No reader should be under the false impression that any of what was written in this analysis is guaranteed to happen, nor that it reflects the author’s preferred end game. Rather, they should be reminded that this is simply a scenario forecast that’s admittedly speculating on the contents of what might be the ceasefire proposal that the EU’s “Big Three” brought with them to Kiev following strong hints to this end from the Mainstream Media over the past few weeks and especially the last one.
The “Big Three” Arrive In Kiev
The French, German, and Italian Prime Ministers arrived in Kiev on Thursday following a noticeable shift in the US-led Western Mainstream Media (MSM) narrative towards Russia’s ongoing special military operation in Ukraine. The “victory porn” fantasizing that their client state is winning the NATO proxy war on Russia through Ukraine has conspicuously disappeared and been replaced with much more realistic assessments about Moscow’s impending victory in the Battle for Donbass. Zelensky now openly fears that his Western allies will pressure his country into making concessions to end the conflict, especially after a fast-moving sequence of events just added credence to his concerns.
Secret Negotiations, Blame Games, & Territorial Concessions
First, CNN reported a few days prior to the Ukrainian leader’s comments that the West was already hashing out the details of a prospective ceasefire behind his back. Shortly after Zelensky shared his concerns, Biden then blamed him for not listening to US intel that supposedly warned that Russia was preparing for its special operation, which implies that the Ukrainian leader and not the American one is to blame for whatever territory he’s ultimately forced to give up. The very next day, the NATO Secretary General said that Kiev must ask itself how much territory it’s willing to concede for peace, which was followed earlier this week by an op-ed in Politico urging the US to negotiate exactly that.
The popular Visegrad 24 Twitter account earlier speculated that the EU “Big Three” would seek “to put pressure on UA to accept a ‘Minsk 3’ peace agreement, giving up more land” around the time that their trip to Kiev was first reported by German media. Seeing as how those leaders just arrived in the Ukrainian capital on Thursday, it’s timely to wonder what their rumored ceasefire proposal might entail, especially considering the fact that the fast-moving sequence of events that preceded their visit very strongly hints that they did indeed travel there for the purpose that Visegrad 24 predicted. Before doing so, however, it’s important to briefly review the state of military-strategic affairs in that country.
Moscow’s Envisioned End Game
Russia’s victory in the Battle for Donbass appears inevitable, with the only question being when it’ll happen. It’s also important to note that Foreign Minister Lavrov declared late last month that liberating the entire territory of those two newly independent republics is an “unconditional priority” for his country, the significance of which will soon be returned to when reminding everyone of Russia’s other aims in this conflict. Furthermore, the Kherson and Zaporozhye Regions of the former Southern Ukraine have also been liberated and already announced their intention to reunify with their historical homeland, while close to half of the Kharkhov Region has been liberated too and will likely join them.
As for Moscow’s aims in the conflict, these involve: fully liberating Donbas; demilitarizing and denazifying rump Ukraine; and ensuring that former Soviet Republic’s constitutional neutrality. The first will likely be completed by the end of the summer at the latest; the second was officially achieved by destroying its military-industrial complex by late March while it remains unofficially fulfilled due to the influx of Western weaponry; the third symbolically saw the infamous Azov Battalion defeated in their home city though other fascists remain in rump Ukraine and its schoolbooks continue pushing fascist revisionist history; and the final goal hasn’t seen any progress yet.
The Bigger Picture
The larger context in which the military-strategic affairs in Ukraine have unfolded as Russia pursues its goals in that conflict is that the EU has been plunged into a massive economic crisis caused by its forced “decoupling” from that Eurasian Great Power under American pressure. France, Germany, and Italy – the EU’s “Big Three” – need to urgently stabilize the situation lest the long-term consequence of this crisis results in their bloc losing its global competitiveness to Asia, which is already a work in progress but could unprecedentedly accelerate in the next few years. From an American perspective, while some forces want to continue the proxy war indefinitely, others like Kissinger are urging a prompt resolution.
That former National Security Advisor believes that his proposed outcome is the only way to prevent Russia from falling under China’s sway, the prediction of which isn’t objectively accurate considering how India decisively averted that scenario but can nonetheless inspire a sense of urgency over ending the conflict in order to retain a semblance of the former balance of power paradigm through which the West operated for centuries. With CNN’s earlier cited report in mind as well as Biden’s blaming of Zelensky and the NATO chief’s confident belief that Zelensky must concede some territory as part of a peace agreement, it’s therefore very likely that the “Big Three” will push a ceasefire while in Kiev.
This doesn’t automatically guarantee that it’ll even be reported upon, nor that any details will be revealed even if word about this proposal leaks, but just that there’s a high chance that this is the true purpose behind their visit. While its speculative contents can never be known for sure, it’s still possible to make some educated conjectures about what this could entail while bearing in mind the state of military-strategic affairs in Ukraine, Russia’s goals, and Europe’s economic concerns. What’ll now follow is admittedly guesswork about the possible ceasefire that the “Big Three” might present to Zelensky during their trip to Kiev, which of course doesn’t mean that he or Russia will accept it.
Russia’s “Unconditional Priority” For Peace
In any case, there’s no question that Russia absolutely must fulfill its self-described “unconditional priority” of liberating the entirety of Donbass before it even considers reviewing any possible ceasefire. Since this is a fait accompli that’ll most likely be achieved by the end of the summer at the latest, the only question is the means through which it’ll happen. Other than the obvious military one that Moscow is presently employing, one possibility however faint is that Zelensky is convinced by the “Big Three’s” promised post-conflict economic incentives (such as redirecting some of Russia’s stolen foreign assets towards his country’s recovery) to withdraw from Donbass without replicating the Mariupol scenario.
If he agrees, then it’s possible that both conflicting parties might then agree to freeze the long line of control that snakes across the Eastern and Southern front from Kharkov to Kherson, but if he doesn’t, then Donbass will have to be liberated through military means. In any case, the point is that Russia might consider a ceasefire upon that region’s full liberation but most definitely not before. This scenario naturally begs the question of how Moscow would then fulfill its other goals that haven’t yet been completely achieved such as ensuring that former Soviet Republic’s demilitarization, denazification, and constitutional neutrality.
Demilitarization & Denazification
Regarding the first, it’s possible that the West agrees to honor its existing arms deals with Kiev but not to clinch any more after the ceasefire is reached. Foreign heavy weapons could then gradually be withdrawn to their original countries in phases throughout the course of negotiations towards a comprehensive peace agreement. That pact could also include an agreement not to rebuild rump Ukraine’s military-industrial complex in exchange for it retaining some light weaponry and being “protected” by security stakeholders such as the US, UK, Poland, and Turkey in the event that another conflict erupts. That might be sufficient enough of a compromise to meet both Kiev and Moscow’s goals.
It’ll be more difficult to reach an agreement on the denazification front, however, since Kiev and its allies don’t even acknowledge that goal as legitimate. Nevertheless, the Donbass Republics’ Nuremberg-like trials of the Azov Battalion could present a symbolic victory for Moscow though that still wouldn’t resolve its issues in rump Ukraine. While it might not be possible for that Eurasian Great Power to eliminate this threat in its entirety through military means anytime soon, it can nevertheless attempt to resort to diplomatic ones for getting the West to pressure Kiev to restore the rights of Russian speakers, disband what their proxy regards as “nationalist battalions”, and return historical truth to its textbooks.
Explaining The Phased Peace Proposal
Of course, the devil’s in the details and Russia will have to be creative to advance this goal through diplomatic means, but there’s no doubt that it remains important for sustainably ensuring its long-term national security interests upon the conflict’s inevitable conclusion (whenever that’ll be). One possibility is a phased process as part of negotiations towards a comprehensive peace deal just like what was proposed for that country’s demilitarization. While Russia might rightly distrust the phased approach and suspect that its opponents are just buying time to rearm prior to restarting the conflict, there’s something clever that the “Big Three” could propose to sweeten this possible aspect of the deal.
This is the modified implementation of their forced “decoupling” from Russia whereby they’d either reduce the proportion of energy imports from that country that they want to phase out by the dates that they already declared and/or delay the existing proportion until a later date. The EU and Russia would mutually benefit from this since even a Polish lawmaker recently admitted that the bloc imposed too many sanctions on their opponent, and too quickly at that, before their leaders even had time to think it all through. From the perspective of their economic interests, this would be a mutually beneficial trust-building proposal that could possibly convince Moscow to give the phase proposal a chance.
The same can be said regarding Russia’s final goal of ensuring rump Ukraine’s constitutional neutrality. NATO already rubbished the scenario of that country joining the bloc anytime soon shortly after the conflict started so it could follow that the bloc finally learned its lesson and might therefore be more likely to pressure their proxy to enact the relevant reform that Moscow demands. Amidst all of this, observers also shouldn’t forget that Turkey’s actively working to broker a “grain corridor” deal with Russia and Kiev so that could also be included in the “Big Three’s” speculative ceasefire proposal in order to make it a comprehensive package deal that has the greatest impact if it’s agreed to by both.
Obstacles & Opportunities
For as promising as this prospective ceasefire proposal might sound on paper, there are also some very practical obstacles that could stand in the way of its implementation. First, the most warmongering faction of the US’ permanent military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies (“deep state”) might sabotage this process by either plotting a false flag chemical weapons attack with Kiev or simply ordering their allied Neo-Nazis who’ve practically turned Zelensky into a “palace hostage” to threaten him if he considers accepting the “Big Three’s” speculative ceasefire proposal. It also goes without saying that Moscow might also not be interested if it soon achieves a major military breakthrough.
Absent that, however, Russia might at the very least review it in good faith upon the liberation of Donbass, whether by the military means that it’s expecting to continue employing to that end or in the unlikely event that Zelensky is convinced to withdraw from the region without replicating the Mariupol scenario in exchange for generous economic incentives from the EU. To sweeten that possible deal from its side, Russia might reverse its new position towards rump Ukraine’s admission to the EU on the condition that it’s gradually demilitarized in accordance with the phased proposal that was suggested in this analysis. That agreed-upon outcome would remove Moscow’s concerns about Kiev’s membership.
Multilateral Verification Mechanisms
Rump Ukraine’s demilitarization and constitutional neutrality might ultimately be easier to achieve through diplomatic means than its denazification, which is much more difficult considering the fact that it also involves socio-political processes that can’t be completed through purely diplomatic or military means, let alone in the short term. Even so, considering this issue’s premier importance for ensuring Russia’s long-term national security interests, it’s unlikely that the Kremlin will compromise on it though it might also agree to a phased proposal that’s verified through multilateral mechanisms in which its representatives participate alongside others as part of a compromise deal for ending the conflict.
The prior talks between Moscow and Kiev in Istanbul involved the issue of rump Ukraine’s post-conflict “security guarantors”, who could prospectively participate in the multilateral mechanisms related to verifying that former Soviet Republic’s possibly phased demilitarization and denazification. Its inevitable constitutional neutrality would have to be taken as a given for Russia to likely agree to participate in those structures, but as was earlier written, NATO might support this outcome, especially if some of its members are those same “security guarantors” that Kiev’s requesting. Furthermore, the EU’s modified implementation of its anti-Russian sanctions might get Moscow to seriously consider this package deal.
To wrap it all up, no reader should be under the false impression that any of what was written in this analysis is guaranteed to happen, nor that it reflects the author’s preferred end game. Rather, they should be reminded that this is simply a scenario forecast that’s admittedly speculating on the contents of what might be the ceasefire proposal that the EU’s “Big Three” brought with them to Kiev following strong hints to this end from the MSM over the past few weeks and especially the last one. The purpose in publishing this piece is to generate a respectful discussion about the possibility of ending the Ukrainian Conflict through diplomacy and what compromises that outcome might entail for all sides.