Opposing Biden’s Ukraine War Strategy: Negotiated Settlement Now


In view of the debate among socialists regarding Russia’s war against Ukraine, left green publishes an article submitted by long-time contributor Barry Sheppard that advocates a position demanding a negotiated settlement. For a different view, see “Opposing Biden’s War Strategy Requires Supporting Ukraine’s Self-Determination” and the declaration of the Socialist Alliance “Russia out of Ukraine! No to NATO!”

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The New York Times published a lengthy op-ed by Christopher Caldwell in its June 4 edition, titled “US Helps Prolong War in Ukraine.” Although not an editorial, it appeared where editorials normally do.

Caldwell is a neocon who opposes the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The NYT identifies him as “a contributing opinion writer”.

In his article, Caldwell asserts: “The United States helped transform this tragic, local and ambiguous conflict into a potential global conflagration.

Ukrainian nationalists

Providing context to the current war, Caldwell writes, “In 2014, the United States supported an uprising – in its final stage a violent uprising – against the legitimately elected government of Viktor Yanukovych…”

Caldwell does not explain that it was an uprising by Ukrainian nationalists – led by far-right armed groups – who then formed, with direct US intervention, a right-wing nationalist government .

This government decided to ban Russian as an official language and made the teaching of Ukrainian compulsory in schools in the Russian-speaking East.

The government also launched a civil war against the East. The far-right armed groups that formed the Azov Brigade became the spearhead of the Ukrainian army in the east.

The West supported Ukrainian nationalists in this civil war, while Russia supported the East.

The civil war has reached a stalemate in the Donbass region, which borders Russia. But earlier this year, the Ukrainian army launched a new offensive in Donbass, involving Donbass separatist troops and Russian soldiers stepping up their resistance.

The West, led by the United States, backed the Ukrainian government’s pledge to join NATO, which would have completed NATO’s eastward move towards Russia’s western border.

Crimea

Crimea, at the time of the nationalist uprising in 2014, was part of Ukraine.

It had been part of Russia since Tsarist Russia conquered it from the Ottoman Empire in the late 1700s. In the mid-1950s, the Soviet Union transferred Crimea from the Russian Soviet Socialist Republic (RSS ) to the Ukrainian SSR for administrative reasons, although it remained an integral part of the USSR.

The port city of Sevastopol in Crimea had been the naval base of the Black Sea Fleet of Tsarist Russia (later the Soviet Union). With the breakup of the USSR and the independence of Ukraine, it was agreed that the naval base would remain under Russian control.

If Ukraine had joined NATO, the naval base would have fallen under American control. Russia responded by retaking Crimea, with the support of the local Russian-speaking population.

Caldwell writes: “In recent years, Russian control of Crimea has seemed to provide a stable regional arrangement. Russia’s European neighbors, at least, let the sleeping dogs lie.

“But the United States never agreed to the arrangement. On November 10, 2021, the United States and Ukraine signed a “Strategic Partnership Charter” which called on Ukraine to join NATO… and affirmed an “unwavering commitment to the reintegration of Crimea into Ukraine”.

“This charter ‘convinces Russia that she must attack or be attacked’…”

US Arms Ukraine

On arming Ukraine, Caldwell writes, “The United States began arming and training the Ukrainian military, first hesitantly under President Barack Obama. Modern equipment began to circulate during the [Donald] The Trump administration, however, and today the country is armed to the teeth.

“Since 2018, Ukraine has received American-made Javelin anti-tank missiles, Czech artillery and Turkish Bayraktar drones and other NATO interoperable weapons.

“The United States and Canada recently sent up-to-date M777 howitzers that fire GPS-guided Excalibur rounds. President Biden just signed into law a $40 billion military law [additional] help package.

“In this light, the mockery of Russia’s performance on the battlefield is misplaced. Russia is not blocked by a brave agricultural country one-third its size; it stands its ground, at least for now, against NATO’s advanced economic, cyber and battlefield weapons.

Others are therefore “correct to accuse the West of sleepwalking” into a direct war against Russia, writes Caldwell.

He concludes his long article: “The situation on the battlefield in Ukraine has evolved to a delicate stage. Russia and Ukraine suffered heavy losses. But each has also made gains.

“Russia has a land bridge to Crimea and control of some of Ukraine’s most fertile land and energy deposits, and in recent days it has maintained the momentum of the battlefield. Ukraine, after a strong defense of its cities, can expect additional support, know-how and armaments from NATO – a powerful incentive not to end the war any time soon.

“But if the war does not end soon, its dangers will increase. “Negotiations must begin within the next two months,” Henry Kissinger, the former US secretary of state, warned last week, “before this creates upheaval and tension that will not be easily overcome.”

Caldwell says that making no concessions to Russia would be “madness”.

Negotiated settlement

That the NYT would highlight this article indicates that a significant portion of capitalist class political thinkers believe that Biden’s current path could “sleepwalk” toward direct war with Russia, and that a negotiated settlement with Russia must take place.

Germany, France and Italy are calling for a negotiated settlement and have met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Under that pressure, Biden said the war would end with a negotiated settlement.

He also said that the United States will not tell Ukraine what to do with negotiations, which means there will be none. Ukraine is not leading the NATO war against Russia – the United States has, and the United States has blocked any negotiations with Russia.

For now, it’s full steam ahead for Biden and his war machine, including threats to other countries not following. He also tightened sanctions against Russia.

This includes sanctions against Russian wheat and fertilizers. Russia is a major supplier of these products. The result was a shortage of wheat around the world and hunger in much of the Third World.

The US administration has traveled to Africa to get countries to stop importing Russian wheat, but they have rejected this out of hand as their people are facing hunger.

American Strategy

write in BacklashDan Glazebrook explained that the United States strategy has been to “bait and bleed” Russia: “The term ‘bait and bleed’ was defined by international relations theorist John Mearsheimer in 2001 as a military strategy that ‘consists of to get two rivals to engage in a protracted war, so that they bleed each other white, while the bastard sits on the sidelines, his military strength intact.’…

In a widely publicized 2015 lecture on Ukraine, Mearsheimer noted that “if you really want to destroy Russia, what you really want to do is encourage Russia to conquer Ukraine.”

“The US and the UK – the latter in particular – seem to have taken this advice very seriously.”

Putin fell for the trap with his invasion of western Ukraine to impose a pro-Russian government. This was correctly denounced.

It was also a big blunder. Apparently Putin was unaware that Ukraine was “armed to the teeth” and was therefore able to repel the push on Kyiv. Russia was forced to withdraw its forces and regroup in Donbass and the south.

Russia’s war then became a defense against Ukraine’s NATO membership and a future NATO attack, and a defense of Crimea.

Any realistic negotiated settlement would have to accept these justifiable Russian interests. Germany and France seem to accept it. Biden does not.

From proxy war to covert war

The NYT reported that the Ukrainian regular army had been defeated in the Donbass. The Ukrainian army in the Donbass is now made up of volunteers, he added.

Biden has responded to Ukraine’s defeats with ever more sophisticated weapons that the Ukrainian military doesn’t know how to use, the NYT reports.

Among these weapons, there are more and more long-range ones. Putin said that if these long-range weapons are used, Russia will react. To use these weapons, it is likely that NATO troops will have to be used.

In this regard, Caldwell writes: “The United States could play an even more direct role. There are thousands of foreign fighters in Ukraine. A volunteer spoke to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in May about fighting alongside “friends” who “are from the Marines, from the United States.”

“Just as it is easy to cross the line between being an arms supplier and being a fighter, it is easy to cross the line between waging a proxy war and a covert war.”

The only way Russia will now be defeated east and south of Ukraine – Biden’s goals – is for NATO troops to enter the conflict.

Biden is trying to recreate a unipolar world dominated by the United States, first by defeating Russia and then China. Anti-war forces should demand a negotiated settlement with Russia now, thwarting Biden’s imperial goals.

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