Negotiations between Russia and Ukraine continue.

Russia has invaded Ukraine. It is deliberately targeting residential buildings and pounding entire cities to rubble.

Excuse me, but how can those two statements co-exist?

If I hold a gun to your families’ head and make demands upon you, that is not negotiation. It’s coercion.

I’ve read that it is acknowledged that Ukraine cannot now join NATO.

What? In one breath, the West explains that it cannot directly intervene to stop Russia, because Ukraine is not a member of NATO, and intervention would therefore risk escalation. In the next, it asserts that Ukraine can’t join NATO, lest it upsets Russia, which would risk escalation. Seriously?

Escalation, however it might happen is really bad news. The worst news. I don’t want it to happen. However, I do not accept that the best way to ensure it doesn’t happen is to allow Putin to do as he pleases.

Let’s assume that Putin is entirely rational and logical. He has marched an army into a neighbouring country, and is slaughtering civilians. We don’t like it, but we’re not going to stop it either. (We repeatedly tell him that.) We’ve implemented sanctions, presumably in the hope that this will prompt some sort of revolution in Russia. Putin himself however, is as rich as Croesus, and I’ve seen no evidence that his wealth has been located. Isolated from the rest of the World, some Russians will rally to the flag. China will try to mould Russia into a shape amenable to China’s ambitions. Would Putin hate that? Logically, no. His ambition is to reestablish the USSR, so looks to Eastern Europe and the Caucus. China looks more to the East.

NATO and the West pitches that the desired outcome is a negotiated settlement. Ukraine won’t join NATO. Russia will keep some territory in the east, and maybe the south. I imagine there’ll be all sorts of agreements and guarantees.

What that actually means, is that Putin will be allowed to regroup. As sanctions lift, he’ll get the money he needs to rebuild and modernise his armed forces. He’ll plan his next campaign, having guaranteed that Ukraine is no longer a viable threat to him or ally to NATO.

Why do I believe that? One: It’s the most logical outcome. Two: He’s told us. Several times.

The single biggest risk of escalation is Putin. While he remains in power, there is a huge risk of escalation, because he will keep launching attacks, knowing that the West’s policy is appeasement, pure and simple. He doesn’t believe that the West will risk escalation by taking him on. He believes that the West is frightened of beating him.

He has a point.

He will not withdraw from Ukraine unless we make him. And we must.