NATO’s biggest EU members push Kiev to peace talks over losses - WSJ
French and German politicians advised Ukrainian President Zelensky to take peace negotiations into consideration, a new report by the Wall Street Journal reports.
Germany, France, and Britain see deeper NATO-Ukraine ties as a way to push Kiev to begin peace talks with Russia later this year, WSJ quoted officials from the three nations as saying, as some of Kiev's Western partners have growing reservations about its capacity to take control of the lands that seceded to Russia.
This week, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak outlined a framework for an agreement that would provide Ukraine with considerably more access to advanced military equipment, weapons, and ammunition to allegedly protect itself once the war is over. He stated that the concept should be included on the agenda of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's annual summit in July.
On the one-year anniversary of the Ukraine-Russia war, Paris and Berlin backed the proposal and all three governments see it as a way to improve Ukrainian confidence, and offer the Ukrainian government an incentive to begin talks with Moscow, WSJ cited French, German, and British officials as saying.
The officials were cautious to emphasize that the decision on when and under what conditions to begin peace negotiations is entirely up to Ukraine, as per the report.
Sunak said on Friday that the West should provide Ukraine with weapons that would give it a "decisive advantage" on the battlefield, such as warplanes.
'Ukraine's losses will become unbearable'
The report argued that the public rhetoric, however, masks deepening private doubts among politicians in the United Kingdom, France, and Germany that Ukraine will be able to "expel Russians from eastern Ukraine and Crimea", and a belief that the West can only help sustain the war effort for so long, especially if the conflict settles into a stalemate, WSJ cited the three officials as saying.
“We keep repeating that Russia mustn’t win, but what does that mean? If the war goes on for long enough with this intensity, Ukraine’s losses will become unbearable,” a senior French official said as quoted by WSJ. “And no one believes they will be able to retrieve Crimea.”
That rhetoric contrasts significantly with public comments made this week by US President Joe Biden and other Western leaders, who urged for unity in the face of what they called "Russian aggression". None of them discussed the possibility of Kiev starting negotiations with Moscow in the near future.
When the three Presidents met in Paris earlier this month, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz reportedly told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that he needed to start thinking about peace talks with Moscow, according to persons familiar with the conversation.
Macron provided a more somber message over dinner at the Élysée Palace the sources said, telling Zelensky that even fierce adversaries like France and Germany had to make peace after World War II.
According to the same sources as quoted by WSJ, Macron informed Zelensky that he had been a superb battle leader, but that he would eventually have to transition into political statesmanship and make difficult judgments.
'Ukraine can start thinking about another outcome'
Gen. Petr Pavel, pPesident-elect of the Czech Republic and a former NATO commander, stated at the Munich conference, “We may end up in a situation where liberating some parts of Ukrainian territory may deliver more loss of lives than will be bearable by society…There might be a point when Ukrainians can start thinking about another outcome.”
France and Germany have indicated that they will not be providing new types of weapons to Ukraine in the next weeks while the war continues. While Britain is teaching Ukrainian pilots to fly jet fighters, authorities claim this is part of a longer-term strategy.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also said in Munich last week that the war must end in what he described as "a durable peace", “That means making sure that Ukraine has the capacity to deter aggression and, if necessary, to effectively defend against it.”
“We have to be thinking—and we are—about what the postwar future looks like to ensure that we have security and stability for Ukrainians and security and stability in Europe,” he added.
The report argued that any NATO member might, in principle, veto the proposal from the United Kingdom, France, and Germany, but the organization functions on consensus and such an effort would not even be debated at a summit unless it had widespread support within the alliance.
The offer falls short of Ukraine's request for complete NATO membership. Yet, a more limited agreement might be a step in the right way as long as it is part of a process that will result in membership at some time in the future, as per Ukraine's deputy foreign minister, Andriy Melnyk.
“We would like to have security guarantees on the path to NATO,” Zelensky stated in a press conference on Friday.
The proposed agreement would not contain any commitment to the post-NATO military in Ukraine, according to officials from the three countries as quoted by WSJ.
It would also not provide Kiev with so-called Article 5 protection, which mandates all members to come to another's aid if it is attacked and begs for help. They claimed, however, that it would provide Ukraine with the military wherewithal to deter any future "Russian aggression".
While the specific terms have not been finalized, several of these officials have stated that Ukraine might gain access to a wide range of NATO standard weapon systems and integrate its armed forces more snugly into the Western defense industry supply chain.
So far, Central European officials have only marginally considered the suggestion, but they are generally reluctant to sign off on any long-term NATO status for Ukraine that falls short of full membership in the alliance, the report concluded.
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