Ukraine: Tony Blair says West must push for negotiated peace and may have only two-week window

‘The burden of this struggle is being borne by Ukrainians, not by us’, says ex-prime minister

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Tuesday 15 March 2022 16:42 GMT
'I offer you a chance to survive': Zelensky calls on Russian troops to surrender

The West must push for a negotiated settlement to end the Ukraine war and may have only a two-week window to achieve it, Tony Blair says.

The former prime minister argued the key disputes – over Nato membership, the stationing of Western weapons and the futures of Crimea and Ukraine’s eastern regions – could be settled in talks.

Mr Blair said he understood the view that “Putin deserves nothing but total defeat”, but warned: “The burden of this struggle is being borne by Ukrainians, not by us.”

He pointed out that the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, has pursued “ad hoc” talks – but called for the US and Europe to throw their full weight behind that effort.

And he warned: “The next two weeks may be the last chance to achieve a negotiated settlement before the assault on Kyiv becomes worse, the Ukrainian people become hostile to any negotiation, or Putin faces a binary choice between “double down” or retreat.”

In an article, Mr Blair also argued:

* Ukraine will “in the end emerge as a strong independent nation” – because it is “absurd” to believe its people will “live under the heel” of Russia.

* The blunder of the invasion may “herald the downfall of Putin” – who is “detached from reality, and with no one around him prepared to tell him the truth”.

* It is “strange” for the West to suggest it will not respond with military action if Russia uses chemical weapons or a tactical nuclear weapon, or “tries to destroy Kyiv”.

* The West will only “regain its confidence” on foreign and defence policy if it can defeat the “rampant populism of left and right”.

* It is “no coincidence” that Nigel Farage and Jeremy Corbyn – fringe figures 15 years ago, but later successful – were most vocal in blaming Nato for Putin’s aggression.

On the prospects for negotiations, Mr Blair said a deal might be possible on Putin’s red lines, although: “The final decision in any negotiation rests with Ukraine.”

However, “Ukraine would require binding guarantees from the West to contemplate giving up on Nato membership”.

Equally, it might be possible to “construct a process” to decide the future status of Crimea and the breakaway republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, Mr Blair argued.

That was “provided Putin doesn’t add a demand to keep the territory he is currently taking with considerable brutality in the corridor between Rostov and Odessa, a demand Ukraine could never accede to”.

On Nato ruling out military involvement, Mr Blair wrote: “I accept the reasoning behind our stance.

“But suppose he uses chemical weapons or a tactical nuclear weapon, or tries to destroy Kyiv as he did Aleppo in Syria, without any regard to the loss of civilian life – is it sensible to tell him in advance that whatever he does militarily, we will rule out any form of military response?

“Maybe that is our position and maybe that is the right position, but continually signalling it, and removing doubt in his mind, is a strange tactic.”

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