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One year after: Russia, Ukraine must negotiate peace

Friday, February 24, 2023 marked the one year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. And as fighting raged in the epicentre of the war, Ukraine’s…

Friday, February 24, 2023 marked the one year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. And as fighting raged in the epicentre of the war, Ukraine’s east and south, Kyiv’s allies around the world showed their support.

Symbolically, Paris lit up the Eiffel Tower in the Ukrainian flag colours of blue and yellow and people draped in Ukrainian flags gathered at a vigil in London. In Brussels, European Union buildings were similarly lit up in those colours.

And for the record, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) overwhelmingly adopted a resolution last Thursday marking the war’s anniversary and demanding Moscow pull out and stop fighting. Tally showed 141 votes in favour, 32 abstentions, including China, and seven, including Russia, voted no.

To commemorate the day, the US Pentagon announced it would send more drones to Ukraine as part of a new $2 billion military support. Already, the US has sent over $27.1 billion in security assistance in support of the war. (USAI; P.L. 114-92, §1250); and $4.73 billion in Foreign Military Financing (FMF; 22 U.S.C. §2763) for Ukraine and “countries impacted by the situation in Ukraine.”

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Russia’s President Vladimir Putin had, on February 24, 2022, ordered a “special military operation” to “protect Russian sovereignty.” Now, it is a full-scale invasion that has settled into attritional trench warfare, with mounting casualties on both sides. Indeed, it has become the worst conflict in Europe since World War Two.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the one-year mark is a “grim milestone” with an impact far beyond Ukraine, warning that an escalation of the conflict in Ukraine is “a clear and present danger.”

And it seems the world is not bothered about the suffering and deaths of women, children, civilians and the military as the war has created economic and social woes in both countries. Official data shows that Russia’s GDP declined by 2.1 per cent in 2022, and the Ukrainian economy nosedived by 30.4 per cent.

Statistics also indicate that over 13 million Ukrainians fled their homes, with about half leaving the country altogether.

Far from the frontlines of Ukraine, the war has damaged the world economy and a Cold War chill has set into international relations. It is intensifying global energy and food shortages, and undermining regional and international security.

Clearly, the war is going into dangerous zone as Russia adopts increasingly the hawkish narrative that it is facing an existential fight against a hostile Western alliance.

President Putin racketed this up with announcement on Thursday of planned deployment of new Sarmat multi-warhead (nuclear) intercontinental ballistic missiles, just as he suspended Russia’s participation with the US in the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) on nuclear arms control.

Yet, intransigence is ruling both sides in the conflict. With Western sanctions meant to cripple Russia and Putin doubling down, Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskyy insists on his country’s sovereignty and Moscow’s withdrawal. This leaves prospects of peace bleak.

But peace is inevitable. Enough mistakes have been made by both combative nations and allied forces. Both have overestimated the prowess of their actions. Russia underestimated the Ukrainian resistance and the massive support from the West. The West exaggerated the potency of economic sanctions and depth of Russian opposition to efforts to bring Ukraine into the NATO umbrella.

None has succeeded in giving the other a knockout blow. They’re still searching for new ways to bring pressure on the other side to capitulate, which is futile. Therefore, the US should pause its military support for Ukraine and go back to diplomacy.

The EU nations should also brace up and take a common stand, and take the option of political settlement instead of the present confusion of some countries supporting Ukraine in possible peace talks while others opt either to limit support to financial mechanisms or still continue military support.

Daily Trust believes that it is time for peace. Towards this, there should be a fresh commitment by both nations and their supporters. Peace talks between both adversaries were launched, but they faltered multiple times. It was such that in February 2023, a senior Ukrainian official ruled peace talks “out of the question” unless Ukraine reclaimed its territories occupied by Russia since 2022.

But the earlier the war ends, the better. And it must be by some type of agreement. The world should consider the recently launched China peace initiative – The Global Security Initiative Concept Paper – which seeks to promote political settlement to international and regional hotspot issues, including Ukraine.

This is important as Russia and Ukraine have reached a deadlock on the battlefield. They have repeatedly failed at the negotiating table. China should help Russia navigate the peace route. The US should lead its NATO allies to get Ukraine to go for direct negotiation with Russia. It is time to embrace peace and jettison the Cold War postures and rhetoric. The untold sufferings and destruction must end, and urgently too.