Peace at the End of Tunnel? — Ukraine-Russia Talks Offer Glimmer of Hope

Written by | Friday, April 1st, 2022

Ukraine has offered a detailed proposal for neutrality, but both Kyiv and Moscow are pressing their advantages on the ground. Russia’s war in Ukraine that has entered its third week brought some Ukrainian successes around Kyiv and a Russian reorientation to focus on “liberating” the eastern Donbas region, suggesting Moscow is giving up on regime change and focusing on territorial gains with a view to a settlement. Ukraine put forward a detailed proposal of neutrality as negotiators met in Istanbul on 29 March. It included pledges to not join military alliances or host foreign troops, and that it would remain a non-nuclear power. That would mean Kyiv would give up its aspirations to join NATO, as Russian President Vladimir Putin has demanded. Ukraine suggested guarantors will be permanent members of the UN Security Council – the US, the UK, France, China and Russia – as well as Israel, Turkey, Germany, Canada and Poland. Some experts have said such a peace deal would weaken Ukrainian sovereignty and reward Russia.
Meanwhile, Germany had “arrived in the new reality and is facing up to the consequences” triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Germany’s Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht has said. During her visit to Washington ( 30 March) where she discussed her country’s current role in global security and defense policy Lambrecht also stressed Europe’s need to have the US as an ally and friend. Despite the major pivot to increase defense spending in line with NATO goals and strengthen its own military in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, she said Germany’s first choice would always be dialogue. “We will never presume to go it alone. We will always remain closely integrated in the European Union, in NATO, in the United Nations,” Lambrecht added. “If we see today that Putin’s plans are not working out, then we owe that also and precisely to this impressive unity,” she said, noting that all of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attempts to divide the West have failed.
The Pentagon on Tuesday (29 March) clarified that US troops in Poland were “liaising” with Ukrainian forces as they hand over weapons to them, but they were not training them “in the classic sense” following remarks from President Joe Biden on the matter. Earlier Biden told reporters that while in Poland last week, he had been talking to US troops who were helping “train” Ukrainian forces in Poland. But “it’s not training in the classic sense that many people think of training. I would just say it’s liaising,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said. He did not provide details on what exactly the interactions entail or how long they usually lasted. It was not immediately clear whether the distinction between liaising and training had greater significance, as the US tries to limit any direct military involvement in the war. The US and countries from around Europe have largely limited their military support to intelligence sharing and heavy supplies of weapons to Ukrainian forces, including anti-aircraft and anti-tank systems. But Germany, the fourth-biggest weapons exporter globally, is reportedly preparing to provide Ukraine with weapons worth €300 million after weeks of protracting shipments from German weapon manufacturers.

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