Is Russia serious? On the twelfth day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Moscow came out with its demands for the cessation of hostilities. According to Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin’s official spokesperson, if the Ukrainian government is prepared to meet three primary demands, then the Russian “special military operation” would stop “in a moment.”
In a telephone interview with reporters on Monday, Peskov stated that the Ukrainian government would have to meet the following three demands for the Russian invasion to stop.
First, Kyiv must change its constitution to specifically stipulate that it can’t become a member of an international organization or union. In other words, Russia wants the Ukrainian government to make a law that would prohibit Ukraine’s entry into NATO or the European Union.
“They should make amendments to their constitution according to which Ukraine would reject any aims to enter any bloc. We have also spoken about how they should recognise that Crimea is Russian territory and that they need to recognise that Donetsk and Lugansk are independent states. And that’s it. It will stop [the invasion] in a moment,” the official Kremlin spokesperson said.
Entry to NATO is hard to achieve for Kyiv. It was hard even before the ongoing Russian invasion because of the active warzones that existed in Crimea and the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine. NATO’s Article 5 on mutual defense requires all member states to come to the aid of a member that has been attacked by a third state or non-state entity. But entry to the European Union is much easier, and Ukraine has already asked for an accelerated process so that it could join the European Union as soon as possible.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has repeatedly ruled out talks about Ukraine voluntarily forgoing its right to apply for a NATO membership in the future. However, he has said that Ukraine is open to talks about Ukrainian neutrality should there be sufficient guarantees.
Second, Ukraine must forgo its military infrastructure and equipment. In a rather absurd fashion, Russia is asking Ukraine to surrender the defensive tools that have thus far prevented the Russian invasion from being a success despite knowing that it hasn’t the ability to take them away on its own.
“We really are finishing the demilitarisation of Ukraine. We will finish it. But the main thing is that Ukraine ceases its military action. They should stop their military action and then no one will shoot,” Peskov added.
And finally, Ukraine must officially recognize the Russian annexation of Crimea and the independence of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR).
Poker Or Absence of Plan?
In essence, Russia wants Ukraine to become a puppet state with no voice and no military to oppose Moscow’s will. The fact that the Russian government has such high demands might very well be a negotiating strategy.
By now, Putin, his advisors, and the world have seen that the Russian military is lacking. Almost two weeks into the war and the Russian forces have failed to achieve their main objectives. Although Russian troops have captured Ukrainian territory in the North, South, and East, the capital Kyiv, the second-largest city Kharkiv, and the key port city Odesa are still Ukrainian. And for what they have achieved, the Russian forces have paid a heavy price indeed.
Russia knows that right now, it can’t force Ukraine to meet these demands. But it might be setting up the negotiating stakes that high to achieve smaller concessions and also save face domestically.
1945’s New Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.