Zelensky still wants to negotiate, Iran nuclear deal falters, deadly killing in West Bank and more


Last week’s Ukraine update emphasized some fundamental realities:

  • Reducing the risk of nuclear war means taking steps to end the Ukraine conflict.
  • Maximalist demands from the West take us further away from a negotiated settlement.
  • We need a conflict off-ramp for both Russia and Ukraine.

Unlike most mainstream media, the paywalled Financial Times again this week continued its welcome focus on a peace plan to end the Ukraine war, this time through an article by Jonathan Powell, chief executive of Inter Mediate, a charity that works on resolving armed conflicts around the world.

In the article, entitled A negotiation plan to help Ukraine avoid disaster (ft.com, 11 May 2022), the author summarizes his overall message to a stubbornly resistant NATO:

Bellicose rhetoric from allies risks escalation; we must prepare to help in talks as we have in war.

Powell reminds us that Ukrainian President Zelensky still sees hope for a negotiation, eloquently stating:

Despite the fact that they destroyed all our bridges, I think not all the bridges are yet destroyed, figuratively speaking.

Powell brings some concrete ideas to the table on how to structure the process to best apply the leverage that only the US can provide regarding the security architecture and sanction relief Putin wants and the security guarantees that Ukraine must have:

It may be better therefore to think of this as a triangular negotiation involving Russia, Ukraine and a “Group of Friends” including the US, EU and Nato rather than a simple bilateral negotiation.

He also urges “enlarging the question beyond territory and neutrality” in order to make more trade-offs possible. In his view:

That requires a serious discussion with Russia about new security arrangements in Europe, including a new conventional forces agreement, a new intermediate nuclear force agreement and a new relationship between NATO and Russia.

Powell concludes with the all-important reminder that

It is for the Ukrainians to decide when, whether and what to negotiate with the Russians.

But he adds the equally important, and heretofore inexcusably missing element:

Our role is to help and support them in negotiations as we have in war, not to make things worse by letting bellicose rhetoric run away with us.

More thinking on the Donbas and Crimea

For an extremely useful perspective, informed by early OSCE concerns about the large number of Russian speakers in Ukraine after the USSR’s breakup, see I led talks on Donbas and Crimea in the 1990s. Here’s how the war should end. (John Quigley, responsiblestatecraft.org, 9 May 2022)

Arguing that “the situation may be ripe for a re-kindling of negotiations to end the war in Ukraine,” Quigley outlines possible compromises on both Donbas and Crimea but also makes the same point on which we have focused in previous blog posts:

Secretary of State Antony Blinken says that the Biden administration keeps a close eye on efforts to promote a negotiated end to the war, but the United States has definitely taken a back seat.

However, that may potentially be changing given recent remarks by President Biden at a Democratic National Committee Fundraiser:

He [Putin] is a very, very, very calculating man.  And the problem I worry about now is that he doesn’t have a way out right now, and I’m trying to figure out what we do about that.

Macron continues to underscore need for negotiations

The one NATO leader who has consistently understood both the necessity for, and the dynamics of, a negotiated peace is French President Macron who told reporters in Strasbourg on 10 May:

We will have a peace to build tomorrow, let us never forget that. We will have to do this with Ukraine and Russia around the table.

The end of the discussion and the negotiation will be set by Ukraine and Russia. But it will not be done in denial, nor in exclusion of each other, nor even in humiliation.

Nuclear risks of ‘regime change’ endgame

For a very sobering assessment of the potential consequences of politically and economically destabilizing a nuclear power, see The Ukraine Crisis: Is Economic Warfare the Road to Ruin? (David Carment and Dani Belo, peacediplomacy.org, 14 March 2022).

Writing in mid-March 2022, they ask a salient question, as yet insufficiently examined in mainstream analysis and media commentary:

If the current government in Moscow collapses, how can the West guarantee the security of Russia’s nuclear arsenal and prevent it from becoming a weapon held by non-state groups or more radical factions within Russia’s leadership?

The prospect of this scenario should make any supporter of regime change in Russia think twice.

For a comprehensive and timely Canadian analysis on the urgent need to overhaul NATO nuclear doctrine, see Updating NATO’s Strategic Concept: The Nuclear Imperatives, a Canadian Defence Policy Briefing Paper by Ernie Regehr, Senior Fellow in Arctic Security and Defence at the Simons Foundation Canada (4 May 2022).

The Regehr study begins:

The war in Ukraine once again confirms this inescapable nuclear reality – in war and in peace, nuclear weapons impose on humanity the daily, relentless imperative of figuring out how not to use them.

Whither Canada?

Yes, it is most certainly for Ukraine to take the lead with its negotiations. But it manifestly cannot achieve a satisfactory settlement without the support of key NATO countries.

We reiterate our call on the Government of Canada to muster the political courage and will to engage with NATO on urgent steps to back a credible peace process in Ukraine.


For the latest dismal state of play, see Iran Nuclear Talks Fizzle Just When Markets Need Oil the Most (bnnbloomberg.ca, Samy Adghirni and Jonathan Tirone, 12 May 2022). The article begins:

Two months after negotiators left Vienna, expectations are fading that Iran nuclear talks will resume, leaving the world with the remains of an agreement no one’s willing to pronounce dead.

While Biden fears the political consequences of meeting Iran’s demand to remove the Foreign Terrorist Organization designation from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), soaring oil prices have mitigated the urgency for Iran to secure sanctions relief.

The result is:

Diplomats once optimistic they could revive the deal abandoned by Donald Trump in 2018, say extending the state of limbo is now their best hope to avoid escalation.

Declaring the deal dead has two deadly consequences:

It could force the UN Security Council to

snap back international sanctions, taking more Iranian oil off the market just as soaring energy prices threaten to derail the global economic recovery.

That action, in turn, could lead to

a resumption of tit-for-tat attacks on Middle East shipping lanes and energy infrastructure — risking another military conflict while the world is still grappling with the fallout of Russia’s war on Ukraine.

The article concludes with Ali Vaez, Director of the Iran Project at the Washington-based International Crisis Group, warning the parties that further delay is a dead-end street:

The option is not between a deal now or a deal six months from now. It’s between a deal now or a deal six years from now.


Six years ago Rodrigo Duterte was elected President of the Philippines. Among many egregious actions, his murderous anti-drug campaign has made him the subject of an International Criminal Court investigation for alleged crimes against humanity.

Yet he leaves office with the highest approval rating (67 per cent) ever registered by an outgoing Philippine president.

Now 60% of the Philippine electorate has voted into the presidential office Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., son of the notorious ex-dictator.  Marcos has said

he will not allow prosecutors of the international criminal court to visit the Philippines to investigate Duterte’s “war on drugs”, shielding him from prosecution.

For a detailed analysis of what happened and what this means for the Philippines going forward, see the Crisis Group Q and A The Philippines Votes the Marcos Dynasty Back into Power (Georgi Engelbrecht, 13 May 2022).


Our 20 May blog post will include a detailed look at the murder by Israeli forces of respected and beloved Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, the latest in a long list.

This examination will also include the incomprehensibly brutal attack by Israeli police on peaceful mourners, including pallbearers, in the funeral procession for Abu Akleh.

RI President Peggy Mason comments:

I watched in utter horror as the police assault on the mourners unfolded on my television screen in real time.

Senior Al Jazeera analyst Marwan Bashara described the actions as “sadism” and later added:

Israel has crossed the abyss.

For more on the international response, see Israeli police attack on Shireen Abu Akleh mourners sparks outcry (Aljazeera.com, 14 May 2022).

For more on the Canadian non-governmental response, see CJPME: Canada must condemn horrifying Israeli attack on funeral procession for murdered Palestinian journalist (cjpme.org, 13 May 2022).


Webinar, May 3 – What Ukraine tells us about nuclear deterrence and common security

Recording now available.

Moderated by RI President Peggy Mason and featuring Project Ploughshares Director Cesar Jaramillo and CNANW co-chair Robin Collins.

To view the recording click on the arrow below.

Photo credit: Wikimedia images (Zelensky and Stoltenberg)

Ceasefire.ca is a public outreach project of the Rideau Institute linking Canadians working together for peace.

Tags: Bloomberg News, Crimea, Donbas, economic warfare, Ernie Regehr, European security arrangements, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Financial Times, Inter Mediate, International Crisis Group (ICG), Iran nuclear deal, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Israeli occupation, John Quigley, Jonathan Powell, nuclear risks, Occupied Palestinian Territories, peace negotiations, Philippines election, President Macron, security guarantees, Shireen Abu Akleh, Ukraine, Updating NATO's Strategic Concept