2024: The Big Year in Ukraine


Image: Wikimedia Commons

by Paul Shannon

2024 promises to be a momentous year for the war in Ukraine and the confrontation between NATO and Russia. This year could open up new opportunities for a ceasefire and negotiations or it could lead to a new and even more dangerous escalation of the conflict. That intensification could put the existence of Ukraine at risk and even instigate a more direct confrontation between the US and Russia, with results that no one can predict.

Meanwhile, the war goes on, with the soldiers of both sides dying in vast numbers. (Civilians too, of course, but nothing like the numbers of military casualties). These numbers are so huge for Ukraine that, if the war continues, its male population could be depleted to the point of demographic crisis. On top of this World War I-style trench-warfare, giant barrages of missiles, drones and guided bombs destroy infrastructure and life on a daily basis.

It certainly appears that Ukraine’s summer and fall offensive has failed to breach Russian lines of defense in any significant way, despite the mobilization of NATO military, intelligence, economic and propaganda resources in support of Ukraine. The official Washington and NATO assessment is that the war is at a stalemate. But other voices in the US which have been silenced by political, military and media elites say that Russia has not only stopped the Ukraine offensive but has moved on to its own, limited, offensive and will soon be in a position for a general offensive to take more of Ukraine’s territory, whether or not Biden finds the billions he seeks for more weapons.

As 2023 was coming to an end, we heard more and more rumors that back-channel efforts are underway to get negotiations going. There does seem to be growing sentiment around the world in favor of negotiation. And the decreasing enthusiasm in the US for fighting the war “as long as it takes” – in addition to the unfavorable military situation on the ground, the continuing horror of death and destruction, and the refusal (so far) by Republicans to send tens of billions more to keep the war going – could also move the needle in the direction of a negotiated settlement.

What all this means for us is that 2024 presents peace advocates with the best opportunity yet to emerge from the sidelines and go all out in support of ceasefire and negotiations. (Remember though that Biden, his whole administration and most Democrats in Congress have staked their credibility – and perhaps the next election – on a Ukrainian military victory.)

Would Russia agree to good faith negotiations? Over the past two months we have been treated to the revelation that Ukraine and Russia had actually come to an agreement to end the war just a month after Russia invaded in early 2022. The agreement called for a ceasefire and a peace agreement based on Ukraine renouncing plans to join NATO and embracing neutrality instead, and on Russia withdrawing its troops and agreeing to Ukraine’s territorial integrity except for Crimea. Zelensky fully supported the agreement. It is now clear that it was the US and the UK who wrecked the agreement, pressuring Zelensky to back out and continue the war with full NATO support – or to go ahead with the agreement and lose that support. Washington and London did not want a sensible peace. They wanted to continue the war in order to “weaken” Russia. As a result, Ukraine suffered hundreds of thousands of casualties, has lost much of its population to emigration, and is in danger of losing the Donbass and other parts of the country.

Would Russia now agree to a ceasefire and a “reasonable” peace agreement? We don’t know, but we will only know what’s possible once there is a ceasefire and those negotiations that began in March 2022 can resume. We dare not squander this opportunity to bring peace to the region.

Let’s get to work. Please join MAPA’s campaign: Ukraine – A Time for Peace.

– Paul Shannon is a Board member of Mass. Peace Action and chair of the “Ukraine: A Time for Peace” campaign.