As I have repeatedly argued, every day that the Ukraine war lasts puts the United States at increasing risk that the conflict will go nuclear and that the American homeland will be attacked. And as I have also argued, the creation of any such nuclear risk is completely unacceptable because, despite all the military aid provided by Washington, the US government has still not endorsed Ukraine’s admission to the Organization of North Atlantic Treaty (NATO). That alliance, of course, is made up of countries whose security the United States has officially designated as vital, and therefore, by definition, such risks are worth taking.
So, to ensure that American leaders do not continue to expose the American people to a catastrophe that would make the 9/11 attacks look like a mosquito bite on behalf of a country that Washington does not yet deem worthwhile, war needs to finish as soon as possible. And here is a plan (or as they like to say in the world of politics and policy, a “framework”) that just might work.
First, an immediate ceasefire is declared, and then troops from some of the big developing countries that have voted to condemn the Russian invasion, but have so far given no support to Ukraine (such as India, Indonesia, or Brazil) they enforce it.
Second, (and the sequence of next steps can take any form), NATO announces that it will never admit Ukraine to membership, but NATO and other countries reserve the right to provide Kiev with whatever it can in the form of conventional weapons. (including systems deemed “offensive”) as they wish.
Third (Version A), Russia keeps Crimea, but accepts that Ukraine’s two eastern provinces with large ethnic Russian populations will decide their own fate in internationally supervised referendums. In addition, anyone from the three regions who wishes to leave before or after said votes receives relocation assistance (preferably to Ukraine, but other European countries should also feel free to host them). Funding would come partly from the West (mainly from European NATO members) and partly from a percentage of revenue earned by Russia from the removal of sanctions on Russian energy exports.
Third (Version B), same as above, but Russia simply gets the two eastern provinces and Crimea. Once again, however, the emigration of any of its inhabitants is financed by the West and by those Russian energy revenues. For the record, I like version A better.
Fourth, Russia withdraws its objections to Ukraine joining the European Union (EU).
Fifth, to allow Ukraine to maximize the economic benefits of EU membership, the West (again, primarily European NATO members) commits to large economic aid and reconstruction packages that are highly dependent on Kiev’s progress. to eradicate corruption. I would also be in favor of empowering donors to bypass the Ukrainian government in direct funding of worthy recipients, to ensure Ukrainian officials don’t steal most of the assistance.
Sixth, non-energy sanctions for doing any business with Russia are phased out contingent on the absence of aggressive Russian actions against Ukraine (including efforts by Russian-funded paramilitary groups to destabilize Ukrainian territory). That is, the longer Moscow behaves well towards Ukraine, the more sanctions will be withdrawn.
Seventh, the West agrees not to prosecute any Russian officials (including military officers) for war crimes.
Eighth and finally, Russia and NATO begin negotiations to explore ideas for new arrangements that in the long term could further improve the security of both Russia and its European neighbors, including the Balkans and Moldova. These initiatives should be led by Europeans.
Because the above proposals are just a framework, and are not set in stone or presented in great detail, I am absolutely open to suggestions for modifications, improvements, and additions. But for anyone wishing to put his ideas into practice, I hope you will consider first and foremost the needs to (a) defuse an extremely dangerous current situation with terrifying potential to seriously harm the American homeland; (b) give both Russia and Ukraine meaningful reasons to claim at least partial victories; and (c) realize how easy it is to turn the perfect into the enemy of the good.
And on that last point, I hope that the Ukrainian war hawks and others who emphasize the imperatives of punishing any and all aggression, and/or forcing the Russians to pay severe penalties for their invasion, and ensuring that Russia in the future becomes too weak to endanger Ukraine or any other country ever again, I would consider the following: the current regime in Moscow is managing the country so badly and wasting its considerable (especially human) resources, that it is making a great job diminishing his power and potential all by himself.