Swords and Ploughshares: How do you get Russia and Ukraine Talking?

Published November 29th, 2022 - 08:05 GMT
War at its deadliest
Destroyed apartment block in Ukraine (AFP File Photo)

Russian-Ukrainian relations have always been tense since the upheavals in Ukraine in 2014, the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula to Russia, and separatism in eastern Ukraine. But when Vladimir Putin ordered the Russian forces to enter Ukraine, the war in Ukraine started on February 24, 2022. However, any prospect of peace and ceasefire in the Ukraine crisis depends on various internal, regional, and international factors and variables.

Russian point of view
Ukraine still has geopolitical, geostrategic, political, economic, cultural, and nostalgic importance for Russia. For Russia, it is still vital for NATO not to advance on the borders and to receive a guarantee of Ukraine's non-membership to NATO and NATO's withdrawal from the region and Russia's veto on the choices of its neighbors. Moscow certainly sees the complete withdrawal of its goals in Ukraine as a major blow to its national security, strategic interests, and geopolitical interests. Therefore, despite the increase in battlefield casualties, Ukraine's counterattacks, and the negative economic and security consequences of war inside Russia, it pursues its interests both in war and peace.

Despite the relative mobilization to stabilize the defensive lines in the war, in September 2022, Russian President, Vladimir Putin extended the Russian red line to the newly annexed territories. Although Moscow always declares that it is willing to talk, it considers the surrender of Ukraine, permanent neutral status, and acceptance of Moscow's demands in eastern Ukraine. In this regard, last March, Moscow rejected the talks about Crimea.

Ukraine’s point of view

In a long war, Ukraine is the main victim and its resources will be reduced. The war has created some main challenges such as the fastest and largest flow of refugees in Europe since the Second World War, insufficient food for eight million people, a future with water shortages, the fastest forced population displacement since the Second World War, the displacement of almost a third of the population of Ukraine, and remains of war materials in the released areas.
In the past month, Ukrainians have experienced some of the most intense Russian bombings. Even now, the Ukrainians know that with the decrease in air temperature, Russia seeks to plunge Ukraine into the cold, and destroy the infrastructure. But Kyiv refuses to negotiate directly with Russia. From the point of view of Kyiv, Ukrainian diplomacy can still deprive Russia of its last winning cards in the international arena and the opportunity to continue the aggressive war. 

Therefore, Ukraine's determination to resist Russia, along with the strengthened Ukrainian nationalism in the face of Russia, actually caused Volodymyr Zelensky to promise the liberation of territories including Crimea. It can even be said that Kyiv now considers achieving a great victory in the field as a way to a peaceful solution and does not take a serious look at an early ceasefire. With formulas such as the presence of foreigners in the armed forces of Ukraine, the request for an increase in aid of more than 22 billion euros from the European Union and the United States, they hope that the recent military successes will make Moscow agree to the peace intended by Kyiv.

The approach of major global institutions and actors to the continuation of the war

The United Nations General Assembly condemned the violation of the territorial integrity of Ukraine by the Russian Federation and demanded an immediate, complete, and unconditional withdrawal from the territory of Ukraine. But the approach of the United Nations as an international actor in resolving the situation in Ukraine remains incomplete. Although institutions and organizations such as the United Nations, G7, European Union, etc. continue to condemn Russia's actions, the continuation of extensive military damage, the risk of a nuclear accident in Ukraine, the heavy burden of accepting a large wave of refugees to Europe has increased pressures to continue the war.

For months, major powers have not been willing to directly intervene in the war in Ukraine. Variables such as the risk of civilizational war, the risk of the proxy war, and the emergence of global war have had an impact on the type of action of various actors in the Ukraine crisis.

Some believe that it is not possible to provide more support to Ukraine and challenges such as weather make it impossible for other armies to move into Ukraine. In this situation, some actors try to behave in such a way that the differences with Russia do not intensify on different fronts.

In fact, any increase in tension with Russia will practically include them among Moscow's enemies. Some also don't want to be the first claimant to support Ukraine. From the point of view of some countries, such as Hungary, the longer the war lasts, the more difficult it will be to achieve peace.

In addition, the recent missile attack on Poland revealed that NATO is wary of continuing to support Ukraine and does not want to become one of the parties of the war. In fact, there is no complete alliance among NATO members against Russia. Despite the desire of the leaders to liberate Ukraine, some Western parties and figures have negative positions on the delivery of large-scale financial aid and weapons to Ukraine.

In addition, in US, gaining more power by the Republicans has caused reactions in the form of support for Kyiv and increased requests for negotiations with Russia. Also, Western leaders like US President, Joe Biden, do not want to see the negative consequences of the war in Ukraine.

In addition to this, although China officially supported Russia and blamed NATO, Beijing’s deep concern about challenges such as the threat of nuclear weapons has caused it to pay attention to formulas such as negotiations with America. Also, India, paying more attention to access to peace, and France, with continuing contacts with Putin, have also tried to focus on mediation in solving the Ukraine crisis. In another dimension, the environmental damage caused by the war (more than 38 billion euros), direct damage to the climate, has probably caused more global attention to the need for peace.

Pressures to accept negotiations
Ukraine’s President Zelensky, previously signed a decree declaring negotiations with Putin "impossible." However, Ukraine has officially ruled out negotiations with Moscow and has linked talk of negotiation and compromise with Russia to retreat to the 1991 borders. But the economic, and political costs and concerns related to the long-term, costly war have made the peace camp, do not support increasing the defense costs of NATO, Europe, and the world.

After the explosion in Poland near the border of Ukraine, Although Ukraine wants NATO to actually go to war with Russia, still Moscow does not want to fight with NATO. In addition, critics in the world believe that in order not to escalate the conflict and not to use nuclear weapons, it is necessary not to send strategic weapons to Ukraine and return to diplomacy and find a peaceful solution. In this regard, there is a kind of increased pressure on Kyiv to prepare for peace negotiations.

Global economy and the need to return to the peace formula

After the Russian invasion, the West passed a wide range of sanctions against Russia. But these sanctions and Moscow's retaliatory measures had a negative impact on the global economy. In fact, the economic sanctions and war conditions in Ukraine are both harmful to the Russian economy and have caused severe inflation, financial instability, and increased volatility in the supply chain.

Meanwhile, the war in Ukraine can still make the world economy more vulnerable than the Corona epidemic. This has caused many institutions and actors to pay attention to the issue of ceasefire and peace. Foe example, when Russia canceled its participation in the Black Sea Grain Corridor contract, grain prices rose sharply.

Although, some believe that the best thing for peace is to increase military, economic and humanitarian support to Ukraine so that Kyiv can peace negotiations from a position of strength. In fact, Ukraine has the legal and moral right to reclaim its territory, and any peace negotiation should only be an independent decision of Ukraine. But the fact is that Kyiv alone cannot liberate all its regions, and if it wants to be more focused on the battle, it must have modern weapons, power plants, and a good financial and economic situation.
However, the pressure on the government of Ukraine and Russia for interaction and negotiations has increased. In fact, the lack of will for a ceasefire and peace talks is an important challenge. When the war does not come closer to peace and there is no mediation, we will see the disputes and tensions deepen.

Negotiations between Russia and Ukraine started after the start of the war and were accompanied by fluctuations and obstacles. The peace agreement to end the war needs to decrease disagreements over removing the preconditions and accepting the other side. Political experiences have shown that many peace processes have succeeded, or faltered. The extension of the “Black Sea Grains Initiative” is vital to help prevent food crises for people. Also, the need for peace is increasing, and the two sides' interpretation of a just peace, based on the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity and from the position of power, should change and become closer.

However, as Ukraine and Russia have negotiated humanitarian issues before, it is possible to agree and fulfill obligations without complete trust. However, although the scope of the dispute is high on guaranteeing security, restoring Ukraine's territorial integrity, and prosecuting war crimes, a ceasefire and the start of dialogue can be a win-win step. a result, that both Kyiv feels it has "won" and Moscow feels it is not the “looser”.


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