Tian Jenssen, the chief of staff to the secretary general of NATO, recently came under heavy criticism when he discussed possible options for a negotiated end to the war in Ukraine that did not envision a complete Russian defeat. This provoked a furious response from Ukrainian officials who are apparently still expecting to win the war all hands down when Russia surrenders.
“I’m not saying it has to be like this, but I think that a solution could be for Ukraine to give up territory and get NATO membership in return,” he said during a panel discussion in Norway, according to the country’s VG newspaper. He also said that “it must be up to Ukraine to decide when and on what terms they want to negotiate,” which is NATO’s standard line.
But even these mild and sensible remarks provoked an angry condemnation from the Ukrainians; a clarification from his boss, Jens Stoltenberg; and ultimately Jenssen was forced to issue an apology.
The contretemps, say some analysts who have been similarly chastised, reflects a closing down of public discussion on options for Ukraine just at a moment when imaginative diplomacy is most needed, they say.
Since the atttempt to get talks going made by African leaders in June, there has been little follow up/
Western allies and Ukrainians themselves had hoped that the Ukrainian counteroffensive would soften up the Russians and make them more willing to negotiate an end to the fighting, which has stretched on for a year and half.
Even the most optimistic of Ukraine’s backers did not predict that Ukraine would push Russian occupiers right out of the occupied territory, an outcome that appears increasingly improbable in light of the modest gains of the counteroffensive so far.
The conditions on the battlefield raise the question of what might be done off it, these officials and analysts say, even if neither side appears open at the moment to talks. Others fear that too open a conversation may be interpreted by Moscow as a weakening of resolve.
With the counteroffensive going so slowly, and American defense and intelligence officials beginning to blame the Ukrainians, Western governments are feeling more vulnerable after providing so much equipment and raising hopes, said Charles A. Kupchan, a professor at Georgetown University and a former American official.
The American hope, he said, was that the counteroffensive would succeed in threatening the Russian position in Crimea, which would put Ukraine in a stronger negotiating position. That has not happened either. “So the political atmosphere has tightened,” he said, “and overall there is still a political taboo about a hardheaded conversation about the endgame.”
Source: New York Times.