by Caitlin Johnstone
Days after the war in Ukraine began it was reported by The New York Times that “President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine has asked the Israeli prime minister, Naftali Bennett, to mediate negotiations in Jerusalem between Ukraine and Russia.” In a recent interview, Bennett made some very interesting comments about what happened during those negotiations in the early days of the war.
In a new article titled “Former Israeli PM Bennett Says US ‘Blocked’ His Attempts at a Russia-Ukraine Peace Deal,” Antiwar’s Dave DeCamp writes the following:
Former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in an interview posted to his YouTube channel on Saturday that the US and its Western allies “blocked” his efforts of mediating between Russia and Ukraine to bring an end to the war in its early days.
On March 4, 2022, Bennett traveled to Russia to meet with President Vladimir Putin. In the interview, he detailed his mediation at the time between Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, which he said he coordinated with the US, France, Germany, and the UK.
Bennett said that both sides agreed to major concessions during his mediation effort.
But ultimately, the Western leaders opposed Bennet’s efforts. “I’ll say this in the broad sense. I think there was a legitimate decision by the West to keep striking Putin and not [negotiate],” Bennett said.
When asked if the Western powers “blocked” the mediation efforts, Bennet said, “Basically, yes. They blocked it, and I thought they were wrong.”
Bennett says the concessions each side was prepared to make included the renunciation of future NATO membership for Ukraine, and on Russia’s end dropping the goals of “denazification” and Ukrainian disarmament. As DeCamp notes, this matches up with an Axios report from early March that “According to Israeli officials, Putin’s proposal is difficult for Zelensky to accept but not as extreme as they anticipated. They said the proposal doesn’t include regime change in Kyiv and allows Ukraine to keep its sovereignty.”
Bennett is about as unsavory a character as exists in the world today, but Israel’s complicated relationship with this war lends itself to the occasional release of information not fully in alignment with the official imperial line. And his comments here only add to a pile of information that’s been coming out for months which says the same thing, not just regarding the sabotage of peace talks in March but in April as well.
In May of last year Ukrainian media reported that then-British prime minister Boris Johnson had flown to Kyiv the previous month to pass on the message on behalf of the western empire that “Putin is a war criminal, he should be pressured, not negotiated with,” and that “even if Ukraine is ready to sign some agreements on guarantees with Putin, they are not.”
In April of last year, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that “there are those within the NATO member states that want the war to continue, let the war continue and Russia gets weaker.” Shortly thereafter, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said that the goal in Ukraine is “to see Russia weakened.”
A September Foreign Affairs report by Fiona Hill asserts that in April of last year a peace deal had been in the works between Moscow and Kyiv, which would presumably have been the agreement that Johnson et al were able to sabotage:
According to multiple former senior U.S. officials we spoke with, in April 2022, Russian and Ukrainian negotiators appeared to have tentatively agreed on the outlines of a negotiated interim settlement: Russia would withdraw to its position on February 23, when it controlled part of the Donbas region and all of Crimea, and in exchange, Ukraine would promise not to seek NATO membership and instead receive security guarantees from a number of countries.
In March of last year Bloomberg’s Niall Ferguson reported that sources in the US and UK governments had told him the real goal of western powers in this conflict is not to negotiate peace or end the war quickly, but to prolong it in order “bleed Putin” and achieve regime change in Moscow. Ferguson wrote that he has reached the conclusion that “the U.S. intends to keep this war going,” and says he has other sources to corroborate this:
“The only end game now,” a senior administration official was heard to say at a private event earlier this month, “is the end of Putin regime. Until then, all the time Putin stays, [Russia] will be a pariah state that will never be welcomed back into the community of nations. China has made a huge error in thinking Putin will get away with it. Seeing Russia get cut off will not look like a good vector and they’ll have to re-evaluate the Sino-Russia axis. All this is to say that democracy and the West may well look back on this as a pivotal strengthening moment.”
I gather that senior British figures are talking in similar terms. There is a belief that “the U.K.’s No. 1 option is for the conflict to be extended and thereby bleed Putin.” Again and again, I hear such language. It helps explain, among other things, the lack of any diplomatic effort by the U.S. to secure a cease-fire. It also explains the readiness of President Joe Biden to call Putin a war criminal.
All this taken together heavily substantiates the claim made by Vladimir Putin this past September that Russia and Ukraine had been on the cusp of peace shortly after the start of the war, but western powers ordered Kyiv to “wreck” the negotitations.
“After the start of the special military operation, in particular after the Istanbul talks, Kyiv representatives voiced quite a positive response to our proposals,” Putin said. “These proposals concerned above all ensuring Russia’s security and interests. But a peaceful settlement obviously did not suit the West, which is why, after certain compromises were coordinated, Kyiv was actually ordered to wreck all these agreements.”
Month after month it’s been reported that US diplomats have been steadfastly refusing to engage in diplomacy with Russia to help bring an end to this war, an inexcusable rejection that would only make sense if the US wants this war to continue. And comments from US officials continually make it clear that this is the case.
In March of last year President Biden himself acknowledged what the real game is here with an open call for regime change, saying of Putin, “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.” Statements from the Biden administration in fact indicate that they expect this war to drag on for a long time, making it abundantly clear that a swift end to minimize the death and destruction is not just uninteresting but undesirable for the US empire.
US officials are becoming more and more open about the fact that they see this war as something that serves their strategic objectives, which would of course contradict the official narrative that the western empire did not want this war and the infantile fiction that Russia’s invasion was “unprovoked”. Recent examples of this would include Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s speech ahead of Zelensky’s visit to Washington in December.
“President Zelensky is an inspiring leader,” McConnell said in his speech ahead of the Ukrainian president’s visit to Washington. “But the most basic reasons for continuing to help Ukraine degrade and defeat the Russian invaders are cold, hard, practical American interests. Helping equip our friends in Eastern Europe to win this war is also a direct investment in reducing Vladimir Putin’s future capabilities to menace America, threaten our allies, and contest our core interests.”
In May of last year Congressman Dan Crenshaw said on Twitter that “investing in the destruction of our adversary’s military, without losing a single American troop, strikes me as a good idea.”
Indeed, a report by the empire-funded Center for European Policy Analysis titled “It’s Costing Peanuts for the US to Defeat Russia” asserts that the “US spending of 5.6% of its defense budget to destroy nearly half of Russia’s conventional military capability seems like an absolutely incredible investment.”
In May of last year US Senator Joe Manchin said at the World Economic Forum that he opposes any kind of peace agreement between Ukraine and Russia, preferring instead to use the conflict to hurt Russian interests and hopefully remove Putin.
“I am totally committed, as one person, to seeing Ukraine to the end with a win, not basically with some kind of a treaty; I don’t think that is where we are and where we should be,” Manchin said.
“I mean basically moving Putin back to Russia and hopefully getting rid of Putin,” Manchin added when asked what he meant by a win for Ukraine.
“I believe strongly that I have never seen, and the people I talk strategically have never seen, an opportunity more than this, to do what needs to be done,” Manchin later added.
Then you’ve got US officials telling the press that they plan to use this war to hurt Russia’s fossil fuel interests, “with the long-term goal of destroying the country’s central role in the global energy economy” according to The New York Times. You’ve also got the fact that the US State Department can’t stop talking about how great it is that Russia’s Nord Stream Pipelines were sabotaged in September of last year, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken saying the Nord Stream bombing “offers tremendous strategic opportunity” and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland saying the Biden administration is “very gratified to know that Nord Stream 2 is now, as you like to say, a hunk of metal at the bottom of the sea.”
The US empire is getting everything it wants out of this proxy war. That’s why it knowingly provoked this war, that’s why it repeatedly sabotaged the outbreak of peace after the war broke out, and that’s why this proxy war has no exit strategy. The empire is getting everything it wants from this war, so why wouldn’t it do everything in its power to obstruct peace?
I mean, besides the obvious unforgivable depravity of it all, of course. The empire has always been fine with cracking a few hundred thousand human eggs in order to cook the imperial omelette. It is unfathomably, unforgivably evil, though, and it should outrage everyone.