If the priority is to stop the casualties and the destruction in Ukraine then a peace plan is necessary. What are the options and which of the various protagonists have agency in this? To what should us Liberal / Lefties in The West be adding our voices to?
Let’s start with Ukraine, whose people are bearing the brunt of a proxy conflict between two heavily armed super powers. Its government has two options: to continue to resist the Russian invasion or negotiate a cease fire which meets the demands of neutrality and future non NATO membership. The former suggests a long struggle which, even if successful in wearing the Russian military machine to a standstill, will result in many more casualties and destruction – hardly a peace plan. The latter would be difficult given the support and weaponry being provided by the US and NATO, leaving Ukraine even more alone than it already is. Moreover, a negotiated settlement is unlikely to be accepted by the neo fascist groups both within and outside the Ukranian military. Experience elsewhere suggests that they would continue to receive support from the US and NATO to conduct guerilla / terrorist actions. So what would ostensibly viewed as a peace deal might prove to be illusory.
What about the Ukrainian people – what agency might they have in this? Putting aside the largely Russian speaking population in the eastern provinces (who may well feel safer after the invasion) we are told that motivation for resistance is high. It is difficult to gauge how accurate this might be given the propaganda blitz being mounted by the Western media and the fact that millions have, quite understandably, chosen to flee contested areas.
I think it’s difficult to see how The Ukraine might be able to negotiate a peace deal on its own – which only underlines how powerless it is as a country in this situation.
Russia, cast in the western media as the sole aggressor here, clearly has the power to stop its military activities and withdraw. However, The Kremlin will feel that having committed troops, taken casualties and become the target for extensive international trade and economic sanctions, this will not be a option until its key objectives are met (disbanding / destruction of neo fascist terror units, ruling out NATO membership and the missiles that come with that – and, this is important, getting the US to the negotiating table re international arms limitation talks and mutual security agreements). So not much hope for a peace plan to come from there!
The response of the Russian people is very difficult to gauge given the recently tightened news blackout of Russian opinion – and the ever present propaganda blitz here. We are told about anti war and pro war demonstrations in Moscow and of activists at the former being jailed. It has to be remembered that what ever the balance of opinion expressed in Moscow, Russia is a huge country, the majority of whose inhabitants will have little contact with the West and western ‘values’. Moreover, history suggests that sanctions can be a blunt instrument and usually fail to achieve their goal of regime change. True these are massive sanctions, but Russian people have a well embedded stoicism and determination to resist outside threats. I have no doubt that a mirror of our propaganda blitz will be operant in Russia and see little hope of an effective peace movement gaining traction there.
Which brings us to The US and NATO – the protagonists that, like it or not, we are a part of. For me, the fact that this group of powerful countries has interfered in the forming of Ukrainian governments to promote an anti Russian stance with aspirations to station NATO missiles and then funded, armed and trained neo fascist groups, tells me all I need to know about their concern for the safety and well-being of Ukrainian people. Given what we know about post WW2 US foreign policy it seems appallingly likely that the US government will be pleased that Russia ‘has taken the bait’ and will be more than content for the war to drag on as long as it takes to degrade Russian military capability, confidence and political resolve. The US and NATO governments appear to have pinned their hopes on a quagmire of military stalemate and severe sanctions to bring Russia to heel and force regime change. I see no hope of a peace plan emanating from here.
Public opinion in the West appears to be firmly behind the Ukrainian people in their plight (which is obviously fair enough) but, corralled through propaganda and a lack of alternative views to largely see Russia and its leader as being entirely responsible for this. Sadly, in my view, many on the Liberal / Left have fallen in with this and seem content to condemn Vladimir Putin. Not for one minute am I suggesting that there are no legitimate criticisms to be made of Putin or the Kremlin he leads – but we must at least be mindful of how such comments and sentiments feed into the narrative currently being pushed by US and NATO governments and how they draw attention away from their responsibilities in this situation. Condemning Putin, The Kremlin and Russia does nothing to progress peace in the Ukraine – and may well further harden attitudes against its possibility.
It’s not a positive picture – no one has a peace plan proposal (not even the moribund United Nations) – everyone seems to be playing to win – or at the least not lose. Those who currently have most to lose, the Ukrainian people have already suffered massively – with more, much more it seems, to come.
So what are our responsibilities (those of us Liberal / Lefties in the West) in this situation. It seems that we can do little to affect the course of the war in Ukraine although, with care, we rich people can send money to support refugees etc. Our potential impact on Russian public opinion seems small and even less so on The Kremlin. We are though, a part of the societies in whose name our leaders have engaged in Ukraine and (not) with the Kremlin. Our key relationship to all this is to our own governments and our fellow citizens – to hold the former to account for their actions and to put pressure on them to take their responsibility for bringing about peace and an end to the suffering in Ukraine.
In the marked absence of anything I am aware of that even begins to approach a peace plan I propose the following:
- The UK government pressurises the US government and NATO allies to engage The Kremlin in immediate talks to set out the conditions for a cease fire, the outline of a long term peace settlement and the withdrawal of Russian forces. To include a commitment to Ukraine independence and neutrality, for no NATO forces and missiles to be stationed in the country and for the disbanding of neo fascist units. US to agree a programme of negotiations with Russia re International arms limitations and mutual security.
2. US & NATO to make clear to the Ukrainian government that no more military support will be provided and that Russia will agree a planned withdrawal of its forces as part of a negotiated settlement.
3. US & NATO to encourage the Ukrainian government to progress talks with Russia about an immediate ceasefire and a longer term framework for peace and the normalisation of relations.
4. The Ukraine government to agree to disband its neo fascist units in its regular army and to return to the implementation of the Minsk agreements re a federal structure for the country.
5. The US, Russia and NATO countries to jointly agree a reparations package that would enable the Ukraine government (using local capacity not western contractors) to rebuild the country’s infrastructure and provide meaningful compensation for bereaved families.
Not a plan that is likely to receive universal approval at this point I grant you (and I am woefully short of experience in international diplomacy) but until we start working out what a negotiated peace might look like we are unlikely to make any progress in that direction.
Any better ideas?