Sergei Lavrov's peace talks offer: a Russian ruse or potential breakthrough for Ukraine?
The topic of peace talks between Ukraine and Russia has resurfaced due to modest progress on both the Ukrainian and Russian fronts. Ukraine is losing ground, as in the area of Avdiivka, where soldiers are struggling to survive amidst the Russian offensive. However, the Russian winter offensive has not escalated as was anticipated a few weeks ago.
There have been rumblings about potential peace talks from officials as well. Sergei Lavrov, the head of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has once again brought up the topic, assuring his "willingness to listen to all those interested in justice".
In an interview with the American broadcaster CBS, he refuted all claims that Russian President Vladimir Putin is opposed to negotiations.
Yet American officials, who as early as November stated that there's no evidence implying that the despot is prepared for talks, hold a differing view.
Ukraine is not a lost cause
- Lavrov is distorting the truth, says a reserve colonel, Stratpoints foundation expert, and former deputy head of the Military Counterintelligence Service, in an interview with WP. I wouldn't pay heed to his words, he adds.
He believes that Russia's communication indicates weakness. Perhaps this is also due to their expectations surrounding the elections in the United States and the hopeful prospect of a Donald Trump victory, He observes.
He emphasizes that though Ukraine's current situation is far from ideal, Kyiv is not dire. He notes that despite a weakening front, the state continues to function, and life persists.
In contrast, he points out that Russia is currently weaker, and Lavrov's statements are not of his own accord. He would not risk going against the grain. This declaration could be a result of their challenging financial situation, as there are signals that they can't rely on the unconditional support of their allies, the expert adds.
Part of Lavrov's statement suggested that Western countries should stop assisting Ukraine in its ongoing war with Russia in order to "establish justice". Conveniently, he ignored the fact that Russia is the instigator.
Twisting reality, the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs suggested, "We will be ready to listen to anyone truly keen on justice, especially about justice in relations between Russia and Ukraine. This, of course, would involve ending Western policy of using Ukraine as a tool for war with Russia".
According to Colonel Matysiak, Russia is keen on the West simply giving up and stopping support for Ukraine. - It has been this way from the outset. We've been through a whole cycle of events - he emphasizes.
First, he chronicles, the nuclear arsenal of Ukraine was disarmed (in 1991 Ukraine had the world's third-largest nuclear arsenal, which it exchanged for security guarantees). Despite this, Russia still meddled, invaded Ukraine in 2014, seized part of its territories, and in 2022 launched a full-scale war, he recounts.
Moreover, he recollects that, in January 2022, Russia desired the withdrawal of NATO troops from the countries that had joined the Alliance after 1997. This information was available on the Russian Foreign Ministry's website.
Nothing changes. No matter what plan might be concealed behind Lavrov's words, it's a drawback for all of us. That starts with Ukraine. Russia will only stop when it is coerced, he comments.
That's why from the perspective of all - Western, democratic nations, the United States - support for Ukraine and keeping the tyrant in check is crucial, Colonel Matysiak emphasizes.
If we fail to do so, he believes we'll face the threat of having Russia at our doorstep.
War may end sooner through stagnation
Following Lavrov's announcement, there were additional reports that Vladimir Putin was checking if the United States was prepared to discuss ending the war in Ukraine.
As per Bloomberg, "signals" from the Russian leader were delivered to top-tier American officials through a middleman in December 2023. Putin was allegedly open to backing down from pressuring Ukraine's neutral status and even relinquishing opposition to Kyiv's potential NATO membership. However, later, the Kremlin categorically denied these reports, claiming them to be "false".
So, does the prospect of peace talks seem distant? Colonel Matysiak believes it's plausible but intensely depends on the situation, especially in the United States. If Trump gets elected, he assesses the war might conclude sooner through stagnation rather than continuation.
He could make game-changing decisions. It remains to be seen how the country's system would react to the actions of the republican candidate. We do know that, given such a power structure, Russia has, is, and will act as detrimentally as possible towards the European Union's democratic system and its opponents, he elaborates.
Ukraine holds firm
In the meantime, Mykhailo Podolyak, an advisor to the Ukrainian president, underscored that Ukraine can only enter negotiations when the Russian Federation has been tactically defeated on the battlefield, renounces nuclear weapons voluntarily, and processes to change the ruling power in Russia has commenced.
What can we possibly discuss now? When they haven't experienced major defeat on the battlefield? Are we supposed to give them time to prepare for the next phase of the war? Podolyak enquired, as quoted by the Ukrainian Pravda portal.
He clarified that a global defeat of Russia would imply a situation where it can't dominate Europe or the global political process.
He concluded that it won't have the means or the capability to exploit various laws, such as the veto power in the UN Security Council, nor will it have the backing from several other autocratic nations since it will be recognized as a country that lost the war.