This is part 1 in a 6-part exchange between Konstantin Kisin and myself. I will be writing parts 1, 3 and 5; Konstantin will be writing parts 2, 4 and 6. The subject of our exchange is whether the West is following the right strategy in Ukraine. Konstantin and I have previously discussed the issue on my podcast, as well as on Twitter. We are now doing so via this Substack exchange.
Max Liebermann said in 1933:"I can't eat as much as I would like to vomit”. That's how every decent human being should feel when the name of John Mearsheimer is mentioned. Always he provides justifications to members of any axis of evil.
Two arguments are made here:
1. the behavior of US politicians in Ukraine would have provoked Putin to a war of aggression in violation of international law.
2. Europe should intervene diplomatically as quickly as possible to find a solution acceptable to all sides.
Ad 1: With this argument you acknowledge that states are allowed to have exterretorial zones of influence in which the states and peoples located there have only limited sovereignty.
Ad 2: Of course, all European states, the U.S., the West, ... whoever should do everything to stop the killing and destruction immediately. Unfortunately, you do not provide a concrete proposal how such a solution could look like, which Russia and Ukraine (both pro-Western and pro-Russian Ukrainians) accept. Maybe this will come in a later letter, if not: please think your demand through to the end!
"Dear Mr. Putin, thank you for coming to these peace negotiations. Our goal is to end this war and with it the senseless killing of soldiers on both sides and civilians in Ukraine.
We therefore propose: ...": [and now here come alternatives]
"Russia withdraws its arms behind the borders of 23.2.2022 24:00. Regarding Crimea, a referendum will be held under UN supervision among the residents of Crimea reported on 2/19/2014 24:00. Russia pledges never to attack Ukraine again."
I cannot think of any conditions at this time under which Putin would agree to this proposal. He would not survive it politically (probably personally, too).
Only if Russia's arms in Ukraine were largely defeated and Putin overthrown would such a scenario be conceivable. Russia could then shift the blame to Putin in an attempt to repair its relations with the world community. If Ukraine and the West do not strangle Russia's prosperity with draconian reparations payments for decades, this might even succeed.
This war-ending scenario assumes continuation and intensification of the supply of weapons, training, intelligence, etc. Exactly what you are trying to prevent!
"Ukraine and its allies recognize the annexation of the Donbas (east of the Dnieper River) and Crimea. Russia pledges never to attack Ukraine again."
I can't currently think of any conditions under which Zelensky or pro-Western Ukrainians would agree to this proposal? At least Zelensky would not consider it politically.
Only if Russia at least holds its current positions and continues to persistently terrorize the civilian population via missile and drone terror with the continued destruction of civilian infrastructure in violation of international law would such a scenario be conceivable. The consequences for Ukraine and for the West would be a continuing threat to peace in at least all of the Western states bordering Russia, further armament costs to the West, and a continuing cold war.
This scenario would occur if arms supplies were further restricted.
"What, Mr. Putin, would have to happen for you to agree to a cease-fire and serious peace negotiations?"
I can't think of a scenario in which Putin wouldn't say, "Surrender of Ukraine, recognition of the annexation of all of eastern Ukraine, demilitarization of the rest of Ukraine, the current government including the president will be found guilty in a tribunal and draconian punishment, the West will accept a non-aggression pact."
Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)