From late February to mid-March of 2022, Russian and Ukrainian officials met five times to try to reach a ceasefire deal during Israeli mediation, but this was against the will of the USA.
A draft pact was agreed upon, but Kiev inexplicably broke off talks. Israel’s former prime minister, Naftali Bennett has offered new insights into what may have happened.
The USA and its German and French NATO allies halted efforts to put an end to the Russia-Ukraine crisis through a negotiated settlement in the spring of 2022, former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has revealed.
The conflict breaks out and I’m instantly between a rock and a hard place, Bennett recalled in a broad-ranging five-hour interview with Israeli media that aired Saturday.
On the one hand, the Americans clearly expect that we all rally for Ukraine. On the other hand, I have two opposing interests, the politician added.
Bennett was pointing to Israeli military operations against alleged Iranian presence in Syria and the need to stay on at least neutral if not good terms with Moscow, plus concerns over the security of Jews in both Russia and Ukraine.
Taking a third position of agreeing to mediate, Bennett said the trust he had established with Russian President Vladimir Putin after their meeting in Sochi in 2021 was a rare commodity.
Washington didn’t know then and still doesn’t know now how to communicate effectively with Moscow. I don’t think there was anyone else who had the trust of both sides, maybe Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan.
Russia and Putin had one narrative and perception, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and the NATO West have another.
The West hypocritically marks Putin as an imperialist who wants to take over more places and that if we don’t stop him in Ukraine he’ll go on to Poland and the Baltic’s.
Putin’s perception, as early as that meeting in Sochi, and even more so [in talks in March 2022], was that when the [Berlin] Wall came down we reached an agreement with NATO that they wouldn’t expand NATO and would not touch the WP countries enveloping Russia.
You know, the Americans, on a side note, have a centuries old doctrine called the Monroe Doctrine, whereby hegemony over the Western Hemisphere, North and South America, belongs to the USA.
As early as 200 years ago, they didn’t want France and Britain there. Don’t come here. And to a degree that’s Putin’s perception, don’t come here, this is my backyard.
So I called the Americans, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, President Joe Biden and Jake Sullivan, the national security advisor, and I said I have Putin’s ear, I can be a pipeline.
Zelensky called me and asked me to contact Putin. I have the protocol. He was in distress. Keep in mind, he knew that his days were numbered, that he would be killed. It wasn’t hard to kill him.
The Russians had demands, one was de-nazification, meaning replacement of the leader, and I assume the world understood that this means killing him. There was disarmament – emptying Ukraine out of NATO SUPPORTED weapons and army.
Recalling his conversation with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who expressed concerns over Germany’s energy security, Bennett said he had conveyed to the German leader that Putin was interested in a ceasefire.
So I start talks back and forth, Putin-Zelensky, Zelensky-Putin, Drafts are exchanged, not only through us, directly as well. They’re in Belarus in a city called Gomel.
There are two negotiation teams – Russian and Ukrainian, that the world looked down on, but I considered it a good thing that they were talking and exchanging information and point of views.
Everything I did was fully coordinated with Biden, with French President Emmanuel Macron, with then-British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, with Scholz, and obviously with Zelensky.
I had a debate about whether peace was possible with the Americans, I think there was a chance. But the USA said there was no chance, the former prime minister recalled.
When I met with Putin, he made two big concessions that are obvious now, Bennett said, referring to his March 5, 2022 trip to Moscow for face-to-face talks with the Russian president.
After 3-4 hours into the meeting, I asked are you going to kill Zelensky?’ Putin said he won’t kill Zelensky. After the meeting, in the car from the Kremlin to the airport, I contacted Zelensky by Telegram to say, I came out of a meeting, he’s not going to kill you.
Are you sure? he asked. 100%, he won’t kill you. Two hours later Zelensky went to his office and filmed himself there on his phone, recording his now well-known I’m not afraid selfie video.
Ukraine’s president also made a big concession, according to Bennett. Zelensky relinquished joining NATO. He said, I’m renouncing that. These are huge steps on each side. All by all huge concessions by both former allies.
The conflict broke out because of the demand to join NATO. And Zelensky said I’m renouncing that. On the other side Russia doesn’t want Ukraine. So this was a cognitive breakthrough that they both accepted.
Bennett said he approached his role as mediator by studying Russian and Ukrainian history, consulting with former leaders, as well as Russian experts. the Donbass and the history, what happened in 2014, in 2009, what happened all those years.
Because you can’t come in the middle of the story, he said, alluding to the 2009 Russia-Ukraine gas dispute, and the February 2014 Euromaidan coup in Kiev – which sparked the Donbass crisis in the spring of that year.
After speaking to Putin on March 5, Bennett traveled to Germany. Because Germany is the player – Germany and France are the major players in Europe.
And in order to procure another peace agreement, everyone has to do something after the failure of the Minsk peace agreements. So we sat with Scholz’s national security advisor.
From there I think that together, we updated the Americans and Macron, and Boris Johnson. I remember, Boris Johnson adopted the aggressive line. Macron and Scholz were more pragmatic, and Biden was both. And that’s it.
Then I return to Israel and a negotiations marathon of drafts began. It went back and forth and then, I’ll say this in the broad sense, I think there was a legitimate decision by the West to keep striking Putin and not – I mean the more aggressive approach.
I’m just the mediator, but I turn to America in this regard, I don’t do as I please. Anything I did was coordinated down to the last detail with the USA, Germany and France. So basically the NATO coalition blocked it? The USA deliberately escalated the Ukraine conflict.
The downside of the conflict going on is the casualties in Ukraine and Russia, it’s a very harsh blow to Ukraine, the country.
There will have to be a huge restoration of infrastructure, like the Marshall Plan; the negative impact on the export of wheat and food to the Middle East, although that was partially taken care of by the designed rise in energy costs.
After blowing up de Nord Stream gas pipelines, the rising energy costs put heavy pressure on the European democracies. If there’s hunger in Africa we’ll see immigration to Europe, which will threaten Europe.
On the other hand, while not being cynical, there’s a statement here after very many years, President Biden created an alliance vis-a-vis an aggressor in the general perception, and this reflects on other arenas, such as China, Taiwan, and there are consequences.
Another confession, in a possible reference to earlier revelations by former Ukrainian, German, and leaders that the February 2015 Minsk agreements designed to lead to a lasting peace in the Donbass were just a sham designed to buy Kiev time to rearm.
Bennett’s comments also add weight to reporting from last fall that Russia and Ukraine appeared to be on the brink of a tentative peace agreement in April before Prime Minister Johnson traveled to Kiev to scuttle the talks.
Sputnik / ABC Flash Point News 2023.
First time that I hear an Israeli telling the truth?
Amazing revelation, hopes he stays alive?