Zelensky's Strategic Shift: Opening Door to Peace Talks Without Pre-1991 Borders

Written by Henrik Rothen

Mar.30 - 2024 10:46 AM CET

Photo: President's Office
Photo: President's Office
In a notable deviation from Ukraine's previous stance, President Volodymyr Zelensky signals readiness for peace talks with Russia, setting aside the demand for the return to 1991 borders—a move that could redefine the path to resolution.

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President Volodymyr Zelensky has indicated a willingness to engage in peace discussions with Russia, even if this means setting aside the long-standing demand that talks could only commence with the restoration of Ukraine's borders as they stood in 1991.

This strategic pivot, revealed in an interview with CBS News, marks the first time the Ukrainian leader has opened the door to dialoguing with Moscow without the precondition of regaining territories, including Crimea and parts of Donbas, which have come under Russian control.

A New Chapter in Peace Efforts

Previously, Kyiv's firm stance on reclaiming its territories as a prerequisite for any peace talks effectively placed a moratorium on negotiations, demanding the return of Crimea, annexed by Russia in 2014, and the republics in Donbas. However, Zelensky's recent statements suggest a potentially more pragmatic approach, hinting at a readiness for discussions that could see Ukraine's borders revert to their status at the end of 2021.

Zelensky underscored the multifaceted nature of achieving victory, emphasizing that Ukraine's triumph would not solely rely on military might but also on economic strength and global political support.

"To win is to help Ukraine succeed economically, be strong on the battlefield, and secure political support. We won't need to de-occupy all our territories solely by military means," Zelensky articulated, shedding light on the comprehensive strategy envisioned by Kyiv.

Zelensky's "Peace Formula" and International Support

The Ukrainian president had previously outlined his "peace formula" in 2022, which, beyond restoring Ukraine's 1991 borders, called for security guarantees for the state, radiological safety at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, expansion of the grain deal, and a cap on Russian energy resource prices.

Russian officials, however, have been critical of Zelensky's propositions. Maria Zakharova, the official representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry, labeled the peace formula as detached from reality, advocating for a comprehensive peace settlement through Ukraine adopting a neutral, non-aligned, and non-nuclear status.

The Role of US Support in Ukraine's Defense

Zelensky has also openly acknowledged the critical importance of US military aid, suggesting that without it, Ukrainian forces might have to retreat.

He highlighted the essential nature of such support, including anti-air defenses, Patriot missile systems, electronic warfare equipment, and 155mm artillery shells.

Critically, he pointed out that Ukraine's use of its own drones in strikes against Russian fuel and energy facilities met with disapproval from Washington, asserting Ukraine's autonomy in its defense strategy.

Navigating Economic Assistance and Military Aid

The conversation around US military aid took another turn with Senator Lindsey Graham's suggestion that future assistance should be in the form of loans rather than grants—a proposal met with resistance from Ukrainian officials, who deemed it unfair.