Motivating a ceasefire is difficult. A warring party who feels they are doing well may want to continue their run, or they may want a ceasefire to consolidate their gains. A losing party may not want to allow those gains, or they may be losing so badly they have no choice.
Currently in Russia’s war against Ukraine, there are rumors that Russia wants a ceasefire. Ukraine is making gains on the ground and does not want a ceasefire. Russia may be running out of precision missiles and wants to restock or rethink.
Besides the military situation, Russia’s history of torture and killing of civilians in the occupied areas motivates Ukraine to take back as much of their territory as possible. A ceasefire would stop the battlefield killing and destruction of cities, the destruction we can see, but Russian atrocities in occupied zones would likely continue.
Then there are both sides’ conditions for a ceasefire. Russia’s seem to be that Ukraine submit to everything Russia wants before talks start. Ukraine has not put forth terms recently. It doesn’t look like there will be a ceasefire any time soon unless outside parties can intervene.
There are no obvious outside parties to influence Russia. Countries that might be interlocutors are silent.
Elon Musk, like many of his venture capital brothers, has decided to enter the discussion. His tweeted proposal of a peace agreement on October 3 repeated Russian conditions. Since then, he has blathered about the will of the people in the occupied areas (which he got stunningly wrong from stunningly inappropriate evidence) and introduced a new perfume. He has also threatened to turn off Starlink communications, which have greatly helped the Ukrainians. His proposal:
- Redo elections of annexed regions under UN supervision. Russia leaves if that is will of the people.
- Crimea formally part of Russia, as it has been since 1783 (until Khrushchev’s mistake).
- Water supply to Crimea assured.
- Ukraine remains neutral.
In between, there was a kerfuffle with Ian Bremmer over whether Musk had talked to Putin before he proposed this plan. Musk says he didn’t, but 1783, “Khrushchev’s mistake,” and the water supply to Crimea are oddly specific and oddly Russian.
Like many of the venture capitalists who are opining about the war, after a run of erroneous opining about epidemiology and virology because their money means they must be Smart People™, Musk doesn’t bother to look into what his conditions would require.
Rob Farley ticked off in our podcast a long list of what is needed to have fair elections in the annexed regions, all of which would have to be negotiated. It would probably take years. As would the rest.
The CNN article that broke the story about Musk’s demands attempts to figure what Musk is paying for it. It’s not clear. The article also raises the question of whether we are seeing Musk’s pique at the Ukrainian ambassador to Germany’s telling him to fuck off with the peace proposal. Others have asked whether this has something to do with Musk’s inability to raise the money needed to buy Twitter. Or if Musk’s generous initial provision of Starlink services to Ukraine was a bait and switch.
The incident also raises the question of whether an unstable and autocratic individual should have control of essential government and public functions, including Twitter. Ronald Reagan started a trend to “privatize” government services. It’s one thing if the cafeteria goes to crap under an outside contractor who is skimming profit that used to go to providing good food, and another if Elon Musk threatens to cut off defense services. Maybe it’s time to start turning back to government control of government services.
Finally, One of Putin’s objectives in this war is to make the world safe for autocrats and land grabs typical of the 19th century era of autocrats. Giving Putin a clear win, as in Musk’s peace terms, would validate Putin’s broader objectives and make future land grabs more likely. We can’t enforce an unconditional peace on Russia in the way some would like. The war will end in negotiations, but all this makes it impossible to envision the terms.
Cross-posted to Nuclear Diner