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Opinion | How Not to Negotiate with Russia

Needless to say, it didn’t work. While we were holding back, Russia was building up. The Minsk process ended when Russia unleashed a devastating total war of aggression on Ukraine at the end of February 2022.

That’s why the entire international community should carefully study the lessons of “Minsk” in order to restore international peace and security today and avoid falling into new Russian traps.

Here are five lessons we learned from negotiations with Russia.

Lesson #1: It’s a mistake to freeze the war and postpone the solution of territorial problems “for the future.”

The architects of Minsk believed that fixing the status quo and decreasing hostilities would be enough for the conflict to gradually ease. This belief, based on a false premise of Russia’s alleged willingness to compromise, led to a real disaster for Ukraine, the European order and the world.

In fact, from the inception of the Minsk agreements and throughout the Minsk process, Moscow was preparing for a full-scale war on Ukraine. While Russian representatives kept imitating diplomacy, the Kremlin was quietly building up its military forces and planning to destroy the democratic international order with a single devastating blow.

Lesson #2: Russia doesn’t negotiate in good faith.

The world saw Minsk as a platform for dialogue and a path to peace, while Russia saw it as an instrument to steadily pursue its aggressive goals and destroy Ukraine by means of political pressure and without the need to launch a full-scale invasion.

From the very onset, Russian President Vladimir Putin wanted to dismantle Ukrainian statehood. If that was achievable by political and diplomatic means, fine, and he tried to use Minsk to erode Ukrainian sovereignty. But if that didn’t succeed, he planned all along to annihilate Ukraine by brute military force.

The Minsk agreements were doomed to fail for only one reason: The Russian regime never sought fair peace and fair play. Even on the eve of the full-scale invasion, Putin continued to lie straight into the faces of world leaders, denying plans to attack.

Deception lies at the core of Russia’s foreign policy and the way it treats international partners — both in Europe, Africa, Asia and other regions. Victims, weaklings, henchmen — this is whom Moscow prefers to see on the other side of the table.

Lesson #3: The de-occupation of Crimea can’t be set aside.

Western strategy to counter the Russian threat should have been based on decisive steps to de-occupy all Ukrainian territories as early as 2014.

Even now, when I say Ukraine aims to fully restore its territorial integrity, journalists sometimes decide to clarify: “Including Crimea?” This question is senseless and only reinforces the Russian narrative that Crimea is special. No, it’s not. Crimea goes without saying. One of the gravest mistakes of Minsk was to allow Russia to believe that the issue of Crimea was off the table.

There is no, and has never been any, difference between Crimea, Donbas, Kherson, Kyiv and other regions. Each of them is significant for the real protection of European and world security. When the West agreed to de facto close its eyes to Crimea’s annexation, it gave the green light to new Russian imperialist encroachments.

Lesson #4: Russia does not reciprocate with constructive language and policy.

How many times have we heard from Russian leaders that they were cheated or outwitted by others? But this is only a projection of their own goals, because for Russia, any victory is someone’s defeat. Putin’s Russia has been…

Read More:Opinion | How Not to Negotiate with Russia

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