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U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley urged Ukraine and Russia to find a "political solution", saying that the war in Ukraine is unwinnable by purely military means.

Does the U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have any means to force Ukraine into negotiating peace with Russia, or is this decision solely made by the Ukrainian President? I am wondering what is the process for making the decision of negotiating peace and who are the parties involved in such a decision, and if it involves foreign parties as well.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2022_Russia%E2%80%93Ukraine_peace_negotiations

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4 Answers 4

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I think at least one answer should point out the elephant in the room: It's not really Ukraine that is blocking negotiations for peace, it's Russia.

Russia stole Crimea from Ukraine, had a frozen conflict with the country for years on their soil, and then decided by themselves without outside reason or provocation to invade the country and make it a hot war. If there were any interest on the Russian side concerning peace all they'd have to do is leave Ukraine alone and withdraw their troops.

Seriously, Western countries have made it clear that they do not condone Ukraine attacking Russia and they are not in the position to do that alone, so if Russian troops retreat you'd basically have an instant armistice and grounds for negotiation. And that is a move that solely depends on Russia and could be performed entirely without Ukrainian intervention.

So if there were any serious aspirations to end this war, Russia has all the cards in their hand to do that.

So "asking Ukraine to negotiate peace" is really just coded language for asking them to surrender to Russia. Because given their most recent history Russia would once again have stolen land from Ukraine and there would be no guarantee that this won't happen again anytime soon. It would not be peace it would be a surrender and a ceasefire before the conflict arises anew in the near future.

And unless Russia gives out credible guarantees to reinstate and respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine, there is no reason and no real ability for Ukraine to meaningfully negotiate peace with Russia. And apart from Ukraine joining NATO so that there's seriously no further Russian aggression or WWIII, which is likely not an option that is accepted by Russia, there's really not much room for what Russia could offer up as guarantees given how blatantly they broke all international laws and treaties by invading Ukraine. There's little to no trust left in their word with which they could broker.

So no, in order to negotiate peace the U.S. Chairman would have to get Russia to accept that and he has little to no influence there beyond making threats that no one really wants to make.

In terms of their influence on Ukraine. Well, you could speculate on what it would mean for the Ukrainian defense if the U.S. stopped supplying arms or even used their socio-political weight to impose sanctions on the EU for supplying arms. Though that would not be without heavy costs in terms of torn relations between the EU and the U.S. and after all it would not mean peace. It would mean a Russian victory over Ukraine with the very real threat of another invasion a few years down the line or other invasions, as Russia has used similar rhetoric to other neighbors already.

So given the current situation, apart from (hopefully) unrealistic scenarios like WWIII, direct military intervention or forcing Ukraine to cease their existence, there's really not much the U.S. could do unless Russia is willing to start negotiating peace.

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    Comments have been moved to chat; please do not continue the discussion here. Before posting a comment below this one, please review the purposes of comments. Comments that do not request clarification or suggest improvements usually belong as an answer, on Politics Meta, or in Politics Chat. Comments continuing discussion may be removed.
    – ohwilleke
    Feb 15, 2023 at 16:42
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    @csstudent1418 nytimes.com/live/2022/12/06/world/… and it routinely comes up in news related to providing heavy weapons or fighter jets.
    – haxor789
    Feb 16, 2023 at 14:48
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    @convert: Reparations for the damage that Russia has caused and would leave behind. Setting up a framework that reliably ensures that Russia won't launch another attack after rebuilding their military for a couple of years. Getting Russia to reaffirm the territorial integrity of Ukraine. In a wider sense, stabilizing the overall situation long-term, which may also include measures on the Ukrainian side, such as designing means to relax ethnic tensions between Russian-leaning and non-Russian-leaning parts of the Ukrainian population. Feb 19, 2023 at 12:20
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    @O. R. Mapper But that defenetly is unaceptable for Russia, what you tallking about is called capitulation.
    – convert
    Feb 19, 2023 at 12:22
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    @convert: Well, if the Russian government should insist on the stance that "we will not try to violently conquer parts of your country in the future again" (which I'd call pretty much a precondition for "peace") is the same as "we capitulate", then I guess that's the part about "It's not really Ukraine that is blocking negotiations for peace, it's Russia." Feb 19, 2023 at 12:34
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In theory, the US cannot force Zelenskyy into peace negotiations with Russia. This is because Ukraine is a sovereign country that can (in theory) make their own decisions. Biden has said something to that effect as well: "this is a decision Ukraine has to make".

In practice, they can, if they stop military aid, since that will pretty quickly force Ukraine to negotiate.

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  • Comments have been moved to chat; please do not continue the discussion here. Before posting a comment below this one, please review the purposes of comments. Comments that do not request clarification or suggest improvements usually belong as an answer, on Politics Meta, or in Politics Chat. Comments continuing discussion may be removed.
    – ohwilleke
    Feb 15, 2023 at 16:41
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Also, the Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff is subject to civilian rule, so he cannot by himself decide what the US sends to Ukraine as aid or not. He makes recommendations in that regard to the Secretary of Defense and the President. Milley did recommend that the US not send Abrams tanks [to Ukraine] for instance (and the SecDef actually agreed with that at one point), but the administration/Biden ultimately decided otherwise. Reportedly, Milley's recommendation against sending Abrams was that he "did not believe they would be a net positive for the Ukrainians given how difficult they are to operate and maintain."

So the answer to "Does the U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff ha[ve] any means to force Ukraine into negotiating peace with Russia?" is pretty much no.

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While it is a common Russian narrative that all EU is kind of subordinate to USA, mind these are sovereign countries. The support from EU may stay even if support from USA would cease. And the "collective West" has comparable size with Russia even without USA, plenty of jets and tanks of they own. Over 2000 of Leopard 2 tanks alone, to be more precise. It may also be more motivation, as Russia is much closer to them.

Further, Europe (EU and more) itself is not monolithic. Countries like UK, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Poland and Baltic states have very clear positions strongly backed by the public opinion, hence already seems not much easier with them than to persuade Ukraine to surrender. Bulgaria, Greece, Slovakia and Hungary might withdraw. They do not deliver the majority of help from EU anyway. Germany and France may think, and a lot would depend on them, but it cannot be taken for granted that they withdraw.

Hence it would be no news kind of "you are left alone". It would be simply less support. It is up to Ukraine if they want then to surrender right now after hearing such news. This does not look for me likely.

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    The problem is not as much as the EU being subordined to the USA, but the attitudes of those countries. So far in the EU we have two different groups of countries: eastern countries, which shout very loud about being tough with Russia, and provide about 10-20% of the EU's aid to Ukraine, and western countries, which drag their feet and provide 80-90% of the aid support. Only the USA, has the talk and the facts. Without it, the EU countries actually carrying the support would be even way more hesitant.
    – Rekesoft
    Feb 13, 2023 at 7:51
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    In any case, USA has no very direct control over EU so that is the answer, neither is very obvious that EU has not other reasons for support than to keep USA happy.
    – Stančikas
    Feb 13, 2023 at 8:35
  • "...EU itself is not monolithic. Countries like UK..." — The UK is no longer in the EU.
    – gerrit
    Feb 13, 2023 at 16:26
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    Changed to "Europe"
    – Stančikas
    Feb 13, 2023 at 16:33
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    Can you cite Poland as being reluctant? Aren't they the ones believed to have their tanks "fall off the truck" in Ukraine before NATO members even considered giving tanks?
    – bharring
    Feb 14, 2023 at 18:10

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