Ukraine Crisis – Must come out of the Impasse

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No end to the Ukraine War is in sight. Peace and solutions to the problems have been made conditional to too many big “ifs” and “when’s”. Wrong calculations from both sides have led to the present stalemate. And instead of looking for a reasonable and mutually acceptable way out, they are trying to achieve a unilateral victory that is not to come.  Continuous miscalculations are leading the situation in the direction of no return. They are stuck. And with them, the whole world has become stuck in unprecedented economic hardship, and dangerous military uncertainty.

Xenophobic Russia, chauvinistic Ukraine, and the dangerously opportunistic West – all are responsible for this crisis and impasse. Russia is yet to accept the dismemberment of its empire. They still dream of a greater Russian entity encompassing at least some of the old Soviet units. Do not they see that people with the same ethnicity, language and religion live in separate sovereign states everywhere in the world? Moscow had to accept the dissolution of the Soviet Union because it collapsed mainly from within. No doubt, outside factors had an auxiliary role. However, Kremlin had hoped that Russia would dominate the breakaway republics and that the newly formed states would remain subservient to her. They must come out of this hegemonistic mentality.

The chauvinistic attitude has made Ukraine blind, arrogant, and careless. They were a minority during the Soviet period. Their identity was suppressed. Russian was the dominant language. The Ukrainians were suppressed in the Soviet Union, though the flourishment of Kyiv at that time cannot be denied. Ironically, the Russians in the Donbas areas of Ukraine and their Russian language are being suppressed in Ukraine. That resulted in widespread discontent in those areas. Russia took the advantage of the situation. They had some genuine concerns for the ethnic Russians living in Donbas and at the same time, they felt that their strategic situation had been threatened particularly when Kyiv made a move for NATO membership with Washington´s tacit initiative. Ukraine avoided an all-out preemptive strike from Russia when Minsk-2 Agreement was signed between the two parties. One of the main features of the agreement was constitutional reform in Ukraine including decentralization, with specific mention of Donetsk and Luhansk. It implies autonomy in those regions. Besides, the treaty had a specific provision for holding elections in Donetsk and Luhansk. After a few years of wrangling, Ukraine abandoned the Minsk Agreement citing the reason that it would disintegrate and destroy the country although, in the first place, they signed it with the full pledge of its implementation. A very interesting revelation was made by former German chancellor Angela Markel that Minsk 2 Agreement was a tactical device designed to give Ukraine adequate time to prepare for eventual war with Russia. It means they were not sincere about the Agreement from the very beginning. Their intention was to buy time for war preparation. Very interestingly, Germany and France devised this initiative. Russian President Vladimir Putin, the then Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, German Chancellor Angela Markel, and French President Francoise Hollande attended the pre-agreement summit held in 2015 in Minsk, the capital of Belarus. The US had even bigger support for Ukraine. This is the second time Germany deceived and betrayed Russia. Everybody remembers how Russia became the victim of betrayal by Adolf Hitler during World War 2. The Ukraine War will definitely worsen the relationship between Moscow and Berlin. Had there been no ulteriorly designed Minsk Agreement Ukraine would have been conquered by Russia long ago. Without Western help, Ukraine is no match for Russia.

Russia cannot defeat the combined forces of Ukraine and Western powers headed by the USA. Similarly, Ukraine and its allied forces cannot defeat nuclear-powered Russia. More and more advanced weapons are being used with the continuation of the war. There is a limit. One cannot go for the nuclear option. That will be a collective suicide, the end of the world.

The US must understand that Russia will not accept Ukraine´s NATO membership. The reasons have been discussed elaborately. One group argues that since Ukraine is an independent country so it can freely decide to join any military alliance or any other organization. Have they forgotten the Cuban crisis of the ‘60s? Was not Cuba then an independent state? Yet Russia (the then Soviet Union) was not allowed to deploy missiles in Cuba which was requested by Havana. Because, the USA said “no” and threatened nuclear confrontation.

The main hotspots or focal points of the Ukraine crisis are the political position of the Donbas region, control of Crimea, and the future of  Odesa. Ukraine must not be made a landlocked country. Russia´s access to the black sea through Crimea cannot be denied. It is not impossible to evolve a mechanism to address these problems.

Both parties must understand and accept the fact that ultimately there is no military solution to the Ukraine crisis. Hence the process for a diplomatic solution with a give-and-take mentality should be started right now. Delays will only increase the suffering not only of the people of Ukraine and Russia but also of the entire world. Are not Zelensky, Putin, Biden, and all others aware of this grim fact?

However, all are not adversely affected by this war. A tiny minority who represents war and energy industries are beneficiaries of this crisis. Sometimes, wars are created and patronized by them. And they have very powerful lobbies in places like the White House and the Kremlin.

Yes, there are some differences between Eastern and Western values and clashes between civilizations and political systems. But this ideological point has been blown up out of proportion. The real issue is who will dominate the world economically and militarily. The US seems to be feeling an existential crisis about its overwhelmingly dominant position in world politics and military might. The US together with its allies does not feel comfortable with the rising power of the Sino-Russian axis. They want to stop it. Russia has become its immediate target. If they cannot succeed in Russia, they will not be able to contain China, their ultimate objective. In that case, their sphere of influence elsewhere will also be diminished.

The stalemate and uncompromising attitude lead nowhere except further destruction, heavy tolls on both sides, and infliction of further miseries on ordinary people all over the world. However, the US is in an advantageous position in one consideration. It has remained far away from the actual war fields almost every time. In most cases, it has created war or has been involved in wars by maintaining safe geographical distance. So, their casualties had remained comparatively low. Similar is the case here in the Ukraine-Russia conflict. They are far off from the spot.

One way of breaking the deadline is to make a compromise and accept the reality that none can defeat the opposite side unilaterally. Russia has a huge territorial advantage and Ukraine together with its US-European ally has economic and military superiority. It is a no-win situation for both sides. The other solution to the problem is waking up of the ordinary people adversely affected by this insane war. When people are pushed back to the wall they are forced to counter-attack. They revolt. It is better to sit down and solve the problem through negotiations before it goes beyond control.

Anisur Rahman is a senior Bangladeshi journalist living in Sweden.


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