Ukraine’s EU entry as a price for land losses? That’s how realistic the Deal for Peace theory is

"Freedom for Ukraine" is written on a poster by pro-Ukrainian demonstrators.  They gathered on Thursday before the meeting of EU heads of state and government in Brussels.

“Freedom for Ukraine” reads a poster posted by pro-Ukrainian demonstrators. They gathered on Thursday before the meeting of EU heads of state and government in Brussels.Image: / imago images

Watson answers

The 27 EU heads of state and government have decided in favor of Ukraine’s status as an EU candidate country. But do they possibly have completely different intentions than Ukraine itself? An overview.

06/23/2022, 20:0906/23/2022, 20:26

Joana Rettig

The decision comes with an aftertaste.

The heads of state and government of the EU member states have voted in favor of recognizing the Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova as EU accession candidates. But in the background there is a theory that some states could be pursuing a completely different goal than Ukraine itself.

A deal that could either be devastating or ultimately save face for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. What is it about and what does that have to do with the term dictated peace? An overview:

Why is?

In concrete terms, it is about: Russia’s offensives in the Donbas are taking on ever larger dimensions. The eastern Ukrainian city of Sievjerodonetsk is already largely under Russian control – and in the strategically important neighboring city of Lysychansk, fighting is becoming increasingly fierce and brutal. The scenario could arise that Russian President Vladimir Putin eventually controls as many areas in Ukraine as he originally imagined. Then he would be in a position to propose peace negotiations.

However, the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy repeats almost daily that his country wants to reconquer the occupied areas. So why should Ukraine agree to territorial losses? For the peace? And how should Zelenskyy explain this to his people?

The consideration in Berlin (this is at least discussed behind closed doors) is the following: Selenskyj could with the integration argue in the EU – and in the end get out of the matter face-saving. In the sense of: We are losing part of our country – presumably the Donbas and the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea – but in exchange we can be part of the EU.

The price for losing territory would therefore be an uncomplicated admission to the European club.

Wouldn’t that be a dictated peace?

Chancellor Olaf Scholz made it clear in a government statement just a few days ago: “There will be no dictated peace.” Germany will continue to support Ukraine.

But if a scenario like the one described above were to occur, would that be such a peace diktat?


Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz arrives in Brussels.

Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz arrives in Brussels.Image: / imago images

A dictated peace is a peace treaty between the winner and loser of a war. Unlike a peace of understanding or compromise, the victor sets the terms of this treaty. The loser has no say.

In such a scenario, Putin would have achieved a partial victory—taking control of the territories he desired and thus wresting them from Ukraine—but he would not have triumphed over Ukraine. They would have a say in any negotiations.

So it would be a compromise peace.

Is this just a theory or is there really something behind it?

In fact, these are just rumors or discussions by some politicians in the background. So far none of the heads of state or government of the European Union have commented on such a plan.

It is interesting, however, that leading politicians in the SPD have apparently not yet had the heart to say that Ukraine should win this war. Even Chancellor Olaf Scholz only says that Ukraine must be supported in its defense.

This is particularly evident in an interview that journalist Christoph Heinemann conducted with Federal Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht (SPD) in “Deutschlandfunk” has led.

He asks four times in different ways whether Ukraine should win the war. Lambrecht can’t even bring the word “win” from his lips.

Even when he is particularly confrontational, Lambrecht speaks only of defense.

Heinemann: “She has to win!”
“It must be able to defend itself against this brutal war of aggression. That is our concern.”

How realistic is such a scenario?

Eastern Europe expert Andreas Umland no longer sees any basis for such a compromise. At watson’s request he says:

“A deal of this kind regarding the Donbas and Crimea might still have been possible up until March 2022. After the mass crimes in Bucha, Mariupol and other occupied towns became known, however, a kind of Ukrainian cession of occupied areas to Russia is hardly possible.”

The analyst at the Stockholm Center for Eastern European Studies believes that with such a deal, the Ukrainian government would hand over the population of the occupied parts of Ukraine to a terror regime. A regime “that murders, tortures and deports. No country in the world can do that – not even Ukraine.”

The political scientist Eduard Klein from the Research Center for Eastern Europe is firmly convinced that negotiations will have to take place sooner or later – but he also considers official transfers of territory to be unlikely.

At Watson’s request, Klein recalled Zelensky’s promises, all of them Russia to recapture occupied regions of the country. But he also says: “It is questionable whether Ukraine will be able to do this in view of Russia’s military superiority, despite Western arms aid.”

At the same time, the Russian offensive in the Donbas is making little progress. In the medium term, neither side will probably be able to achieve a military victory, which is why serious negotiations are needed.

The bridge between the two eastern Ukrainian cities of Lysychansk and Sievjerodonetsk has been almost completely destroyed.

The bridge between the two eastern Ukrainian cities of Lysychansk and Sievjerodonetsk has been almost completely destroyed.Image: / imago images

But Klein also says: “I think it’s rather unlikely that Ukraine will be willing to officially cede its ‘temporarily occupied’ territories to Russia.” Polls showed that 82 percent of the population rejected any territorial compromises with Russia, even if they ended the war. Among other things, because the atrocities in Bucha and Mariupol became known.

According to Klein, Zelenskyy, who is currently very popular, would lose his credibility with such territorial compromises and ultimately jeopardize his political future. Klein says: “But I think he wants to remain president beyond the current term.”

Is there another scenario?

Indeed, Eduard Klein considers a different scenario to be likely. He believes Ukraine can try to work towards some sort of Cyprus scenario with the EU: “Cyprus officially joined the EU with its entire territory in 2004, but European law is not applied in the unrecognized self-proclaimed ‘Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’.”

A similar scenario could therefore result without Ukraine having to officially cede its territories to Russia at the urging of individual EU states.

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