A Peace Deal Between Russia and Ukraine was Possible 2 Years Ago — And Still is Today

As the West struggles to define its strategy in Ukraine, politicians on both sides of the Atlantic have long insisted that the only path to a “just and lasting peace” is to support Ukraine until Russia unconditionally admits defeat. They dismiss calls for a negotiated settlement as naive, dangerous and futile, claiming that Russian President Vladimir Putin will not relent unless stopped by force of arms — Ukrainian or otherwise.

More than two years into the conflict, Western leaders remain unfazed in their commitment to Russian military defeat, even as the fighting tilts decidedly in Moscow’s favor. The West’s continued lack of interest in feeling out the Kremlin’s terms for ending the war was jarring even in 2022, considering Russia’s massive advantage in all relevant indicators of military power. It is all the more boggling today in light of Ukraine’s substantially worse and rapidly deteriorating position.

This persistent belief that there was never a diplomatic path to peace in Ukraine is inconsistent with the facts and functions as a self-imposed constraint forcing Western governments to double down on unsustainable and counterproductive war aims.

The 2022 invasion began with a grievous setback for Moscow as Ukraine, buoyed by Western support, doggedly resisted Russian forces outside the capital city of Kyiv. Reeling from the consequences of these initial miscalculations, Russian officials signaled their willingness to entertain steep concessions as part of a negotiated settlement with Kyiv. The two sides entered negotiations that moved to Turkey later that spring and yielded something approximating a draft agreement by April 2022.