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Let’s Negotiate 

A perspective from Chris Mayfield

Nearly eight months into Russia’s illegal and disastrous invasion of Ukraine, people I know seem gripped in a mostly silent state of fear. If the subject of the war comes up, we admit quietly that we are terrified of nuclear war, but then quickly change the subject. Despite the existential stakes, why does it seem almost taboo—in the media as well as in private conversation—to discuss the need for US leadership in peace negotiations?

The fact that we’re not talking about our role in peace negotiations is dangerous and based on several unfounded assumptions. One assertion often repeated by Secretary Blinken and other Biden officials is that it’s none of our business: Ukraine alone must decide whether and how to negotiate. Ukraine’s massive suffering and bravery are undeniable, but they are not operating in a vacuum. The US has committed nearly $66 billion, armed Ukraine with our own high-tech weapons, trained Ukrainians on how to use them, and supplied military intelligence and special ops forces. With this massive investment, how can we not be involved in negotiations?

Another argument is that Putin is not open to negotiations. Clearly, his actions are belligerent. But this argument ignores the actions by NATO (led by the US) that form a crucial background of the war: the broken promises made to Gorbachev about no NATO expansion. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, NATO has expanded across Eastern Europe, to the borders of Russia itself. Then after the war started, US officials fanned the flames with inflammatory statements such as Biden’s comment that “this man must not remain in power” and Secretary Austin’s that the US purpose is “to weaken Russia.” A lack of trust works both ways. Shouldn’t the US do its part to bridge the gap?

It’s also argued that Ukraine is “winning,” and that our role is simply to supply more and more weapons and money. This position ignores both the tremendous suffering by Ukrainians and the growing dangers to the rest of the world of a nuclear war. US aid has been justified as necessary to put Ukraine in a good position to negotiate. Don’t the recent Ukrainian advances meet that criterion? If not now, when?

Finally, it’s said that Putin doesn’t deserve to be negotiated with. This one is undeniably true. Putin doesn’t deserve a voice. But we do. Our survival may depend on US citizens speaking openly to each other and to our leaders about our questions and fears in this unprecedented and traumatizing situation.

“Viewpoints” on Chapelboro is a recurring series of community-submitted opinion columns. All thoughts, ideas, opinions and expressions in this series are those of the author, and do not reflect the work or reporting of 97.9 The Hill and Chapelboro.com.