There are increased calls to negotiate solutions to the war in Ukraine. Leading scholars and, a number of voices urge the UN and Super Powers to invest in negotiations between Russia and Ukraine to give peace way. According to some reports, the US is warming up to the thought –a seriously dangerous idea.
Concerns of nuclear escalation between Russia and NATO drive many to argue for negotiations, and although the impetus is well-intentioned, the suggestion is naive and impractical. In Ukraine, the choice is not between a costly, bloody war and diplomacy.
The choice is between a bloody war and a bloody peace -which would itself lead to an even larger confrontation. The sad reality is that not every military problem has political solutions. Any discussions of ending the war should recognise this fact. Hence, any negotiated diplomacy would require both sides to compromise land they consider to be “theirs.” Ukraine will be expected to give up its claims on Crimea and possibly the Donbas, Russia to retreat to pre-invasion lines.
The recent Russian withdrawal from Kherson did not change the Kremlin’s insistence on the region being Russian territory, and Kyiv is deeply committed to a return to the pre-February lines and the eventual liberation of Crimea. Given Ukraine’s recent military triumphs, such an expectation is not unfounded. On both sides, domestic public opinion matters, and neither president would be forgiven for giving up “their land.
This negotiated solution definitely will have dire consequences for civilians trapped under Russian occupation. In exchange for a cease-fire, Ukraine would be expected to give up not just land, but also people. Virtually every settlement that has been liberated by Ukraine reveals horrifying evidence of torture chambers, murder of civilians, sexual violence and disappearances.
Experts believe that Russian violence in Ukraine constitutes genocide, and UN is currently considering a resolution that affirms this label. Any cease-fire or peace deal in which Russia keeps parts of Ukrainian territory would allow this genocide to continue uninterrupted.
Instead of stopping the bloodshed, a cease-fire would abandon Ukrainian victims to their fate without any real chance for salvation. It would also forgo any possibility for legal accountability for the crimes committed an obligation that the West and other states took upon themselves by ratifying the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Only the Kremlin’s defeat will allow bringing perpetrators to justice. If the international community is willing to sacrifice Ukrainian civilians in exchange for freezing the war, we should at least be clear-eyed about the trade-offs this entails.
Financial pressure is one-factor fueling talk of negotiations, but that is shortsighted. Undoubtedly, the war impacts the global economy and Ukraine’s partners spend substantial amounts – more than 100 billion dollars since February on aiding Kyiv financially and weapons. Yet these sums pale compared with the estimated costs of Ukraine’s postwar reconstruction.
Writer comments on emerging trends.
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