Analysis, Russia-Ukraine War

OPINION - The Russia-Ukraine war is at a crossroads: Time for peace?

The escalating deadlock in the war is transitioning into a scenario where both sides are unhappy about the war's trajectory, which means more concessions are expected at the negotiation table

Huseyin Ozdemir  | 12.03.2024 - Update : 12.03.2024
OPINION - The Russia-Ukraine war is at a crossroads: Time for peace? Military mobility of Ukrainian soldiers in direction of Kupiansk

An imperfect peace is preferable to the ravages of war. Thus, efforts to bring conflicting parties to dialogue and seek diplomatic resolutions are critically important

The author is a researcher at the TRT World Research Centre, based in Istanbul, Türkiye.

ISTANBUL

As tensions in Europe continue to simmer, in a recent press conference, [1] French President Emmanuel Macron asked: "Who initiated the war in Ukraine? Who is threatening with nuclear weapons?" His talking points were deliberately designed to name Russian President Vladimir Putin as the answer and served as a message to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and other European leaders to accelerate measures supporting Ukraine.

It would have carried more significance if Macron delivered this speech two years ago and provided Ukraine with sufficient military and political support to repel Russian forces. However, Macron's and other European leaders' reactions in the past two years were meek and fragmented.

Such a lack of a unified European resolve failed to provide Ukraine with an adequate lifeline. The pledged ammunition supply reached Ukraine belatedly and inadequately, while high-tech military technologies and potential game-changers were either withheld or provided too late. Adding insult to injury, several EU nations sought loopholes to evade economic sanctions packages against Moscow, thus tacitly helping the Russian economy.

Two years have elapsed since the war began, and the lands stretching from the Dnieper to the Black Sea remain under Russian occupation. Each passing day makes the situation more complicated for Ukraine militarily and diplomatically. Perhaps Macron should ask: "How can the involved parties convene at the negotiation table, and who shall act as the mediator to facilitate their discourse?" Since his military backing for Ukraine was subpar, he should be candid and focus more on finding peace.

The protracted war of attrition, coupled with the setback of the anticipated counteroffensive and the detonation of the Kakhovka dam, has allowed the Russians to fortify their defensive positions. The absence of significant territorial shifts since the Kherson offensive compels the protagonists to reluctantly acknowledge the de facto borders in a vaguely defined process.

The war is dragging two sides to a dead end

In Ukrainian domestic politics, the tension [2] between former Commander-in-Chief Valeriy Zaluzhnyi and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy indicates that the situation is deteriorating.

As the situation unfolds unfavorably for Ukraine, the recent aid packages announced by the EU and the US, the Czech Republic's proposal [3] to source weapons for Ukraine from international vendors and Sweden's long-awaited grant of Gripen Fighter Jets to Ukraine all fall short of tilting the military situation in Ukraine's favor. Meanwhile, the idea of sending troops to Ukraine, proposed by Macron, and supported by Czech President Petr Pavel, carries significant risks.

The call from certain members of parliament in pro-Russian Transnistria to unite with Russia closely mirrors previous events in South Ossetia (Georgia) and Donetsk/Lugansk (Ukraine) before 2014. However, unlike past instances, Russia lacks a contiguous land border, with the only viable route being through the occupation of Odesa. The encroachment of the war on Moldova places Europe in a precarious situation.

While the occupation of Odesa presents a formidable challenge, Ukraine's collaboration with Western intelligence services, ongoing targeting [4] of Moscow's fleet in the Black Sea using drone boats, and restrictions on the Russian naval landing force should be interpreted as defensive measures meant to protect Odesa.

Russia’s former President Dmitry Medvedev's appearance [5] with a map displaying Ukrainian territories shared by neighboring countries not only stirs tensions with Poland, Romania, and Hungary but also underlines Russia's eagerness to capture Odesa.

Until now, Russia has not been defeated in Ukraine. However, it remains distant from its initial objectives. The declared objectives of regime change, denazification, Ukraine's disassociation from NATO and the EU, and demilitarization are far from completion. Despite declaring annexation through so-called referendums, Ukraine retains control over the capitals of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, among the four oblasts.

The escalating deadlock in the war, increasingly disadvantageous for both Ukraine and Russia, is transitioning into a scenario where both sides are unhappy about the war's trajectory, which means more concessions are expected at the negotiation table.

Macron's remarks clearly do not aim to end the conflict. In fact, they could escalate the war within the EU and beyond. Over the past two years, tens of thousands of servicemen have perished in the conflict, underscoring the need to prevent further bloodshed. Even Putin recently stated [6] that "Any war and any hostility are a tragedy."

Türkiye's role as a mediator can be a remedy

Given the war's unpleasant trajectory, Russia and Ukraine may be more prone to negotiations at present. Thus, a peaceful settlement is within reach. It is now up to neighboring nations to shoulder responsibility for finding an accord. Türkiye's early efforts initiated dialogues on concepts like honorable exit [7] and prisoner exchanges. Had other major powers rallied for peace, diplomatic avenues might have shortened the conflict's duration.

An imperfect peace is preferable to the ravages of war. Thus, efforts to bring conflicting parties to dialogue and seek diplomatic resolutions are critically important. These actions could reduce tensions, prevent additional casualties, and provide a much-needed break for Europe.

It is crucial to prioritize concerted efforts toward peace to shield Ukraine from enduring further turmoil. Central to this endeavor is the quest for a mediator who is trusted by both sides, possesses a keen appreciation for power dynamics, and carefully weighs the geopolitical interests at play. Türkiye could be the perfect candidate for this role.

[1] https://twitter.com/emmanuelmacron/status/1765125007791759663?s=61&t=p4T7ObgQ1fHWItpeJuh8qw
[2] https://www.nytimes.com/2024/02/08/world/europe/zelensky-general-valery-zaluzhny-ukraine-military.html
[3] https://kyivindependent.com/france-netherlands-back-czech-plan-to-buy-ammunition-for-ukraine-outside-eu/
[4] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2024/feb/14/ukraine-claims-to-have-sunk-russian-landing-ship-in-drone-attack-crimea
[5] https://www.tiktok.com/@ria_novosti/video/7342463922617765138
[6] https://tass.ru/politika/20176325
[7] https://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkey-in-close-contact-with-russia-ukraine-for-ceasefire-erdogan-172480

*Opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Anadolu.

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