The basic outline of a treaty to end the Ukrainian War is becoming increasingly evident. The most likely principal terms of such a treaty can be simply stated: The Ukrainians cede to the Russians the Dombas and Crimea and the landbridge between them–essentially the areas the Russians currently occupy. The Russians in return recognize the sovereign independence and territorial integrity of the remainder of Ukraine, including its access to the Black Sea at Odessa. The Russians also recognize the right of Ukraine to join both the EU and NATO. The EU and NATO welcome Ukrainian membership, and both sign in full support of the treaty, including its new borders.
In this deal each side’s basic conditions would be met. Russia would gain the main Russian majority speaking areas of Ukraine, the industry of the Dombas, and an enlarged presence on the Black Sea. Ukraine would gain EU and NATO membership, and thereby the vital security it otherwise lacks. Access to the sea at Odessa would allow Ukrainian grain and other products to be freely exported, stabilizing Ukraine’s economy. With such a treaty in place, and Finland now merging into NATO, a clear border would be established between NATO and Russia, running all the way from the Black Sea to the Arctic, finally eliminating the supposedly neutral but destabilizing battleground states between them (of which Ukraine is now the last).
Both sides would have to give up their extreme positions:
Ukraine would have to abandon its insistence on the borders it inherited upon the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Dombas and Crimea were incorporated into Ukraine not by the Ukrainians, but by the Soviet Union. Ukraine has no prior claim to those areas, which in recent times have been Russian territories with mostly Russian inhabitants. The remainder of Ukraine is, by contrast, mainly Ukrainian speaking, and has historically been the homeland of the Ukrainian people since time immemorial.
Russia would have to recognize the legitimacy and independence of the Ukrainian state, and renounce the historical claims of previous Russian rulers to all Ukrainian lands, including mythological claims of Russia’s origin in medieval Kievan Rus. Russia’s independence can be traced only to the Duchy of Muscovy, which emerged in the 15th century, while Ukraine’s independence can only be traced to the first independent Ukrainian state which emerged briefly in 1918, before being absorbed into the Soviet Union. Both histories are legitimate, but neither bears any direct political connection to Kievan Rus, which was destroyed by the Mongols in the 13th century.
The benefits of such a treaty to both sides, and to the world, would be incalculable. What stands in the way are the beliefs of the extremists on both sides, who hold out for total victory. Putin denies Ukraine’s very existence. The Ukrainians insist that the Crimea and what the Russians call novorossiya are theirs as a birthright of independence, and not as an accident of Soviet policy. As long as these beliefs prevail, the war will continue. It can only end when they are abandoned.