Ukraine Seeks New Security Guarantees, but Kremlin Calls Them a Threat

The somewhat measured manner in which Moscow reacted indicated that for the moment at least, Kyiv may have the upper hand in any eventual peace negotiations.

Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP
President Zelenskyy sings the Ukrainian national anthem during a visit to Izium, Kharkiv region, September 14, 2022. Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP

Heady days have come to parts of Ukraine where its army has ejected Russian forces, but even as hostilities drag out elsewhere the hard work of finding a lasting diplomatic solution is ongoing. Underscoring the behind-the-scenes tug-of-war between presidents Zelensky and Putin, Kyiv on Tuesday floated a revised wish list of security guarantees and the Kremlin on Wednesday called them a threat to Russia. 

Yet the somewhat measured manner in which Moscow reacted indicated that for the moment at least, Kyiv may have the upper hand in any eventual peace negotiations. That is partly down to the pure momentum achieved by forcing the Russians into inglorious retreats from Kharkiv and numerous towns in that northern region and elsewhere, and partly because of sheer persistence. Kyiv sees the EU, America, Australia, Canada, and Turkey as guarantors of its security, and also wants a ban on lifting sanctions against Russia until it compensates Ukraine for the damage Moscow has done — a figure widely estimated to top $100 billion.

In a press statement, Mr. Zelenky’s office said “as a result of the war waged by Russia against Ukraine, our state must fully restore its territorial integrity within internationally recognized borders, the post-war recovery and reconstruction of our country must be ensured, and the accession to European and Euro-Atlantic structures must be accelerated.” 

His top advisor, Andriy Yermak, was more specific: “In order to successfully implement these tasks, Ukraine must get a guaranteed safety after the war,” he told an online meeting with various European heads of state on Tuesday. “This means that we should receive reliable international security guarantees for the time period until Ukraine becomes a full member of the EU and NATO.”

The prospect of Ukraine joining the Western military alliance has, of course, been a major sticking point for Moscow since even before it launched its invasion in February. That was made clear on Wednesday by a statement Mr. Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, made in a press call to the Russian business newspaper Kommersant. “We are talking about a certain document, and no one hides that they have this document in mind until the moment Ukraine joins NATO — that is, the benchmark for NATO membership remains,” Mr. Peskov said. “Accordingly, the main threat to our country remains.”

Unsurprisingly, Mr. Peskov dug in his heels by repeating Mr. Putin’s view that the best guarantor for Ukraine is Russia. “With the current status quo and the current situation, hardly anyone can give Ukraine a greater guarantee of security than the leadership of this country,” Mr. Peskov said. “Only the leadership of this country should take actions that will eliminate the threat to the Russian Federation.” 

If the language coming from the Kremlin was hardly conciliatory, there was also a whiff of exasperation when Kommersant questioned Mr. Peskov about a round of preliminary talks held between Russian and Ukrainian delegations at Istanbul in March. “Yes, some security guarantees also appeared there, although under a completely different text, which, by the way, was initialed,” Mr. Peskov said. 

To what he was referring was not immediately clear, but could his willingness to discuss such guarantees indicate that Mr. Putin would not be averse to Russian participation in a further round of negotiations?

If that were the case, then there could be room for some cautious optimism to complement Ukraine’s stream of military accomplishments. Mr. Yermak said in Tuesday’s “Kyiv Initiative” meeting that the security guarantees for Ukraine should outline a number of obligations undertaken by the group of guarantors and that they should be binding on the basis of bilateral agreements, “but combined in the framework of a joint document on strategic partnership called the ‘Kyiv Security Compact.’” 

A piecemeal approach to shoring up a security structure after the war may be more palatable to the Kremlin than a more overt push to join NATO. Or, it may not. Mr. Peskov also said in his call that Kyiv’s evocation of NATO membership only made Russia’s “special military operation” — Moscow’s euphemistic term for the war — “more relevant.” 

Between the lines and beyond the customary Kremlin intransigence, the faint outline of the possibility of another round of talks between adversaries is shaping up. Whether any key world leaders, such as presidents Biden, Macron, or Erdogan, can push that prospect forward ahead of winter remains to be seen.

The New York Sun

© 2024 The New York Sun Company, LLC. All rights reserved.

Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. The material on this site is protected by copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used.

The New York Sun

Sign in or  create a free account

By continuing you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use