The Kremlin Spells Out the Terms of Ukraine’s Surrender (Part One)

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 21 Issue: 82


Executive Summary:

  • The Kremlin’s preconditions for halting its war in Ukraine are still those from the spring of 2022, never agreed to by Kyiv, plus acceptance of Russia’s territorial gains since then.
  • The terms of the Russian-designed treaty on Ukraine’s neutrality and security, recently exposed, justify Kyiv’s refusal.
  • Moscow sought a right to intrude into Ukraine’s domestic affairs under the guise of denazification and national identity policy.

Russia does not demand Ukraine’s unconditional surrender to end the war. Nor does it appear to aim at ending the war as such. Moscow, instead, seeks Ukraine’s surrender through sham negotiations. These would be made to look like Ukrainian and Western consent to Russian-imposed terms. The terms, as currently outlined, would not end the war but rather enable Moscow to proceed to the next stage of the same open-ended war from stronger positions.

Recent extensive public statements from Russian President Vladimir Putin and from Russian diplomats in Western capitals have outlined Moscow’s preconditions for halting its war in Ukraine (, May 17, 24, 28). The declared preconditions are:

  1. To proceed from the draft agreements discussed by Moscow and Kyiv between March and May 2022 as the basis for negotiations;
  2. To recognize the “facts on the ground” that have taken shape since then—that is, Russia keeps its territorial gains in Ukraine; and
  3. No ceasefire until Kyiv consents to Moscow’s terms of settlement, knowing that these would not bring peace and stability to Ukraine.

The military situation in the spring of 2022 compelled Kyiv to enter negotiations with Moscow from a position of weakness to gain time. The negotiations consisted of exchanging draft documents many times back and forth over the two-month period. Ultimately, Ukraine avoided agreeing to the Russian proposals. Its chief delegate merely initialed a framework document with his Russian counterpart on March 29, 2022, in Istanbul (see EDM, March 30, 31, April 4, 5, 2022). Negotiations continued until Kyiv abandoned them in May 2022 after Russian atrocities in the Kyiv region were revealed, Ukraine’s military position began improving, and Western powers indicated that they would support Ukraine’s efforts to regain at least some of the Russian-occupied territories.

The Kremlin now insists that those drafts from the spring of 2022, heavily favoring Russia and ultimately rejected by Ukraine, be taken as a basis for any further negotiations, along with Russia’s territorial gains. Those documents’ content, recently leaked to Western media, has sparked discussions about a possible resumption of negotiations between Kyiv and Moscow against the backdrop of Russia’s military gains on the ground (The Wall Street Journal, March 1; Foreign Affairs, April 16; Die Welt, April 29; see EDM, May 28).

A draft treaty on Ukraine’s permanent neutrality and security guarantees was the centerpiece of those documents. Additionally, Moscow sought direct influence on Ukraine’s domestic affairs. The draft treaty on neutrality and security provided for several measures:

  • The proposal called for turning Ukraine into a permanently neutral, nonaligned, and nonnuclear state, barred from entering into alliances with other countries and writing these commitments into Ukraine’s constitution and legislation (in lieu of the commitments therein to Euro-Atlantic integration).
  • It guaranteed Ukraine’s neutrality and security by a group of countries to include the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and any number of additional countries on an open-ended list. The guarantor countries would assist Ukraine in any form, including direct military intervention, at Kyiv’s request if threatened or attacked. Moscow stipulated that the mechanism of guarantees could only be activated if all guarantor countries agreed (i.e., allowing Moscow to block the putative collective mechanism if Russia itself attacked Ukraine again in the future).
  • Any foreign military presence on Ukraine’s territory would be ruled out, and temporary exercises with foreign troops in Ukraine would be banned unless all guarantor states agree (i.e., subject to Russia’s veto).
  • Foreign arms deliveries to Ukraine would be severely restricted, and no foreign-supplied missiles of any type would be allowed.
  • Kyiv’s agreements with guarantor states incompatible with Ukraine’s neutrality would be terminated (i.e., agreements on Western military assistance to Ukraine).

Per this treaty, Moscow proposed limiting the Ukrainian Armed Forces to 85,000 personnel, 342 tanks, 102 fighter planes, 519 artillery pieces, and missiles ranging up to 280 kilometers. For its part, Kyiv sought agreement on 250,000 personnel, 800 tanks, 160 fighter planes, 1,900 artillery pieces, and missiles ranging up to 400 kilometers. These force ceilings would have left a rump Ukraine permanently vulnerable to Russian military blackmail.

Advancing from the draft to a treaty would have necessitated agreeing on what constitutes the territory of Ukraine to be covered by those putative security guarantees. Moscow and Kyiv, however, disagreed (then as now) on the ultimate status and disposition of the Russian-occupied territories. The draft treaty temporarily left out Crimea and unspecified parts of “eastern Ukraine” (read: Donbas) from the area to be deemed neutral and covered by security guarantees (i.e., left them out from Ukraine). This stroke of Moscow’s pen created the appearance that Ukraine was effectively ceding those territories to Russia and allowing the Kremlin to militarize those territories at its discretion while strictly limiting Ukraine’s forces in its remaining territory.

In the political sphere, Moscow intended to use the agreement as a basis for permanent meddling in Ukraine’s domestic affairs. Clauses it crafted toward that end included:

  • Ukraine to outlaw “fascism, nazism, neo-nazism, aggressive nationalism.”
  • The Russian language to function as an official language in parallel with the Ukrainian language in various public domains in Ukraine.
  • Six existing laws regarding state policies on Ukraine’s historical memory to be variously changed or repealed.

Russia would undoubtedly have claimed a right to oversee the enforcement of those clauses had Ukraine accepted them. The items on language and historical memory were designed to set in motion a process of re-Russification. As a political accompaniment to this war—and following Soviet practice—Russia designates resistance to itself as “fascism” or “nazism,” conflated with “nationalism” and liable for political suppression.

Negotiating from weakness with Russia in the spring of 2022, Kyiv avoided any explicit recognition of the loss of its territories to Russia, the independent republics” of Donetsk and Luhansk, and further Russian inroads into the country. President Volodymyr Zelensky sought to gain time and defer a political solution to territorial and border issues. He hoped to seek a deferral from Russian President Vladimir Putin in a meeting that never came about.

Since Putin aired the conditions of 2022 again this month—updated with new “facts on the ground” regarding Russian territorial gains—Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian government are firmly turning down those conditions (Ukrinform, May 17 – 29).

At present, Moscow seems intent on seizing more territory from Ukraine and inflicting further damage on its economy and demography to compel Kyiv to sue for “peace.” In parallel, the Kremlin seeks to foster divisive debates in the West and within Ukrainian society by offering political conditions for “ending the war” or a “freeze.” Acceptance of Russia’s conditions would only cement its territorial gains, which would, in turn, create new threats to a rump Ukraine and its Western neighbors. 

(Part Two)