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WSJ analyses Putin's demands for peace from 2022: turn Ukraine into neutral state

Friday, 1 March 2024, 13:23
WSJ analyses Putin's demands for peace from 2022: turn Ukraine into neutral state
Vladimir Putin. Photo: RIA Novosti, a Kremlin-aligned Russian news agency

The Wall Street Journal has analysed the draft version of the peace agreement between Ukraine and Russia of 15 April 2022, believing that the Kremlin's goals have not changed much in two years and that it would again prefer to turn Ukraine into a neutral and vulnerable state in the event of negotiations.

Source: The Wall Street Journal 

Quote: "The outlines of a deal the Russian leader likely wants can be seen in a draft peace treaty drawn up by Russian and Ukrainian negotiators in April 2022, about six weeks after the start of the war. 


Western officials and analysts say those objectives remain largely unchanged after two years of fighting: Turn Ukraine into a neutered state permanently vulnerable to Russian military aggression.

While the broad outlines of the ultimately unsuccessful peace negotiations have been disclosed, the full 17-page document, which was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal and others familiar with the negotiations, hasn’t been made public.  

The document, dated 15 April 2022, sketches out how negotiators on both sides sought to end the fighting by agreeing to turn Ukraine into a ‘permanently neutral state that doesn’t participate in military blocs,’ barred from rebuilding its military with Western support and leaving Crimea under de facto Russian control."

Read also: From Zelenskyy's "surrender" to Putin's surrender: how the negotiations with Russia are going

Details: The WSJ stated that the document demonstrates how deep concessions Ukrainian negotiators were willing to make in the first weeks of the full-scale war and what compromises Russia could have made with Ukraine if Western military support had dried up and Russia had made significant territorial gains.

The draft treaty states that Ukraine would be allowed to seek EU membership but would not be allowed to join military alliances such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). 

According to the draft, foreign weapons would not be allowed on the territory of Ukraine. Ukraine's Armed Forces would be reduced to a certain size. Russia was seeking to limit everything, from the number of troops and tanks to the maximum range of Ukrainian missiles.

The Crimean peninsula, already occupied by Russia, would remain under Moscow's influence and would not be considered neutral. The future of Ukraine’s east, part of which was occupied by Russia in 2014, was not included in the draft, leaving the issue for a personal discussion between Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who never held a meeting.

Moscow also insisted that the Russian language should function equally as Ukrainian in government and courts, and this was a point that Kyiv did not agree to.

The treaty was to be guaranteed by foreign powers, among which the document listed the United States, the United Kingdom, China, France and Russia. These countries would be obliged to defend Ukraine's neutrality in case of a breach of the treaty.

But while the treaty would be in force, the document said, the guarantor countries would be obliged to "terminate international treaties and agreements, incompatible with the permanent neutrality of Ukraine," including any promises of bilateral military assistance. International security guarantees would not apply to Crimea and the city of Sevastopol.

The WSJ stated that the final document "appears loosely based on the 1990 treaty that created a united Germany, where Soviet Union troops quit East Germany on the condition that the country renounce nuclear weapons and cap the size of its army."

The draft treaty with Ukraine provided for the prohibition of foreign weapons, "including missile weapons of any type, armed forces and formations."

Moscow wanted the strength of the Armed Forces of Ukraine not to exceed 85,000 military personnel, 342 tanks, and 519 artillery systems. The document indicates that, during the negotiations, the Ukrainian side demanded 250,000 military personnel, 800 tanks, and 1,900 artillery systems.

Russia wanted the range of Ukrainian missiles to be limited to 40 kilometres. 

Other issues remained unresolved.

In particular, what would happen if Ukraine faced an attack. Russia wanted all guarantor states to agree on a response, meaning that a unified response would be unlikely if Russia itself was the aggressor. In the event of an attack on Ukraine, Ukrainian negotiators wanted its airspace to be closed, requiring guarantor states to ensure a no-fly zone and provide weapons from the guarantors' side, not approved by Russia.

Russia wanted to add Belarus as a guarantor; Ukraine wanted to add Türkiye.

Ukrainian negotiators highlighted in italics the text indicating that they refused to discuss the Russian point that required Kyiv to withdraw claims to the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, which prosecutes war crimes.

They also disagreed on ratifying the point about lifting all mutual sanctions. 

The negotiations continued, even through Zoom, but eventually came to a halt in June 2022, as reported by the WSJ.

At that time, no agreement was reached. However, as the WSJ notes, the document reflects deep-rooted Russian fears that the West, led by the United States, has been developing Ukraine for years as a so-called "anti-Russia" to undermine, restrain and attempt to gain control over Russia. Moscow, after its failed attempt to bring Kyiv under control, sought to halt Western support for Kyiv through a deal.

Read also: Before and after the counteroffensive: Are there perspectives in peace negotiations with Russia?

On 17 June 2023, during a meeting with several African leaders, Putin presented a document that, as he claimed, was initialled by the head of Kyiv’s negotiating team. He said that the project consisted of 18 clauses with appendices, specifying the number of military personnel and armoured vehicles, but in Kyiv, "They rejected it."

Currently, Ukraine states that it will not start peace talks until Russia withdraws its troops from its territory. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is convinced that halting hostilities will merely allow Russia to rearm and better attack Ukraine in the future. 

Although Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan proposed resuming negotiations earlier this week, any new attempt to achieve peace appears unlikely in the near future, as reported by the WSJ.

Moreover, citing analysts, the WSJ notes that a military victory for either side appears increasingly elusive. Although the front line has barely moved in a year, pessimism about Ukraine's prospects is growing. Russia recently made its first significant breakthrough in months, and Kyiv's forces are running low on ammunition and human resources. 

The WSJ adds that, according to the Chatham House think tank, since its initial invasion of eastern Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea in 2014, Russia has violated over 400 international agreements and conventions.

Furthermore, all previous ceasefire agreements or peace treaties involving Russia in Georgia, Syria, and Ukraine have later been exploited by the Kremlin for its own benefit.


  • On 24 February 2022, after an eight-year hybrid war, Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. On 28 February, negotiations to achieve peace had begun between the Ukrainian and Russian delegations.
  • On 29 March 2022, the Ukrainian delegation in Istanbul publicly voiced its proposals to Russia regarding security guarantees, Crimea and Donbas. At that time, Russia had not responded to them.
  • Vladimir Medinsky, the head of the Russian delegation, claimed that Ukraine had declared its readiness to fulfil Russia's "principled demands" in Istanbul, but he said nothing about the withdrawal of troops and made it clear that the Kremlin would not compromise on Crimea and Donbas.
  • On 16 April 2022, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy stated that a peace treaty with Russia could consist of two documents: one on security guarantees for Ukraine and the other on its relations with the Russian Federation.
  • On 30 September 2022, Zelenskyy put into effect a decision of the National Security and Defence Council, which stated that it was impossible to negotiate with Vladimir Putin and that Ukraine's defence capabilities needed to be strengthened. He later explained that Ukraine was not agreeing to negotiations because Putin's statements about his desire for peace were not sincere.

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