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Why Ukraine may embrace China’s peace plan, Ukraine at risk of losing a war of attrition despite West’s best efforts

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Why Ukraine may embrace China’s peace plan

Recent private conference of top US foreign policy experts saw Ukraine at risk of losing a war of attrition despite West’s best efforts
by Spengler
March 20, 2023
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China has a plan for peace in Ukraine. Image: Screengrab / Twitter / ISPI

A gloomy assessment of Ukraine’s prospects for victory against Russia emerged from a recent private gathering of former top US soldiers, intelligence officials and scholars with resumes reaching from the Reagan to the Trump administrations.

Short of trained personnel and ammunition, one speaker argued, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky might consider a Chinese peace plan, especially after Beijing’s successful mediation of the Iran-Saudi dispute.

The several dozen attendees, many of whom had held cabinet or sub-cabinet positions, met under Chatham House rules, which forbid identification of individual participants but allow the content itself to be presented.

Overwhelmingly, the sentiment of participants leaned towards escalation in the form of providing additional weapons to Ukraine. One prominent analyst proposed the formation of a “foreign legion” of fighters from other countries to supplement Ukraine’s shrinking pool of trained manpower.

The great majority of participants favored risking everything for absolute victory over Russia. None of the attendees mentioned the qualms that former president Donald Trump voiced on May 17 about the risk of nuclear escalation in Ukraine.

The question of how the Russia-Ukraine war might escalate into a broader conflict received no attention. Their frustration, rather, was that Ukraine seems less likely to defeat Russia, even if the West makes the maximum effort and risks escalation.

We should not be surprised, one of the lead presenters said at the end of the conclave, if Ukraine’s President Zelensky takes up China’s peace plan. No one in the West anticipated that China would mediate between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Although Washington has dismissed China’s peace plan for Ukraine, Zelensky has not. Russia would keep the Sea of Azov and most of the Donbas, a settlement that might be forced on Ukraine as it runs out of manpower and ammunition. America’s view of China is “primitive,” the expert added, and tends to underestimate Chinese sophistication.

A spokesman for the National Security Council dismissed the Chinese initiative, which calls for an immediate ceasefire, noting that a ceasefire would allow Russia to remain in place on territory it seized from Ukraine.

Ukraine has sustained two-thirds as many casualties as Russia, but with a third to a quarter of Russia’s population, is far less able to sustain them, according to one expert who spent many months on the ground in Ukraine.

The entire army that NATO trained between 2014 and 2022 in preparation for a Russian attack is dead, and recruits are being thrown into battle lines with three weeks of training.

It isn’t that Ukraine will literally run out of live bodies, but that the quality of its armed forces, enlisted men as well as officers, has deteriorated. Critical parts of the civilian economy will collapse as manpower is shifted to the military.

This expert put Ukraine’s “unrecoverable” casualties (killed or seriously wounded) at two-thirds of Russia’s: 120,000 Ukrainian dead or seriously wounded versus 150,000 to 200,000 Russians.

Other estimates from expert US analysts are slightly higher for Ukraine, but the strategic conclusion is the same: With a much larger military, Russia will win a war of attrition. One Ukrainian battalion lost 600 men in January, received 700 replacements, and then lost 800 men in February—a 60% casualty rate over two months.

The prospects for a breakthrough to end the stalemate along the Line of Contact are poor, the rapporteur continued. The expected Ukrainian Spring offensive is one of the most anticipated maneuvers in military history, and Russia has had plenty of time to prepare defensive positions. Ukraine would need 650 modern main battle tanks and 1,000 armed personnel carriers to make a difference, in the view of one expert.

Another former senior US commander argued that the United States should send 1,000 Abrams M1 tanks to Ukraine, although he didn’t explain from where they might be obtained. Ukraine should receive weapons that can destroy targets deep inside Russia, he added, and the US “should get rid of the artificial boundary that says Ukraine can’t strike into Russia. Russia is part of the battlefield.”

America has political constraints on aid to Ukraine, a former senior Pentagon official objected: If we cannot provide large amounts of aid two years from now, we are better off cutting our losses now.

A foreign policy analyst who has advised the US Defense Department noted that Putin can call up 1.7 million reserves if he has to. “It may be fun to sink Russian ships in the Black Sea or to destroy targets inside Russia,” he said, “But it doesn’t relieve pressure on Ukraine. It’s like the American Civil War. The South fought more effectively, but the North had an overwhelming advantage in manpower and munitions. By 1865, the South didn’t have enough soldiers to defend Richmond.” He proposed an international army of volunteers to fight for Ukraine.

A former senior foreign policy official proposed that the United States threaten China with sanctions to limit its support for Russia. Although sanctions on Russia haven’t worked, China is a different case, he argued, because it is more integrated than Russia into the world economic system.

There is a lot of anti-Russian sentiment in China, he added, and the Chinese people won’t like the idea of accepting hardship to help Russia. Ukraine and China, he added, “have a robust partnership going back decades.”

I am at liberty to report what I told the group. The Ukraine war has set in motion a global realignment, including the China-Iran-Saudi agreement. Looking at America’s blunders in Ukraine, the Saudis have concluded that America won’t put boots on the ground in the Middle East and are looking for other friends.

Turkey has flourished as a trade intermediary between China and Russia, and has patched up relations with the Gulf States as well as Israel. India, supposedly an ally against China, has become Russia’s biggest customer for oil and has vastly expanded its trade with China, which now provides 30% of its non-oil imports.

The United States is losing influence catastrophically by underestimating Russia. It doesn’t have the industrial capacity to provide artillery ammunition to Ukraine. The best policy is an immediate ceasefire, I argued.

That would be a humiliation for the United States, but a salutary one. In the 1970s, Vietnam did the US a favor by humiliating it before Russia did. The Vietnam debacle made possible a complete rethinking of US defense strategy, and America’s ultimate victory in the Cold War. Putin may thus be doing the US a favor by humiliating it now.

 

Putin tells Xi he will discuss China’s blueprint for ending Ukraine conflict


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China's President Xi Jinping (left) meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin on March 20, 2023. PHOTO: AFP
UPDATED

March. 21 2023

MOSCOW – President Vladimir Putin said Russia is ready to discuss China’s initiative for ending the conflict in Ukraine, welcoming Chinese President Xi Jinping for a three-day visit that underlines Beijing’s support for Moscow.

“We’ve carefully studied your proposals to resolve the acute crisis in Ukraine,” Mr Putin told Mr Xi in televised comments at the start of their one-to-one talks in the Kremlin on Monday. “We’ll discuss all these issues, including your initiative, which we of course view with respect.”

The trip to Moscow marks Mr Xi’s most ambitious attempt yet to play the role of peacemaker as he seeks to broker an end to Russia’s war in Ukraine. Kyiv has been cool to Beijing’s plan, while the United States and its allies have rejected it outright.

After his talks in Moscow, Mr Xi is expected to speak by video link with President Volodymyr Zelensky, his first conversation with the Ukrainian leader since the start of the war.
In his comments to Mr Putin, Mr Xi did not mention the invasion and said there was room for Russia and China to boost cooperation. “China highly values the relationship with Russia,” Mr Xi said. “I am delighted to be in Russia as my first state visit after being re-elected as the Chinese president.”

Mr Xi also said he was confident that Mr Putin will win the support of his people in the 2024 presidential election. That put the Kremlin in the slightly ticklish position of having to explain what he meant, since Mr Putin has not formally announced whether he will run for a fifth term in 2024.

Calling him “dear friend”, Mr Putin thanked Mr Xi for making time for Monday’s talks and dinner ahead of a second day of negotiations with other officials on Tuesday. A state dinner is also scheduled.

This first and informal round of Kremlin talks between the two leaders lasted almost 4½ hours, Russia’s state-run Tass news service reported.

For Mr Putin, Mr Xi is by far the most significant international leader to visit since Russia’s Feb 24, 2022, invasion of Ukraine, which triggered Europe’s deadliest conflict since World War II and waves of sanctions by the US and its allies.

Mr Xi’s arrival comes just days after the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a warrant for Mr Putin’s arrest on charges of war crimes. Russia has dismissed the move, and China on Monday called for the court to avoid politicisation.

“The timing of the visit illustrates how little regard Mr Xi holds for the ICC arrest warrant and how he is seeking to introduce a new international order on China’s terms,” said Ms Kate Mallinson, founder of Prism Political Risk Management in London.

She added: “Mr Xi regards the war in Ukraine as a part of a wider conflict with the US and is vaunting the fact that China alone holds the keys to solve the war.”

TOPSHOTS-TOPSHOT-RUSSIA-CHINA-POLITICS-DIPLOMACY-133646_2.jpg

China’s President Xi Jinping walking past a guard of honour during a welcoming ceremony at Moscow’s Vnukovo airport on March 20, 2023. PHOTO: AFP

‘Dear friends’ Xi and Putin meet in Moscow as Ukraine war rages

China's Xi to Putin: Russians will support you in 2024 election

Ahead of the visit, Mr Putin and Mr Xi published articles in each other’s state newspapers praising bilateral ties. Mr Xi called his trip “a journey of friendship, cooperation and peace” while Mr Putin called the Russia-China relationship “the cornerstone of regional and global stability”.

Mr Xi said his position on a settlement of the war in Ukraine “reflects the broadest common understanding of the international community on the crisis”.

China’s ceasefire paper has little detail and largely consists of broader foreign policy positions long espoused by Beijing. While its embrace of the principle of territorial integrity won praise in Kyiv, which seeks to drive Russian forces back across the border, a call for freezing forces in current positions is a non-starter.

China and Russia need to boost two-way trade, foster more convergence of interests and areas of cooperation, raise the quality and quantity of investment and economic cooperation, and step up policy coordination, according to the article by Mr Xi carried by Xinhua News Agency on Monday.

The Chinese leader last visited Russia in mid-2019, while Mr Putin went to Beijing in early 2022 to attend the opening of the Winter Olympics. At that meeting, the two leaders agreed to a “no-limits” friendship and signed a series of long-term energy supply deals.

The two met last September at a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Forum, where Mr Putin said he understands Beijing’s “questions and concerns” about his invasion of Ukraine, a rare admission of tensions between the diplomatic allies. BLOOMBERG

 
Doubt it will happen. Ukraine will likely not accept any formal agreement which solidifies Russian territorial gains and the US won't allow Ukraine to accept any deal brokered by China.
 
To be killed till the last Ukrainian standing.
Seriously, exactly what is the plan?
If he is refering to “Chinas position on the political settlement on the ukrainian crisis” its not a plan. It is basically just some points helping Russia securing occupied territory and present the West as warmongering.
 
Reality is Ukraine unfortunately has lost the Donbas region and Crimea. Rest they should and can get back via the peace accord. However long this conflict runs, unlikely Russia will ever surrender those areas.
 
Reality is Ukraine unfortunately has lost the Donbas region and Crimea. Rest they should and can get back via the peace accord. However long this conflict runs, unlikely Russia will ever surrender those areas.
There is no way this ends without Russia permanently annexing the Donbas and Crimea. That is the best case scenario for Ukraine.
 
Seriously, exactly what is the plan?
If he is refering to “Chinas position on the political settlement on the ukrainian crisis” its not a plan. It is basically just some points helping Russia securing occupied territory and present the West as warmongering.

My suggestion would be the Kosovo model.
 
frozen at LAC, some sort of economic package keeps Ukraine alive, that is it.

unless US congress appropriate a large sum to keep the war going, looks unlikely.
 
I have a few predictions on peace proposals:

Plan 1 - Immediate ceasefire and creation of a buffer zone with international peacekeepers from non-NATO countries separating the 2 sides.
Plan 2 - Ukraine gives up the entirety of Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, Crimea and Kherson to Russia. As territorial disputes are officially "resolved", Ukraine gains immediate membership to EU and NATO.
Plan 3 - Russia withdraws from Zaporizhzhia and Kherson, but keeps Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk. Ukraine stays out of NATO but joins EU.
 
Ukraine is becoming a LANDLOCKED nation which is a curse for any nation for imports exports concerned.
But after Chinas peace plan I doubt this will end peacefully most likely the conflict will continue for 1 more year until Ukraine sees TOTAL FAILURE IN KIEV than they will give up.
 

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