"Negotiations in Turkey, more fog of war (with Glenn Diesen)"
The Duran (March 29, 2022)
By Alexander Mercouris and Alex Christoforou with Glenn Diesen

2:50 Alex Christoforou: "... the talks that are taking place between the Russians and the Ukrainians as we are recording this video."

Alexander Mercouris: "Well, I think that the Ukrainians have, at some level, accepted that they're never going to join NATO. I think that this is something that they've intellectually accepted. But they've never actually seen through the logic of what that means. So they're coming up with various proposals to the Russians about what they call 'neutral status'. But I suspect that when you pour into these proposals in detail, you find that, in fact, it's not really neutral status at all. It would still be a Ukraine essentially very heavily aligned with the western powers. And I find it inconceivable that the Russians will accept that."

"So the Ukrainians have come up with more proposals on this. The Russians will do what they always do. They will look at these proposals. They'll come back and they'll say whether or not they are prepared to move forward with them. But in whatever form the Ukrainians come up with, I don't think the Russians will simply accept these proposals as they stand."
"Now, I'm sure there are other things going on, lots of things being discussed about, you know, Ukraine's military position, its armed forces, bases in Ukraine, status of the Russian language in Ukraine, denazifications, as the Russians call it, in Ukraine. All of these things. The status of Donbass. The status of Crimea. If I may say so, we are so very much at an early start of negotiations. But I think also you might nust see some proposals about humanitarian corridors and local ceasefires in some of the northern Ukrainian cities. But the major battle in the Donbass where it's going on will probably continue until it is finally completed.

"So that's what I think. In other words: glacial progress in negotiations with the Ukrainians intellectually accepting that they're not going to join NATO but unwilling to face up to what that means in substantive terms.

5:10 Glenn Diesen: "I largely, or completely, agree because of the way the Russian red lines go. So what they completely demand, you have to look at what the problem is. And this goes back to 2014 because -- and this is something that NATO alwasys recognizes as a challenge as well -- if they're going to expand towards Russian borders it has certain problems because Russia and Ukraine has been very devided. So I think for this reason, two problems have emerged when you try to bring a divided Ukraine into the western block: the first one is that the eastern parts the more Russian speaking part, that they would face some oppression in terms of the media and politics, etc. But second obviously having this American NATO military infrastructure moving closer to Russian borders. So these are the two things very important to Russia. They need a neutral Ukraine not hosting these American weapons but also some protection for the Russian speakers. "

6:18 "So this largely was brought into the Minsk agreement we should try to push through for these seven years. You would have some autonomy for Donbass and its autonomy would have allowed also Urkaine to prevent NATO from expanding. But as they saw, it became slowly a de facto member by arming itself. So these are the three main goals they've had since the conflict began. That is, the demand of neutral Ukraine. But after they went to war they also want independance for Donbass and also this third category of denazification. I think it's probably deliberate and a bit ambiguous. But mainly what it's a reference to is all of these groups like AZOV and Iodide using these fascist logos that were integrated into the army so they would like to have them pushed out of the state structures. This is because they brought a lot of misery for people in Eastern Ukraine. But also it could be something strategic behind this. If they could decouple the fascist elements from the Ukrainian government they would likely turn a bit on each other which would obviously be favorable to Russia as well.

7:32 "But I'm just wondering how this agreement will be cemented. Even if we look at one simple thing like neutrality. How would this be organized in an agreement? Because it seems like the era of diplomacy is over. Keep in mind the Europeans signed a deal with Russia and Ukraine in 2014 that they would have a unity government. But then within 48 hours the Europeans ignored it and supported the coup. And then, in 2015, you had this Minsk II agreement which had a peaceful settlement for Ukraine. And then they spent the past seven years torpedoing this agreement, undermining it. So I think, about the Russian fear: what would prevent them from agreeing to anything? As soon as they have an agreement, you'll be neutral, but what's to stop the U.S. from pumping weapons in again and, you know, backtracking on all these commitments? There's no trust anymore in the system. That's what I mean. It's all our pan-European security agreements have collapsed over the years. So, it's not clear to me how these agreements would be put into words."

8:44 "And that's just the Russian side, of course. The Ukrainians have their own security concerns. And they would like, you know, if Russia's security concerns are recognized in agreements, then the Ukrainians will want the same, so I think it's difficult and the point I've been continuously making is that the longer this conflict goes on, the more resources it pushes into this conflict, the more [Russia] will demand in return. In other words: on day one if Ukraine would have surrendered they could have maybe agreed to neutral Ukraine and then independence for and recognition of Donbass and Crimea, just so this conflict won't flare up again. But now, if Russia is taking over more and more territory, at some point they're going to start to install local governance, people who are not favorable to the government in Kiev. And at this point they can't be left to their own anymore, if you will. So I think that the longer this conflict goes on, the less favorable terms the Russians will agree to. That's my perception at least."

9:48 Alexander Mercouris: " I think this is exactly correct. I think it is also, by the way, an important point to understand. Because I think the Western perception is almost the diametric opposite, that time is somehow on Ukraine's side, whereas the reality is the diametric contrary. The longer Ukraine holds out, the more it resists coming to terms with the Russians the more difficult the terms Ukraine will have to accept. ..."

. . .

Alex Christoforou " ... Why should Russia trust ... "

16:51 Glenn Diesen "... We're trying to establish where the new dividing lines are for the continent. So even if this war were over tomorrow, the underlying dynamics are still there. We're still going to compete for where the dividing lines should be drawn. So that's the military aspect. And I don't think -- again, unless we go back to the problems made in the 1990s and come up with some pan-European security deals, I don't think that much could be done. In other words, in terms of the sanctions, I think also Russia is full in on this because they're not just sitting there waiting for sanctions to be removed so they can crawl back to the West. Instead, what Russia articulated very clearly in 2014 when the west first supported the toppling of Yanukovich was that they had given up on this greater Europe that started from Gorbachev and they instead began to embrace this idea of the greater Eurasian partnership."

17:47 "So Europe was replaced with Asia. Germany as the core was replaced with China. And they're now starting to see this to some extent as an opportunity to have this full decoupling and lean more towards Asia. So I don't see Russia giving way. Again, this is not a normative argument. I just want to make that point. Usually in this country, at least, there is a bit of a lynching mood going on. And whenever you say something about how Russia thinks, it is immediately seen as legitimizing something. I'm not saying that normative arguments are right or wrong, just what Russian arguments or perspectives are and why they're acting the way they are."

18:40 Alexander Mercouris: "I think there is a kind of logic for the Russians to press on to the conclusion. And that may very well be what they come to. I mean it may very well be that eventually they will come to some kind of regime change decision in Ukraine because they may very well decide that any agreement they reach with Ukraine, any agreement they reach with the western powers will not be an acceptable agreement. The Russians always have to balance opinion, not just within Russia, but in the outside world. They have to keep people like the Chinese, the Indians onside. And they have always worked -- and this is a point that I cannot emphasize again too strongly -- I mentioned right at the start of this program, that the Russians genuinely do not want to take over the whole of Ukraine. I think they would see this as a burden on themselves at this time."

19:39 "What they want to do is to take this problem of Ukraine -- that has been such a huge problem for them ever since, basically, the Soviet Union ended -- this problem of NATO eastward expansion off the table so that they can go ahead and deal with their pressing internal problems."

. . .

34:36 Alexander Mercouris: ".at that point the Russians, as I said, will eventually impose their own decision, their own outcome on the situation in Ukraine, and then the negotiations will fall apart. But if they can separate Ukraine, the Ukrainian problem, from the greater global problem of this confrontation with the west and the United States, as I said, it will put them in a stronger position going forward as they forge ahead with their greater Eurasian partnership with China as they bind together central asia, the caucasian states and perhaps some of the other central asian states outside of what was the Soviet Union, Iran, Turkey, and all the rest."

35:15 Alex Christoforou: "Glenn, what do you think about that and do you think that if Putin does agree to these terms -- and just to let you guys know, I'm on Telegram and Twitter and I'm seeing the reaction, especially from the Russian side of things, from people who are just chiming in, anecdotal, of course, but people are very upset with Russia possibly agreeing to these terms. I think this has been exacerbated by the POW video and all these things that have come out. There is a lot of emotion now in this, but I'm telling you right now that if these are the terms that Russia decides to agree on: security guarantees; having countries actually be able to impose no-fly zones like China, Turkey, Israel, etc., a cease-fire -- this is anecdotal, I'm just giving you guys the vibe of what I'm seeing right now as this stuff is trickling in. There's a lot of anger from the Russian side of things that, if you know what, if Putin agrees to this that we're going to get betrayed again; we're going to get screwed over. I'm just reading you guys what I'm seeing right now."

36:25 Glenn Diesen: "That's the interesting part when we in the west dream about this regime change in Moscow, we often forget that Putin is not really considered part of the hard-liners in Russia. If he goes out there is not going to be a more liberal, western-friendly leader in place. " Alex Christoforou: "... ... "