A possible politico-diplomatic solution to the Ukrainian conflict
The seeds of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine were sown in 1991, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Since then, Ukraine has been a disarticulated country with competing national projects that are “inspired”, to a large extent, by the ruling elites of different foreign powers, mainly the United States of America (USA) and Russia. For example, the Zelensky administration is not an authentic representative of even the entirety of the predatory elites in Ukraine, let alone the rest of the country’s population. These circumstances were conducive to the ascendancy and the entrenchment of the neoliberal project in Ukrainewith all his support deleterious consequences in the form of attacks on workers rightswhich resulted in poverty and inequality, emigration and war.
Even before 2014, Ukraine was a very poor country in Europe due to the rise of neoliberalism. Furthermore, the large-scale destruction that began in 2014 in Ukraine and escalated during the current armed conflict must be stopped immediately to prevent further destruction. Therefore, finding an immediate politico-diplomatic solution to this conflict is of utmost importance.
Before the outbreak of the conflict in February, the United States rebuffed the political-diplomatic overtures of the Government of the Russian Federation. The Zelensky administration, indebted to the United States government, lacked effective agency in this negotiation process and its final outcome. Previously, European countries like Germany and France, which wanted to avoid war, did not have sufficient strategic autonomy from the United States to give effect to their policy of avoiding war.
The ongoing conflict is primarily a proxy war between the United States and Russia, which has also become a civil war within Ukraine. The prolongation of this armed conflict risks having devastating consequences for the Ukrainian people. Moreover, prolonging the economic war against Russia will aggravate the difficulties of the world economy, which is already badly damaged by the Covid-19 pandemic. In particular, the global food crisis could intensify, creating a threat of famine and malnutrition that could affect millions of people, especially in developing countries. For these reasons too, a politico-diplomatic solution is necessary to resolve the various dimensions of the Ukrainian conflict.
The main obstacle to a politico-diplomatic solution is the role of the United States government. She tends to believe, wrongly, that she has the adequate strategic resources to practice double containment vis-à-vis China and Russia. One of the results of this failed strategy is the growing strategic concord between China and Russia. Such a concord put an end to the hopes of the American government for a political collapse in Russia (which it vainly hoped would follow the economic war against Russia). Therefore, the hope of the American elites to be able to put an end to the armed conflict in Ukraine under conditions which they consider acceptable cannot be filled.
The negotiating package that the Government of the Russian Federation and the Zelensky administration discussed in Istanbul, Turkey, in March and April is now politically obsolete. The Zelensky administration unilaterally withdrew from these negotiations at the request of the United States government. This package had three elements: a neutral status for Ukraine with “security guarantees”; Ukraine’s willy-nilly recognition of Russian sovereignty over Crimea; and an equally willy-nilly recognition by Ukraine of the “independence” of Donbass.
The US-led incorporation of hitherto ostensibly neutral Finland and Sweden into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) also contributed to the political obsolescence of the first point of the package. negotiation (the neutral status of Ukraine). Under these circumstances, the government of the Russian Federation is unlikely to be willing to accept mere written assurances of neutrality status. In fact, the government of the Russian Federation went further and declared that it would not accept Ukraine’s membership of the European Union.
Recently, the Zelensky administration argued that the supply of arms to the Ukrainian Armed Forces (by the United States government) would help it achieve a “respectable” position in possible negotiations with the Russian Federation government. Russia. The United States government (which now claims to no longer seek to engineer political collapse in Russia) has reiterated this. But such dispute is based on a fundamental principle playback error of the military balance and Classes of the conflict in Ukraine so far. If the United States government supplies weapons that the Zelensky administration uses to attack targets on the territory of the Russian Federation, the resulting Russian government retaliatory measures may not be limited to Ukrainian territory. Furthermore, in an attempt to prevent the transfer of arms, the Russian armed forces may intensify attacks on infrastructure in Ukraine. Therefore, the only rational way available is to resort to a politico-diplomatic solution.
In these circumstances, what could the contours of a viable politico-diplomatic solution to the conflict in Ukraine look like?
First, Ukraine should become a neutral country without membership in any military organization (namely NATO or the Collective Security Treaty Organization) and disavow membership in the European Union and the Eurasian Economic Union.
Secondly, the neutrality of Ukraine should be guaranteed by placing joint military garrisons of the armed forces of the Russian Federation on the one hand and the armed forces of France (acting independently of the command of the United States through the NATO) at mutually agreed locations in Ukraine. No other country’s armed forces should be stationed in Ukraine (especially not those of the United States, England and Eastern European countries, as they operate at different levels within the framework of “the ‘rules-based international order’). For example, the armed forces of Germany and Italy cannot be part of this process for “historical reasons”. These garrisons will be responsible for keeping the peace and guaranteeing Ukraine’s security through mutually “restrictive” movements. Russian and French troops should not interfere in the internal political process in Ukraine. Their joint troop presence can go some way towards achieving the goal of non-interference by outside powers in Ukraine’s internal affairs.
some voices in Russia are advocating for the use of Collective Security Treaty Organization peacekeepers in Ukraine once the armed conflict is over. If negotiations are carried out with the aim of achieving a lasting peace, an agreement somewhat along the lines advocated in this article could be reached.
Third, Crimea and Donbass must be made available to Ukrainian citizens for visa-free travel and economic activities on a “national basis” and vice versa.
Fourth, Ukraine should be reconstituted into a confederation of oblasts with the possibility of full autonomy. This is perhaps the only way available to reconcile, to some extent, Ukrainian sovereignty over oblasts such as Mykolaiv/Nikolayev, Kherson, Kharkiv/Kharkhov, Zaporizhzhia/Zaporozhye etc., and the Russian presence in these oblasts. Similar considerations may apply to other oblasts in Ukraine if the Russian presence expands due to prolonged armed conflict.
Fifthly, the reconstruction of Ukraine should be fully financed, in mutually agreed proportions, by all foreign countries willing to participate in the reconstruction process.
Sixth, alongside this diplomatic solution, the repatriation of all Ukrainian refugees wishing to return must be facilitated in collaboration with United Nations organizations that have such responsibilities.
Seventh, the economic war against Russia must be completely reversed.
This seven-point solution that encompasses diplomacy and inclusive reconstruction has the potential to meet the basic demands of all direct and indirect participants in the conflict in Ukraine. If implemented, it could preserve Ukraine’s sovereignty, meet the aspirations of the people of Crimea and Donbass, address the security concerns of the Government of the Russian Federation, alleviate the global food crisis and help European countries to regain their strategic autonomy. It may also not be seen as a “descent” for either party to the conflict. And it could create conditions that could sprout an alternative to the neoliberal project in Ukraine, which would require additional measures such as lifting the ban on the Communist Party of Ukraine and reversing ongoing attacks on the rights of workers.
This is an opportune time for all those interested in peace and cooperation, the left in particular, in Ukraine, Russia, Europe and the rest of the world, to advance the prospects for a solution politico-diplomatic to the conflict in Ukraine. If this peace effort succeeds, it will set a valuable precedent for resolving other ongoing armed conflicts around the world. The persistence of the conflict in Ukraine is conducive to the hegemony of the neoliberal project, albeit in varying shades, in countries around the world. Therefore, a politico-diplomatic solution to the Ukrainian conflict can initiate a process that challenges the neoliberal project in the world.
The author is a professor in the Department of Economics, Satyawati College, University of Delhi. He thanks Dr. Navpreet Kaur, Dr. Radhika Menon and Prof. Shaswati Mazumdar for their critical interventions in an earlier version of this article. The opinions expressed are personal.