It’s not a small responsibility to assume the leadership of a nation. For

one’s primary duty is to ensure the safety of many people, the great majority of whom may not even have had a say in one’s accession to power.

In return for the privilege of being top person, a leader must be wiser than an owl and craftier than a serpent. Has the Ukrainian President, Mr Zelensky, displayed the leadership qualities that could have saved his nation from the brutal pulverisation to which it has been subjected by Russia?

I do not think so. It is now reported that QUOTE

Ukrainian president Zelensky says Ukraine is ready to accept a neutral status as part of a peace deal with Russia. [He said this] on Sunday [27 March 2022] in an interview with Russian independent journalists.

“Security guarantees, and the neutral, non-nuclear status of our state: we are ready to accept this,” Zelensky said. Zelensky told the journalists that, “this was the first point of principle for the Russian Federation, as I recall. And as far as I remember, they started the war because of this.” UNQUOTE

He did not say that this was a change of position, but specified that “Any agreement would have to be put to the Ukrainian people in a referendum”.

He once again stressed his “desire to reach a concrete peace agreement.” He added:

QUOTE: “So this clause is a security guarantee clause for Ukraine. And since they [the Russians] say it’s for them [security guarantees] as well, it’s understandable to me, and it’s being discussed. It’s in-depth, but I’m interested in making sure it’s not just another piece of paper….”So we’re interested in having that paper turned into a serious treaty to be signed…”The issues of Donbas and Crimea must be discussed and solved” [in peace talks, as well.] UNQUOTE

President Zelensky’s comments came as the Turkish presidency announced that the next round of the talks the Turks have been superintending between Russian and Ukrainian delegates, would be held in the Turkish city of Istanbul on Tuesday, 29 March 2022.

The question is: why hasn’t Mr Zelensky made this offer of Ukrainian “neutrality” until now? It may not have deterred President Vladimir Putin of Russia from invading Ukraine, but Mr Zelensky would have scored more points against Putin had he done so.

It is, in fact, ironical that it is the Turks who are featuring so prominently in efforts to get the Russians and the Ukrainians to try and reach agreement. For it was Turkey which, in 1962, nearly brought a Third World War between the USSR and the USA about. Such a war would have meant the end of the world, of course, since it would have been carried out with thermonuclear weapons. This is how declassified US national security archives describe the situation:

QUOTE “If the Cuban Missile Crisis was the most dangerous passage of the Cold War, the most dangerous moment of the Cuban Missile Crisis was the evening of Saturday, 27 October 1962, when the resolution of the crisis—war or peace—appeared to hang in the balance.

While Soviet ships had not attempted to break the U.S naval blockade of Cuba, Soviet nuclear missile bases remained on the island and were rapidly becoming operational, and pressure on President Kennedy to order an air strike or invasion was mounting, especially after an American reconnaissance plane was shot down over Cuba that Saturday afternoon, and its pilot killed.

Hopes that a satisfactory resolution to the crisis could be reached between Washington and Moscow had dimmed, moreover, when a letter from Soviet leader Nikita S. Khrushchev arrived Saturday morning demanding that the United States agree to remove its Jupiter missiles from Turkey in exchange for a Soviet removal of missiles from Cuba….

On Saturday evening, after a day of tense discussions within the … Executive Committee of senior advisers, President Kennedy decided on a dual strategy—a formal letter to Khrushchev accepting the implicit terms of his October 26 letter (a U.S. non-invasion pledge in exchange for the verifiable departure of Soviet nuclear missiles), coupled with private assurances to Khrushchev that the United States would speedily take out its missiles from Turkey, but only on the basis of a secret understanding, not as an open agreement…. The U.S. president elected to transmit this sensitive message through his brother, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, who met in his office at the Justice Department with Soviet ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin.

That meeting has long been recognized as a turning point in the crisis, but several aspects of it have been shrouded in mystery and confusion. One concerned the issue of the Jupiter missiles in Turkey….

The first important Soviet account of the event to emerge was contained in the tape-recorded memoirs of deposed Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, which were smuggled to the West and published in 1970 (after Khrushchev’s death)….. The second volume of Khrushchev’s memoirs (Khrushchev Remembers: The Last Testament), published posthumously in 1974,… included the flat statement …. that “President Kennedy said that in exchange for the withdrawal of our missiles [from Cuba] he would remove American missiles from Turkey and Italy.” UNQUOTE

If President Zelensky had taken the trouble to become thoroughly acquainted with the secret Russian reports on the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, I doubt whether he would have been playing with fire by making public, his desire to take Ukraine into NATO.

The point is that President Putin is a former KGB officer, who experienced the full rigours of the Cold War when he was stationed in East Germany. When the Soviet Union fell apart in 1991, ex-KGB officers like Putin would have taken it very hard indeed, for they were at the forefront of a very dangerous campaign that could have cost them their lives.

Now, there is an African proverb which says that “There is always blood in the head of a tsetse fly” and to imagine that Putin and hard-boiled intelligence apparatchiks like him, with all their bitter experience of the Cold War, would allow politicians they considered as relative “amateurs”, like Zelensky, to bring NATO right to the doorsteps of Russia, was a terrible mistake.

The fruits of that mistake can be seen on television in news bulletin after news bulletin. Yes, the Ukrainians are putting up a very courageous and even ingenious

battle to safeguard their country’s independence. But isn’t the price too high, in the form of so many men, women and children killed; so many buildings destroyed; and millions of refugees, uprooted from their lives in Ukraine, to seek new and hardship-laden lives in neighbouring countries?

As Carl von Clausewitz says in his “bible” on the origins of war, Vom Kriege ‘War is nothing more than the continuation of politics by other means… For political aims are the end and war is the means, and the means can never be conceived without the end.’

The end, in this (as in many other instances) must be to better the conditions of life of all the inhabitants of a given country – such as Ukraine. 


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