Ukraine: can direct talks pave the way for peace?

The negotiations between representatives of Ukraine and Russia on the Ukraine war have so far failed to produce results. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky therefore reiterated on Monday the need for direct talks between him and Putin. He said Ukraine was ready to renounce Nato membership if it received equivalent security guarantees. Europe's press sees many obstacles.

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Radio Kommersant FM (RU) /

Military scenarios still dominant

Radio Kommersant FM does not yet see any prospects for direct negotiations between Putin and Zelensky :

“Zelensky is still willing to meet with his Russian counterpart, stressing that otherwise things could take a very bad turn for the worse. The Kremlin says: No, the necessary preparations have not yet been made ... The situation needs to be reviewed. All that is happening now is a realignment of both military and political forces. ... It is impossible to formulate an ideal document that suits everyone. That is probably why the time for a compromise has not yet come - primarily because the military scenario has not yet been exhausted.”

Gazeta Wyborcza (PL) /

Shut up and help

Gazeta Wyborcza calls for unconditional solidarity with Ukraine:

“It is not the task of Poland or Europe to advise the Ukrainians on the decisions they should take or the compromises they should make. We simply have to support them as best we can, whether or not they want to fight. Provide them with military and humanitarian aid. Impose economic sanctions on Russia. Take in refugees. And not simply assume that eastern Ukraine is pro-Russian and beyond saving, because that's what the Kremlin's disinformation subtext suggests. The Donbass is Ukrainian.”

Corriere del Ticino (CH) /

Decisions with major ramifications

Zelensky's dilemma is a dilemma for Europe as a whole, Corriere del Ticino points out:

“So far Zelensky has been intransigent. A stance bolstered by the hope that he will be able to turn the Russian army's looming problems on the outskirts of Kyiv to his own advantage. At the same time, however, the rising number of victims in Ukraine is forcing him to consider concessions to Russia in order to end the devastating conflict. Faced with contradictory signals, the West is wondering what Kyiv's real intentions are. Especially since an agreement will have repercussions for European security, and some countries on Nato's eastern flank fear that too many concessions could be granted to the Russian leader Vladimir Putin.”

Salzburger Nachrichten (AT) /

The situation calls for negotiations

Salzburger Nachrichten sees Putin's strategy buried under the rubble of the war:

“What else would count as a 'victory' for Putin? The Russian president has ruled out an occupation of Ukraine. Developments there also clearly speak against it. For what Moscow's governors would be up against is evident in Kherson - the only major city in the country that Russian troops have been able to bring under their control. Since the beginning of the occupation, thousands have protested almost daily against the foreign soldiers. Put all this together and add the effects of Western sanctions on the Russian economy, and there is currently much to be said for a negotiated settlement.”

Irish Independent (IE) /

A dangerous spiral

Putin won't pull out empty-handed, the Irish Independent fears:

“The revelation of Russia’s military ineptitude and the total failure to achieve his aims makes negotiating an end to the hostilities difficult for Putin. The worse his conduct becomes, the harder it is to 'give' him something for the sake of reaching a peace deal. After weeks of Russian attacks on civilians, it is inconceivable he could escape accountability for war crimes witnessed by the entire planet. Likewise, giving in to his demand that Ukraine forswear its ability to ally itself with the West would be a horrid betrayal of the heroic efforts of Ukrainians.”

News247 (GR) /

The Middle Eastisation of Ukraine

Right now no one is really interested in making peace, writes the web portal News247:

“Russia is pretending to sit at the negotiating table while continuing its military operations. ... The West also does not seem to be pursuing an end to hostilities as its main goal. It prefers to wear down Russia (economically, politically and militarily) by supporting the resisting Ukrainians. ... The 'Middle Eastisation' of Ukraine seems - unfortunately - to be a development that corresponds to the aspirations of the main power poles. ... First and foremost Moscow, which is maintaining a fluid state of affairs enabling it to further its own goals depending on the circumstances. The same goes for Washington, which is keeping open the plan of Nato eastern expansion while seeking to bind Europe to itself with the 'fear of Russia'.”

Gazeta Wyborcza (PL) /

Nato must pick up Putin's gauntlet

Gazeta Wyborcza warns against poor compromises:

“The day after signing the Munich Agreement Hitler gave Chamberlain a written declaration that they would jointly guarantee peace in Europe after the annexation of the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia. Chamberlain had the right to be fooled because this was a first. We no longer have the right to such illusions because there are too many historical parallels. No: we are not facing the threat of a Nato war with Russia. Putin has already started it. He has been waging a hybrid war for a long time, and militarily since 24 February. ... The gauntlet must be taken up quickly and with all means at our disposal. Because it won't disappear of its own accord. And later it will only become more difficult.”

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (DE) /

Security guarantees remain unclarified

Many questions remain unanswered, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung observes:

“Would Moscow really be willing to let Ukraine move into Europe? That would run counter to Putin's aspiration for a sphere of influence beyond its borders. Even more difficult: where would the security guarantees Ukraine is rightly demanding come from? The idea of making the US, Britain and Turkey the guarantor powers does take Germany and France, who were always against Ukraine joining Nato, out of the equation. But in Washington too, there's been no sign of any will to defend the country recently. This continues to be the majority opinion in Nato.”

La Vanguardia (ES) /

This is about more than neutrality

La Vanguardia believes that only major concessions on both sides will make peace possible:

“A hypothetical pact on Ukraine's neutrality would not be enough to end the war. There are other important bilateral issues that need to be settled first. ... For Ukraine, this could mean ceding some of the territories that were part of the country when it gained independence in 1991. For Russia it could be admitting to its compatriots that it is not really in a position to dominate Ukraine militarily. In both cases, these are losses of face that would be hard to digest.”

De Morgen (BE) /

Nothing can undo the damage that has been done

Any kind of peace will come at a huge price, says De Morgen:

“Russia's economy will have been brought to its knees by Western sanctions. The conquered territories will be worth little in economic terms. ... Unless they are returned to Ukraine and rebuilt with Western help. But to what extent is today's Russian leadership guided by such rational considerations? ... Western countries will also have to deliberate on their stance - in terms of ending the conflict and vis-à-vis Russia. Red lines have been crossed that make it almost impossible for the West to raise a glass to a good ending with the same Putin who is now having residential districts bombed.”

Corriere del Ticino (CH) /

A tired and indecisive mediator

We must not become used to this war, Corriere del Ticino warns:

“Those who could traditionally play the role of mediator, such as the UN or Switzerland, seem unable to do so or unwilling to take the risk. ... The danger of the conflict becoming endemic, as it did in Donbass after the start of hostilities in 2014, cannot be ruled out, but this time everything must be done to avoid this. If the war were to continue, it would eventually disappear from the front pages of the newspapers. And as with other distant wars, people would eventually get used to it and even forget about it. ... The West, a weary and indecisive mediator, should at least promise that this will not be the case.”

Expresso (PT) /

Worse than during the Cold War

If the negotiations fail, Europe faces a long period of instability in security policy, writes lawyer and analyst José Miguel Júdice in Expresso:

“Without a peace agreement, I see no possibility of a normalisation of relations between Russia and the liberal democracy countries and the Nato member states in the short to medium term. So the situation could be more serious than during the Cold War, and remain so for a long time, until there is a change of regime in Russia. ... So I think that, at best, in the next few years we will be living on a knife's edge in Europe. This will of course be felt most in the eastern, Baltic and Nordic countries, which know that they could turn into a battleground at any moment.”