A forced peace deal in Ukraine may have wider consequences

A forced peace deal in Ukraine may have wider consequences

A forced peace deal in Ukraine may have wider consequences

By Philip Ingram MBE

Reuters has reported that “Two key advisers to Donald Trump have presented him with a plan to end Russia’s war in Ukraine that involves telling Ukraine it will only get more U.S. weapons if it enters peace talks. The United States would at the same time warn Moscow that any refusal to negotiate would result in increased U.S. support for Ukraine.”  The plan drawn up by Lieutenant General Keith Kellogg and Fred Fleitz, who both served as chiefs of staff in Trump’s National Security Council during his 2017-2021 presidency, would see a ceasefire based on prevailing battle lines during peace talks.  However, would this bring an end to the war and what are the implications?

Bloomberg reported that “before heading off to North Korea last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin made a “peace” offering to Ukraine. He pledged an immediate cease-fire and peace negotiations if Ukraine withdraws from four partially occupied regions and abandons its bid to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. His other stipulation, of course, is that the West lift sanctions.” Without seeing the detail, the Kellogg and Fleitz and Putin plans seem to be in the same ballpark, Ukraine ceding territory for a signed peace agreement.

The problem with international agreements is that Russia doesn’t have a good history keeping them and the West has an even worse history in enforcing them.

Matthew Bunn wrote in a paper for the Harvard Kennedy School titled, “Budapest Memorandum at 25: Between Past and Future,” in March 2020. “On December 5, 1994, leaders of the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Russian Federation met in Budapest, Hungary, to pledge security assurances to Ukraine in connection with its accession to the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) as a non-nuclear-weapons state. The signature of the so-called Budapest Memorandum concluded arduous negotiations that resulted in Ukraine’s agreement to relinquish the world’s third-largest nuclear arsenal, which the country inherited from the collapsed Soviet Union, and transfer all nuclear warheads to Russia for dismantlement. The signatories of the memorandum pledged to respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity and inviolability of its borders, and to refrain from the use or threat of military force.”

We then get into the Minsk agreements named after the capital of Belarus and were signed there in 2014 and 2015. They were an attempt to secure a ceasefire between the Ukrainian government and Russia-backed separatists in the east of Ukraine. They set out a roadmap for elections in the occupied regions on Luhansk and Donetsk and a plan to reintegrate the territory back into the rest of Ukraine.  However, Russian President Vladimir Putin recognised the independence of the self-proclaimed republics in the run up to his reinvasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Putin does not have a good history in keeping to international agreements he has signed, and the West has an equally poor record in holding Russia to those agreements. It is those two points that would set any peace negotiation with Russia where Ukrainian territory was ceded to Russia that may, in the short term, temporarily end a very bloody conflict but would likely lead to a global conflict within a few short years.

What could the signing of a peace deal with Putin result in? The answer is really simple, the impact is potentially catastrophic. Initially it would probably bring an end to the bloodshed in Ukraine but both sides would feel unfulfilled. Rebuilding could start but the impact of what has happened would be felt for generations. The Zelensky government would fail, and any successor would have eyes on rebuilding Ukraine but the potential for corruption to come back and grow bigger would be huge given the effort Putin would put into influencing any new government and the money involved. The west would likely rein back and any Ukrainian accession plan to the EU or move towards joining NATO would be delayed and delays would keep creeping in.

Putin would keep his defence industrial base on its current footing but would be able to capitalise on the relationships he has been developing with Iran and China, alongside the lessons he will have learned from the battles in Ukraine, the Russians are very adaptable, and it is highly likely that they would capitalise on better Sino-Russian defence cooperation to capitalise on operational lessons learned, rebuild a more modern and capable Russian military whilst enhancing the Chinese PLA and increase influence, pushing to domination in the Middle East. The quid pro quo for China would be increased Russian support for Chinese dominance in SE Asia.

Tensions in the South China Seas have been growing for some time. In 2016, an international tribunal in The Hague ruled in favour of the Philippines and invalidated China’s claim in the strategic waters, Beijing refused to accept the ruling. Those disputed waters are in what China refers to as the nine-dash line, which overlaps the exclusive economic zones of rival claimants Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

The nine-dash line, (also referred to as the eleven-dash line by Taiwan), is a set of line segments on various maps that accompanied competing claims of rights of control and include the Paracel Islands, the Spratly Islands, the Pratas Island and the Vereker Banks, the Macclesfield Bank, and the Scarborough Shoal. Certain places have undergone land reclamation by the PRC, ROC, and Vietnam.

With thanks to DW

This is in addition to the growing tensions between China and Taiwan.  Taiwan has been governed independently of China since 1949, but Beijing views the island as part of its territory as part of its one China Principal and recognition of this through a one China Policy has been the bedrock of Sino-US relations. However, Beijing has vowed to eventually “unify” Taiwan with the mainland, using force if necessary and tensions have increased dramatically as US and other global leaders increasingly talk of Taiwan outside Chinas language of it one China Principal.

Tensions are rising. The Democratic Progressive Party, whose platform favours independence, won a third consecutive term in 2024, while Beijing has ramped up political and military pressure on Taipei.  Xi Jing Ping of China will be weighing up the potential impact of a reaction from the international community should he decide to take Taiwan by force. If he sees the West capitulate to Putin over Ukraine, he could easily decide that China, with its economic power, could ride out the impact of Western displeasure, especially if it saw an opportunity to further impact western economies and create opportunities for China, or a China, Russia or a China Russia Iranian Pact, possibly underpinned by the BRICS group of countries.

Bloomberg’s description of BRCS is, “The BRICS group of emerging-market nations — the acronym stands for Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — has gone from a slogan dreamed up at an investment bank two decades ago to a real-world club that controls a multilateral lender. It doubled in size in 2024, pairing several major energy producers with some of the biggest consumers among developing countries and potentially enhancing the group’s economic clout in a US-dominated world.”

Of course, in the region we have tensions on the Korean Peninsula. It is widely reported and has been consistently reported for almost two years that rising tension on the Korean peninsula is eroding the safeguards set up by both countries against the risk of confrontation. There are regular incidents in the de-militarised zone and with North Korea’s sabre rattling. Increased cooperation with Russia will give the Kim Jong Un regime a boost economically and psychologically and will likely embolden Kim Jong Un which is never good for an unpredictable dictator with nuclear weapons. He could use any sign of weakness in the West as an opportunity.

SE Asian tensions don’t stop here. Russia and Japan have been at loggerheads since the end of the Second World War when the Soviet Union occupied four islands off the northeast coast of Hokkaido, Japan’s second-largest island, the Kuril Islands. Japan claimed that the Soviet Union incorporated them “without any legal grounds” and refused to sign a peace treaty. The Russians view the Kuril Islands as reward for the sacrifices of the Soviet people during the war.  Japan over recent years has changed its constitution from purely defensive to allow offensive operations to protect its territories and has been changing its military to include offensive capabilities.  Defences on the disputed Kuril Islands have been reduced to send military capability to Ukraine. Japan may decide the time has come to take them back.

Should tensions rise to conflict in SE Asia, that that conflict could easily be stimulated by the international community being seen to give in to Putin, then Putin would see any focus to that region by the international community as an opportunity to restart his ambitions to capture the whole of Ukraine and turn it into a Belarus like puppet state, as well as other surrounding states, no matter what peace deals had been signed. Of course, both China and Russia have their relationship with Iran to ensure Middle East tensions remain high. The potential for conflicts in the three separate regions is high and growing and the potential for them to join to a globally impactful conflict is growing also.

So, those who are calling for Ukraine to cede land to Putin in exchange for peace need to understand exactly what the implications are and how that could be a trigger for other conflicts to start.  To have any hope of deterring this we would need to be ready for a conflict on a scale that could be bigger than the Second World War and that means defence expenditure at levels countries haven’t begun to imagine yet.

Faragegate – the row over his comments

Faragegate – the row over his comments

Faragegate – the row over his comments

by Philip Ingram MBE

The row over Nigel Farage’s apparent suggestion that the West “provoked” Russia’s invasion of Ukraine by expanding the European Union and NATO eastwards rumbled on. There is only one winner – Vladimir Putin.

Farage, the Reform UK leader told Nick Robinson of the BBC that “of course” the war was President Vladimir Putin’s fault. However, he added that the expansion of the EU and NATO gave him a “reason” to tell the Russian people “they’re coming for us again”.

This echoed a tweet Farage put out in Feb 2022 just after Russia reinvasion of Ukraine as they attempted to capture Kyiv, where he clearly stated, “a consequence of EU and NATO expansion.” Nick Robinson in the BBC Panorama interview challenged Farage over his judgement and past statements, including when he named Russian President Vladimir Putin as the world leader he most admired in 2014. Nigel Farage responded by saying, “I said I disliked him as a person, but admired him as a political operator because he’s managed to take control of running Russia.”

Nigel Farage’s position is not helped by his support for Donald Trump and Donald Trump’s less than supportive comments for Ukraine. To Putin, he sees an opportunity to attack support for Ukraine at its very core, through the UK General Election campaign and then into the US Presidential election campaign and he will be taking every opportunity to do so. His aim will be simply to create more division and uncertainty, to take the political focus away from Ukraine a little more.

So, what is the reality? Why did Putin decide to attack Ukraine in the end?

It is true that in 1990 President Bush had noted in a memo that he had said, “no extension for NATO’s jurisdiction for forces of NATO one inch to the east.”  This memo is often taken out of the geopolitical context. It was in relation to the immediate reunification of Germany and allaying concerns regarding the huge NATO forces that remained in Germany.

Those forces have subsequently been massively reduced. In addition, Russia has contributed to NATO led operations in the Balkans as part of the international force. First in Bosnia and then in 1999 in Kosovo.  This relationship was built on the Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Co-operation and Security between the Russian Federation and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, signed in 1997.

Clear examples of cooperation as more members joined NATO were in 2006/2007 when the NATO-Russia Council at Military Representative level (MilReps of the 26 allies and RUS) met monthly to progress NATO/Russia military-to-military cooperation.  The Russian vessel, PITLIVIY joined Operation Active Endeavour in Sept 06, marked the first truly combined NATO-Russia force deployment. The operations were to deter terrorist activity in the Mediterranean. Several other exercises and cooperation’s with NATO took place including, Theatre Missile Defence exercises hosted by Russia, academic exchanges, search and rescue at sea training, communications exercises, military aviation exercises, fuels interoperability exercises. The Cold War had thawed and as the EU accepted more members and NATO did the same cooperation between Russia and NATO grew.

Then something changed, and that change was the era of Putin. Yes, Putin was concerned about NATO growing and the EU becoming an economic powerhouse to rival Russia but what concerned him more was Russia’s and his loss of status and influence. He vehemently disagreed with the break-up of the USSR, the Soviet Union and wanted it back; he recognised that Russia was losing its superpower status economically, politically and militarily.  However, he knows he could disrupt and influence political processes across the West and maintain a degree of control over what was most important to him, money, through disinformation, direct action, cyber activities and good old traditional ‘kompromat’ (gaining leverage over individuals and companies through use of compromising materials.)

Putin wasn’t bothered by other countries joining NATO or the EU provided he could maintain Russia’s (his own) influence. He would send warnings when he thought necessary, the 2007 Cyber-attack on Estonia, the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko with Polonium 210 in London, the poisoning of Sergei Skripal in Salisbury in 2018. These and many other incidents around the world, were designed to send messages to dissenters.

At the same time when he tested the West with operations like the 2008 Russian invasion of Georgia the EU negotiated peace settlement favoured Russia. The Wests reaction to the July 2014 shooting down of the MH17 passenger airliner was extremely slow, and the Wests complete lack of action in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and creation of two artificial statelets in Ukraine, The Luhansk and Donetsk Peoples Republics, combined with his engrained belief that Ukraine didn’t deserve to be a separate nation is what kept his sights on Ukraine.

Budapest Memo, signed in 1994, where Russia, the US and the UK confirmed their recognition of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine making security commitments in return for soviet nuclear weapons being returned to the Kremlin, should have kept the peace. However, Putin already had Belarus as a Puppet state, Kazakhstan was under a degree of control as Russian Space launches from its territory kept the Rubles flowing and corruption across Ukraine allowed Russian oligarchs (and therefore Putin) to control access to the vast resources in what he saw as a substate of Russia.

However, the straw that ‘broke the camel’s back’ for Putin wasn’t NATO or the EUs expansion or possibility that Ukraine could join, as he knew the levels of corruption that he controlled would keep them from meeting even the basic criteria. After all to Putin, Ukraine was still and always would be “Little Russia.” This all changed when Zelensky won an election on an anti-corruption ticket against all odds. Putin’s business interests and ability to bring Ukraine under control politically as he had done with Belarus, were under threat. His ego, and fear at loss of business and influence started him on the path to wanting to topple Zelensky, by force if necessary.  All of this was on the back of the pro-freedom aspirations of the Maidan (Independence Square) protesters who rose against Kremlin-friendly president Viktor Yanukovych in late 2013 and early 2014. It stirred a terror in Putins heart in the wake of pro democracy protests in Russia 2010 – 2013 but sent the conditions for Zelensky and a desire to remove corruption from the heart of Ukrainian politics, that meant emasculating the oligarch criminal networks.

So how does all this come back to Farages interview on the BBC? Well simply he has given Putin the snippets necessary to produce the propaganda he can use to feed to his domestic audience and wider international BRICS partners. We can see how China is supporting Russia as is Iran and North Korea as are the the BRICS members. The author has edited the BBC interview to give you an example of that propaganda that will be made from Farages statement, this clip is likely to play across Russia, China, South Africa, Brazil, North Korea, Iran, India and elsewhere saying even prime ministerial hopefuls in the British election blame NATO and the EU:

(video with thanks to BBC Panorama)

Trying to be clever and apply one dimensional and therefore flawed reasoning, as many commentators have also done, in what is a multi dimensional conflict, not being clear, and with the historical comments, Farage has given Putin a boost and he should have known that would happen! The cynic in me says in the run up to an election, no publicity is bad publicity – could that be his motivation?  Farage emphasised in his interview with the BBC that he thought Putins actions were wrong and that he did not support them.