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Hal Brands

Ukrainian Peace Deal? Not While Each Side Thinks It’s Winning

A settlement with Kyiv agreeing to neutrality is possible, but for now Putin’s demands are far too great.

Still winning.

Still winning.

Photographer: Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images

All wars end with political settlements. As the war in Ukraine drags on, some analysts argue that the country agreeing to political neutrality would serve as the basis for a peace pact with Russia.

Yet the devil of any settlement is in the details, and in this case, those details are devilish indeed. Neutralization along lines tolerable to Ukraine would be — so far — abhorrent to Russian President Vladimir Putin, while a neutrality settlement along lines tolerable to Putin would be a death sentence for independent Ukraine.