A year after the start of the war in Ukraine, a question has just pierced the public space in Quebec, when it was already present elsewhere: should we negotiate with Vladimir Poutine?
It may seem shocking at first glance: Putin is an autocrat who invaded an independent country. Why negotiate with an aggressor? Shouldn’t we just fight this war to the end, doing everything to bring it down, and convert Russia to democracy?
Morally, one can understand this desire, which inherits much from the American worldview that structured the 20th century and which operated on the principle of the unconditional surrender of the rogue state.
But politically, that doesn’t really hold up. Because the present context bears little resemblance to the 20th century.
Russia is a nuclear power. In the short term, we do not see Vladimir Putin falling, unless he is replaced by an even more radical leader.
And at any time, the logic of escalation can be triggered. I am surprised at the great levity of those who do not take seriously the possibility of a nuclear shift in the conflict.
Above all, throughout history, peace has often been built through respective concessions. Peace does not come to abolish the reasons for a conflict, but to inhibit them.
In the present case, can we imagine potential territorial concessions?
Since 2014, the West had practically accepted the attachment of Russia to Ukraine. Could the same be true for the Russian-speaking territories of eastern Ukraine?
Unless the negotiation concerns the neutrality of Ukraine? Who knows in advance?
But let’s keep in mind a simple idea: diplomacy is not made to speak with an angel, but to speak with the devil.
It’s not fun, of course. Sometimes it is necessary.