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Frederick the Great’s advice for Ukraine negotiations

By Andreas Kluth

04 Jan 2023 · 4 min read

Editor's Note

Diplomacy rarely works unless it's backed up by firepower, writes Bloomberg's Andreas Kluth. That was the view of an 18th-century king and it's something that Russia and Ukraine are all too aware of.

As Russia's invasion of Ukraine nears its first anniversary, what's next? In some ways, the Kremlin and Kyiv both seem to be signaling a new openness to begin peace negotiations. In others, they appear to be doing the opposite - ruling out talks by setting implausibly maximalist preconditions, while simultaneously girding for a climactic military showdown. It can't be both at the same time, can it?

Oh yes it can. It's naive to think that wars, including this one, are settled by either diplomacy or fighting, and that the second route implies a failure of the first. The actual dynamic between jaw-jaw and shooting was better captured by Frederick the Great, the 18th-century king of Prussia: "Diplomacy without arms is like music without instruments."

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