Now that the Russian invasion has come to pass and fighting has deepened, the possibility for peace in Ukraine can not be premised on ideals but must be based on compromise. Anatol Lieven, Professor at Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, Qatar; visiting professor in the War Studies Department of King’s College London; and a senior fellow of the New America Foundation in Washington DC, suggests that such a compromise is necessary to save Ukraine from destruction and loss of life, as well as to preserve Ukrainian sovereignty. A prolongation of the war will likely mean that large areas will be permanently lost to Russia, particularly the land linking Crimea to Russia.
Lieven suggests the terms of a possible peace –
- Russian forces should withdraw from all the areas occupied since the invasion began.
- Ukraine should sign a treaty of neutrality
- Russia should guarantee the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.
- Ukraine should be precluded from NATO membership.
- Ukraine must recognize the administrative integrity of the Donbas separatist republics.
- Ukraine must recognize Crimea as a part of Russia.
- The West should lift all the sanctions imposed on Russia.
- Ukraine should be allowed to emerge as a Western-style democracy.
- Ukraine should receive a very large Western aid package for reconstruction.
Now according to Calum Roche, Russia has expressed a willingness to end the war on the following terms –
- No NATO membership and a neutral position.
- Russian should be the second official language of Ukraine, with laws prohibiting it abolished.
- Recognise Crimea as Russian territory.
- Recognise the independence of Donetsk and Lugansk.
- Demilitarisation of Ukraine and abandonment of weapons that could be a threat to the Kremlin.
- Banning of ultra-nationalist parties and organisations in Ukraine.
While it has been underplayed by the mainstream media in the West, this Russian peace proposal is close to Lieven’s suggestion as outlined above. Russia’s terms seem to constitute a reasonable (in realpolitik terms, not in terms of what is fair or just) set of demands given Russia’s overwhelming might and the West’s proven unwillingness to engage Russia directly. Can Ukraine keep fighting the Russians alone? What can Ukraine gain by pursuing this asymmetrical fight? In their valiant resistance thus far, Ukrainians have amassed much capital with which to negotiate. The Russians may have bitten off more than they can handle and be ready to compromise. On the other hand, a long and continued resistance will likely mean that larger areas will fall to Russia, not to mention devastation and loss of life.
Peace is an urgent necessity for Ukraine and Ukrainians! It seems, however, that Russia’s condition 5. might mitigate against NATO and the USA’s ascendency, and condition 6. might threaten the powerful ultra-nationalist forces that are aligned with Ukrainian state. Will these realities diminish the Ukrainian leadership’s capacity to make the compromises needed to arrive at a speedy cessation of fighting?