Putin Gave Up a Major Win in Ukraine in Favor of Waging War: Report

A new report suggests that a proposed peace deal between Russia and Ukraine that stipulated that Ukraine not join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was rejected by Russian President Vladimir Putin at the war's inception.

Reuters cited three individuals close to Russian leadership, reporting that an agreement was struck with Kyiv that would have avoided large-scale occupation. Dmitry Kozak, a Ukrainian-born envoy, allegedly made the recommendation to a Putin aide that the offer be agreed upon, thus avoiding a major conflict.

Two of the three Russian sources reportedly told Reuters that a finalized deal was being discussed "immediately" following Russia's February 24 invasion. Kozak felt confident that due to his country's compromise on main terms that a large-scale conflict would be avoided.

"After February 24, Kozak was given carte blanche: They gave him the green light; he got the deal," one of the sources said. "He brought it back and they told him to clear off. Everything was canceled. Putin simply changed the plan as he went along."

The timing was disputed by another source who was told about the events. That source told Reuters that Kozak proposed the deal to Putin but that it was rejected before the invasion occurred.

The reporting has been refuted by Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

"That has absolutely no relation to reality," Peskov reportedly responded. "No such thing ever happened. It is absolutely incorrect information."

Vladimir Putin Ukraine War NATO
Russian President Vladimir Putin is pictured during a video meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow on September 9. A new report alleges that Putin rejected a peace deal with Ukraine that would have avoided a large-scale war. GAVRIIL GRIGOROV/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images

NATO was at the forefront of Putin's mind prior to the invasion, as Putin feared additional European countries in relative proximity to Russia joining the organization.

In June, Finland and Sweden were formally invited to join NATO after submitting applications in May. Igor Zhovkva, deputy head of the office of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, said he sees the possibility of his country joining NATO in light of the Finland and Sweden invitations.

"We have taken note of this possibility," Zhovkva said of the quick process for Sweden and Finland.

In May, Keir Giles, a senior consulting fellow of the Russia and Eurasia Programme at London's Chatham House think tank, told Newsweek that Putin's "military intimidation just demonstrated for [the nations applying for NATO membership] how important it was to be members of the alliance."

Putin told Kozak that Ukraine's concessions "did not go far enough," Reuters reported, and had an opposite effect in that Putin wanted to expand his objectives.

In May, in front of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said, "Russia doesn't want to take on the NATO alliance" due to the capabilities of weaponry and ground forces.

In June, Putin said publicly that NATO, which he described as "a relic of the Cold War," was being used by the United States to influence foreign policy and "keep its client states in rein."

He also admitted that he and Russia gave "them that opportunity" for NATO to expand and become more effective allies.

Kremlin propagandists such as Vladimir Solovyov have increasingly disparaged NATO, blaming the organization for the current situation rather than the Russians themselves.

"It's a war against NATO, a war for our country's survival," Solovyov said in August, adding that Russia liberated some 10 million Ukrainians "from Nazi authorities."

Rose Gottemoeller, NATO's former deputy secretary general, has warned that Russia's desperation may lead to Putin utilizing weapons of mass destruction.

Newsweek reached out to Russia's defense ministry and NATO for comment.