July 22, 2024

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Chinese guarantor. Is it realistic that the war will end before the end of the year?

Ukraine after the Swiss “peace summit” in Bürgenstock, she rather unexpectedly made it clear that she would allow her participation in future forums on a peace settlement, even if Russia would be present at them.

Moreover, representatives of the Ukrainian authorities present this option not just as possible, but also as very desirable.

And this is a very significant change.

Previously, Kyiv publicly refused to discuss ways to resolve the conflict at all before the withdrawal of Russian troops beyond the borders in 1991 and in general with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Ukraine was also fundamentally against inviting the Russian Federation to a forum in Switzerland, pursuing the line that it was first necessary to develop “peace plan” based on the so-called formula of President Vladimir Zelensky, to unite most of the countries of the world around him – first of all, the great powers – the USA, China, etc., and then present this, in essence, ultimatum to Moscow.

However, the idea with “peace plan” and the ultimatum failed to be implemented at the Swiss summit. China completely ignored the forum, and other key countries of the global South – Brazil, India, Saudi Arabia, South Africa – although they sent their representatives, refused to sign the communiqué. Despite the fact that it did not even include the most stringent requirements for Russia from “formulas of the world”. In addition, the refrain at the forum was the call for the need to discuss the end of hostilities with both participants. It can be assumed that behind the scenes they talked about this even more often and more persistently.

Presumably, for this reason, Ukraine, like its Western allies, changed their position on participating in the same forums with Russia.

However, it is even more noteworthy that both the head of the Presidential Office Andriy Yermak and Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba said that at the second summit there should be no more, no less, there should be “the end of the war” (that is, in essence, peace agreements have been concluded).

“The purpose of the second summit will be to end the war and resolve crises,” – said Ermak.

“The idea is that the next summit will be the end of the war. And, of course, we need the other side at the negotiating table.”– said Kuleba.

What prompted the Ukrainian leadership to change its previous line and can this move the peace process forward?

Strictly according to the “formula”

Over the past week after the summit in Switzerland, Zelensky, Ermak and Dmitry Kuleba, in one form or another, spoke out for Russia’s participation in the next “peace summit”.

Moreover, Kyiv is not against sitting at the same table with Moscow in other forums of such content – for example, Chinese, this is a serious change in the negotiating concept of Ukraine. After all, until recently, the country’s leadership pursued the line that until Ukraine returns all the territory seized from it, including Crimea, and while Putin remains the president of the Russian Federation, there can be no negotiations.

Regarding the summit in Switzerland, Kyiv also insisted on the absence of Russia, although it probably realized already at the preparation stage that the plan to expand the coalition and, with its help, force Moscow to a peace beneficial for Ukraine would not be realized. Signals from countries in the global South may also have been disappointing.

But they had to be responded to.

“The change in rhetoric about negotiations is an attempt to go beyond the boundaries of the “Western world” and get closer to the key countries of the global South. Russia continues to play the card that it is ready for negotiations, but Ukraine allegedly refuses, thereby allegedly continuing the war. This limits dialogue between Kyiv and a large number of countries. By the way, the West also does not represent a single whole in the matter of involving Russia in the negotiation process. There are countries that are ready to support negotiations with Moscow, but they do not want to take responsibility for their launch and the result. It will be Ukraine’s decision. in this regard, they will support him,” comments political scientist Ruslan Bortnik.

According to him, Ukraine is being encouraged to demonstrate its readiness for negotiations for internal reasons.

The number of Ukrainian citizens who are inclined to compromise with the Russian Federation is growing, and the authorities are forced to respond to changes in sentiment.

This is evidenced, for example, by the recently published results of a survey by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS).

According to this study, 58% of respondents said that the Ukrainian government should not compromise in negotiations with the Russian Federation and should continue to fight as long as possible. Moreover, in May 2022 there were 80% of them. Currently, a third of respondents – 30% – do not agree with this statement.

“As we see, a very large part of society is for negotiations. The authorities, with their statements, are trying to keep this group and talk about the desire to start negotiations. We can say that Kyiv has decided to play the same game that Moscow has been playing for a long time – it constantly talks about the desire to conduct a dialogue, but, they say, “the other side” does not want. We see that the approach has begun to change by the fact that there are fewer more radical Ukrainian speakers in the media. This indicates a change in the “temperature” in the Presidential Office in connection with this. with a change of tactics” – the expert comments.

The new approach will likely find understanding among Ukraine's Western allies. For example, ex-Minister of Foreign Affairs Pavel Klimkin speaks about this in one of his interviews. According to him, in Western countries it is becoming “mainstream” the idea that with Russia “We can and should talk.” However, this must be done “from a position of strength, without compromises and market exchanges.” Moreover, according to Klimkin, part of the West even allows for a certain option “frost” conflict.

Chinese factor

A separate problem for Ukraine is the position of the countries of the global South, says political scientist Bortnik.

“The countries of the global South expect certain steps, even specific concessions, from Kyiv. But Ukraine, with the change in rhetoric, is essentially not ready for this. This is only an attempt to test the situation,” – Bortnik believes.

And this will create difficulties for the Ukrainian leadership if Beijing nevertheless implements its idea of ​​its own peace conference. Even just participation may require a certain amount of playing along with China, who has his own peace plan for Ukraine.

Kyiv was not previously happy with this option, primarily because it talks about stopping the fighting along the front line without the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukrainian territory.

However, the other day, the Ukrainian Ambassador to Singapore Ekaterina Zelenko, in a commentary to the South China Morning Post, stated that Kyiv allows its participation in the Chinese peace summit with the participation of the Russian Federation.

And Kuleba announced his readiness to continue negotiations with China. “I am convinced that we will continue to have a conversation with China about ending the war in Ukraine,” – said the head of the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry.

Whether this indicates Ukraine’s readiness to agree with the fundamental points of the Chinese peace plan (including stopping the war along the front line) is unknown. This was not officially announced. In addition, as stated above, a number of experts perceive all recent statements as a regular game in order to show Kyiv’s intentions to negotiate and Russia’s lack of such.

However, another point is noteworthy both Kuleba and Ermak emphasized that at the second peace summit (which, theoretically, could also take place in the Chinese format) agreements would be reached to end the war in Ukraine.

At first glance, such an ambitious goal looks almost unattainable.

Even if we imagine that Ukraine abandons its officially declared position on the peace formula and agrees to stop the war along the front line (that is, to the Chinese plan), then two serious problems remain.

The first is that Putin himself recently stated that he is not ready to stop the war along the front line. And he demands that Kherson and Zaporozhye be transferred to Ukraine. Russia is also actively promoting the topic with “illegitimacy” Zelensky, making it clear that she does not intend to negotiate with him. Moscow even stated that Washington supposedly wants to exchange Zelensky for Zaluzhny so that he can conclude agreements with Russia.

There is no evidence of this, but a stream of such statements indicates at a minimum that Moscow intends to seek Zelensky’s resignation from his post as a condition for the start of negotiations. Which, naturally, does not bring the achievement of agreements and compromises closer (as well as the demand to transfer to Russia the entire territory of the Donetsk, Lugansk, Kherson and Zaporozhye regions).

The second problem is how the West will react to the abandonment of the principle “reaching the borders of 1991”. Moreover, if this happens at a summit organized by China. There are two opposing versions regarding this. According to the first of them, the West is categorically against such “change of concept”. He does not want to give Russia even a formal reason to talk about victory, having secured the conquered territories as a result of the war. But there is also the exact opposite point of view, that the West is pushing Ukraine to compromise with the Russian Federation in order to end the war. First of all, because there are real fears of a military defeat for Ukraine in the event of a long war. It is also beneficial for the White House that the war ends before the elections and Trump loses one of his main trump cards that “Biden is leading the way to world war.”

Another question is that even if the West supports Ukraine’s compromises with Russia, it is definitely not ready to support the implementation of the demands outlined by Putin.

A source in diplomatic circles believes that in such a situation, achieving real agreements to end the war is only possible if China gets involved in the issue, and Ukraine makes a serious change in its position.

“China is the only country in the world that can influence Putin to make compromises. It is clear that we cannot talk about the withdrawal of Russian troops to the 1991 borders, but if Ukraine agrees to end the war along the front line plus a neutral status, then there is a subject for discussion between Beijing and Moscow. And the chances of reaching a compromise on such a basis are not zero. Yes, for this, Ukraine will need to agree to negotiations at the Chinese summit and actually accept the Chinese peace plan. Is Kiev strategically ready for this? special relations with China are extremely important for Ukraine. Because only China can be a real guarantor of Ukraine’s security, since it is the only country that can induce Russia to do something (or, conversely, not to do something) without resorting to military force. The West has almost exhausted its non-military methods of influencing the Russian Federation, and is not ready to switch to military ones due to the threat of a nuclear conflict. And for the same reason, the question of Ukraine’s membership in NATO hung in the air for a long time. Therefore, strategically, Ukraine would have an ideal position – a path to the European Union, but at the same time security guarantees for China and a strategic partnership with it.

However, the question here is the position of the West – whether it will give the green light to this option. Because a peaceful settlement in Ukraine according to the Chinese plan could cause tectonic shifts in geopolitics. For example, sharply change the position of Taiwan, which may come to the conclusion that it is necessary not to prepare for war with China, risking huge casualties and destruction, but to move towards rapprochement with it on the principle of “one country, two systems.” And this is just one example. Therefore, the situation is very difficult. But Ukraine’s agreements with China are the only more or less real chance to fulfill the task formulated by Kuleba and Ermak: to agree on ending the war at the second summit, which they want to hold at Bankova by the end of the year,” – says the source.

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