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What are the chances for peace in Ukraine?

by M von der Schulenbert, A Lieven and H Neuber
There must be another way to peace. But there can only be if we stop believing that only weapons or the annexation of foreign territories can bring peace; if we accept that the world does not belong only to the West, that there will be no single world power, the USA, and that the expansion of NATO does not contribute to stability in Europe.
What are the chances for peace in Ukraine?
by Michael von der Schulenburg
[This article posted on 1/7/2023 is translated from the German on the Internet, Wie stehen die Chancen um einen Frieden in der Ukraine?.]

Peace in Ukraine depends on Russia and the United States. For them it is about geostrategic goals. What can persuade Washington to agree to a peace settlement with Russia.

Not the war, but what led to the war must be solved

The war in Ukraine is the result of a U.S. attempt to build a security order in Europe after the end of the Cold War through NATO, which it dominates, and to the exclusion of Russia. In the process, concerns about Europe's security hardly played a role for the United States.

It was and is almost exclusively about the geostrategic goal of the U.S. to maintain its position, gained after the end of the Cold War, as the sole dominant global superpower. The accession of Ukraine and Georgia to NATO would be the crowning achievement of this eastward expansion of NATO, which has been underway since 1994.

Through such a NATO expansion, the U.S. would gain military control of Russia's entire southwestern border and thus be able to oust the country from the strategically so important Black Sea and from its traditional spheres of influence in Central Asia. Thus, nuclear power Russia would be largely eliminated as an unwelcome strategic competitor.

The U.S., a country located more than 8,000 kilometers from Ukraine on another continent, could exert pressure on the entire Asian region, including China, through forward military bases in Ukraine and influence the trade and economic relations between Asia and Europe, which have gained greatly in importance.

Thus, the U.S. is pursuing its own power-political goals and not altruistic humanitarian goals in Ukraine. Ukraine has become a theater of war for geopolitical interests only because of its strategic location between Europe and Asia. In a peace settlement, therefore, the actual Ukrainian interests are likely to play only a subordinate role, despite all public expressions of solidarity.
Michael von der Schulenburg

There can only be real peace in Ukraine and thus also in Europe if it becomes possible to establish a new security structure in Europe that is largely independent of NATO, in order to create a common European house without dividing lines, as called for in the OSCE Paris Charter of 1990. This would only be possible with a European security structure that includes Russia. However, the current prospects for this are extremely poor.

Ukraine, although repeatedly advanced by the West, is certainly not in a position to conduct independent peace negotiations with Russia. It does not control any of the geopolitical interests of the U.S. and Russia (and to some extent China) that are being fought out in this war. Moreover, Ukraine is far too dependent on Western, especially U.S., financial and military support to take an independent position.
Who can negotiate peace with Russia?

Only the U.S. would be able to do so; the European Union is too divided and weak to take a step toward a negotiated peace with Russia. How much this war is a war of the USA was recently shown by the visit of President Volodymyr Selenskyj to Washington; Selenskyj simply flew over Europe.

The USA and the war for power

U.S. geopolitical interest in Ukraine dates back to the period after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and the collapse of the Soviet Union in late 1991. This also ended any attempt in Europe to create a balancing security structure that would include Russia, the now significantly weakened successor state to the Soviet Union. The hope of the Paris Charter for a common, peaceful Europe was thus dead.

The collapse of the Soviet Union was seen as the victory of a superior Western as well as liberal democratic system; the world would now turn into a democracy led by the United States. If until then the USA had only been the leading nation of Western states, it would now become the leading power of the whole world.

This goal seemed realistic at the time, since Russia had sunk into the chaos of the Yeltsin years and China, like India, was economically and militarily irrelevant. NATO, which is not mentioned at all in the Paris Charter, now had the sole task of becoming the military protagonist of a world dominated by the USA. Ukraine was already assigned a central role at that time.

As early as 1997, NATO signed a strategic partnership agreement with Ukraine. What initially sounded quite innocent, however, led to NATO membership becoming the goal of all subsequent U.S. presidents.

Despite all of Russia's protests and threats, this goal was pursued with increasing aggressiveness. This culminated in 2014 with the U.S.-organized and $5 billion-financed violent (and illegal under international law) overthrow of democratically elected Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and the installation of a pro-Western government under Petro Poroshenko. The stage was thus set for Ukraine's incorporation into NATO.

Russia responded by annexing Crimea and supporting the independence of the Donbass. Whereupon the West began a massive military buildup of the Ukrainian army. Thus, a kind of latent war between the U.S. and Russia for influence in Ukraine had begun.

After the announcement at the NATO summit in June 2021 that Ukraine's membership would now go ahead, the situation escalated and led to Russia's military intervention. All of this was and is solely about NATO expansion, and there will be no peace until this is resolved diplomatically.

This also explains why the U.S. vehemently opposes any peace settlement that includes neutrality for Ukraine. As recently as December 2021, the U.S. refused to negotiate Ukraine's NATO accession with Russia, and in March 2022, NATO torpedoed Ukrainian-Russian peace talks that envisioned a neutral Ukraine.

Even now, the U.S. is rejecting peace talks with Russia on Ukraine's future status. Is the U.S. thus accepting the suffering of the Ukrainian people and the successive destruction of Ukraine for its geostrategic goals?

The European Union, the war and impotence

The war in Ukraine is a disgrace for Europe and especially for the EU. Despite the fact that this is a war being fought on the European continent between two European states, and despite the fact that this conflict had been brewing for the past 30 years with ever-increasing tensions, the EU did nothing to find a diplomatic solution to prevent the war. The EU degraded itself to a willing follower of the USA and became a complicit party in this war.

Europe will now have to bear the consequences, by slipping into political irrelevance, by losing access to raw materials, by blocking the land bridge to the lucrative markets of Asia, and ultimately by devaluing its economic base and making billions in transfer payments to Ukraine over the coming years.

Previous attempts by European states to mediate in the Ukraine conflict have regularly failed due to European disunity and U.S. resistance. An attempt by the foreign ministers of Germany, France, and Poland to mediate the 2014 Maidan Square riots was ignored; the violent overthrow of the pro-Russian president occurred just hours later.

"Fuck the EU" was Victoria Nuland's response; she is now U.S. Deputy Secretary of State. Even the Minsk I and Minsk II agreements, negotiated by Germany and France, were never implemented; it was impossible for the EU to exert pressure.

The powerlessness of the EU became clear once again when the Nord Stream pipelines 1 and 2 were blown up. The war in Ukraine is also an economic war of the USA against a Europe that is too much oriented towards the East, especially towards Russia and China.

The tragedy for Ukraine is that this has created a situation in which it cannot negotiate peace itself, in which the EU is too weak and disunited to negotiate peace, and the U.S. believes itself to be in such a strong position that it has no reason to seek a negotiated peace with Russia.
Nevertheless, what could motivate the U.S. to seek a negotiated peace with Russia?

But that could change. The U.S. strategy to force Russia to surrender in Ukraine is built on the belief of its superior weapons systems, its better military intelligence, and ultimately its much stronger economic power. However, this strategy has three weaknesses that could lead to U.S. compliance:

Ukraine, not Russia, could break first

In the Ukraine war, the U.S. and other NATO countries are supplying the weapons and ammunition, but the Ukrainians are paying with their blood. It is a typical proxy war, the success of which will depend on the extent to which Ukraine can sustain it. Although Russia has also been hit hard by this war, it seems more likely that Ukraine will break first. And this is not just because of the military situation.

The war is taking place exclusively on Ukrainian soil. That means that not only Russian weapons, but also all weapons supplied by the West are helping to destroy the country. Meanwhile, this destruction has reached catastrophic proportions.

Even before the war, Ukraine was one of the poorest countries in Europe. Living conditions for the vast majority of Ukrainians without electricity and water must be indescribably harsh, especially now in winter. There is hardly any functioning economy left and the country has lost vital access to the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea.

The West's financial support for the now almost bankrupt Ukrainian state will probably never be able to cover its financial needs. For example, the EU has promised to pay 1.5 billion euros a month for 2023, while the Ukrainian government had requested between five and nine billion a month.

The rifts between the western and eastern parts of the country, between Ukrainians loyal to Ukraine and those loyal to Russia, must have become even deeper today, perhaps even unbridgeable. This war has always had aspects of a civil war, with Donbass militias from eastern Ukraine fighting Azov brigades from western Ukraine.

This is now compounded by legal restrictions on Russian language and culture in the public sphere, the closure of Russian-language television and radio stations, the banning of all Russian-speaking political parties, police searches of over 300 Russian Orthodox monasteries, the announcement of the banning of the Russian Orthodox Church, and ultimately the assassinations of suspected collaborators.

Ukraine suffers from a highly unstable population structure. Since its independence in 1991, the population has declined by 20 percent, a trend that has certainly been exacerbated by this war. According to UN figures, some eight million Ukrainians have fled the country since the outbreak of the war, another number that could increase as a result of a harsh winter. In addition, there are about seven million internally displaced persons in Ukraine, and another six to seven million Ukrainians now live in Russian-controlled areas.

Under these conditions, a situation could arise in which further Western arms deliveries could do little. Perhaps for this reason, the highest-ranking U.S. general, Marc Milley, has come out in favor of immediate peace negotiations, in contradiction to President Biden's stated policy of holding out. The U.S. may one day feel compelled to pull the ripcord to prevent a collapse of the Ukrainian state.

U.S. conflict with China intensifies

China, not Russia, is increasingly seen in the U.S. as the great adversary of the future. As the conflict between the U.S. and China grows in ferocity and danger, the war in Ukraine could drag on for a long time without bringing a military decision.

This may lead to a situation where the U.S. concludes that it cannot afford a conflict with Russia and China at the same time. The U.S. decision in this case could amount to ending the expensive but unpromising conflict with Russia.

Public opinion in Western countries is increasingly turning against the war

In almost all Western countries, including the U.S., popular support for further arms deliveries is declining, albeit slowly. In many countries, there is already a majority in favor of a diplomatic solution. The economic impact will most likely exacerbate this trend.

With a continuing war, the currently very one-sided reporting in most Western media is also likely to change. Reports on the high cost of this war and on the billions in monthly transfer payments to Ukraine will increase. This will also bring critical reports about uncontrollable corruption, the illegal resale of weapons and the lack of transparency about the use of the transfer payments into the public eye.

Even before the war, Ukraine was one of the most corrupt countries in Europe, a circumstance that is likely to worsen in times of war. And there could increasingly be reports of Ukrainian war crimes as well - in a war, no side stays clean. Public opinion in the West could change and increasingly reject the constant demands of the Ukrainian government. This would then make a war unwinnable.

The peace dilemma

The arguments listed here are purely power-political considerations, as major powers commonly do. Understanding this would be important. But they also show the whole perversion of this war and the dilemma that every peace movement faces. For no one should hope that it will take the destruction of Ukraine to negotiate peace, and no one should wish for an aggravation of the conflict with China, which increases the risk of another war, in order to finally reach a peace agreement in Ukraine.

It would also be disastrous for the suffering people of Ukraine should public opinion in the West turn against Ukraine. They will need Western support for a very long time to come - even and especially in peacetime.

There must be another way to peace. But there can only be if we stop believing that only weapons or the annexation of foreign territories can bring peace; if we accept that the world does not belong only to the West, that there will be no single world power, the USA, and that the expansion of NATO does not contribute to stability in Europe.

Since states fail here, only a strengthening peace movement from Lisbon to Vladivostok can achieve something. But this peace movement does not exist - at least not yet.

Michael von der Schulenburg, former Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations, worked for the UN and OSCE for over 34 years. This included long-term assignments in Haiti, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, and Sierra Leone, as well as shorter assignments in Syria, the Balkans, Somalia, the Sahel, and Central Asia. In 2017, he published the book On Building Peace: Rescuing the Nation-state and Saving the United Nations.

This text is a revised version for Telepolis of a speech he gave at the Kassler Friedensratschlag on Dec. 11, 2022.


Three scenarios: Where the Ukraine war could lead in 2023
by Anatol Lieven
[This article posted on 1/12/2013 is translated from the German on the Internet,]

Ukrainian soldiers in the trenches.

Military gains and losses will determine how the conflict unfolds. The most likely three scenarios are associated with problems and dangers. What to watch out for.

As in any war, the most important factor in the future course of the Ukraine conflict will ultimately be what happens on the battlefield. There are essentially three possibilities, each of which would entail a number of potential consequences: a Ukrainian breakthrough, a Russian breakthrough, and a stalemate roughly equivalent to the current military front lines.

Given the increasing numbers of Russian forces entrenched along shortened front lines with massive artillery support, it will be a major challenge for the Ukrainian army to achieve a breakthrough. Nonetheless, the Ukrainians have amazed the world so many times since the Russian invasion began that further victories cannot be ruled out.

Anatol Lieven is senior research fellow for Russia and Europe at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft.

Should Ukrainian forces succeed in breaking through to the Sea of Azov as well as isolating Crimea or retaking much of the separatist region in eastern Donbass that Russia has supported since 2014, it is likely that Russia would threaten and possibly carry out a drastic escalation in response.

This could begin with symbolic bombing (with conventional missiles) of NATO air bases or supply lines in Poland or Romania. In any case, the Kremlin would thereby aim to increase the possibility of a slide into nuclear war between Russia and the United States.

Such a Russian attack would most likely result in a limited U.S. military response commensurate with the attack (e.g., bombing a Russian base in the occupied part of Ukraine). However, given the threat of nuclear war, influential voices in the United States and Europe would also likely call for a cease-fire in Ukraine.

Their argument would be that Kiev has won a sufficient victory in which it has recaptured almost all of the territory it lost since the Russian invasion in February 2022 (though not most of the territory occupied by Russia and its allies there since 2014). It would be easier for the West to propose a cease-fire if another Russian defeat led to the fall of President Putin, as that would then be seen as a major Western and Ukrainian success.

In such a scenario, however, with Ukraine on the path to complete victory, cease-fire efforts would face fierce opposition from the Ukrainian government, certain NATO members, including Poland and the Baltic states, and key segments of the U.S. political establishment and media. The outcome of such a crisis escalation is therefore impossible to predict. However, the risk of an escalation into an all-out war between NATO and Russia would be extremely high.

Military developments in the Ukraine war

Course of the front on February 26, 2022

A Russian offensive leading to a victorious breakthrough does not seem to be planned at the moment, apart from limited advances to capture the town of Bachmut in the western Donbass. All indications are that Russian forces want to secure their existing lines to prevent further Ukrainian successes such as the recapture of the eastern part of Kharkiv region and the city of Kherson.

However, if the Ukrainian army suffers heavy losses in failed offensives over the next few months and depletes its ammunition supplies and armored vehicles, then a successful Russian counteroffensive may well be possible.
The pitfalls of a cease-fire without real peace negotiations

According to Western intelligence estimates, Ukrainian and Russian casualties are roughly equal-with Russia having three and a half times the population of Ukraine. In the early months of the war, Russia's numerical advantage was eroded by the Putin regime's unwillingness (for domestic political reasons) to send conscripts into the field and mobilize reservists. This shortfall is now being addressed by the conscription of 300,000 additional soldiers (albeit of very questionable quality).

Russia also produces far more artillery shells than Ukraine manufactures or receives from the West. However, it is not clear to what extent increased U.S. production can make up for this shortfall in the coming months.

However, given the record to date and the continuing constraints in terms of troop strength, tanks, and ammunition, there is no realistic chance that a Russian breakthrough could lead to the capture of Kiev. It is not even remotely likely that Russia could take Kharkiv. Russia's withdrawal from the Kherson region to the eastern left bank of the Dnieper River makes an offensive against the Ukrainian Black Sea ports of Mykolaiv and Odessa virtually impossible.

However, if Russia were to capture the entire Donbass region and reinforce the land bridge to Crimea, it is very likely that Putin would then claim that the main Russian objectives (set at the beginning of the invasion) had been achieved. Moscow could then offer a cease-fire and peace talks without preconditions.

Such a Russian offer would at the same time open up deep rifts within the West, on the one hand, and between Western countries and Ukraine, on the other. For with the possibility of a Ukrainian victory now remote and the prospect of a never-ending war, many in the West would argue that a cease-fire is the best offer Ukraine could ever receive.

This line of argument would be strengthened by the fact that only a stable cease-fire would end Russia's destruction of Ukraine's infrastructure and allow Ukraine and its partners to begin the long and very costly process of rebuilding Ukraine's economy to further Kiev's hopes of joining the European Union.

This may also resonate with some pragmatic Ukrainians who believe that a cease-fire and associated economic growth could allow Ukraine to bolster its military to resume the war at a later date-something that is very difficult to do right now because of Russia's attacks on the Ukrainian economy.

Those in Ukraine and the West who oppose a Russian-proposed cease-fire would naturally argue that it would allow Moscow to build up its own forces for a future new war. However, this argument would lose traction if Russia publicly declared that they had achieved their war aims.

If neither side achieves a breakthrough, there is the prospect of an indefinite and bloody stalemate. It would exist along the current battle lines and in many ways would be reminiscent of the Western Front in World War I. The question would then be how long it would take - and how many people would have to die - before both sides were exhausted and decided that there was no point in continuing the fight.

The stage would then be set for an unstable cease-fire of the kind that has prevailed between India and Pakistan in Kashmir for most of the last 75 years. It would ultimately be a version of the 2015-2022 ceasefire in the Donbass at an elevated level. Such a ceasefire would be accompanied by peace negotiations, but also by periodic explosions of violence and possibly major phases of war.

Certainly, a cease-fire would be better than the current massive bloodshed in Ukraine. But unless it is backed by successful negotiations aimed at reaching an agreement or trying to minimize armed tensions, it further contains a number of negative elements: the potential for new wars, not only in Ukraine but also between Russia and other former Soviet states; the difficulty of rebuilding Ukraine, and moving forward on the road to the European Union; the impossibility for the West to even begin to restore its cooperative relationship with Russia; and the likelihood that Russia, China, and Iran will cooperate more.

The article by Anatol Lieven is published in cooperation with the U.S. magazine Responsible Statecraft and can be found there in the original English. Translation by David Goeßmann.

Anatol Lieven is Senior Research Fellow for Russia and Europe at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. Previously, he was a professor at Georgetown University in Qatar and at the Department of War Studies at King's College London. He is a member of the advisory committee of the South Asia Division of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Lieven is the author of several books on Russia and its neighboring countries, including "Baltic Revolution: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and the Path to Independence" and "Ukraine and Russia: A Fraternal Rivalry."


Call for the dissolution of NATO? Now? Is it permissible to do so?
by Harald Neuber
[This article posted on 1/4/2023 is translated from the German on the Internet, Die Auflösung der Nato fordern? Jetzt? Darf man das?]

Ukraine? No. Novi Sad on the Danube during Nato attacks in 1999.(Image source).

Topics of the day: Showdown in the Rhenish coalfield. In Berlin, Russian assets are to be collected. And in journalism, one must not shy away from controversy.

Dear readers,

1. the North Rhine-Westphalian town of Lützerath is being cleared.

2. Russian assets are confiscated for Ukraine.

3. Telepolis to criticize NATO. Debate breadth and journalism.

But in turn.
Clear Rhenish villages

Telepolis author Wolfgang Pomrehn today looks at the battle for the depopulated village of Lützerath in the Rhenish coalfield. He says that the police have begun to "build up preparatory measures for the upcoming evacuation and deconstruction of Lützerath." Barricades had been cleared from the access road. Pomrehn continued:

The alliance "All villages remain" also expresses doubts about the legality of the general order of the district of Heinsberg for the eviction of Lützerath. This is based on a possibly unconstitutional federal law, it says in a press release. Specifically, the issue is paragraph 48 of the Act on the Reduction and Termination of Coal-fired Power Generation, which stipulates the necessity of the Garzweiler II open pit mine in terms of energy policy and the energy industry.

Seizing Russian money

The end of the war in Ukraine is still a long way off, but Western countries have been discussing the reconstruction of the devastated country for some time, Telepolis author Bernd Müller writes today: "As the financial service Bloomberg reported on Tuesday, the German government is open to using frozen Russian assets for this purpose - if the legal issues are clarified and the allies follow suit.

But positions within the German government diverge significantly, according to the report, with talk of "internal tensions." The reason for this is that the issue is complex, and the Greens in particular are pushing with particular zeal for a tough approach to Russia - apparently without giving much thought to the consequences.

Turning the world economy upside down

A recent analysis by U.S. investment bank Morgan Stanley, "India's Impending Economic Boom," has been enthusiastically received on the subcontinent - especially by the U.S.-oriented business elite, writes Telepolis author Uwe Kerkow.

The Times of India reported that India's gross national income could more than double from the current $3.5 trillion to $7.5 trillion before the end of the decade. This would make India the third largest economy in the world - after the USA and China and ahead of Japan and Germany.

However, for this to happen, the Indian economy would have to continue to grow uninterruptedly at least at the current rapid pace (6.9 percent). Over the last ten years, economic growth has averaged 5.5 percent, which is still very solid.

Why we stand by a Nato-critical article

In the midst of Russia's war against Ukraine, calling for the dissolution of NATO - is it permissible? A commentary to that effect by British activist Kate Hudson prompted some reader letters at Telepolis at the end of December. One reader, for example, saw a "poorly founded opinion"; he attested to Ms. Hudson being "catastrophically wrong" and taking positions close to those of the AfD.

We have noted these reactions with interest. However, they are not new. Since the beginning of the Russian attack on Ukraine, peace policy positions have had a hard time. At the same time, criticism of Western actors who contributed to the escalation is by no means coming only from illusionary small groups, but from established diplomats and security policy makers. But they often can't venture out of hiding until they are emeritus or out of office. Here is an example, followed this week on Telepolis by another article by former German OSCE diplomat Michael von der Schulenburg.

In any case, Hudson referred to the genesis of the conflict and countered the widely held view that NATO provides something of a counterweight to Russia and other bad guys. She explained how the concept of "out-of-area" operations contributed to this on 1999. She elaborated how NATO, as a nuclear military alliance, has contributed precisely not to nuclear disarmament, but to the armament of fomenting global conflicts without need. The author outlined how the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is fueling the next conflicts with China.

Two observations seem important at this point. First, the reference to "AfD positions" is typically German. What, for instance, should Hudson and U.S. representatives have to do with German right-wing oppositionists? The comparison rather reveals a limited German horizon of experience, understanding and interpretation. A blanket devaluation with deliberate suppression of any arguments. In Corona times, this was called "gibberish". The main thing is not to deal with arguments.

On the other hand, the media and political debate about the Ukraine war is far more open and pluralistic in the Anglo-American world than in Germany. Hudson's positions are also widely shared in the U.S. political mainstream, noted Telepolis editor David Goeßmann, who reviewed the text.

The assessment, he said, is shared by leading diplomats and foreign policy makers, for example. Former U.S. envoy to the Soviet Union Jack F. Matlock Jr. and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger warned against NATO expansion and the inclusion of Ukraine.

George Kennan's reaction (he was an influential U.S. diplomat, his name is associated with Marshall Plan and containment policies, among others) to the U.S. Senate's ratification of NATO's eastward expansion in 1998, which extended to Russia's borders, was, "I think this is the beginning of a new Cold War (...) I think the Russians are going to begin to be quite hostile (...) I think it's a tragic mistake. There was no reason for the enlargement (...). Of course, there will be a damaging reaction from Russia, and then [the NATO enlargementists] will say we've always told you that the Russians are like that - but that's just wrong."
David Goessmann on the debate

Many notable analysts in the United States, he said, had repeatedly warned Washington forcefully that it was reckless and unnecessarily provocative to ignore the security concerns raised by Russia, including current CIA Director William Burns and his predecessor Stansfield Turner, even hawks like Paul Nitze, in fact almost the entire diplomatic corps in the United States that knows about Russia.

Journalistically, the text, which first appeared in our partner magazine "World Trends," was scrutinized on the basis of usual questions: Does the author make a clean argument? Yes, obviously. Is her position relevant? Yes, because Hudson is secretary general of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (UK) and a board member of the International Peace Bureau. Is she justifying the Russian war? No, she writes unequivocally that Russia started the war.

Sure, Hudson's position is controversial. One could also offer government-funded lobbyists like former Green Party politician Ralf Fücks space for a de facto column without disclosing his conflicts of interest, as a major German news magazine does. That would be less controversial. But also less journalistic.

Related Article:

Kate Hudson: When, if not now: Why NATO should be disbanded
Bernhard Gulka: A new era for Russia
Harald Neuber: "Putin and Lavrov should have gone to the UN".
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