Ukraine… How to get out of a major international crisis ?

An initiative to prevent war.

It must be said clearly: today, February 20, 2022, if the situation continues to deteriorate at the rate we have been experiencing for weeks, days, and even a few hours… then we will have to realize that war is at our doorstep in Europe. It is a probable fact. Not to say certain, because the worst should not be considered as inevitable. Fortunately, there is no fatality in what the UN Secretary General has designated as a possible « catastrophe ». But we must have the means to act. The moment is critical. Decisions must be made. Now.

How can we not hear the war drums beating and how can we not see how the US-NATO-Ukraine-Russia confrontation has taken on the pace of an escalation that is less and less controlled… because it is increasingly fueled in a spiral of threats and militarization. In a context where inflammatory rhetoric only exacerbates tensions and feeds the danger. Certainly, everyone (or almost everyone) certifies that they do not want war, but what is happening today is nothing other than a form of preparation for it.

When the American President Joe Biden says today that he is « convinced » that Vladimir Putin (in spite of the latter’s multiple denials) has taken « the decision » to launch the offensive and invade Ukraine in the coming week or days… what is he doing other than feeding nationalism and fears, justifying hostilities? The Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky does not beat about the bush when he calls on the West to « stop its policy of appeasement » and to set « a clear timetable » for Ukraine’s accession to NATO… You might as well say that war must be waged immediately. As for the Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, everything indicates that Russia is planning « a complete attack on Ukraine »…

Obviously, in the current context everything is possible. Of course, one can (and should) understand the legitimate concern of Ukraine and many other countries about Russian military stationing, reinforcements and exercises (including naval ones in the Black Sea and the Mediterranean), involving not far from Ukraine’s land borders some 100,000 troops and high-level military capabilities… This is one of the issues that should be discussed urgently. And in good faith by all the protagonists. As Ms. Rosemary Di Carlo, UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, points out, « the accusations and recriminations between the different actors involved in the ongoing discussions have created uncertainty, and apprehension for many that a military confrontation is imminent.

The Western powers, however, give the irrepressible impression that it is no longer a question of obtaining « de-escalation » as a condition for negotiation, but that it is necessary to engage in strategic containment of Russia. By dint of exacerbating itself, the tension is changing dimension. And the logic of power continues to grow stronger. The escalation of hostilities is perilously transformed into a lethal and pernicious mechanism with no security brake. The risks are enormous.

Politicians and most of the Western media claim not to know what Putin really wants. However, Russia presented its demands as early as December 2021 in the form of 2 very precise draft international treaties. But the content of these has not been accepted. The United States and NATO rejected what they called « non-starters », i.e. inadmissible parameters, proposals on which any form of discussion is refused a priori. In spite of the forms of the speech, it was a brutal recusal. It is true that the Russian demands are particularly high and probably, for some of them, out of reach for Moscow, which must have suspected it. But a negotiation always starts at the top. Diplomacy is a difficult and patient exercise that must serve to seek and find solutions, compromises and consensus. Washington has thus rejected all Russian demands while proposing to negotiate on security issues of a completely different order (which are not negligible in themselves). The American administration, as it has done since 1989/1990 and the dismantling of the USSR, has thus spurned Russia, which is something Moscow did not want, as it has been trying for years to establish itself as a major player and a power that must be respected.

So the time has come for a radical change of method. The rhetoric of threat, force and military deterrence must give way to a vision of responsibility, with the practices of multilateralism. It is imperative and immediate to block the rise of risks, to lower the tension, and to get out of the political impasse by changing the whole software and the negotiation framework.

A completely different diplomatic approach must be adopted. The United Nations and its Secretary General must take the lead. And engage, on the basis of a decision and a mandate from the United Nations Security Council, with the support of the General Assembly, in a mission of mediation, negotiations and proposals, first of all to prevent the worst and to reduce the tension. This is an immediate and absolute requirement. Secondly, or simultaneously, to begin substantive talks, always under UN supervision, in accordance with the aims and principles of its Charter, concerning all the issues raised for months by each of the actors in this crisis. No one is saying that this will be easy. But there is no credible and acceptable alternative to diplomacy. Especially for such a complex conflict which, for the past 8 years, has been contributing to the profound weakening of security conditions in Europe.

The United Nations must also be directly involved as a helper and guarantor in the « Normandy format » negotiations, specifically concerning the settlement of the Ukrainian question through the implementation of the Minsk Agreements validated by the OSCE and the UN Security Council. Particular attention should be paid to the political and institutional aspects of these agreements, whose implementation may constitute the best multilateral assurance of lasting security shared by all.

Who can act? Who must act? The French authorities and their European partners – at least those who really want to work towards a political solution – must take a major initiative in this direction. And in a very determined way. We must move away from politico-military postures, antagonistic approaches and power logics to rediscover a sense of collective responsibility and collective security. Without decisive progress in this direction… soon, it may be too late. It is now that it must be decided.

(Translated in english with Deepl)

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