Give peace a chance in Ukraine

By Paulo Nogueira Batista Jr. - 12 April 2023
Give peace a chance in Ukraine

Sketching out the elements of a possible diplomatic solution for those positioning themselves as mediators.

Brazil, China and other countries have begun to position themselves as possible mediators for a peaceful solution to the war in Ukraine. China put forth an 11-point plan. Brazil has indicated its willingness to help initiate a dialogue between Russia, Ukraine, and the West. The issue will be on the table as Lula visits China this week.

Many people see these attempts as premature and even hopeless. It is true, of course, that mediation will only take place if and when those involved in the war, directly or indirectly, are interested in it. But there is a growing feeling in many parts of the world that it is of utmost importance to give peace a chance in Ukraine. Results will probably not come immediately, but the ground needs be prepared, perhaps by creating a group of friendly or neutral countries that can bridge the gap between the parties in conflict, as suggested by President Lula of Brazil. He did not mention it, in so far as I know, but this group could perhaps include Brazil, Turkey, China, India, Indonesia and South Africa, for example. Some countries, notably China, may be seen as too close to Russia, but its willingness to participate in peace efforts is highly significant.

I am well aware that there are no prospects for a short-term solution. How can the seriousness of the situation be underestimated? Russia considers that it lives an existential threat. The West, mainly the United States, considers that its world hegemony and authority were put in check by the invasion of Ukraine.

However, peace is never out of reach. As former president of Brazil Dilma Rousseff recalled, in an interview last year, a war that cannot be resolved on the battlefield has to be resolved through diplomatic means. And the key to a solution, she rightly said, is to find a formula that can be presented by all or nearly all warring sides as victory. Difficult? No doubt. Not impossible though.

I risk sketching some elements of what could be, in my humble opinion, a possible diplomatic solution, which might satisfy, to some extent, all or almost all those involved. Consider what follows only as an example of what could perhaps be constructed.

Russia would withdraw all its troops from the regions of Ukraine, Donbass and others, invaded since 2022. Before that, however, Ukraine would pass, reflecting the country's diversity, a constitutional reform that would convert it from a unitary republic to a federative republic, in line with the never fulfilled promises made in the Minsk agreements of 2014 and 2015. All provinces of Ukraine, including notably the predominantly Russian-speaking ones, Lugansk and Donetsk, would have relative autonomy and the right to elect their governors (to this day always appointed by Kiev) and their state assemblies. Firm assurances would be given that the population of these provinces could count on full protection from further harassment and aggression. The Russian language would be established or re-established as a national language, along with Ukrainian and perhaps other languages spoken in the country, ensuring complete freedom to publish, teach and communicate in Russian. Crimea, with an overwhelming Russian majority, and that was incorporated into the country in 2014, after a referendum in which more than 93% voted for incorporation, would stay with Russia. Ukraine and the West would commit to keeping the country outside NATO, but Ukraine could, if it comes to meet the strict European requirements, join the European Union at some future time. It would perhaps also be necessary to include a commitment to denazify Ukraine, which has long been plagued by violent far-right groups heavily involved in the escalation that led to the war. Westerners would lift sanctions against Russia as agreements are fulfilled and would unfreeze Russian international reserves that were blocked in retaliation for the invasion of Ukraine. Russia would undertake, for its part, to help rebuild Ukraine which is, after all, a sister nation, from the same historical and cultural space, and which only by a dark succession of mistakes and machinations was led to this war, regrettable as all.

Viable? Perhaps. The West could declare itself victorious: Russia, forced to abandon its supposed expansionist project, would have agreed to withdraw all its troops, to accept Ukraine's eventual entry into the European Union and, furthermore, to help in the reconstruction of the country. Russia could also declare itself victorious: it would obtain the recognition of Crimea as Russian, the autonomy and protection of the Russian-speaking populations in Eastern Ukraine, the non-entry of Ukraine into NATO and a commitment to denazify its neighbor.

I am unaware of any details and even overall aspects of what is being considered in Brasilia in this regard. But I believe that President Lula, along with other leaders of mediating countries, could indeed play a role in ending the war. One favorable circumstance is that Brazil will preside the G20 in 2024, a forum of leaders that, as is well known, includes the major developed and emerging countries. All the above-mentioned possible mediating countries are members of the G20. President Lula has already expressed his desire that the G20 become again a political group in which leaders meet to discuss face-to-face, jointly, the challenges of our planet, ceasing to be what it has been for many years – a somewhat weakened group in which responsibilities and discussions are largely outsourced to member country bureaucrats.



Paulo Nogueira Batista Jr. is a Brazilian economist. He was Executive Director for Brazil and other countries in the IMF and Vice-president of the New Development Bank established by the BRICS.

Photo by zhang kaiyv

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