Historian Niall Ferguson: “In Ukraine, the US is not interested in diplomacy”

In an interview with the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, British historian Niall Ferguson said the United States has chosen a strategy that prolongs the war in Ukraine. These remarks seem quite at odds with the Ferguson character,a professor now at Stanford University, who called himself a “member of the imperialist gang”.

“The Biden administration has embarked on a strategy that aims to prolong the war, in the belief that this will lead to regime change in Russia. Biden’s so-called gaffe was by no means a gaffe: administration members have repeatedly pointed to what I call the cynical but optimistic strategy of prolonging the war and waiting for sanctions to bring Putin down.”

“I find this strategy extraordinarily risky and poorly thought out. If the US used its influence on both Ukraine and Russia to push for a ceasefire, then it would happen: yet the Biden administration does not appear to be involved in diplomacy. This is a serious mistake: and the risks of prolonging the war are far greater than Biden seems to realize. He could be lucky and maybe Putin is really overthrown: but if you bet the future of Ukraine on this outcome, the chances seem terrible to me.”

“There are two reasons to think that the end is in sight and one reason to think not. The reasons for the first scenario are that the Russians clearly have a problem: the poor performance of their forces and the heavy losses they have suffered, coupled with logistical problems that are difficult to solve. So the announcement that they are focusing on the Donbass was not a surprise. The second reason is that Zelensky continues to signal the will to find an agreement based on the neutrality of Ukraine: this is only one of the issues, the territorial ones are more difficult to resolve, because every day that passes the success of the Ukrainian resistance brings down the willingness to make concessions to the Russians. But Zelensky has said several times to exclude entry into NATO and to be open to neutrality, with guarantees of security.”

“Ukraine can be destroyed to the point where it is no longer a sustainable nation, perhaps with ten million refugees. Furthermore, if you threaten Putin with regime change, the chances of him resorting to desperate measures to avoid defeat grow: and those desperate measures include the use of nuclear weapons. He is not Saddam or Gaddafi: he has a larger nuclear arsenal than anyone in the world and it is incredibly irresponsible to speak out about regime change under these circumstances. Putin must be brought to the negotiating table: we must exploit the fact that he is in trouble, not encourage him to take desperate measures”.

“And what would we achieve with regime change in Russia? Even assuming that the result was to our liking, China would benefit from it. The whole American strategy is based on a profound and strategic miscalculation that makes me very nervous for the next few weeks”.

“At the moment Ukraine has achieved a moral victory, because they have not been defeated, but if it still waits, the balance can shift in Russia’s favor: and in this case they can become more aggressive in their territorial demands. We do not want an Eastern and a Western Ukraine, we do not want to repeat the experience of Germany or Korea: the division of Korea has not created a stable situation. We need to think of Ukraine as a kind of Israel in Eastern Europe: not a member of NATO, but supported by the West enough to discourage future aggression. But if the war continues, there is a risk that Russia will conquer more territories before it becomes impossible for Putin to continue hostilities: the reason for an immediate ceasefire is that we must capitalize on Ukraine’s moral victory.”

“Finland is the most obvious example: it functioned as an open and democratic society despite being neutral and having to be on good terms with the USSR. The great mistake of Western politics was to flash the option of joining NATO without really having the intention. If we weren’t honest about it, we should have taken it off the table for some time, as early as 2014, and asked for something in change me from Russia. Instead we are now in the position of having to accept neutrality under pressure, which is much worse, with the possibility of territorial demands which will be very difficult to sell to the Ukrainians. We must now save what we can, and the only way is a Finnish model, which Zelensky has understood: he wants guarantees of security, but if they are not given, the US will be a weak agreement”.

“We shouldn’t be surprised: because the US has been the key to peace in Europe since 1916. At every turning point in European history, it was not the Europeans who brought peace, but the United States: at the end of the First World War , at the end of the second, then with the construction of NATO and after the Cold War also to negotiate German reunification and end the war in Bosnia, which the Europeans could not achieve. We must be realistic: unless the US is committed to peace, it will not happen. And that is why I believe that the Biden Administration is pursuing a very dangerous strategy, which could prolong the war not for weeks, but for months or years.”

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