Negotiating With Putin, Keeping it Real

Marc Ash / Reader Supported News
Negotiating With Putin, Keeping it Real The Site of 445 Mostly Unmarked Graves in Izium, Ukraine, on September 16, 2022. (photo: Nicole Tung/NYT)

A firestorm has erupted over a letter signed by 30 house Progressives that was sent to President Biden and then within 24 hours retracted. The letter called for the Biden Administration to negotiate directly with Putin and the Russians to find a solution to the war in Ukraine. Certain commercial news outlets called the signatories “Liberals” but they were in fact mostly members of the Progressive House Caucus.

For the record, let’s talk about negotiating with Putin, directly or otherwise. It is conceivable that if the Biden administration had engaged in direct talks with Putin and his subordinates in the weeks leading up to the February 24, 2022 invasion of Ukraine by Russian military forces the invasion might have been avoided or at least forestalled. It’s conceivable. But even assuming purely hypothetically such an opportunity existed and was missed, it would in no way justify the subsequent, ongoing campaign of genocide Putin has directed against the Ukrainian people. That’s on Putin, that’s on Russia, for all time and the world must never let the Russians forget it.

On a separate but equal track bear in mind that one thing we are learning about Putin is that he is totally ruthless and completely without any sense of humanity. The dead bear witness. If someone negotiates an agreement with Putin, any agreement, absolutely nothing guarantees that he will honor his own agreement. He can manufacture a rationale for ignoring any agreement he may have entered into at any moment he chooses. Everything Putin has shown us up until now clearly indicates he cannot be trusted.

What we want as Neville Chamberlain so eloquently put is, “Peace in our time.” It was what Chamberlain and most of the world wanted in 1938. It was not however what Hitler and the Nazis wanted. As a result the best efforts to head off World War II — through negotiation — failed. Not because peace could not be negotiated, but because the negotiation (The Munich Agreement) ultimately would not be honored. Putin has shown you who he is. By all means, believe him.

In addition, the entire notion that negotiation hasn’t been given a chance is laughable on its face. There isn’t a nation-state leader on earth who wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to say that they had negotiated an end to the war in Europe. Negotiation has been tried and in fact, is being tried all the time. French President Emmanuel Macron seemingly talks to Putin every week. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, talks to Putin all the time and has actually made a little progress managing to facilitate the export of some Ukrainian grain products to Africa and the Middle East, easing global food shortage fears somewhat. But the ships get through when Putin says they get through and he makes it very clear the ships can stop on his command as well. That’s no way to assure global food security.

Further to the entire premise that the US should negotiate directly with Russia to find a solution to the war in Ukraine, that is consummate imperialist thinking. The notion that “great powers” have the right to negotiate or administrate the fate of “lesser powers” is anti-democratic and totally imperialist. That’s right out of the Henry Kissinger playbook. It’s the origin of some of the most horrific events in human history. Sovereignty matters, always. Really.

The painful truth is that Putin is playing a zero-sum-game. He is way, way past the point of no-return. Peace can be achieved in Europe but not with the Russian military in Ukraine and not with Putin holding power in Russia.

There are times when civilized men are called upon to do extraordinary things to preserve civilization. We have arrived at such a moment in time.

Marc Ash is the founder and former Executive Director of Truthout, and is now founder and Editor of Reader Supported News. On Twitter: @MarcAshRSN

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.

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