Russia – Ukraine war: One year on, hazy path to peace – Part 2
Also, what transpired at the just concluded World Leaders and Security Conference at Munich in Germany shows that peace plan is beyond the horizon of the superpowers. Today, only China is known to be initiating a peace plan through its head of delegation, Wang Yi. Though the same China is being feared by the US Foreign Secretary, Antony Blinken to be considering “lethal support” for Russia, claim denied by China.
As Biden was visiting Kyiv, China officials are also visiting Moscow in what some see as an interesting coincidence. Last week, South Africa is hosting Russia and China for a 10-day naval drills in the Indian Ocean. In the geopolitical spread of the conflict, the effort of Russia to establish a multipolar world with China which is being displayed in Africa, particularly as the French are being forced to leave Mali and Burkina Faso under the public support for Russia to fight the intractable terrorism means that the war in Ukraine will elongate.
At Munich, the US Vice President Kamala Harris said Russia has committed “crimes against humanity”. The mantra “As long as it takes” by Ukraine’s supporters such as the German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron are not connoting any end to the crisis. As far as they are concerned, the outcome of the war will determine west’s authority. Willingness to prosecute Russia for its atrocities in Ukraine sends a menacing message to Russia that the end has not come.
Lastly, the morale Ukraine is getting in arms, and now sophisticated armed tanks, long-range missiles, and if lucky, jet fighters like F16 and their president, Volodymyr Zelensky, will further strengthen its resistance and defence against Russia. The interest Ukraine showed at negotiation at the beginning of the war is no longer there for apparent reasons. As far as Ukraine is concerned, its goal is to regain all the lost territories including Crimea. The skills and resilience it has demonstrated indicate such possibility, but it will be a long haul for that to be achieved in the battle.
Taking the above into account, it is easy to understand the war is far from over. The next phase seems more dangerous. If care is not taken, the conflict will transform into World War III since it is an existential war between the west and Russia; between democracy and autocracy as being posited by some schools of thought.
The plausibility of this is that, if Russia wins, it will further invade other European countries like Poland and Romania given the Georgia’s experience in 2008 and Crimea in 2014. Then on Russian side, its existence, history and culture are under serious threat, and therefore, will defend with whatever that is necessary and as long as it takes. From its war with Napoleon Bonaparte in 1812 (French invasion), Russia will stay the course, even more so that the west-imposed sanctions are not as biting as expected. India and others are buying cheaper oil. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Bahrain, UAE and Iran have formally indicated interests to join BRICS in a bid for a multipolar world.
But while everyone should prepare for a long conflict, there is still the possibility to resolve the conflict. As a willing mediator today, China seems to have the ace. Though it has neither endorsed nor condemned Russia for the invasion, China has publicized its neutrality and posited itself more as a responsible power by indicating to help resolve the conflict through “promoting peace talks and …constructive role.” At Munich, China said it would propose a peaceful resolution of the conflict, which will stress that a “nuclear war must never be fought and can never be won.” China has urged the US to rethink its role in the war and help to deescalate the tension. If this proposal is accepted given the leverage and the “no-limits” friendship with Kremlin and its humanitarian assistance to Ukraine, the world can hope for a better outcome from the war.
Of great importance is the need for the west to sheath the sword, stop forging new weapons and stop fueling the conflict for the sake of humanity. All powers should cease from imperial overreach. They should encourage Ukraine to jettison a protracted war and come to the negotiation table.
As China visits Russia this week of the war anniversary and the intending President Xi Jinping’s visit to Putin this month, one would only hope that China would encourage Putin to embrace peace and withdraw his forces from Ukraine. But its possibility is distant considering its own diplomatic confrontations and exchanges with US over the balloon saga and Taiwan. Turkey whose diplomatic moves were promising last year seems to be wearied, and currently being engaged with the large-scale post- earthquakes recovery. Unfortunately, this is why there is no clear path to peace as the war of attrition reaches its one-year mark.
Babatunde, PhD, is a fellow and peacebuilding strategist at the Nigeria’s Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution, Abuja; writes via email@example.com.