US National Security Experts Now Call for Peace in Ukraine

The war is not going well for Ukraine. Ukraine is short of men and materiel. The different types of weapons supplied by the West pose their own problems and the planned counter-offensive lacks the element of surprise. Negotiations, not continued fighting, are the more sensible option.

On May 16, 2023, The New York Times published a full-page advertisement signed by 15 US national security experts about the war in Ukraine. It was headed “The US Should Be a Force for Peace in the World,” and was drafted by the Eisenhower Media Network.

While condemning Russia’s invasion, the statement provides a more objective account of the crisis in Ukraine than the US government or The New York Times has previously presented to the public, including the disastrous US role in NATO expansion, the warnings ignored by successive US administrations and the escalating tensions that ultimately led to war.

The statement calls the war an “unmitigated disaster,” and urges President Joe Biden and Congress “to end the war speedily through diplomacy, especially given the dangers of military escalation that could spiral out of control.”

This call for diplomacy by wise, experienced former insiders—US diplomats, military officers and civilian officials—would have been a welcome intervention on any one of the past 442 days of this war. Yet their appeal now comes at an especially critical moment in the war.

Ukraine Is in a Tough Spot

On May 10, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced that he is delaying Ukraine’s long-awaited “spring offensive” to avoid “unacceptable” losses to Ukrainian forces. Western policy has repeatedly put Zelenskyy in near-impossible positions, caught between the need to show signs of progress on the battlefield to justify further Western support and arms deliveries and, on the other hand, the shocking human cost of continued war represented by the fresh graveyards where tens of thousands of Ukrainians now lie buried.

It is not clear how a delay in the planned Ukrainian counter-attack would prevent it leading to unacceptable Ukrainian losses when it finally occurs, unless the delay in fact leads to scaling back and calling off many of the operations that have been planned. Zelenskyy appears to be reaching a limit in terms of how many more of his people he is willing to sacrifice to satisfy Western demands for signs of military progress to hold together the Western alliance and maintain the flow of weapons and money to Ukraine.

Zelenskyy’s predicament is certainly the fault of Russia’s invasion, but also of his April 2022 deal with the devil in the shape of the then-UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Johnson promised Zelenskyy that the UK and the “collective West” were “in it for the long run” and would back him to recover all of Ukraine’s former territory, just as long as Ukraine stopped negotiating with Russia.

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