Tue | Jul 23, 2024

Sergey Petrovich | Crisis in Ukraine: does diplomacy stand a chance?

Published:Sunday | June 9, 2024 | 12:08 AM
The city centre is covered with debris after the Russian missile attack in Kharkiv, Ukraine, May 25.
The city centre is covered with debris after the Russian missile attack in Kharkiv, Ukraine, May 25.
Sergey Petrovich
Sergey Petrovich
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The Ukrainian conflict has recently turned into a third year and there are, unfortunately, no signs of its end on the horizon. Vladimir Zelenskyy’s declining regime attempts to conscript ever-increasing numbers of Ukrainians, despite their reluctance to take up arms, and Western countries approve yet another arms packages for continuation of the fratricidal bloodshed (given close historical ties between Russia and Ukraine).

By doing that, it would seem that the West tries to suffocate a fire by pouring more fuel, as such measures allegedly seek to bring peace into the country. Moreover, Ukrainians, as evidenced by their own social surveys, mostly desire peace rather than ‘victory’ over Russia. In this regard, it seems appropriate to raise the following question: how much have Kiev and Western countries contributed to achieve this noble goal, the one that would align with the interests of all ordinary Ukrainians?

PREVENTING THE PROBLEM AT ITS SOURCE

It is obvious that the events of February 2022 did not arise out of thin air. It is a fruit of a collision course, consistently followed against Russia for eight years by the radical nationalists who came to power as a result of the unconstitutional coup in Ukraine (the so-called ‘Euromaidan’). Since 2014, the country has been de facto in a state of civil war, unleashed by Kiev against Russian-speaking residents of southeast Ukraine who did not agree with the new rulers’ discriminatory policy of zero tolerance towards everything non-Ukrainian, especially Russian.

We have consistently called on all parties to refrain from violence and seek solutions at the negotiating table, understanding that further escalation of the conflict would pose a threat to peace and security in the entire region. In particular, our country actively contributed to developing a set of measures aimed at stopping the armed hostilities (the so-called Minsk Agreements) within the Normandy format (Russia, Ukraine, France, and Germany) in 2015. According to the Agreements, Ukraine was required, among others, to pass a law on the special status of Donbass (specific areas of Donetsk and Lugansk regions), and hold elections there, after which these regions were supposed to return under Kiev’s control.

The Minsk Agreements were endorsed by UN Security Council Resolution 2202, which gave them a binding character. Alas, this fact did not change anything. Since 2015, reports on almost a daily basis were coming in about civilian casualties in Donetsk and Lugansk, resulting from artillery shelling by Kiev. The Ukrainian authorities themselves repeatedly stated their refusal to implement the Agreements or engage in any dialogue with representatives of these regions. Turns out that such a non-constructive attitude had one goal. In December 2022, former German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande admitted that the Minsk Agreements were not aimed at stopping the bloodshed but rather at buying time to strengthen the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Consequently, neither Ukraine nor its European patrons had any intention of fulfilling them.

STEPS TOWARDS PEACE AFTER FEBRUARY 24

Unfortunately, the political shortsightedness of Kiev and its Western partners has led to the largest armed conflict in Europe since World War II, into which the civil war in southeast Ukraine has erupted. Nevertheless, we have always believed that it is never too late to return to the negotiating table to end the bloodshed.

In February-March 2022, several rounds of Russia-Ukraine negotiations were held in Belarus and Turkey. Despite the fact that the parties did not agree on a number of issues, they were willing to seek compromises. As a result, a substantial progress was made in discussing the non-aligned status of Ukraine under security guarantees of all members of the UN Security Council. In no way were these ‘surrender negotiations’, as territorial concessions were not discussed, and Russia voluntarily withdrew its troops from the northeast of Ukraine and the outskirts of Kiev before the talks began.

Now it is no secret that, in Istanbul, the Sides were just a step away from signing a joint document that would bring the special military operation to an end. Even Kiev’s Western partners agree that, from today’s perspective, the conditions were extremely favourable for Ukraine.

Unfortunately, however, the line for continuing military confrontation with Russia prevailed and, after Ukraine unilaterally withdrew from the negotiations, this format ceased to exist. It would later be revealed by the head of the Ukrainian delegation to the talks David Arakhamia that Kiev’s decision was influenced after the then British Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited Vladimir Zelenskyy and convinced him to pursue his goals through the use of force.

‘PEACE’ FORMULA

After the failure of the Istanbul format, Ukraine, together with Western countries, put forward ‘Zelenskyy’s peace formula’, announced in November 2022 during the G20 Leaders’ Summit in Bali, Indonesia.

This formula represents essentially 10 ultimatum demands, implying the actual capitulation of Russia. They touch upon many different aspects, including the “withdrawal of troops” from the territory of the former Ukrainian regions, whose inhabitants voluntarily voted for reunification with Russia, and payments by our country of “compensation”, as well as the persecution of exclusively Russian “war criminals”.

The “formula” devised by Vladimir Zelenskyy is completely detached from reality, as it completely disregards the responsibility of Kiev in unleashing the conflict, as well as in committing war crimes. Nonetheless, Ukrainian leadership considers this one-sided document to be the only basis for the conflict resolution.

Ukraine’s unwillingness to discuss its propositions with us also clearly underlines an ultimate character of this document. Kiev is advancing the “formula” within the so-called Copenhagen format, named after a meeting of representatives, mainly from Western countries, held in the Danish capital in June 2022. Following its template, three similar events were held in Jeddah, Valletta, and Davos. Yet, it is hard to say that they were supposed to reach anything constructive, as Russia was intentionally not invited to participate in them, and their ultimate goal was not to discuss any alternative propositions (prepared, for instance, by China, African or Arab countries, which had more substantive content), but rather to achieve a media effect demonstrating “broad support for the Ukrainian peace initiative”, especially among the global South.

The so-called Global Peace Summit planned for June in Switzerland follows in the footsteps of the Copenhagen format and, thus, also risks repeating all the same mistakes. Even now, it is evident that its organisers do not aim to find paths to peace, let alone to understand the root causes of the Ukrainian crisis.

‘FOR AS LONG AS NEEDED’

It is evident that Kiev’s “peace initiatives” and their discussion are unsustainable. Similarly, it is clear that Ukraine and its Western supporters use the “peace track”, not so much to resolve the conflict, but rather to exert additional pressure on Russia by presenting a collective ultimatum to our country, as well as involving the global South in an anti-Russian coalition. It is noteworthy that, in September 2022, Vladimir Zelenskyy has enacted a law banning any peaceful negotiations with the Russian leadership.

The rationale behind such an attitude is simple – the West is not interested in a peaceful resolution, it seeks a “strategic defeat” of Moscow. Ukraine is just a tool to achieve this goal, acting as a “kamikaze state” whose purpose is to inflict as much damage on Russia as possible. Here lies the essence of the phrase about supporting Ukraine “for as long as needed” repeated by Western countries – as soon as it exhausts its usefulness, it will be quickly forgotten.

Meanwhile, calls for peace in Ukraine are spreading worldwide, directed not least at Kiev – from Elon Musk to Pope Francis. It seems that, to them, the lives of ordinary Ukrainians are more valuable than to Vladimir Zelenskyy and his Western patrons.

Sergey Petrovich is the ambassador of the Russian Federation to Jamaica. Send feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.