Ukraine: peace at what cost?

Against the backdrop of new, intensified Russian attacks in eastern Ukraine, Europe is at odds over whether and how to end the war. French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz spoke on the phone with Russia's President Putin on Saturday in an attempt to persuade him to agree to a ceasefire. Prior to that, proposals put forward by former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger had caused a stir. The press is divided.

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Eesti Päevaleht (EE) /

Putin only understands the language of weapons

Eesti Päevaleht finds it outrageous that Scholz and Macron agreed to have a phone conversation with Putin:

“At the moment, we should only be speaking to Putin using the language of weapons. In this conflict the core countries of the EU have - to be blunt - cut a very poor figure and failed to honour European values. It is not only morally wrong to seek compromises with the war criminal. In terms of realpolitik, too, it's hard to see how giving Putin's Russia a reprieve could produce any result other than destabilisation and endless terror. There is no better solution to the Putin problem than to supply Ukraine with weapons on the one hand and significantly expand the economic sanctions against Russia on the other.”

Sega (BG) /

Don't try to appease Russia

Sega warns against repeating the mistakes of the past by giving up Crimea and the Donbass:

“Ukraine's greatest fear is that leading countries such as France, Germany and Italy will prefer to use the tactics of the 1938 Munich Agreement, when part of Czechoslovakia was annexed by Nazi Germany, vis-à-vis Russia. The political philosophy behind this was to appease the aggressor by satisfying his appetite with a chunk of the foreign country. ... Diplomacy is the art of the possible, but when it leads to an artificial peace, it effectively opens the door to war.”

Politiken (DK) /

Kyiv sets the terms

It is up to Ukraine alone to make the decisions regarding negotiations with Russia, Politiken points out:

“Just where the pain threshold lies for Ukraine - both in terms of the losses it is willing to accept and the concessions it is willing to make to achieve peace - depends solely on the country itself. The West's task is simple: we must stand together and make it clear that we will help Ukraine defend itself as long as the Kyiv government wants and needs it.”

Hospodářské noviny (CZ) /

Germany not the only reluctant state

Ukraine's leadership should temper its expectations, advises Hospodářské noviny:

“Henry Kissinger said out loud what the majority of Western politicians are discussing behind closed doors. It's not just Germany that is reluctant to supply heavy weapons; other major states are also telling President Volodymyr Zelensky to be more realistic. ... If Ukraine demands full candidate status at the EU summit, that will be the first test of how serious the West is about Ukraine in the future. The second will be the supply of arms and money to the country, which seems to have slowed in recent weeks because the West has begun to fear that the Ukrainian goals in the war are exaggerated.”

Index (HU) /

Danger of a nuclear war

The West should be satisfied with the victory already achieved, writes Hungarian Socialist politician and publicist Gyula Hegyi in Index:

“The West already has one victory to celebrate: the military prestige of Moscow has been shaken. The might of the Russian army is by no means as fearsome as it was reputed to be. ... The real strength of this army, however, is its nuclear weapons. The deeper Russia is pushed into defeat, the greater the danger that it will resort to using these weapons. For this reason alone, it would be worthwhile to make peace with it at the earliest possible opportunity. The smallest possible security risk for the West would be a weakened, but not defeated, Russia.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Negotiated peace instead of war of attrition

In a guest commentary in Der Standard, former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis calls for swift peace talks with Moscow:

“Both sides must achieve gains that clearly exceed their losses without losing face. ... Would Putin go along with that? Perhaps, provided the deal offers him three things. Putin will want most of the sanctions to be lifted. He will also want the issue of Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea to be ignored. ... And he will want security guarantees that only the United States can offer him, including the promise of a seat at the table where the new security arrangements for Europe will be negotiated.”

Correio da Manhã (PT) /

A worthy way out

For Correio da Manhã, even major losses of Ukrainian territory to Russia would be justifiable:

“The war is benefitting arms dealers, speculators and dictatorships that profit from overpriced oil and gas. But most people in the world are paying too high a price, from runaway inflation in energy and food prices to the threat of famine across large areas of the world. If ending this war comes at the cost of handing over Crimea and the Donbass to Russia and guaranteeing Ukraine its independence and the integrity of its remaining territory, this would be a worthy way out.”

The Insider (RU) /

Occupation zone would be a millstone around Russia's neck

The Insider explains why the permanent occupation of the territory conquered so far would not be advantageous for Russia:

“The occupied territories have been completely destroyed and lost much of their populations. They are an economic desert that would require considerable forces and resources to maintain and control - with constant losses for the occupying power due to artillery fire and partisan acts. Even the so-called 'land corridor' to Crimea will bring zero economic benefits. The only thing Russia would gain with this desert would be a buffer zone protecting Crimea and the bridge there [opened in 2018], as well as the maintenance of a permanent threat to Ukrainian ports. All in all, it would be an extremely costly way of protecting the acquisitions Moscow made in 2014.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

Defend Ukraine against cynical realism

De Volkskrant columnist Arie Elshout vehemently opposes making concessions to Moscow:

“French President Macron is betting on diplomacy. Putin must not be humiliated, he says. This is cynical. There is only one party that deserves compassion: not the one invading but the one being invaded. ... For Putin not to lose face, he would have to be allowed to win something, be given something, and that is only possible at Ukraine's expense. ... The Ukrainians must be careful not to be fooled by the so-called realists in politics and at think tanks, always ready to barter away other people's democracy, sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

L'Opinion (FR) /

Europe must address its weaknesses

Putin's intensified attacks in the region of Luhansk show clearly that he couldn't care less about Macron's and Scholz's efforts to achieve a diplomatic solution, writes L'Opinion:

“As long as Putin has no more to lose by continuing the war than by ending it, he will not back down. ... This is the paradigm that Europe's rulers will have to consider on Monday and Tuesday as they seek answers to the EU's weaknesses in the areas of food security, energy dependency and defence capabilities - weaknesses exposed by the war in Ukraine. It's time to give Europe the means to restore the balance of power. This requires strategic autonomy and more sovereignty, but also the defining of red lines.”