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To see a list of previous articles, enter “Ukraine” in the Search Box on the upper right, on The Trenchant Observer web site, and you will see a list in chronological order.
1) Timothy Bella, “Kissinger says Ukraine should concede territory to Russia to end war,” Washington Post, May 24, 2022 (10:47 a.m. EDT);
2) “Ukraine War, May 18, 2022: Putin’s long-term plans in South are inconsistent with ceasefire and peace settlement,” The Trenchant Observer, May 18, 2022;
3) “Ukraine War, May 14, 2022 (II): G-7 countries meet, discuss Ukraine, and declare they will never recognize territorial gains achieved by force in Ukraine,” The Trenchant Observer, May 14, 2022;
4) “Ukraine War, April 14, 2022 (II): REPRISE–Why Putin cannot win,” The Trenchant Observer, April 14, 2022.
Speaking at a conference at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Kissinger urged the United States and the West to not seek an embarrassing defeat for Russia in Ukraine, warning it could worsen Europe’s long-term stability.
After saying that Western countries should remember Russia’s importance to Europe and not get swept up “in the mood of the moment,” Kissinger also pushed for the West to force Ukraine into accepting negotiations with a “status quo ante,” which means the previous state of affairs.
Kissinger’s comments come as world leaders say Russia’s war in Ukraine has thrown the “whole international order into question.” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told global leaders in Davos that the war is not only “a matter of Ukraine’s survival” or “an issue of European security” but also “a task for the entire global community.” She lamented Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “destructive fury” but said Russia could one day recover its place in Europe if it “finds its way back to democracy, the rule of law and respect for the international rules-based order … because Russia is our neighbor.”
A return to the “status quo ante” is a fairly standard term used in ceasefire agreements. Here, however, it would mean at a minimum a cession of the Crimea and the portions of the Donbas provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk that were controlled by the Russian-backed puppet regimes in those two provinces.
A real return to the status quo ante would require Russia to rescind its recognition of the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic which recognized as their boundaries the entire provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk, including some two thirds of these provinces that were still occupied and controlled by Ukraine. It would further imply a restoration of the negotiations aimed at implementation of the Minsk II agreements.
Such a winding back of history seems highly unlikely to be acceptable to Russia, and given Putin’s violation of every agreement he has signed would probably also be unacceptable to Kyiv.
Moreover, Kissinger’s suggestion that the West should force Ukraine into agreeing to such terms is wholly unacceptable and runs counter to the solemn declarations of NATO, the EU, and the U.S.
Henry Kissinger wrote his theses at Harvard on the balance of power system established by the Concert of Europe in 1818, after the Napoleonic wars, which was masterfully led by Austrian Chancellor Klemens von Metternich until 1848.
Ably led by Prussian Chancellor Otto von Bismarck in the latter half of the 19th century, the balance-of-power system produced a century of peace in Europe until it finally broke down after Bismark left the scene in 1890, ending in the outbreak of World War I in 1914.
Kissinger’s balance-of-power approach led him to be a proponent of détente with the Soviet Union and a protagonist in the opening to China in 1971. Recently, he has warned against adopting an overly antagonistic approach to China.
Nonetheless, Kissinger’s balance-of-power worldview, with its origins in the 19th century, fails to take into account the overarching importance of the United Nations Charter and international law in the 21st century.
We now live in a world with nearly 200 countries whose interactions could not even conceivably be organized without international law. While balance of power considerations should not be ignored, neither should they be given precedence over the moral and other requirements of international law and the U.N. Charter.
One cannot even conceive of effective international action to counter global warming, or to effectively combat viruses and other biological threats to humanity, without international law and international legal institutions.
The war in Ukraine seeks to not only defend Ukraine but also to uphold international law and the international legal order.
To follow Kissinger’s advice, to cede Ukrainian territories for an illusory “peace”, would defeat this latter overarching goal, whose achievement is an imperious necessity for all of mankind.
The Trenchant Observer
Only force can stop Putin
“Ukraine War, April 5, 2022 (II): Force must be used to stop Putin,” The Trenchant Observer, April 5, 2022.