Never Too Late for Peace in Ukraine

Viewpoint by Somar Wijayadasa

NEW YORK (IDN) — Once again, destruction, bloodshed, migration of millions of people, shattered economies, and hardship for average people all over the world.

Russia attacked Ukraine though Russia’s President Vladimir Putin reiterated that Moscow had no plans to occupy Ukraine, and that the “special military operation” is directed at “demilitarization” and “denazification” in Ukraine.

It came after a seven-year impasse over Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreement, and Russia’s recent recognition of the Donbas republics of Donetsk and Luhansk. 

In the 21st century, a war for whatever reason is unacceptable when there are a myriad of extraordinary ways to resolve international disputes.

Peaceful Settlement of International Disputes

In 1945, the Preamble to the United Nations Charter spelled out that the most important purpose of the world organization is “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war”.

The UN Charter’s Article 1 and Article 2 (3) states “all members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered”.

Chapter VI of the UN Charter that deals with the peaceful settlement of disputes requires countries with disputes that could lead to war to first of all try to seek solutions through peaceful methods such as “negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements, or other peaceful means of their own choice”.

Despite these glorious words, I do not recall the United Nations resolving a single global crisis. 

World powers have blood in their hands

Since the Second World War, a few western countries waged hundreds of wars in which nearly 50 million people have been killed, tens of millions made homeless, and countless millions injured and bereaved. No part of the world has escaped the scourge of war. The mechanisms enshrined in the UN Charter to resolve conflicts by peaceful means have been rendered useless.

The United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) authorized bombings in Kosovo and Serbia in the 1990s. The Arab Spring in the Middle East caused thousands of deaths and regime changes in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen. The whole Middle East was in a wildfire of failed states, civil wars, extremists, death, destruction, millions of refugees and mass migration—thanks to the failed foreign policies of Western countries.

But the western countries and NATO never talk about their own war escapades that have killed millions of people. And there was no one—not even the United Nations—to cry over those deaths and mayhem.

NATO’s aggressive and intrusive military expansion

Instead of using proven ways and means to neutralize tensions, the UN, US, EU and NATO followed a different path.

Since the collapse of the former Soviet Union, former Eastern European republics desperately wanted to join NATO for a number of reasons: To freely travel and seek employment in the EU countries, to receive funding for military expansion on the pretext of securing protection from Russia, and they permitted US and NATO forces to establish military installations in their countries.

Accordingly, NATO’s deployment of Western troops and military equipment including missiles in the Eastern European countries bordering Russia—despite the Regan-Gorbachev verbal agreement that it would not expand NATO toward Russia’s borders—is the most extensive military build-up since the end of the Cold War. 

In recent years, Russia has expressed its concerns about the deployment of dual-use US missile defence infrastructure in Poland and Romania with offensive capabilities. It also feared that if NATO pulls Ukraine into its alliance, and deploys such dual-use missiles in Ukraine, it would have a flight time to Moscow of just 4-5 minutes.

Russia understandably sees it as a grave threat to its vital national security even though the EU and NATO assert that it is of a defensive nature and not posing a threat to Russia.

That reminds me of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis and how the US threatened Cuba with nuclear war and brought the world into an abyss.

Even today, the US would not tolerate Russia or China to establish military bases or missiles in any South American country—Cuba, Venezuela, etc. Then, why a different yardstick for Russia’s national security claims?

Another sore point for Europe and Zelensky is the $10.6 billion dollar Nord Stream 2 pipeline. There are fears that the already completed but blocked Nord Stream 2—if allowed to flow—may reduce royalty income for Ukraine, make Europe more dependent on Russian gas, prevent US from selling LNG gas to Europe, and that a few European countries would further improve economic and financial relations with Russia.

Still not too late for peace and dignity for Ukraine

For seven long years, there were two simple options on the table for a peaceful resolution of the Ukrainian problem: (1) The implementation of the 2015 Minsk agreements, and (2) Neutralization of Ukraine on the model of Finland, Sweden, Switzerland and Austria. Let me explain.

Option 1: Minsk Peace Agreement was negotiated in 2014 by Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany, and was signed by representatives of Russia, Ukraine, the separatist leaders, and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and was endorsed by a UN Security Council resolution.

It was designed to bring autonomy to the two separatist republics – Donetsk and Luhansk—under the jurisdiction of Ukraine, and build a viable political solution to bring peace in Ukraine.

Over the years, Germany’s former Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron strived to have the Minsk Agreement enforced but the Ukraine’s leaders not only opposed the Minsk Agreements but also continued to bomb the two breakaway regions – resulting in 1.5 million internally displaced people in Ukraine, nearly 14,000 people killed, and over 814,000 refugees migrated to Russia.

Option 2: Declare Neutrality. Since Ukraine’s membership in NATO was not probable as Germany and France have repeatedly opposed it—the UN, USA, EU and NATO had a golden opportunity to compel Ukraine’s leadership to declare a neutral stance.

In 2016, when I wrote about US, EU sanctions against Russia over the Crimea issue, I suggested this option of backing a neutral, decentralized and non-nuclear Ukraine precisely on the path of Austria after the Second World War.

But the war hawks had other plans to bait Ukraine to be attacked by Russia. Many peace-loving people claim, maybe they even have another ulterior motive—to escalate the current Russia-Ukraine war into a Nuclear War.

Following the Russian invasion, the UN, US and EU hurriedly imposed structured and calculated sanctions to destabilize the economy of Russia.

Wouldn’t it be better for the whole world if they unitedly acted so swiftly with the same potency and expediency to find a peaceful settlement to the Russia-Ukraine conflict. It is still not too late.

The world awaits a peaceful solutionnot a nuclear war

The solution is pretty simple: Implement the 2015 Minsk agreements and demilitarize and neutralize Ukraine on the model of Finland, Sweden, Switzerland and Austria.

According to a White House official, the total amount of security assistance provided to Ukraine in the past year amounts to $1.2 billion. A few days after the Russian invasion, the US Congress passed a $13.6 billion dollar aid package to Ukraine.

If a peace plan occurs, all that money could be given to Ukraine to revamp its economy and re-settle all who fled to other countries.

Wars generate a plethora of destabilizing issues and provide the much-desired incentive for nuclear-powered nations to start a nuclear war that will annihilate all mankind and scorch this earth forever.

Do you need a valid reason to start the Nuclear War? Already two Ukrainian UAV drones fell on Croatia and in Romania. What if they landed in Berlin or Brussels? What if a rogue chemical weapon explodes inside Ukraine? Possibilities never end.

The situation is reminiscent of that before the Second World War erupted in 1939, and the US President Franklin D. Roosevelt said: “When peace has been broken anywhere, the peace of all countries everywhere is in danger”.

* Somar Wijayadasa, an international lawyer was a Faculty Member of the University of Sri Lanka (1967-1972), worked for IAEA and FAO (1973-1980), delegate of UNESCO to the UN General Assembly (1980-1995), and was the Representative of UNAIDS at the United Nations from 1995-2000. [IDN-InDepthNews – 14 March 2022]

Photo: 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine—invasion of Ukraine by Russia starting on 24 February 2022. CC BY SA 4.0

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