A Proposed Peace Plan to End the Russo-Ukrainian War
My 15 point plan for a just and lasting peace would resolve all existing conflicts between Russia and Ukraine, restore peaceful relations between Russia and NATO and avert a potential World War III
(Author’s Note—This article was originally published in The National Interest on June 18, 2022. It has since been updated to limit the types of weapon systems that would be banned in the Ukrainian armed forces to ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and strategic surface-to-air missiles while expanding the number of Ukrainian army troops allowed by 450,000 but transferring most of them to reserve status. Lastly and most importantly, it has been updated to provide for Russian acceptance of the expansion of NATO to include Sweden and Finland in exchange for written guarantees that NATO will never expand eastward into additional former Soviet republics and that it will never station or deploy its armed forces in Finland or Sweden except in the event of a direct military attack against NATO.)
It has now been over one-hundred days since Russia invaded Ukraine with no end to the war in sight. The war has the potential to drag on for months, if not years, to come, leading to the deaths of tens of thousands more Ukrainians and the destruction of more of its cities resulting in an ever-increasing humanitarian crisis. The UN Commission on Human Rights has confirmed that over 4,000 Ukrainian civilians have been killed during Russia’s invasion while the Ukrainian government claims a death toll of over 27,500. The war has resulted in the greatest refugee crisis since the end of World War Two and its aftermath. It is estimated that nearly five million Ukrainians have left the country while an additional eight million have been displaced within Ukraine. These are staggering numbers which equate to over one-third of Ukraine’s citizens being forced to leave their homes. Furthermore, President Volodymyr Zelensky recently declared that Russian forces now control twenty percent of Ukraine’s territory.
While Western media outlets continue to mistakenly report that Ukraine is winning the war, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has indicated that Russia is continuing to make incremental progress towards achieving its military objectives. According to a recent Western intelligence report, even while the US is providing Ukraine with four to five times more military aid then they spend on their armed forces each year, Ukraine is losing the Battle of the Donbass and suffering "extreme losses" being “outgunned 20 to 1 in artillery” with Ukrainian troops running out of ammunition, increasingly demoralized and beginning to desert. This report reveals that most Ukrainian artillery is limited to a range of 25 kilometers while Russian artillery and multiple rocket launchers can strike from twelve times that distance. It also states that Ukraine’s bargaining position has been weakened due to the fact that Russia has over ten times more prisoners of war than Ukraine has. The intelligence report concludes by stating: “It is plain that a conventional war cannot be won if your side has several times fewer weapons, your weapons hit the enemy at a shorter distance, and you have significantly less ammunition than the enemy.”
While conceding the risks of Russian nuclear escalation, President Biden recently clarified that the US does not seek a direct war with Russia, nor will it support the overthrow of Russian President Vladimir Putin. After declaring last month that its objective was to weaken Russia and destroy its ability to wage offensive war by prolonging the conflict in Ukraine for many months if not years to come, the Biden Administration now says that the purpose of increased US military assistance is merely to strengthen Ukraine’s ability to negotiate a more favorable peace agreement. When asked if Ukraine might have to cede some of its territory in a negotiated peace agreement with Russia, Biden did not rule out that possibility.
What follows is my proposed fifteen-point peace plan to end the Russo-Ukrainian War, which in view of Russia’s previous peace offers to Ukraine as well as the likelihood of it winning the Battle of the Donbass, are the best terms we could realistically expect Russia might accept. Such a negotiated compromise peace agreement could be mediated by France, Germany, Italy, Turkey, Israel to be followed by a cessation of all military operations and the withdrawal of all Russian military forces from Ukraine other than the Donbass region. To my knowledge, this is the first comprehensive peace proposal which has been published in a Western journal, which attempts to address and permanently resolve, rather than postpone the resolution of, all existing areas of contention between Russia and Ukraine to ensure that Russia won’t have any reason to resume hostilities against Kyiv in the future. This proposal also addresses some of Russia’s most pressing security concerns while serving to enhance the security of NATO members by reducing the prospects of a future conflict with Russia.
Fifteen Point Peace Plan to End the War in Ukraine
1. Ukraine will amend its constitution to become permanently neutral with its independence, neutrality, national sovereignty, and territorial integrity guaranteed by the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, which guarantee shall be conditioned upon Ukraine’s compliance with the terms of the peace agreement. In return, Russia will recognize the legitimacy of the democratically elected Government of Ukraine and will renounce any intention to attempt to replace Ukrainian government leaders with ones more amenable to Moscow.
2. Ukraine recognizes Russia's 2014 reunification with Crimea and renounces all intentions to recover it by force or by any other means.
3. Russia will withdraw all of its military forces to its pre-invasion February 24th positions, including from Kharkiv, Zaporizhia and Kherson oblasts, excepting the Donbass region where the new line of control between Russia and Ukraine will be revised to the line of control as it exists at the time of the execution of this agreement. In return, Ukraine will guarantee water rights to Crimea to ensure its citizens have sufficient for their needs.
4. A popular referendum will be held by September 2022 for the entire Donbass region, including both the Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts, on whether their citizens wish to choose to become independent or return to Ukrainian control. This referendum will be conducted by the respective governments of the Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts on each side of the line of control and will be supervised by United Nations or other non-aligned international observers. All citizens of the Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts, including refugees, shall be permitted, and encouraged to vote in the referendum. The votes of the Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts shall be counted together so that the results shall be the same for both regions. In the event that a majority of their citizens vote to remain part of Ukraine, the Donbass region shall be permanently demilitarized with the withdrawal of all Russian and Ukrainian troops. In addition, Ukraine's constitution shall be amended by June 2023 to adopt a federal system of government with ‘special status’ (i.e. autonomy) for the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts to ensure the rights of Russian-speaking minorities are guaranteed as previously agreed to by Ukraine under the Minsk II Agreement. However, in the event the Donbass votes for independence, all Ukrainian troops shall be withdrawn. Russian troops may remain only if invited to do so by the Luhansk and Donetsk Republic governments. Regardless of the outcome of the referendum, Ukraine agrees to make Russian one of its official languages again.
5. Russia will support Ukraine’s application to join the European Union.
6. Ukraine will permanently suspend all NATO ties, including military trainers, exchanges and joint military exercises, along with all NATO arms shipments with the exception of small arms. In addition, Ukraine will prohibit the stationing of NATO troops or bases on its territory. Ukraine also agrees to end its membership in the NATO Partnership for Peace program and terminate its November 2021 strategic partnership agreement with the US.
7. The size of the Ukrainian Ground Forces shall be limited to no more than 100,000 active duty troops including Naval Infantry personnel with a maximum of 600,000 troops in reserve. The size of the State Border Guard Service (SBGS) shall be limited to its current level of 50,000 personnel.
8. Ukraine agrees to destroy all of its “strike systems” including its ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, anti-ship missiles, and strategic surface-to-air missiles with anti-missile capabilities under Russian supervision. Ukraine shall be prohibited from developing or acquiring any of these expressly banned weapon systems. Furthermore, Ukraine shall be prohibited from developing weapons of mass destruction including nuclear, biological or chemical weapons and shall shut down all of its 26 US-funded bio labs within six month of the signing of this agreement providing access to the labs by Russian inspectors to ensure they are closed.
9. All Prisoners of War, refugees and any civilians in captivity will be returned to their respective countries with their treatment and care governed by the provisions of the Geneva Convention.
10. There will be no reparations issued by either side and no international war crimes tribunals. Any war crimes tribunals shall be conducted by the nations to whom the offending troops belong.
11. The US, EU and Japan agree to provide large-scale economic aid to assist in the process of Ukrainian reconstruction.
12. Full diplomatic relations between Russia and Ukraine and between Russia and all NATO countries will be restored following the signing of this agreement.
13. All Western post-invasion economic sanctions against Russia shall be immediately rescinded upon the execution of this peace agreement by both parties and all seized public and private Russian financial and economic assets shall be restored to their owners. The United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, the European Union, Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, Albania, Kosovo, Georgia, Moldova, Japan, Australia and New Zealand will agree to phase out all remaining economic sanctions against Russia within twelve months of the signing of this agreement conditioned upon full Russian compliance with its terms.
14. The United States and NATO shall issue written guarantees that NATO will never expand eastward into additional former Soviet republics and that it will never station or deploy its armed forces in Finland or Sweden except in the event of a direct military attack against NATO. In exchange for these guarantees, Russia will acquiesce to Finland’s and Sweden’s ascension into NATO as well as that of any other European country that wishes to join the alliance.
15. Russia and NATO agree to commence discussions to include Russia in the security architecture of Europe, renew the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and negotiate a historic Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) II Agreement reducing the number of western NATO and Russian troops and bases from Eastern Europe including all of the nations that joined NATO from 1999 onward as well as Belarus and Ukraine to less than 9,000 troops on each side, thus reverting to the February 2021 status quo. Such an agreement shall provide that in the event that Russia further reduces or even eliminates its military presence in Belarus and continues to honor the terms of its peace agreement with Ukraine, then the US and western NATO countries will also reduce or eliminate their combined troop presence and close all of its bases in the Baltic states, Poland, Romania, Hungary, and Slovakia to match Russian troop withdrawals in Belarus, potentially returning Eastern Europe to the status quo that existed before the July 2016 Warsaw Summit. As part of this agreement, the US would also agree to withdraw all Aegis Ashore anti-ballistic missiles and dismantle its Aegis Ashore Missile Defense Sites in Redzikowo, Poland and Deveselu, Romania in exchange for a Russian withdrawal of all of its nuclear capable delivery systems from Belarus.
Benefits of Negotiating a Peace Agreement
Under this agreement, Ukraine would be allowed to retain the rest of its weapon systems including all of its short-range surface to air missiles, all of its anti-tank guided missiles (including Stinger SAMs, Javelin ATGMs) tanks and other armored fighting vehicles with the ability to acquire additional such weapons from non-NATO countries. Ukraine would also get to keep all of its naval warships, fighter aircraft, attack aircraft, helicopter gunships, combat drones (including Switchblade anti-tank drones), all of its multiple rocket launchers including US HIMARS multiple rocket launchers and all of its artillery and mortars including self-propelled artillery. No other restrictions should be placed on the size or capabilities of the Ukrainian Armed Forces that could prevent it from maintaining a robust military deterrent as a hedge against potential but unlikely future Russian military aggression. Given that Ukraine only has a limited number of the specific types of weapon systems that would be prohibited, aside from anti-ship cruise missiles, the ban on possessing them would be mostly symbolic. As such, their prohibition would constitute more of a blow to its prestige than to its actual combat capabilities given that the vast majority of casualties and destruction of Russian tanks and aircraft which it has inflicted on invading Russian forces have been achieved with weapon systems that it would get to keep under this proposed peace agreement.
In the event the Donbass republics voted for independence, this would amount to the loss of approximately 6.5 percent of its territory and people under Ukraine’s control prior to Russia’s invasion, however, the mostly coastal territories they would gain back from the peace agreement would more than compensate Ukraine for their loss. Given that Kyiv has no real hope of regaining these lost territories militarily, it would have much to gain from an agreement in which Russia trades land for peace. Ending the war quickly could potentially save tens of thousands of Ukrainian lives if this tragic and unnecessary war were to be allowed to continue until the end of this year if not for years to come. Economically speaking, the benefits of Ukraine negotiating a peace agreement sparing its cities from further destruction and allowing for the reconstruction of thousands of its roads, bridges, schools and hospitals, which has been estimated might cost as much as $600 billion, would be profound. The war has forced half of Ukraine’s businesses to close while a peace deal could allow them to re-open, allowing millions of its unemployed citizens to return to work while ending Russia’s devastating Black Sea naval blockade, restoring its ability to engage in international trade via the Black Sea and enabling most of its nearly thirteen million refugees to return home. Finally, ending the war by July would greatly lessen the 60% reduction in Ukraine’s GDP projected by experts if the war continues until the end of the year.
It is in the US national security interest to incentivize both Russia and Ukraine to negotiate a compromise peace agreement as soon as possible to avoid a potential Russian escalation to the use of tactical nuclear weapons against Ukraine and/or against one or more frontline NATO states where US military forces are based with catastrophic consequences. The administration could do so by offering to suspend the implementation of all new economic sanctions against Russia, US troop reinforcements to Eastern Europe, and lethal military assistance to Ukraine in exchange for an immediate and sustained Russian ceasefire, a halt to Russian army advances, and the resumption of serious peace negotiations along the lines outlined above. A relaxation of sanctions following a peace deal would likely provide badly needed economic relief, including significantly lower fuel, food, and energy prices, to tens of millions of financially distressed Americans just as the economy appears to be entering a recession with record high inflation. It would also serve to significantly lessen the severity of the worsening global food crisis, which threatens to cause the deaths by starvation of millions of people in the Third World.
With the escalating Ukrainian military and territorial losses occurring in the Battle of the Donbass, the longer the Biden administration and its NATO allies delay in persuading Ukraine to negotiate a peace agreement with Russia, the weaker Ukraine’s negotiation position is likely to be and consequently the more unfavorable the formal or de facto peace terms it will be forced to accept. If Zelensky opts not to negotiate a peace agreement following the Russian conquest of the Donbass, Putin has made clear he intends to formally annex the entire Donbass region as well as Kherson Oblast to Russia, while keeping control of 70% of Ukraine’s Black Sea coastline. One Russian general has stated that Moscow would then stage a follow-on offensive to capture Odessa to cut off Ukraine from the sea and make it an entirely land-locked country which would serve to further weaken it economically while making it less secure. For all of these reasons it is not just in America’s national interest but in Ukraine’s national interest as well to finalize a compromise peace agreement ending the war as soon as practicable.
David T. Pyne, Esq. is a former U.S. Army combat arms and Headquarters staff officer, who was in charge of armaments cooperation with the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Africa and the Americas from 2000-2003, with an M.A. in National Security Studies from Georgetown University. He currently serves as Deputy Director of National Operations for the EMP Task Force on National and Homeland Security and is a contributor to Dr. Peter Pry’s new book Blackout Warfare. He also serves as the host of the Defend America Radio Show on KTALK AM 1640 and as Editor of “The Real War” newsletter at dpyne.substack.com. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.