Ukraine War, August 16, 2023: Echoes of peace proposals in May, 1940–“Territorial concessions” are still being discussed in NATO consultations

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To see a list of previous articles, enter “Ukraine” in the Search Box on the upper right, and you will see a list in chronological order.


1) Dan Sabbagh (Kiev), “Nato official apologises over suggestion Ukraine could give up land for membership; Secretary general’s chief of staff says statement was ‘mistake’ and part of wider discussion – but does not completely rule out idea,” The Guardian, August 16, 2023 (17.45 BST);

2) Dan Sabbagh (Kharkiv) “Nato chief downplays idea Ukraine could give up land for membership; Jens Stoltenberg says comments by key Nato aide are not policy and path to peace is to support Ukraine militarily,” The Guardian, August 17, 2023 (14:27 BST);


3)  Clemens Wergin, “Das heikle Deutschland-Szenario für die Ukraine,” Die Welt, den 18. August 2023.


In May, 1940 Winston Churchill came under enormous pressure to enter into peace negotiations with Adolf Hitler and Germany.  Churchill at one point even agreed to discuss a peace initiative resulting from meetings in Italy. The French army had been defeated (after not giving much of a fight), and the British Expeditionary Force was surrounded and under increasing threat at Dunkirk.

But then a seeming miracle occurred. British ships and privately owned boats succeeded in evacuating tbe B.E.F. from Dunkirk and delivering them to safety in England.

The successful evacuation from Dunkirk gave Churchill the boost of confidence he needed to reject all thoughts of a negotiated peace with the Nazis. He and England never looked back, and were never seriously tempted again to seek a negotiated peace settlement with Germany.

This history from May, 1940 comes to mind because it is clear that some in NATO still entertain tbe possibility of a peace settlement that would leave the Russians in control of Ukrainian territory they have conquered by military force.

They recall those around Neville Chamberlain, the former prime minister, who favored a negotiated settlement with Nazi Germany.

Sabbagh reports on a statement made by Stian Jenssen, the Chief of Staff of NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, as follows:

At a panel event in Norway on Tuesday, Jenssen … said that while any peace deal reached would have to be acceptable to Ukraine, alliance members were discussing how the 18-month war might be brought to an end.

“I think that a solution could be for Ukraine to give up territory and get Nato membership in return,” Jenssen told his audience, noting that discussions about Ukraine’s postwar status were continuing in diplomatic circles.

To be sure, Jenssen “apologized” for his statement on Wednesday, but did not rule out such a peace settlement. His apology only confirmed that the idea was under discussion at NATO.

Sabbagh reports:

A day later, (Jenssen) gave an interview to the same newspaper, VG, that had reported on his original comments. “My statement about this was part of a larger discussion about possible future scenarios in Ukraine, and I shouldn’t have said it that way. It was a mistake,” he said.

But Jenssen did not walk back the idea that a land-for-Nato-membership deal could ultimately be on the table. If there were serious peace negotiations then the military situation at the time, including who controls what territory, “will necessarily have a decisive influence,” the chief of staff said.

Kiev reacted as expected, Sabbagh reported, making the following essential points:

Kyiv said any land-for-Nato deal would reward Russian aggression. Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior adviser to Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said: “Trading territory for a Nato umbrella? It is ridiculous. That means deliberately choosing the defeat of democracy, encouraging a global criminal, preserving the Russian regime, destroying international law and passing the war on to other generations.”

As in May, 1940 in England, politicians are searching desperately for a way out the existential reality they and the world face.

There must be some way we can all just get along, they are thinking.

In 1940, they were willing to leave Germany in possession of Austria, Czechoslovakia, western Poland, Belgium, the Netherlands, and northern France.

In 2023, they may be willing to leave Russia in possession of the Crimea, and Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson provinces in Ukraine.

To suggest Kiev will have the last word is disingenuous, as everyone knows that the nations supplying arms to Ukraine have enormous leverage over what Ukraine decides. Undoubtedly they could force Ukraine, probably with a new government, to accept “territorial concessions” as part of a peace settlement.

There must be some way we can all just get along, some coubtries in NATO may be thinking.

Jenssen’s statement that the military situation at the time of the negotiations will have a “decisive influence” on the outcome of the peace negotiations reveals that he and others in NATO have bought into the idea of “territorial concessions”.

In 1940 the world was blessed with two extraordinary leaders among the major powers: Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Significantly, Roosevelt did not condition his “lend-lease” assistance to Britain on the situation on the battlefield.

Unfortunately, there are no such leaders in the world today, except for Volodymyr Zelensky, the supplicant president of Ukraine.

President Joe Biden and other NATO leaders have yet to face the existential nature of the challenge posed by Russia’s continuing aggression and barbarism in Ukraine.

It may be two or three years or more before they grasp what is really at stake, and get serious about winning the war in Ukraine.

However, there is no guarantee that Ukraine, international law, and the United Nations Charter will prevail. Increasing anarchy, which we are beginning to see in various parts of the world, is also a possible outcome of the war, or a continuing stalemate.

The Trenchant Observer


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