Who Scuttled the Ukraine Peace Process, and What Are the Future Prospects

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Soon after the Russian invasion of Ukraine started, in the very next month of March an important initiative was launched with the help of Turkish diplomats. Right through this month this initiative appears to have progressed well, and broad agreements for ceasefire were substantially reached, even though details remained to be worked out. Among other things, this is likely to have involved the withdrawal of Russian forces from all areas other than the two self-proclaimed independent republics of Donbas region and Crimea, along with a commitment of Ukraine to remain neutral between Russia and NATO/USA, which implies voluntarily giving up the option of joining NATO. Of course the exactness of the agreement being worked out is not known, as it was not completed and publicly announced, but this appears to be the broad area of agreement.

Towards the end of March Ukraine President V. Zelensky said on national television—Our goal is obvious—peace and the restoration of normal life in our native state as soon as possible.

However after March the situation changed dramatically following two high profile visits—the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the US Defense Secretary Austin. They convinced Ukraine authorities that the goal of USA-led West is to seize this moment to weaken Russia, and they will be willing to pour in  billions of dollars worth of assistance to the Zelensky government, apart from extending and mobilizing a lot of support, if it adopts a path of confrontation with Russia. One does not know whether the two leaders and their colleagues also used the stick along with the carrot but by the end of April the policy of the Zelensky government had changed from negotiation for peace with Russia to ‘punishing Russia’ with assured western backing.

Thus the first and so far the most likely -to-succeed initiative to reach a peaceful settlement of the high-risk conflict was scuttled by visiting leaders of USA and Britain. Meanwhile the most promising period of ending conflict—the first two months or so—also passed. The Zelensky regime now came under even greater USA control and committed itself more and more to largely acting under its guidance, in return for military and other assistance worth billions, the support of USA and its allies for the Zelensky regime as well as mobilization of wider international support by them.

Nearly five more months have passed and hopes of peace returning to Ukraine have receded more and more during this period. When the goal of peace although most desirable has not even been pursued seriously and sincerely, how can this be achieved? During May to September there have not been any significant peace initiatives, despite their urgent need, which could bring genuine, real hopes.

What about the peace prospects now and in the near future?  The peace prospects are much, much more difficult today than these were in March, and will probably be even more difficult in the near future. With each passing day of the war, there are more provocative statements, more outbursts of anger, more atrocities and violence, and hence once the initial golden period of the possibility of a settlement has passed, it becomes more difficult to reach a settlement.

Although the chances of an early settlement may appear remote just now, nevertheless various peace proposals should continue to be discussed in very sincere, honest, unbiased and intense ways, building up public opinion in the process, as it is from such continuing discussions that some very useful ideas can often emerge. What we who cherish peace should not do is to sit quiet and helpless, overwhelmed by the enormity and complexity of the challenge. The responsibility is particularly great in Europe and the USA as a significant change towards a better informed public opinion here can still contribute much. In the USA opinion which questions the official view convincingly already exists but it needs to reach more people. The dangers of the government’s actions in endangering world peace as well as, in broader terms, the security of the American people should be better exposed, as also how increasing militarization is stealing money from housing and health. In Europe it is possible to expose the adverse local effects of the present policies in even more convincing ways as people are seeing this all the time. However at least the the bigger countries here should assert themselves for a more independent role. Unless Europe starts taking a rationality and evidence based independent stand centered on world peace, both Europe and world will suffer much. In Ukraine people have to start asserting that the country should take a path which is based on what is best for the people of Ukraine, and not on what the USA/NATO say is the role of Ukraine as per their scheme of things. In Russia efforts to keep reminding the leadership not to forget the overwhelming need for peace should continue. The Global South should continue to assert it voice again and again for finding the path of peace, and for a world without war and hegemony. If all this is done, solutions to bring peace based on justice will emerge sooner rather than later.

Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Planet in Peril, A Day in 2071 and Man over Machine.


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