Almost three months into Russia’s war in Ukraine, there appears to be no hope that a negotiated solution will be reached anytime soon. On Tuesday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Rudenko said that the warring sides are not currently holding peace talks “in any form.”
“No, negotiations are not going on. Ukraine has practically withdrawn from the negotiation process,” Rudenko said, according to Interfax.
The New York Times reported on Tuesday that Vladimir Medinsky, who headed the Russian delegation in earlier negotiations with Ukraine, said Kyiv hasn’t responded to a draft peace deal Russia put forward on April 15. A Ukrainian negotiator responded to Medinsky’s comments by saying Russia was operating with “fakes and lies.”
The Times report says that the impasse stems from Russia’s desire to control “vast swathes” of Ukrainian territory, although the contents of the April 15 peace proposal are not clear. Russia had earlier asked for Ukraine to drop its claim to Crimea, which Russia has controlled since 2014, and recognize the independence of the breakaway Donbas republics.
While Ukraine has been slowly losing territory to Russia in the east, Kyiv has hardened its stance at the negotiating table thanks to massive military support from the US and other Western nations. “Now that we feel more confident in the fight, our position in the negotiations is also getting tougher,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said last week.
On Sunday, NATO pledged to give Ukraine military support for as long as it needed, and the US is preparing a massive $40 billion aid package for Ukraine. Once it is signed into law by President Biden, the new aid package would bring total US aid for Ukraine in 2022 alone to over $53 billion.
Leaders of NATO countries have been actively discouraging Ukraine from holding peace talks with Russia. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that he “urged” Ukraine not to negotiate with the Russians. He reportedly told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in an April 9 visit to Kyiv that even if Ukraine was ready to sign a deal with Russia, the West was not.
The US and many of its NATO allies have also made clear that one of their main goals in Ukraine is to hurt Russia. According to the Times, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas has said the West needs to push for a military defeat of Russia rather than “a peace that allows aggression to pay off.”
In recent weeks, the leaders of France, Germany, and Italy have all come out in favor of a negotiated solution to end the war, but Washington does not appear to be on board with the idea. When asked about the US’s position on negotiations, Biden administration officials have said they feel the best way they could help Ukraine is by supporting them militarily.
Medinsky said that Ukrainian negotiators had agreed to much of the draft deal Russia proposed but said other factions of the Ukrainian government were likely against the agreement. “But they probably represent that part of the Ukrainian elite that is most interested in reaching a peace agreement,” he said. “There is probably another part of the elite that doesn’t want peace, and that draws direct financial and political benefit from a continuation of the war.”
While a peace deal seems unlikely in the near future, Russian and Ukrainian officials have been holding talks at a lower level, but they have focused on issues like prisoner exchanges. Medinsky insists that Russia still wants to reach a deal with Ukraine and is seeking an “Austria” model, a country that is not part of NATO but is a member of the EU.