At the end of September, Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergey Lavrov suggested that the Russian Federation may be willing to end the war in Ukraine after what will be two years of war come February 2024.
In February 2022, Russia launched a large-scale and rapid assault into the Ukrainian heartland. Nearly seizing Kyiv, Russia was eventually pushed back into Ukraine’s eastern oblasts. The West has since aligned with Ukraine, providing critical economic and military support while Russia, finding few substantial allies, have frozen due to various strategic and logistical failures.
The conflict is at a stalemate, and while Ukraine can justify its losses as existentially necessary, Russia is having a tougher time making alibis and a worthwhile narrative. And so we are at an interesting paradigm shift in this conflict.
Lavrov brought up the proposition of peace in Ukraine, but within the confines of some guarantees. Specifically, Lavrov stated that peace in Ukraine could only come about if Zelenskyy’s government would promise to refrain from joining NATO. But what would Russia offer?
Lavrov stated that should Ukraine meet those demands, the Kremlin would be willing to recognize Ukraine’s borders according to Ukraine’s 1990 Declaration of Independence, a declaration of sovereignty that defined Ukraine’s borders and granted it sovereignty from the Soviet Union.
The goal at that time was a very frantic geopolitical situation. Ukraine held a great deal of the USSR’s nuclear weapons, and the USSR was intent on keeping Ukraine unaligned (and therefore able to be reabsorbed into Russia someday; hence what we have seen in the first quarter of this century). The deal included some big items, namely the sovereignty of Ukraine on the condition that Ukraine not join NATO.
Russia, under Putin’s leadership, had used NATO expansion as justification for his own imperial designs, and Ukraine has been no exception. But now, with Russia having met its match, the Kremlin seems intent on resetting the board. Many pundits have speculated what such an agreement would mean for Crimea, but neither Lavrov, Putin, or Zelenskyy have offered up any clarity or terms.
And resetting the board, to use some gaming terminology, is exactly the speculation people are looking towards. In other words, what incentive does Ukraine have to agree to such terms? Putin’s foreign policy is notoriously aggressive and imperialistic. His designs on increasing Russian influence and territory is pure political realism; the Kremlin cannot be trusted.
The world anticipated a major Spring and Summer offensive from Ukraine, but it has not yielded the major results that headlines predicted it would. Perhaps peace could come sooner than we would like to assume.
What do you think? Could 2024 bring peace to Ukraine, or is Russia looking to improve its image through empty gestures? Is Russia making this offer out of desperation? Let me know in the comments.