The European Union Has No “Peace Plan” for Ukraine
In their joint mission to Kiev on June 16, did the leaders of France, Germany and Italy really do what the Die Welt wrote the next day: “Scholz, Macron and Draghi, who went to Kiev, non-publicly persuaded Zelensky to negotiate with Russia”? On the public side of the talks, as the German daily notes, the three advocated providing Ukraine the status of candidate for EU membership. But “behind closed doors”, they most likely persuaded President Zelensky to sit down at the negotiating table with Vladimir Putin, Die Welt claimed. The question is: negotiate what?
It is worth noting that in the past few days, a number of Western media reports on Ukraine (outside of those that keep repeating the Russians are losing) have begun shifting to more sober accounts of the facts on the ground, noting that Kiev’s armed forces are on the way to collapse, that the artillery equation of 1 against 10, or even 15, works to the advantage of the Russian side, that the weapons supplies promised by the West will arive too late to make a difference, etc.
One should also note that the three European leaders can no longer count on having a majority of citizens back their “sanctions plus weapons” policy on Ukraine. This is most evident in France, where President Macron suffered a major defeat in the second round of the legislative elections (cf. above), but also in Italy, where Draghi’s coalition is split on the issue. With the full boomerang effects of the sanctions hitting Europe this coming Autumn and Winter, popular support for the governments in power is certain to shrink further, and rapidly.
Against that backdrop, Macron, Draghi and Scholz most likely told the Zelensky that a ceasefire would make sense, although they may have couched it in terms such as “the war cannot be won for the moment”, rather than telling him directly that “the war is lost for you”. Moreover, the candidate status for EU membership they have offered Ukraine, while played up politically in the West as a further provocation of Russia, will likely not change much. Even if the EU governments that now object to such a perspective for Ukraine dropped their reserve and voted in favor of it, attaining the status of full membership could take many years. (Moreover, as President Putin pointed out, membership would likely turn Ukraine into a de facto semi-colony of the European Union.)
Meanwhile, concretely, the dual strategy of imposing sanctions against Russia and delivering weapons for Ukraine, which Olof Scholz in particular reiterated before the rolling TV cameras in Kiev, serves to perpetuate the fighting.