Is Russia really interested in peace?

Russian and Ukrainian diplomats appeared to reach the outlines of a ceasefire deal on Tuesday that would halt Moscow’s monthlong assault on its much smaller neighbor. Even so, observers of Russian politics over the last two decades fear that what looks like progress could be a mere bid for time to regroup after a poor offensive to launch a second, more devastating attack.

“I am very, very skeptical of these peace negotiations,” University of Oxford expert in Russian history and politics Samuel Romani told Yahoo News. “It’s very possible that the Russians could use these negotiations to buy time while escalating and consolidating their presence in Eastern Ukraine,” where they have already captured the regions of Luhansk and Donetsk.

Although Russia said it would withdraw from Kyiv and Chernihiv, that offer seemed to some less like an overture for peace than a concession that the siege efforts against the two large cities had gone poorly. Nor is it clear just how much of a withdrawal had taken place by Wednesday morning.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses Russian and Ukrainian negotiators before their face-to-face talks in Istanbul, Turkey March 29, 2022. (Murat Cetinmuhurdar/Presidential Press Office/Handout via Reuters)
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses Russian and Ukrainian negotiators before their face-to-face talks in Istanbul, Turkey March 29, 2022. (Murat Cetinmuhurdar/Presidential Press Office/Handout via Reuters)

“While there is much talk about the announcement of a Russian troops’ withdrawal from Kyiv,” Swedish intelligence analyst Andreas Umland observed on Twitter, “the current shelling around Kyiv is reported to be actually stronger than before.”

Putin may also be seeking to buy time to further insulate the Russian economy against the punishing sanctions that much of the world has levied in response to the Ukraine invasion, precipitating what some believe could be a systemic collapse. And whereas the West took pains to prevent economic catastrophe after the demise of the Soviet Union three decades ago, there is no such incentive at work today outside China and minor Kremlin allies.

And there are concerns that a new wave of Russian conscripts could soon be on its way to Ukraine. With more than 900,000 active military personnel, the Kremlin has the world’s fifth-largest army at its disposal.

The Yucatan Times
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