Conflict Termination of Ukraine War: Compromise and Face Saving is the Way Forward
There is a fresh escalation of retaliatory fire assaults on Ukrainian cities by Russia as a result of the strike on the bridge across the Kerch Strait linking Russia with Crimea. Incidentally the bridge was inaugurated by President Putin and it was attacked on his 70th birthday. It is the ninth month running and there seems to be no signs of ending Russia-Ukraine war on the horizon. Somewhere down the line the conflict appears to be getting personal among the top leadership of Russia as well as Ukraine. Both sides have dug in the heels and not ready to back off which has prospects of spiraling out into a possible nuclear exchange.
If Russia goes nuclear as President Putin is quoted to be serious in his recent statements, then the US cannot be seen to be a bystander. The probability of such a scenario is increasing by the day as Russia is getting desperate due to prospects of losing face as a consequence of recent military setbacks, however small they are. Hence, there is a need to set aside political rivalries by the powers in the fray directly, or indirectly to avert such a catastrophe.
At geo political level the prospects of re emergence of Russia as a rival super power happens to be the underlying reason of this conflict. Russia, on other hand, hasshown her political will to use of military force to achieve its strategic objectives as seen in Crimea , Syria and now in Ukraine. China is already known for its hegemonic tendencies and defiance of established international norms. From a western perspective, a resurgent Russia forging a collusive cartel alongside China is not a happy situation for their existing global dominance.
The Western powers, accordingly, have been pushing against Russia narrative to subvert Ukrainian polity with incentives of according membership of NATO and European Union to them. It obviously is not in Russian interests as it has severe security connotations impacting on her political aspirations. Apropos, defiance of Russian dictates to Ukraine to not join NATO has led to military special operation by Russia in February 2022. In response, US and her allies chose to use economy as a weapon by imposing sanctions and building up military capabilities of Ukraine to force Russia to back off. The game plan appears to be to weaken Russia militarily through protracted engagement with Ukraine, albeit without NATO boots on the ground on technical and moral grounds.
Russia stands largely unaffected by the economic sanctions and continues her military campaign to secure better tactical terrain to defend her borders and control sea space. It was mechanizations of western powers that had led to collapse of Russian federation in 1991. Now, once again they have created a schism between two erstwhile partners with attempts of threatening Russia right at their borders. Therefore, Putin is probably not taking any chances and bent upon securing Russian interests once for all.
Russian move to subsume four Eastern provinces of Ukraine is meant to extend her territory leaning closer to Dnieperriver for defense against NATO threat. It also facilitates control over Ukrainian ports on the Black Sea front providing access to Mediterranean Sea, the junction of three continents. It is essential for strategic naval outreach of Russia to warm waters of Indian and Atlantic Oceans. The Russian military interventions in Crimea and Syria were for this very purpose. Now Russia is seen to expand the scope of its strategic outreach to counter threats from European geographical space.
Russia with her abundant energy and food resources along side technology and nuclear capabilities is in a position to stand up to challenge of her opponents. Therefore, Russia is unlikely to back off until Ukraine agrees to her dictates that facilitate their strategic objectives. Ukraine on the other hand has been primed up by the US and her NATO allies not to scale down in hope that Russia may relent due to war fatigue and economic deprivations.
The irony is that even after so much mayhem in Ukraine instigated by western powers; she is yet to be included in the NATO alliance. It is now for Ukraine to take a call on her national interests; either to stay in peace with few compromises, or continue to be a proxy of western powers with their apparent political ambiguities. Even western nations have to take a step back to avert the catastrophe and take care of their economic interests.
The military campaign is in an dangerously critical phase, hence the need to reach out to both the warring nations to end the war. It would be better if UNinitiates such a move for institutional acceptability and obligation by all the stake holders. The reconciliation team, obviously cannot be from the Western world in view of their supportive role with Ukraine. China, despite having adequate influence over Russia as well as Ukraine does not enjoy credibility looking at her own hegemonic conduct. Moreover, their comment of ‘Friendship with no limits’ speaks of collusive linkages with the Russian camp. It leaves countries like India, Brazil, Turkey, Indonesia, Vietnam and UAE etc that may be suitable to be part of a UN initiative.
The reconciliation talks need to address the Security concerns of Russia alongside free access to sea space, and restoration of sovereign autonomy of Ukraine as the essentials for any move forward. The first step should be for US to stop military aid, second step should be the declaration of cease fire under the aegis of the good offices of the UN Secretary General and third for agreement to resolve the issues through diplomatic parlays. It is possible only when Ukraine gives an assurance of not joining NATO ever, this being the main contention of Russia. The process may involve graduated disengagement, de escalation and withdrawal of Russian troops back to 24 February positions.
The deal may also include according autonomous status to the captured regions under Ukrainian sovereign control. The population may be given freedom of economic activities and movement between Ukraine and Russia as was the case earlier. Russia needs to give assurance of non-interference in sovereign rights of Ukraine and her economic activities. There is also a need for a mutually acceptable security mechanism against external threats. In essence, it should preferably be a direct understanding between Russia and Ukraine to take care of each other’s political aspirations. A UN force would be warranted to monitor the ‘Line of Control’ and facilitate envisaged transitions once an amicable solution is agreed to.
The western world as well as Russia need to introspect their ‘return on their political investment’ by initiating this war which could have been avoided. There is a sufficient space for everyone to flourish through cooperative approach instead of confrontation to seek predominance, an abstract and misplaced notion in present times. Apropos, compromise is the way forward to provide a face saving to both the nations bent upon destruction of the world order. It would also help in averting global economic recession that is likely to set in, if the war continues.
It is an unwinnable war and likely to extend into winters as the intransigence and political arrogance continues.Whereas, there is limit to war stamina which is difficult to sustain beyond a point even by the most resourceful and resolute nations.It is in such a state , a compulsive destructive desperation sets in leading to unsound and irrational decisions. Therefore, it is necessary to bring about reconciliation, lest the conflict termination of Ukraine war becomes a repeat of what happened in Japan in second world war. It certainly is ‘not the era of wars’ as the Indian Prime Minister has professed. Surely, time is at a premium to act.