Chatham House: No to Negotiations Until Russia Is Defeated

While some leaders in NATO countries have dropped hints that it may soon be time to try negotiations to end the war in Ukraine, the word came from a leading British intelligence institution that that is out of the question until Russia is defeated and humiliated. A round table discussion at Chatham House on Dec. 6 featured two long-standing Russophobes, who claimed that Russia’s “imperial intentions” make it impossible to reach an agreement with its leaders. The event was titled “Russia’s War on Everybody,” and the clear impression they gave is that Russia’s “national character” is barbaric and therefore they cannot be trusted to negotiate in good faith. (In parentheses, the recent confession by Angela Merkel (cf. below) shows how much the West can be trusted.)

The problem, said Edward Lucas, “is the way Russia thinks…We are playing Russian games by Russian rules.” Russia is deploying an arsenal of hybrid warfare, playing divide-and-rule between the U.S. and NATO, and spreading disinformation. Lucas is a former editor of the City of London’s Economist magazine, who currently writes a column for the Times of London.

He blamed “western complacency” for the war, and for not heeding warnings from Lithuania and the Poles back in the 1990s. Asked by an audience member if there was anything which could have been done differently after the fall of the Soviet Union, he responded belligerently: “I resent the framing of that question.” It is a “self-pitying narrative” of the Russians that “the West didn’t help Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union.”

This was a theme of the evening, echoed by panelist Keir Giles, a Chatham House fellow and author with intelligence connections. Moscow, he asserted, believes “it is entitled to Empire,” and was already at war with the west, including during the Yeltsin era. Both he and Lucas said the present confrontation “predates Putin”, with Giles tracing it back to the time of Catherine the Great.

And they both believe that only a return to British imperial geopolitics will protect the world from Russian barbarism! Lucas, in his concluding remarks, identified what he said has been the problem that Putin exploited. During the Cold War, “our diplomatic and intelligence services were really good — [then] we destroyed it, because we don’t think geopolitics is still going on.”

In his book Moscow Rules: What Drives Moscow to Confront the West, Giles criticizes post 1990 western policy as naive, writing that “hoping for a different Russia” is not a viable policy approach. It is a mistake to assume that Russia is a “Western country….The ideals, values, prejudices, hopes, fears and motivations that are shared by many Russians…are distinctive or alien to the West.”

In Feb. 2022, when Putin first launched the special military operation in Ukraine, Giles published an op-ed in the Guardian titled “Only total military failure will curb Putin’s ambitions in Ukraine.” Nine months into the war, this imperial war hawk is more convinced than ever of this view, one which is shared by the leading intelligence and defense officials of the UK government.

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