History shows that no ceasefire or treaty with Russia can be trusted


As the Russian invasion of Ukraine approaches its second anniversary, several international observers are beginning to question how the war will end. Some have argued that Ukraine cannot win. Others believe that the war is heading toward a stalemate. Still others have claimed that aid to Ukraine is too expensive, and these individuals want the international community to scale back its assistance efforts to this Eastern European state.

Given these misguided and misinformed takes, this crowd has called for Ukraine to be forced into a peace agreement with Russia to stop the fighting. They believe that a ceasefire would save lives. They also think that this would end the war. Finally, they assume the ceasefire would be upheld.

These assumptions, however, are all incorrect. If Ukraine is forced to sign a ceasefire agreement with Russia, then history suggests that the Russian Federation will just wait for the international community to shift its focus elsewhere before regrouping its forces and launching another invasion. This would lead to an even greater, more devastating conflict in Europe.

This is not a farfetched scenario. Over the past few decades, Russia has repeatedly violated ceasefires and treaties, to the point that it simply cannot be trusted to honor any commitment. Nothing in Russia’s behavior suggests that it is trustworthy or would uphold agreements with Ukraine. In fact, history has shown otherwise.

Take, for example, the Minsk Agreements. During the first Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2014, Russian forces entered the Donbas and occupied parts of Luhansk and Donetsk. A few months later, Ukraine and Russia met with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to resolve the conflict. The Minsk Agreements represented an attempt to “provide a peaceful resolution” to the Donbas conflict.

For years, Ukrainian and Russian representatives met with members of the OSCE to discuss the situation. They focused on de-escalation in the region. Russia, however, constantly broke the ceasefires. The Russian Federation refused to withdraw its troops and military equipment from the Russian-occupied regions in the Donbas, and this resulted in greater tensions. By February 2022, Russia had broken the protocols entirely. It declared the Russian-occupied regions in eastern Ukraine as autonomous and, three days later, launched its full-scale invasion.

Nor was the Donbas conflict the first one where Russia flagrantly violated a ceasefire to which it had earlier agreed. During the Russo-Georgia War in August 2008, Russia invaded the Georgian provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Hundreds were killed and many more were wounded in the conflict. When the Russian Federation occupied these Georgian territories, Georgia called on assistance from the international community. A ceasefire was brokered, but then Russia broke it by failing to withdraw from the Russian-occupied regions in Georgia. Russia continues to occupy Abkhazia and South Ossetia to this day, a testimony to its lack of concern or respect for ceasefires.

Beyond ceasefires, Russia has broken several norms set by international organizations to which it is bound. For example, according to Article 2, Section 4 in the United Nations Charter, “all members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.” Russia has violated this part of the UN Charter repeatedly, by invading Georgia in 2008 and then Ukraine in 2014 and 2022. As punishment, Russia was suspended from the UN Human Rights Council, but this wasn’t even a slap on the wrist.

Other international organizations have also punished Russia for violating their rules. For example, the Parliamentary Assembly for the Council of Europe is an organization that seeks to “uphold human rights, democracy, and the rule of law across the continent.” When Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, PACE ruled that it would exclude the Russian Federation. Other groups, such as FIFA, the Union of European Football Associations, and the International Olympics Committee, have suspended Russia’s membership as well due to the invasion of Ukraine.

Finally, aside from breaking ceasefires and violating the charters of international organizations, Russia has broken multiple international treaties. For example, the Russian Federation violated the New START Treaty in 2023 by refusing to allow on-site inspections of nuclear arms. The Russian Federation also rejected a request by the U.S. to discuss compliance concerns in regard to this treaty.

Similarly, the Russian Federation was found in violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty by fielding “multiple battalions of an illegal missile that flies to ranges prohibited by the INF Treaty.” The Russians denied these claims, but also refused to cease these operations when asked.

Finally, and most recently, Russia withdrew from the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe. The agreement places comprehensive limits on certain types of conventional military equipment in Europe. When asked why it withdrew, Russian officials said that the treaty was “not catering to Russia’s interests.” This decision is reckless and will lead to further fragile relations between Russia and Europe.

Overall, the Russian Federation has a history of violating numerous ceasefires, international organizations’ agreements, and treaties. The pattern suggests that the Russian Federation has no regard for international norms and regulations and therefore no credibility in making agreements.

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Ukraine therefore cannot afford to be forced into a ceasefire with Russia. History has shown that Russia has no regard for such agreements. One could even say they do not cater to Ukraine’s interests.

The only way to end the Russo-Ukraine war is with Russia’s defeat. As history shows, any other outcome will only lead to further death and destruction in Europe and Ukraine.

Mark Temnycky is an accredited freelance journalist covering Eurasian affairs and a nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center. 

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