Should Zielinsky Give in to Putin’s Demands?
As things stand now, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zielinsky has no intention of accepting Putin’s demands, and the whole world supports that decision, but since the world will not get involved directly and militarily, its “support” might not mean so much.
So should Zielinsky give in to Putin’s demands, considering that Putin has promised a ceasefire if he does?
What are the demands? There are various reports. Does the MSM get its facts right? And even if it does, do the demands change with time?
There was this story the other day in The New York Post that stated that Putin offered this bare, simple deal to Zielinsky:
Russia has told Ukraine it will halt its invasion “in a moment” if Kyiv agrees to give up three key regions, President Vladimir Putin’s spokesperson said Monday.
Moscow is demanding Ukraine cease military action, acknowledge Crimea as Russian territory and recognize the separatist republics of Donetsk and Lugansk as independent states.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Ukraine was aware of the demands.
“They were told that all this can be stopped in a moment,” Peskov told Reuters in a phone interview.
This story itself said near its end that it’s more involved than that, but for the moment, let’s suppose that these are all of Putin’s demands. Then the question is, should Zielinsky accept these demands?
I say, yes he should, and here is why:
Let’s consider each demand in turn.
The last ruler of an independent Ukraine was Bogdan Chmielnitsky, whose reign ended in 1653; thereafter Ukraine was controlled by the tsars and then the Communists, in Moskva, continually until 1991.
For an expanded summary of Crimea’s history, go to this Wikipedia paper. But briefly, in the Middle Ages Crimea was controlled by the Mongol Golden Horde until they were overthrown by Tamerlane at the end of the 14th century. Thereafter local Tatars controlled it. With the assistance of the Ottoman Turks they overthrew the last Genoese strongholds; then accepted Ottoman domination. Their Crimean Khanate spent the next couple of centuries raiding into Ukraine to snatch up slaves. In 1774 the Russian Tsarina Catherine the Great defeated the Ottoman Turks and by 1783 had annexed Crimea into the Russian Empire.
In the wake of the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, Crimea became an autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic. After World War II it became part of the Russian Soviet Socialist Republic (RSSR).
Keep in mind that while Crimea was part of the RSSR, its sole slender land connection with the rest of the world goes through the skinny Isthmus of Perekop, only a few miles wide, and this flows into, not the RSSR, but instead into Ukraine, which at the time was the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (UkSSR).
Here is a Google Maps illustration.
Stalin died in 1953 and, in the following year, the Great Mistake happened.
Nikita S. Khrushchev, himself Ukrainian actually, but a super-loyal Soviet man, looked at the map and decided to erase the line on the map that defined a border between Crimea of the RSSR and the UkSSR. And why not? Did it not improve administrative efficiency to connect Crimea to the UkSSR? As it was, Crimea was a Russian island, unconnected directly with the RSSR. So what difference did it make? Crimea would remain part of the one big, happy USSR either way, all controlled from Moskva, whether Moskva exercised its control through the RSSR or the UkSSR. Transferring control of Crimea from the RSSR to the UkSSR would be like allowing Rhode Island to annex Cape Cod from Massachusetts. What difference would that make to the greater United States?
Little did Khrushchev dream that his own son would live long enough to see Ukraine secede from Russia, and Crimea would go over with it!
But what difference does it make to Russia either, for that matter? “Here’s the deal,” to paraphrase our President.
Recall that JFK was willing to risk nuclear war to get Soviet missiles out of Cuba. Why did he do that? Because he and everybody else regarded Soviet missiles so close to American soil as a grave threat.
Just as JFK regarded that as a grave threat, so too does Russia regard NATO as a grave threat. And Russia has a long history of invasions. Ukraine becoming independent was bad enough, but Russia lived with it. But then when Ukraine overthrew its pro-Russian president in 2014 and made noises about joining NATO, that was the final straw. It was then that Russia annexed Crimea because, to Russia, Crimea is an unsinkable aircraft carrier for NATO forward bases.
America has long been trying to establish itself and NATO eastward. When Russia withdrew from the Warsaw Pact countries after 1989, it was promised those countries would never join NATO – but they did. Victoria Nuland has admitted that the United States has spent $5 billion “to build democracy” and “fight corruption” in Ukraine since 1991. But if Democracy is so wonderful, why should any free country have to be bribed to develop it? Ought they not do that themselves, for free? And why is internal Ukrainian corruption an American interest?
Why did not only Biden but also then-CIA Chief John Brennan both visit Kyiv in 2014, if not to promote American interests in Ukraine?
All of this signals what must seem to Putin as an unhealthy American interest in Ukraine.
In short, Crimea is not Ukrainian and never was, and recognizing Russia’s claim to it should be a no-brainer. Recognizing Russian sovereignty over Crimea gives up nothing because Ukraine never really possessed Crimea in the first place.
As for the Russian regions in the Donbas, Zielinsky should be willing to give those up too. The regions are small, and at this point, why would an independent Ukraine even want small regions of disgruntled Russians? Better just to sever them and say bye-bye – and then build a Big Wall to separate them forever. If Crimea and Donbas are the only issues, Zielinsky should agree to give them up in a heartbeat.
But there is more to the story than this, and in a word, it’s NATO. As in Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, NATO is at the heart of this war. Last November the Biden administration committed a grave blunder of its own when it signed The Charter for Strategic Partnership with Ukraine. A crucial purpose was to support eventual Ukrainian membership in NATO and establish and define the steps Ukraine would follow for that.
This is when Putin decided to mobilize on the border. The tragedy is that neither Biden nor Zielinsky took Putin seriously enough. Biden, the naïve American that he is, believes in Free Association, and all countries should have full freedom to associate with anybody they please. They thought Putin was bluffing and would never invade.
NATO is a red line for Putin. Unfortunately, Zielinsky should give in on this too. Russia has proven its determination to keep Ukraine neutral. No NATO for Ukraine.
But what about EU membership and Ukrainian disarmament? Because the same above-hyperlinked NY Post story further down admitted there are these other issues.
Were Zielinsky to give in on these too, then even Putin would surely stop the war. For his part and at this point, why would even he want to force Ukraine back into Greater Russia? By now, after a century of gross tragedy inflicted on Ukraine at Russian hands, the myth of pan-Slavic brotherhood has been severed forever. Ukraine hates Russia. Far better for Putin to recognize genuine Ukrainian independence, with neutrality, as Finland has.
Zielinsky probably ought not to give in on the issue of EU membership. I hope that this would not be a red line for Putin.
And finally, there is the matter of Ukrainian disarmament. Putin may well demand it. But on this one, Zielinsky can never give it. Because to do so would lay Ukraine at Russia’s mercy forever.
If Putin will stop fighting and withdraw his armies in exchange for a deal on Crimea and Donbas, Zielinsky should jump on the offer.