Peace could and can be built. It depends on political will.
The destruction and humanitarian catastrophe continue in Ukraine. The media omit that there are viable solutions and that rich countries, particularly the US, play a key role. Russia is guilty of initiating and prolonging a criminal and bloody invasion, but the US and, to a lesser extent, Europe also bear responsibility for the gestation and resolution of this war. The end of the war depends on Putin achieving his goals by force, on his military defeat… or on the US agreeing to negotiate viable solutions with Russia.
What are the options for stopping the war and resolving the underlying conflict diplomatically?
Noam Chomsky has said that “this is the most dangerous yet easiest conflict to resolve”. The options are known. One starting point is the Minsk II agreements. They were agreed by Russia and Ukraine under the auspices of the OSCE with the mediation of France and Germany and were unanimously approved at the UN. The participating countries as well as the US and the UK have been in favour of working along these lines at some point, but have not advanced in their implementation and even prevented it, especially the US, who did not participate in the negotiations.
Minsk II has 13 points, among which the following can be highlighted: bilateral ceasefire, withdrawal of Russian troops, disarmament of all illegal groups, restoration of sovereignty and control of Ukraine’s borders and constitutional reform for decentralisation with a high degree of autonomy for Donetsk and Lugansk. This last point is precisely the most contentious. Zelensky opposes the autonomous government of Donbas and Putin could achieve its annexation by military means.
On the other hand, both Russia and Ukraine have agreed to negotiate over Crimea and there is not much to discuss in this regard. Both countries have also made peace proposals based on a neutral status for Ukraine, i.e., outside the military orbit of both Russia and NATO. Such an agreement would require a commitment of non-aggression by Russia and, possibly, another commitment by the US and European countries to defend Ukraine in case of aggression (these countries have not accepted this possibility for the time being). In addition, it could include Ukraine’s entry into the EU, something that has been accepted by Ukraine and Russia. The main obstacle is the USA, which is opposed to negotiating on Ukraine’s renunciation of NATO membership.
Minsk II and Ukraine’s neutrality can serve as a starting point on which further agreements can be reached. It should be recalled that Zelensky came to office with a promise and mandate to build peace. Russia does not seem interested in an indefinite prolongation of the war with the risk of Ukraine becoming another Afghanistan. Europe and the Global South would benefit from more peaceful relations with Russia.
Johan Galtung, the founder of Peace Studies, also proposes prudent language identity policies, regional fiscal policies, import-export regulations between Russia and the EU, NATO moderation and reinstatement of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, a key issue for Russia after the US abandoned the treaty in 2019. Currently, the only limit to nuclear armament is set by the Russia-US START III agreement at 700 ballistic systems with a range of more than 5,500 kilometres and 1,550 warheads for each country.
Weeks before the invasion, peace activist and researcher Vicenç Fisas submitted a concrete proposal to the European diplomacy. This proposal is based on the principle of shared security to establish non-offensive and non-provocative defence programs, recovering the spirit of the 1975 CSCE and the 1994 OSCE Code of Conduct on Politico-Military Aspects of Security. Signers would agree to progressively implement confidence-building measures aimed at demilitarisation, non-aggression, non-threat and non-enemy relations. Appropriate mechanisms would be established to involve the different actors in their design. The agreements would be binding and would be incorporated into all the legislation of the OSCE member countries.
The proposal was left unanswered, but it is still valid and is in line with other proposals such as those of the International Crisis Group or the IMEMO, Russia’s most important international think tank, whose president signed it together with an American diplomat and former advisor to Barack Obama. Propaganda flows unidirectionally from ruling elites to the people through the media, is deaf to alternative ways of viewing the conflict and unresponsive to peaceful solutions.
Achieving peace is bound to involve difficult negotiations, but Putin may be interested in reaching an agreement. Maybe not, but diplomacy can at least be attempted. There is an opportunity to reach a cease-fire through and for the construction of a more just and less warmongering world order. For the time being, the strategy of the global superpower is not to negotiate and favour the escalation of war. As developed in the next article of the series, propaganda presents the West as being on the right side of history by minimising its responsibility in the conflict and neglecting the possibilities of building peace, thus actually favouring the prolongation of the war and an increase in the death toll.
The next article in this series of six will be published on Tuesday 5 July 2022.
(Featured Image: “File:Volodymyr Zelensky visits frontline 27-05-2019 (05).jpg” by The Presidential Administration of Ukraine is licensed under CC BY 4.0.)