Neither Putin Nor Zelensky Are Ready for a Deal

AFTER ALL THE ANALYSIS of Vladimir Putin’s mental state, the key to ending this horrific war may be Volodymyr Zelensky, who knows Ukraine can win the battle for Kyiv. So why should he accept a deal any time soon that would hand Russia much of eastern Ukraine?

THE WESTERN MEDIA LOVES ZELENSKY, the charismatic superstar who thinks Ukraine can win this war; he is more reluctant to compromise than generally portrayed. But he’s likely to lose the battle for Muriopol, perhaps within days, and Russia will then slog on this spring toward northern and western Ukraine. Thousands of civilians and troops will die.

WE’VE BELIEVED FOR THE PAST MONTH that the inept Russian Army is incapable of winning this war, and we still think Ukrainian patriots will hold Kyiv. But the toll will be horrific, as Russians bomb civilian targets with increasingly lethal weapons. At what point will this force Zelensky’s hand?

NEGOTIATIONS ARE CONTINUING, with Turkey as the key intermediary. This week’s NATO meetings, with Joe Biden in attendance, will be a pep rally — but the more important development will be negotiations that could result in a deal by the end of this month.

HOW MUCH IS ZELENSKY WILLING TO COMPROMISE? A promise to not join NATO or the European Union — while giving up much of eastern Ukraine — could infuriate many Ukrainians after the sacrifices they have made. A huge majority of Ukrainians think they will win this war; they could sour on Zelensky if he compromises.

WESTERN NATIONS WILL PROVIDE MORE ARMS, but the Russian bombardments — deliberately targeting civilians — will persist. The battle for Kyiv could last for months, with enormous casualties. NATO members understand this, and they want a deal.

BUT WE THINK Russia isn’t ready for a truce — despite huge troop casualties and an imminent economic Depression. And Zelensky isn’t ready for a truce, as Ukraine’s cities are reduced to rubble. It’s an ugly scenario; at what point will Zelensky take what he can get? A deal is unlikely in the next few days.
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THE OTHER NEWS: Hearings begin today on the nomination of Ketanji Brown Jackson to join the Supreme Court. The fiercely ambitious Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), never subtle, will rant that she’s soft on child pornographers, but our sense is that virtually all Democrats and a handful of Republicans will vote for her.

THE OTHER BIG STORY: With surprisingly little publicity, covid and its variants are making a comeback in China and Western Europe. No one wants to deal with this again, but millions of people in the U.S. are still not vaccinated.

Related: What a Ukrainian Peace Deal Might Look Like

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