Dream of decisive victory undermines peacemaking for Ukraine war

 Dream of decisive victory undermines peacemaking for Ukraine war

The invasion of Ukraine by Russia introduced extreme polarization into the international arena. The United Nations Security Council is divided between the P3 countries (the US, the UK and France) and Russia. While P3 countries support Ukraine against Russian aggression, China abstains mostly in favor of Russia. The permanent members of the UN Security Council could not agree on a resolution so far because of this fragmentation. Considering the polarization within the council, expecting a resolution before a stalemate phase in the war would be optimistic.

The UN faces challenges for peacemaking in the Russia-Ukraine conflict that are rooted in the UN’s structure. There are two competing forces in the UN: transnational and intergovernmental.

The UN, as a transnational organization, represents a common good that is greater than the interest of states, such as world peace and stability, human rights and international justice. Concurrently, as an intergovernmental institution, the UN serves the individual interests of its member states.

These two sets of values ​​clash on many occasions, and often the member states’ interests outweigh transnational values. Hence, a peace mission directed by considering transnational values ​​that transcend the interests of individual states in the Russian-Ukrainian war is not likely to occur soon. While Russia is an active part of the conflict and the P3 countries directly support Ukraine, a UN peacemaking mission would possibly face restrictions on behalf of individual state interests.

Since there are restrictions on the UN mediation in the Russia-Ukraine war, Turkey’s chance to mitigate the conflict is considerable. As of 2022, Turkey proved that it wants stability and peace in the region.

While Turkey respects Ukrainian sovereignty and condemns the invasion, it strategically keeps the dialogue channels open with Russia. Turkey also put great effort into solving the grain crisis and reached an agreement between Ukraine and Russia on the export of Ukrainian grain by unblocking the Black Sea ports.

This UN-backed agreement shows that Turkey will play a substantial role in peacemaking when the conditions are ripe. However, it is still early for the sides to reach conciliation.

Outcomes of the war

Using the term “dream” for an absolute gain by one side in the Russia-Ukraine war would be most appropriate since it is almost impossible to achieve. There are four possible major outcome areas and infinite numbers of outcomes between these major results for the ongoing war.

Firstly, Russia can lose and be forced to withdraw from all the regions it occupies. Second, Russia may win the war and make Ukraine accept all its terms. Third, both countries continue to suffer in a stalemate and have to bear the costs of war. Fourth and finally, both can achieve relative gains through peacemaking.

Leadership plays an important role in the continuation of the war, especially in authoritarian states where democratic institutions cannot restrict the desires of the leaders. This kind of authoritarian leadership cripples rational decision-making and allows leaders to take more risks to reach the most beneficial outcome, which is achieving absolute gain for both parties in this case. Moreover, the lack of international pressure to end the war creates the image of a possible decisive victory, which postpones the peace negotiations.

Leaders will continue to force every possible path until they realize that the losses will exceed potential gains. Until that point, it would be logical not to expect the start of truthful negotiations between Russia and Ukraine.

Currently, many factors encourage the continuation of the war. Authorities should notice that no side can get everything they want in this conflict to end this dispute. The real question is if the world is ready for peace. In other words, do international actors honestly want to end the conflict with the current terms?

Turkey’s stance

February 2022 was the beginning of a new foreign policy for Turkey. Turkey made progress in improving ties between the regional powers and proved its desire to sustain peace and stability in the region.

Since the invasion started on Feb. 24, Turkey has maintained its balanced diplomatic strategy. Turkey voted to condemn Russia in the General Assembly resolution and seeks Russia’s withdrawal from Ukrainian territory. At the same time, it did not impose sanctions like its Western allies. Türkiye’s strategic path made it a suitable actor for mediating the conflict because, first and foremost, a mediator should be impartial. In the extremely polarized atmosphere, Turkey is one of the few countries that have open dialogue channels with the two warring states, which was proven by the latest grain deal.

The Grain Export Deal was signed with the participation of the authorities from Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the UN in Istanbul on July 22. It was the first deal between Ukraine and Russia since the invasion.

One of the most important consequences of the war is the global food crisis. Russia and Ukraine are the first and fifth top wheat exporter countries, respectively. They also have a significant share in the export of sunflowers, barley and corn. The inability of the world’s two most important grain producers to export their products caused an increase in the food security crisis, especially in many African states.

With the creation of a safe corridor from Ukrainian ports, Ukraine will be able to start exports. According to the deal, Russia will not attack Ukrainian ports during the transfers. Turkey will investigate the ships that carry grains with the support of the UN Besides, grain exports from Russia through the Black Sea will be facilitated by the deal.

It should also be noted that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres interpreted the deal as a “beacon of hope” and stated that it is the most important thing he has done since the beginning of his incumbency as the secretary-general.

Despite how important the deal is, there is still an ongoing brutal war, and the conflict’s conditions have not been ripe for peacemaking yet. Accepting peace without significant gains would be a loss for Russia, and they are willing to continue fighting. Also, Ukraine wishes to liberate its occupied territory with solid Western support. Since both countries are willing to fight, there is no convenient environment for a peacekeeping mission. A realistic settlement between the warring parties should include giving Russia an honorable exit or not forcing Ukraine to accept any territorial loss.

While finding the middle ground will require analysis of complex events, the best thing to do is to convince the parties to agree to a cease-fire and de-escalate the tension before achieving a reconciliation. However, negotiations under bombs would not be fruitful. Nevertheless, the grain deal was a great start and indeed a “beacon of hope” in the peacemaking process.

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