At a meeting of the UN Security Council, UN Secretary-General Guterres recently warned that tension between the major powers is historically high as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. There is also a risk of conflict due to setbacks or miscalculations, Guterres told the members of the UN Security Council.
Fortunately, there is hope. President Zelensky recently had a long telephone conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Xi Jinping suggested to Zelensky that he facilitate peace talks aimed at reaching a cease-fire as soon as possible. China has good ties with President Putin, so will certainly be able to play a significant role in this.
Despite renewed diplomatic efforts, it seems Ukraine and the international community are now focused on reclaiming territory captured by Russia. Ukraine’s counteroffensive is likely to take place in May, depending on weather and arms supplies. President Zelensky visited the Netherlands last May 4. Dutch Prime Minister Rutte announced then that the Netherlands is working hard behind the scenes to reach consensus with allies on delivering fighter jets to Ukraine. Supplying the fighter jets is sensitive because of fears of a further escalation of the war between Ukraine and Russia. Added to this is the recent drone attack on the Kremlin. The Kremlin spoke of it as a planned “terrorist act” and an attempt on the life of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Ukraine has denied having anything to do with the attack, if indeed there was one. “We are not attacking Putin or Moscow, we are fighting on our own territory,” President Zelensky said at a press conference in Finland.
We call for maximum diplomatic effort to reach a cease-fire and a peace solution through the negotiating table soon.
Some 40,000 civilians have already been killed and 200,000 soldiers killed or wounded, which is already far too many. Every human life should be spared. It should be noted that the current arsenals of weapons of the great powers are so vast compared to those in World War II that the war in Ukraine cannot be solved through military means. The tension between the superpowers is already historically high and will only increase with a new and large-scale offensive by Ukraine. The longer the war in Ukraine lasts and the deeper the hostilities are, the more difficult it will be to achieve peace again.
Although we condemn the Russian invasion, we also pay attention to other perspectives in this conflict, which is necessary to achieve peace. As is indicated on the Dutch Parliament website, Russia is threatening Ukraine because it wants Ukraine, once part of the Soviet Union, to never join NATO. According to Putin, NATO promised in 1990 that NATO would not expand eastward, but the alliance has not kept this promise. Russia also wants NATO to withdraw weapons and troops from Eastern Europe. Another perspective in the war in Ukraine is the struggle for world hegemony between the US and China, as pointed out by Professor Demmers during her presentation to the Flemish Peace Institute. Added to this, there is also tension between the US and China, for example when it comes to Taiwan. This affects China’s role as a mediator in the war in Ukraine.
Reducing the tension between the major powers and achieving peace in Ukraine requires new diplomacy;
diplomacy in which countries that are not among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council can also play a role. In connection with the tension between the US and China, it is essential to also give these countries room to contribute to a peace process through diplomatic channels. This could include a country like Brazil. Brazil’s current president, Lula da Silva, calls for peace and maintains good relations with both China and the United States. A country like India can also play a role. India has made it clear in subtle terms that it does not support the war by emphasizing the importance of international law and the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine. Also, India maintains good relations with Russia. This could be given shape in a UN Secretariat-led “high-level” negotiating initiative that is legitimized. High-level negotiation initiative means at least at the level of foreign ministers. Legitimized means that a large part of the United Nations General Assembly gives the commission negotiating authority. The commission should make efforts to achieve a cease-fire between the Ukrainian and Russian governments as a stepping stone to peace negotiations. Possibly, a connection could be sought with the Mexican president’s López Obrador’s initiative for a peace commission for an overall global cease-fire. López Obrador suggests including Pope Francis and António Guterres, amongst others. Furthermore, we hope that dialogue with the Russian Federation can be continued, for example in the OSCE.
In short, it is high time for peace. High time for a cease-fire and maximum and new diplomacy before reaching the point of no return where the escalation can no longer be stopped. Life should be cherished. It would be good if the Netherlands, Germany, the EU and other countries committed to this.
Hopefully, there will soon be a Ukraine – and a world – in which all children can play.
May-May Meijer, chair Peace SOS
Klaus Moegling, ret. adj. Professor of political Science at the University of Kassel, Germany