“Tentative progress” has reportedly been made to end fighting between Russia and Ukraine after previous rounds of talks produced few results. However, one proposal pushed by Kiev has “blindsided” Western officials and could drag America into a future war with Russia.
The Ukrainian offer would involve a pledge to never join the NATO alliance or host foreign military bases on its soil, but only in exchange for “security guarantees from a number of countries,” the Financial Times reported on Thursday, citing a senior adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky and a number of diplomats.
Sources told FT the proposal caught some officials off guard, as it would create a mechanism similar to NATO’s Article 5 provision, requiring the five permanent members of the UN security council, along with Germany and Turkey, to ensure Ukraine’s security (in this case with the exception of Russia itself).
The wide-ranging defense guarantee would be a steep commitment – it’s unclear if the US Senate would ratify it – and it remains to be seen whether Russia would ultimately accept such an arrangement.
Moscow has suggested that Kiev enshrine neutrality into its constitution akin to Austria, but Ukrainian officials have reportedly “ruled out” that idea, with one analyst saying it “would go down like a cup of cold vomit” for the country’s security establishment. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has nonetheless stated that progress is being made on the issue, as well as on potential security guarantees for Ukraine.
Though past US administrations have vowed to make Ukraine a NATO member, those plans have yet to materialize, despite active contact between the US and Ukrainian militaries, joint training missions and increasingly regular arms shipments to the government in Kiev. Moscow has justified its ongoing invasion, in part, on grounds that its neighbor would eventually join the bloc, further encircling Russia with a network of foreign military bases and missile batteries directly on its border.
However, left unmentioned in the Times report are Moscow’s demands that Ukraine recognize the Crimean Peninsula as Russian territory and grant independence to two break-away republics in the Donbass region. While it has stated it is open to remaining outside the NATO bloc, Kiev has indicated that it will not cede any territory or alter its borders, suggesting the peace talks may yet have a ways to go.