In an article titled "How to Avoid Another World War" published in the British The Spectator, Henry Kissinger, the former US Secretary of State and National Security Adviser and international relations theorist called for a negotiated settlement to the Russo-Ukraine War. Both Ukraine and Russia would have to make painful concessions. Ukraine would have forfeit the lands it lost in 2014, while Russia would have to withdraw from the lands it took since it invaded Ukraine in 2022. Moreover, Russia would have to swallow Ukraine's membership in NATO.
The alternative argued Kissinger was a replay of the sad history of Europe from World War I through World War II except that this time the factor of nuclear weapons was added to the equation. Therefore, the dream of Russia's disintegration would turn into a nightmare as a vacuum would be created in the former territory of Russia that could trigger a nuclear conflict.
Although Russia knows that Kissinger is an opponent, he was an opponent whom they respected and could deal with. Kissinger was made an external fellow of the Russian Academy of Sciences in 2016. When he crafted American diplomacy, Kissinger displayed respect for Russia as a great power, and his balance of power politics reserved a place for Russia as an important player in the game.
Putin's press secretary Dmitry Peskov essentially damned the proposal with faint praise: "Of course, Kissinger’s talent, experience and expertise are always in demand. They are especially in demand in such complicated situations. We will read this material with great interest. So far, unfortunately, there has been no such opportunity," said. Peskov at a press conference.
Kommersant columnist Dmitry Drize argued that despite Kissinger's gravitas his proposal was going nowhere like a similar proposal by entrepreneur Elon Musk. The Ukrainians would react negatively. In the West, there was no eagerness to pursue the ideas. " One could assume that the German, American or Briton layman, upon being acquainted with the foreign policy guru’s narrative, will immediately demand for their governments stop supporting Kyiv and, even better, turn towards Moscow along with it.... Yet, for some reason the collective West is not really listening to this, even at the grassroots level (at least for now). Maybe the stance of [Russia's] former partners will change in the future.
However, one cannot always be afraid of something; it’s difficult to live with. Furthermore, today it is not entirely clear what 'realpolitik' really is. It’s a time when old concepts should be reconsidered, happiness is not always about money or convenience. Ideas too, play an important role in our difficult lives".
In contrast to Peskov's brushoff and Drize's skepticism, two Russian commentators, the conservative Ria Novosti columnist Petr Akopov and the Russtrat research center director Yelena Panina were less kind to Kissinger and accused him of masquerading as a dove. Akopov and Panina called Kissinger's proposals a recipe for Russia's disintegration. Akopov asked how Russia could accept Ukrainian membership in NATO, when this was the nightmare that had prompted to go to war in the first place? Panina asked how Russia could be expected to reverse the referendums that had taken place prior to annexation and the changes to its constitution that came with it without paving the way for its dismemberment.
The articles by Akopov and Panina follow below. When the authors cite Kissinger, we have used the original text of Kissinger's piece in The Spectator.
Henry Kissinger (Source: Aif.ru)
Akopov in response to Kissinger claimed that Russia would not back-down or stop half way in Ukraine. He wrote:
"A relative lull on the frontlines and the approach of the New Year is helping to stimulate those favoring the preparation of Russia-West negotiations on Ukraine. The chief geopolitical strategist of the Anglo-Saxon world, Henry Kissinger, has published an article in the British The Spectator magazine titled 'How to avoid another world war.'
"It's not the first time that the 99-year-old veteran of the Atlantic elite has set forth his idea of how hostilities should conclude, dissecting different options, but every time it turns out in his considerations that Ukraine remains with the West. Kissinger's pathos, however, is that it is necessary to start negotiations to fix the new situation, not to set unrealistic and dangerous goals. That said, Kissinger’s zeal is to start negotiations to fix the new situation, not to set unrealistic and dangerous goals.
"The gist of the current reasoning is simple: Kissinger recalls World War I (“the cultural suicide that destroyed the greatness of Europe”), in which the leaders 'entered like sleepwalkers.' However, in 1916 the latter 'began to explore prospects of ending the carnage,' but 'because no conceivable compromise could justify the sacrifices already incurred and no one wanted to convey an impression of weakness, the various leaders hesitated to initiate a formal peace process.' As a result, the war went on for two more years and claimed millions more victims, irrevocably shattering the established equilibrium in Europe, 'Germany and Russia were rent by revolution; the Austro-Hungarian state disappeared from the map. France had been bled white. Britain had sacrificed a significant share of its young generation and of its economic capacities to the requirements of victory. The punitive Treaty of Versailles that ended the war proved far more fragile than the structure it replaced.'
"That is, Kissinger suggests that a prolonged war could be catastrophic for all, and that peace that would ensue upon its results will be temporary and poor. Thus, it’s better to end the war quickly.
"True, Versailles, which humiliated Germany, in fact, led to the World War II, it’s no coincidence that the two world wars are now increasingly perceived, as a single process, spanning from 1914 to 1945.
"Kissinger needs all these parallels to argue two propositions: one should prepare for negotiations and abandon the wager that following the war Russia will be bled white, or even disintegrate. Therefore, in his own eyes, he acts as a quasi 'dove' amidst the 'hawks,' who are betting on Russia's defeat, Yes, in part. However, the devil is in the details, as always.
"Kissinger attributes the need for negotiations to the fact that 2022 resembles the year 1916, 'The world today finds itself at a comparable turning point in Ukraine today, as winter imposes a pause on large-scale military action there? I have repeatedly expressed my support for allied military effort to thwart Russian aggression in Ukraine. But the time is approaching to build on the strategic changes which have already been accomplished and integrate them into a new structure towards achieving peace through negotiation.'
"So, what changes does he propose to record?
"'Ukraine has become a major state in Central Europe for the first time in modern history. Aided by its allies and inspired by its President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Ukraine has stymied the Russian conventional forces which have been overhanging Europe since World War II. And the international system, including China, is opposing Russia's threat or use of its nuclear weapons.
"'This process has mooted the original issues regarding Ukraine’s membership in NATO. Ukraine has acquired one of the largest and most effective land armies in Europe, equipped by America and its allies. A peace process should link Ukraine to NATO, however expressed. The alternative of neutrality is no longer meaningful, especially after Finland and Sweden joined NATO....
"The goal of a peace process would be twofold: to confirm the freedom of Ukraine and to define a new international structure, especially for Central and Eastern Europe. Eventually Russia should find a place in such an order.'
"So, what is the upshot? Russia is invited to concede that Ukraine belongs to the Western bloc, i.e., to accept that not only part of its historical land has been confiscated from it, but it has also it must accept a construction of an Atlanticist-run state on this territory, whose main 'raison d'être' is to be anti-Russia.
"But it’s precisely due to the rejection of such an option that the special military operation [in Ukraine] began. Such plans by the West are categorically unsuitable for Russia.
"The world has irreversibly changed since 24 February, and we are being asked to accept the same thing that we have already rejected, to accept what we are fighting against and to find 'our place' in the new-old world order.
"It’s absurd, but Kissinger seems to believe it’s all very reasonable, realistic and moderate. Sure, he would, because he’s up against those, for whom, 'The preferred outcome for some is a Russia rendered impotent by the war. I disagree... Russia’s military setbacks have not eliminated its global nuclear reach, enabling it to threaten escalation in Ukraine. Even if this capability is diminished, the dissolution of Russia or destroying its ability for strategic policy could turn its territory encompassing 11 time zones into a contested vacuum.' Clearly, it’s not a concern for Russia that guides him, but a banal fear of the collapse of a huge nuclear power (as well as a reluctance to repeat the mistakes of Versailles), i.e., to 'program' a new war via the disproportionate humiliation of the losing side. The only thing that is not clear is why Kissinger considers Russia to be the losing side, i.e., being incapable of wresting Ukraine from the hands of the West. And how can he not see that his proposed ceasefire terms are in principle unacceptable to Moscow (not to mention that they cannot be the basis for any sustainable peace):
"'I recommended establishing a ceasefire line along the borders existing where the war started on 24 February. Russia would disgorge its conquests thence, but not the territory it occupied nearly a decade ago, including Crimea. That territory could be the subject of a negotiation after a ceasefire. If the pre-war dividing line between Ukraine and Russia cannot be achieved by combat or by negotiation, recourse to the principle of self-determination could be explored. Internationally supervised referendums concerning self-determination could be applied to particularly divisive territories which have changed hands repeatedly over the centuries.'
"True, there is a clear contradiction between the conviction that Ukraine is winning, and the thinking about the referendums on the territories annexed to Russia this year. That is, Kissinger is, in principle, ready to leave to Russia what it already controls, but would just fix the major change: Russia's abandonment of claims to the rest of Ukraine, and acceptance of the latter’s affiliation with the West. It’s clear that this will never happen, no matter how much effort and time it takes to achieve our goals.
"Historical parallels are very useful thing, especially if one knows and remembers the true historical experience. In the latter case, [Kissinger would’ve known] that the First World War began not because of the European sleepwalkers (i.e., Germans, French and Russians), but as a result of a clever combination of the Anglo-Saxons to pit the continental powers against each other. And Russia’s defeat in it came as a result of double treachery of some of our elites and Entente allies, which led to the catastrophe of the February Revolution. Russia has paid dearly for neglecting the lessons of history, and now won’t repeat the same mistakes, won’t back down and won’t stop halfway."
Petr Akopov (Source: Chistovik.info)
Yelena Panina the Director of Russtrat the Institute of International Political and Economic Strategies is similarly dismissive of Kissinger although he represents the more moderate position in the West. In her view Kissinger is calling for Russia's capitulation and at this stage of the conflict a negotiating stalemate exists, where neither side is prepared to concede what it considers to be its vital interest. Panina wrote:
"...There are two discernible stances regarding Russia in the US: a moderate and a radical one. There is little difference between them, and they are both unacceptable to Moscow. These are the stated position of the Joe Biden’s administration and the recently published concept by the former Secretary of State and former National Security Adviser to the President of the United States, Henry Kissinger. The difference between the two is that in order to start negotiations the White House head demands of Russia to withdraw its troops from all occupied territories, including Donbass, and to make Crimea the subject of separate agreements regarding the procedures for its return to Ukraine, which will stretch over 7, 10 or 15 years.
"In turn, Kissinger proposes to withdraw Russian troops to the borders that existed before 24th of February, i.e., to return the liberated territories of the LPR, Kherson and Zaporizhzhya oblasts. After that referendums under so-called “international control,” (i.e., on US terms) will be held on these territories, as well as in Crimea. There is no doubt that their results would have been interpreted in the interests of the West. The results would, actually, serve as the basis for further coercion of Russia to capitulation.
"Meanwhile, Biden allows for the dismemberment of Russia and considers it an imperative (the concept of “decolonization of Russia,” i.e., its dismemberment, was announced), while Kissinger, in contrast, seemingly perceives the disintegration of the Russian Federation as impermissible.
"Be that as it may, this is blatant hypocrisy, as the withdrawal of our country from its newly incorporated territories is capable of triggering the state’s disintegration. The former Secretary of State also proposes the creation of some new structures for the management of Central and Eastern Europe, which should certainly include Russia.
"Kissinger, probably, strives to preserve an appearance of the old conception, when the US used the Russia to combat its rivals in Eurasia i.e., European countries and China (I’m talking about a concept [positing] the impossibility of a Eurasian power balance without Russia). Meanwhile, Kissinger suggests that negotiations on Ukraine’s neutral status no longer make sense, and “A peace process should link Ukraine to NATO, however expressed.”
"Russia’s declared stance is that the incorporation of the new territories into its territory was performed based on referendums, enshrined in the Constitution, and revising this decision automatically triggers the break-up of Russia and the destruction of key provisions of the Basic Law. No negotiations are possible under such approaches. The US strives to transform Russia into a European colony and Europe into a colony of the US. For Russia, such a disposition is unacceptable.
"Obviously, the military, economic and other resources of both Russia and the West are not infinite. But their mobilization is far from exhausted, neither from the US' perspective, nor from Russia's.
"The economic downturn in Europe, caught between the hammer and the anvil of Russia and the US, shouldn’t be considered an obstacle. Since the strategic goals of the parties are far from achieved, changing their respective stances would mean one side, or the other conceding defeat. In other words, there is simply nothing to discuss now. Neither the Kissinger nor the Biden scenario option will ever be accepted by Russia, any more than that the US will accept Russia’s stance.
"This is called 'negotiating stalemate' and it will persist until the balance of power changes and this change is recognized as an irreversible and immutable reality. The dynamics of the parties’ stances are now being probed, i.e., parties gather intel for further adjustments to their policies. Meanwhile, a mere announcement of the parties’ declared stances serves as a means of propaganda and pressure on the opponent.
"The West perceives Russia a prodigal son and a heretic to be re-educated and curbed, while Russia demands for the US and the collective West, as a whole, to recognize its civilizational identity and zone of influence.
"All this signifies that unless a dramatic change in Ukraine occurs, constructive dialogue with the West is unlikely to happen. There is nothing to discuss and no one intends to negotiate his surrender.
"It’s not a question of people’s well-being and comfort, but of the survival of the West and Russia in their current form. Thus, one shouldn’t overestimate the fatigue factor in the current confrontation. This doesn’t dramatically affect the assessment of the parties' vital national geopolitical interests. The confrontation will continue, although there may be some pauses and even moments of talks. Be that as it may, New Yalta is still a long way off and should not be expected next year."
Yelena Panina (Source: Tass.ru)