Saturday, October 15, 2022

Mum Should Be the Word

Tulsi Gabbard, continuing her tour explaining why she no longer belongs to the Party which she wanted to represent as the presidential nominee way back in 2020, has told Chris Cuomo

We should- our President needs to step up and bring the stakeholders around the table and have a negotiated end to this war that has been escalating ever since Putin invaded Ukraine back in February. That's what a leader would do. That's what President JFK would do. That's what Ronald Reagan....

After Cuomo followed up, Gabbard added

If you look at what the reports were when representatives from Russia and Ukraine were actually negotiating all the way back in March, it was the united States that was coming in and saying "Hey, no, don't make a deal here. Don't make a deal. Hold out."

The host responds, and the guest continues

There was a time, there was a time, early on, where both Russia and Ukraine were saying "Hey, we need to have a conversation. It was the President of the United States and maybe others in NATO who were telling them "leave the negotiating table." Every single American should be pissed off about that because who has suffered the most? The people of Ukraine have suffered the most and people here in the United States are continuing to struggle and wonder the hell are we doing here.

If untrue, this is dangerous revisionist history because it pertains to the USA's approach to a negotiated peace. Gabbard cited no evidence in defense of her (alleged) recollection. Journalist Julia Mendel, once a press secretary for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, wrote in September of her

visit to Zelensky’s headquarters in Kyiv a few weeks ago. There, not far from the spot where I once worked as Zelensky’s press secretary, I met with senior presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak. (These days Podolyak is often described as one of the most powerful people in Ukraine, not far behind the president himself.)

As Podolyak pointed out to me, it’s a myth — often asserted by the Russians, by the way — that Ukraine isn’t ready for talks. In fact, Podolyak already has experience of sitting at a table opposite a delegation from Moscow. In February, he was part of the Ukrainian negotiation team that met with Russian representatives at the border with Belarus just as the war was getting underway.

The Russian negotiators, fully believing their own propaganda, issued ultimatums to “demilitarize” and “denazify” Ukraine.

“They kept calling us ‘Nazis,’ ” he told me. “It shows you how degraded Russian diplomacy and consequently the political process is.” He told me that even some of the members of the Russian delegation he has known for years referred to him with this label.

The Ukrainian delegation came with a mandate to do everything it could to start a dialogue. At the time, Russia was killing countless Ukrainian citizens and destroying Ukrainian cities; Ukraine had prevented the Russian troops from taking the capital but had not yet fully driven them out of the area to the north of Kyiv. The Kremlin demanded that Ukrainians lay down their arms and surrender. “They were completely unprepared,” Podolyak recalls. “The Russians knew nothing about the state of our army. They described some of our bases, which are exclusively under Ukrainian jurisdiction, as NATO bases. … The only thing they had to offer was war and blackmail.”

The last round of talks, held in Turkey at the end of March, ended with the Ukrainians handing over a communique with a proposal to end the war.

The Ukrainian delegation presented a proposal for a new system of security guarantees that would define Ukraine’s status as a neutral nonaligned nonnuclear state. Ukraine offered to negotiate the status of Crimea separately within 15 years, without the use of military means. Separately, the presidents of Ukraine and Russia would discuss the status of Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

The Russians responded by saying that they would give Ukraine a gift “that would please them very much.” That meant, Podolyak said, “that they would withdraw their troops from Kyiv region.” (By then, of course, Ukrainian fighters had already defeated the Russian forces marching on Kyiv.)

But what the Ukrainians discovered after the withdrawal filled them with horror. In Bucha, investigators discovered the bodies of more than 400 civilians — their hands often tied behind their backs — who were shot by the Russian invaders. There is evidence of torture and rape. Hundreds remain missing. What the Ukrainians saw was shocking in its brutality, this “not only canceled out the Istanbul communique but also our understanding of what Russia is.”

I asked what he meant by this: “We saw that the Russian army wasn’t just fighting, it was destroying,” Podolyak told me. “And they were doing it on the principle of genocide — not on the basis of ethnicity but of affiliation with the Ukrainian state. As if it didn’t matter who you were ethnically, what language you spoke, they would kill because you were a citizen of Ukraine.”

Even after visiting the site of the massacres on April 4, Zelensky still confirmed his readiness to negotiate: “We strive for peace, we deserve it. And these people showed it, and the Armed Forces showed it. Peace is impossible without victory.” And yet, he added: “We do not want to lose millions of people. That is why there should be dialogue.

Maybe Biden (or the State Department) did throw a monkey wrench into negotiations- but it appears otherwise. If Tulsi Gabbard doesn't have hard evidence to back up her serious allegation, she needs to remember that silence is golden.

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