PICTURED: Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Story at a glance…
As winter nears, leaders and lawmakers are beginning to call for negotiations in Ukraine.
Other voices suggest this is just cold feet, and that there’s no good time to negotiate with Russia.
Europe as a whole is beginning to see the war as huge threats to their economies in the face of American protectionist legislation.
As lakes and fields begin to freeze over in eastern Ukraine, opinions on the course of action over this third-phase of the war are dividing in the West.
This was cemented over the last 2 weeks or so through a series of news events that staked out lines within the NATO alliance—with sober American military leadership joining the European political class in arguing in the affirmative that following a spectacular Ukrainian counter-offensive over the autumn, the time for a political solution is optimal.
Arguing in the negative is a variety of arms industry-connected politicians on Capitol Hill, several western media outlets like The Guardian, and The Wall Street Journal and some American non-uniformed military officials.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, four-star General Mark Milley recently offered some frank observations regarding Ukraine’s current position.
“There has to be a mutual recognition that military victory is probably — in the true sense of the word — is maybe not achievable through military means, and therefore you have to turn to other means,” Milley said. “When there’s an opportunity to negotiate, when peace can be achieved, seize it. Seize the moment”.
Milley didn’t imagine his words would disturb anyone, but as Jeremy Scahill writing at The Intercept points out, “the Biden administration ‘scrambled’ to ‘clean up Milley remarks’ and ‘handle Ukraine’s feelings’”.
Scahill added that Milley defended his assessment in a press briefing at the Pentagon alongside Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
“The probability of a Ukrainian military victory defined as kicking the Russians out of all of Ukraine to include what they define or what the claim is Crimea, the probability of that happening anytime soon is not high, militarily,” Milley said in response to a reporter’s question on November 16th.
“There may be a political solution where, politically, the Russians withdraw, that’s possible. You want to negotiate from a position of strength. Russia right now is on its back”.
Europe begins to break rank
In late-November Politico ran a featured piece detailing the European accusations of war profiteering against the US, including quotes from EU chief diplomat Josep Borell, French President Emmanual Macron and his economy minister, the Dutch trade minister, and the European Parliament’s official on the trade alliance with the US.
Most notably were the accusations from an unnamed senior EU diplomat, who said “if you look at it soberly, the country that is most profiting from this war is the U.S. because they are selling more gas and at higher prices, and because they are selling more weapons”.
Last Saturday in a press conference, Emmanual Macron said that NATO had to consider seriously Russian security concerns. Macron has previously, as Politico reported, been one of the more outspoken EU heads of state on a mutually-agreeable peace between the warring parties, saying in the lead up to a visit of the White House that he believed a deal like this was still possible.
“We need to prepare what we are ready to do, how we protect our allies and member states, and how to give guarantees to Russia the day it returns to the negotiating table,” the French leader said in an interview Saturday.
“One of the essential points we must address—as President Putin has always said—is the fear that NATO comes right up to its doors, and the deployment of weapons that could threaten Russia,” Macron added.
In response to this, and calls in the US Congress to appoint some oversight on the massive amounts of military aid being sent to Ukraine, those taking the position against negotiations began to make seriously inflammatory remarks.
Arguing the negative
Eliot Cohen, an advisor to former-Sect. of State Condoleezza Rice, claimed that cold weather seemed to be leading to cold feet while writing in an op-ed for The Atlantic, calling negotiations “a view that has risen from whisper to murmur”.
Cohen describes his recommendations thusly, based on the premise that when Russia has failed to win wars in the past, it tends to lead to political regime change.
“The means to that [regime change] end are clear: extensive and unstinting arming of Ukraine with all weaponry short of nuclear bombs, and a crushing and comprehensive system of economic sanctions on an isolated Russia”.
He mistakes Russia as isolated, as well as a half-dozen other things of equal obviousness. Much of the Global South and Asia besides has no interest in seeing the war continue to an end that Cohen might, nor do most of Europe, who after attempting to institute a €60.00 per barrel price cap on Russian oil, may face winter without Russian gas, or oil, somthingThe Economist predicts will raise the annual death rates of cold in Europe to around 100,000 people.
Europe has seen not only its major energy exporter stop exporting, but one of its other largest energy partners, the United States, selling gas at premium rates while passing protectionist trade policy like the Inflation Reduction Act, which certain French ministers described as “Chinese” in its selfishness, and which the earlier unnamed official described as “changing everything”.
Also mistaken is Jens Stoltenberg who remains adamant that “NATO’s door is open” despite a fast-track bid for NATO membership for Ukraine falling flat on its face earlier this year.
On Monday, WaL reported that Chair of the House Foreign Relations Committee described efforts to put oversight as a condition for another $37 billion of mostly military aid to Ukraine as “Russian propaganda” and that now was the time to “pass the ammo”.
When Gen. Milley made the point about negotiations, he used the example of the stalemate on the Western Front in World War 1—as a war which could have been ended sooner, but didn’t, resulting in not only millions more deaths, but no meaningful change in outcome.
When the fields and rivers of Ukraine freeze over, neither Russian nor Ukrainian militaries need stick to the roads, and there’s every chance that casualties will increase.