for either side: it would have given Russia a territorial gain of about 10% in the four disputed regions, formally declared part of Russia in September 2022, but no de facto control over any of the regions. Today – eight months after the plan was presented – the situation has changed only marginally. The strength of the proposal of the four Germans is that it integrates an earlier proposal developed at the invitation of the Vatican and those put forward by China and other countries of the Global South. As in these cases, the German plan assumes that Russian security interests have to be taken into account, as stated in Moscow’s letter to NATO and the United States of 17 December 2021.

For European governments and media, the possibility of negotiations to end the war in Ukraine does not merit attention. ‘Putin does not want to negotiate’ is the unanimous thesis, and on the ‘peace conference’ in Lucerne it is claimed that it is Russia that refuses to participate. These convictions are so strong that any news is ignored. On 24 May, the British news agency Reuters announced that Putin is now ready for a ceasefire on the current front and subsequent peace negotiations ( ). The sources were five close advisors of the Russian President; three of them claimed that a priority of the Kremlin is to avoid at all costs a new mobilisation of soldiers, which would damage Putin’s popularity. According to two officials, Moscow regards the limited Russian territorial gains as sufficient to present the end of the war in Ukraine as a victory. Three senior Russian sources had already told Reuters in February 2024 that the US had rejected a Russian proposal for a ceasefire on the frontline. Moscow’s openness to negotiations was not reported by the European press, nor followed up by diplomats.  

An international appeal calling for the immediate start of negotiations to avoid an escalation ofthe war in Ukraine, signed by eleven European scholars and personalities – including Luciana Castellina, Peter Brandt, Wolfgang Streeck, Colin Archer, Carlo Rovelli – appeared on 22 May in Corriere della sera, Frankfurter Rundschau, Freitag and, in the following days, in l’Humanité and other sites in a dozen countries ( The text calls for an initiative for dialogue and ‘bottom-up diplomacy’ in the European Parliament that will be elected in the coming days. But the silence of Europe on the need to end the war in Ukraine is deafening, even on the eve of the European vote.