Sven G. Holtsmark offers a rebuttal to our December Commonweal article in which we discussed possible negotiations over Ukraine by referencing an ancient Greek account of war on the island of Melos. We appreciate Holtsmark’s engagement with our piece and believe our divergence may not be as significant as he claims. We do, however, disagree with him that our approach is in any way detached from reality.
We concur, as also stated in our original piece, that the war in Ukraine is a war of aggression for which Vladimir Putin’s regime is solely responsible. We agree, likewise, that a ceasefire would now be inopportune, as Putin would likely use it to “replenish, resupply, and retrain” his army, to cite Holtsmark’s apt words. One should have no illusions in that regard.
Holtsmark claims to be certain that, absent a clear military loss, Russia will never give up the territories it has seized and claimed for its own. But no more than anyone else can he know in advance what compromises Russia ultimately will or will not make. This will be found out only when negotiations take place.
A total victory for either side is unlikely. This is why, alongside continued fighting, a space must be created for diplomacy. Given the right mediator, the proper setting, and suitable terms, the time for negotiations could arrive sooner than seems possible today. It is essential that careful thought should prepare for that moment, so that, should it arrive, the opportunity will not be lost.
Please email comments to [email protected] and join the conversation on our Facebook page.