Ukraine must independently decide its future of peace and development

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Sometimes this happens also in personal life—someone who insists he is helping you keeps pushing you in the direction of harm and even ruin. Something similar seems to have unfortunately been the fate of Ukraine in recent times—those who kept insisting about helping Ukraine have actually kept pushing it towards ruin.

It was certainly possible for Ukraine to have a relationship of peace and co-operation with Russia, in the process also reaping the advantages of geographical proximity to a country very richly endowed with energy resources.  All evidence indicates that Russia was willing, and was even ready to offer incentives for this related to its rich energy resources. This would have been good for internal harmony and unity of Ukraine too as a substantial part of its population, particularly in eastern parts, is Russian-speaking.

In fact most people of Ukraine realized this and voted for candidates, parties and leaders committed to friendship with Russia. This changed when the USA with some close allies started interfering too much in the internal affairs of Ukraine, with the predominant aim of keeping Ukraine policy hostile to Russia, going to the extent of ousting a democratically elected government and installing a pro-US, pro-NATO regime. Subsequently, those in the Ukraine ruling establishment were also pressurized and prevailed upon to continue this in various ways, to the extent that injustices and atrocities against the Russian speaking people increased, neo-Nazis responsible for this were armed and Russia was unduly provoked.

What have been the consequences and where is this leading to? Without any doubt the people of Ukraine have been passing through one of the most difficult, distressing and uncertain times of their history. There is now an urgent need to look at issues of Ukraine from the point of view of the welfare of the Ukrainian people themselves,  instead of they being pushed to play the role assigned to them in the schemes of others.

The most important causes of immediate mass distress here are the invasion by Russia and the prolonged, ongoing efforts of the USA to use Ukraine as a pawn in its proxy war with Russia, which have continued for several years and show no signs of receding despite their heavy costs for the people of Ukraine. Both the Russian invasion and the use of Ukraine as a pawn of proxy war by the USA/NATO against Russia should be stopped immediately. At the same time the high profile of militant groupings with fascist leanings should be checked in Ukraine, as also the activities of various traffickers. Excessive militarization and weapon-saturation of society should be checked and much greater space provided for democratic expression of their heartfelt views without fear and favor by ordinary people.  The excess of weapons floating loosely with undesirable persons should be checked. Humanitarian help should be stepped up very substantially and favorable conditions should be created for the return of internally and externally displaced persons. Decisions on the future of Ukraine should be taken by the people of Ukraine and their true representatives and not those acting on behalf of or under the heavy influence of any big powers.

Ceasefire should be declared as early as possible by mutual agreement between Ukraine and Russia. This can be facilitated by diplomats and leaders of neutral countries. Ceasefire can be temporarily on the basis of the line of control, or any swap or withdrawal that the two sides can agree to immediately, while the final decision on territories can be taken some time later (perhaps around two years later) when conditions of peace and stability have been created on the bass of mutual measures of trust and cooperation. Then more credible referendum can be held in various contested territories, or other ways of democratic decision making can be used which are in conformity with the wishes and welfare of affected people. Both sides should agree firmly to maintain peace and no actions of revenge or violence should take place after ceasefire, while strong action should be taken against any instigators of violence by the authorities.

Ceasefire should be followed by several steps to build trust and confidence and strengthen peace and cooperation between Ukraine and Russia. Again some neutral countries and the UN can play a helpful role, when needed.

A big immediate priority should be to rebuild the more damaged areas and to facilitate the return of all those who were displaced to return to their home and work in Ukraine so that those who want to return can return in favorable conditions while those who have found exceptionally satisfactory arrangements elsewhere should be allowed to remain there till as long as they want to. Economic and sustainable development interests of people should be well protected and not squandered to promote big business companies or oligarchs. Future development should emphasize equality, justice and environment protection. Particularly in the context of agriculture the takeover of huge parts of land by multinational or other companies and oligarchs should be rejected and reversed, while the land and livelihood interests of ordinary farmers should be well protected. Contamination of farming in various ways which has increased should be checked so that Ukraine can remain a bread basket for providing healthy, safe food to its own people and to others, a role for which it is well-endowed by nature. While the legitimate defense needs must be met, over-militarization and excess of weapons should be avoided so that limited resources can be better used for rebuilding the country, for proper nutrition, health, housing, education and protection from various adverse conditions in times of climate change. Possibility of harm from disasters including any nuclear, industrial and mining accidents should be minimized.

Ukraine should aim for friendly and peaceful relations with all countries which will also be very helpful for its rebuilding and development needs. As the most important and largest neighbor of Ukraine is Russia, with closest relations historically, Ukraine should give particularly high priority to friendly relations with Russia. It should avoid becoming party to any plans or military alliances, such as NATO, to encircle or target Russia. At the same time it should be careful to seek, as far as possible, friendly relations with all countries as it is really necessary for the most important tasks of rebuilding and reducing the distress of people who have suffered so much on recent times.

Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Planet in Peril, Protecting Earth for Children, and A Day in 2071.


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