Ukraine and the need for negotiation
This conflict was never going to be quick, and we should not only reevaluate our objectives but be honest about our capacity to achieve them. Our stated objective is to protect Ukrainians, but our actions do not match that. We are actively encouraging more conflict by scuttling peace talks and continuing to arm Ukraine. Our objective is to punish Russia for violating a rules-based order (a commitment by all countries to conduct their activities in accordance with agreed rules) and degrading them to deter others.
While I think it is necessary to protect the rules-based order, predominantly using The UN for peacekeeping, conflict arbitration, and global cooperation, we should also consider the Obama doctrine. The doctrine summed up as do not do stupid shit and understand core interest. Obama accurately identified Ukraine as a core interest to Russia and not one for us. We know Russia is willing to target civilians with artillery, bomb cities, cut gas to Europe, and threaten global stability to take Ukraine; while we are arming Ukraine, we do not have the same resolve. Our actions continue to escalate the conflict, harming Ukrainian civilians and acting as a global threat multiplier. The conflict is causing supply shocks because of how much grain, fertilizer, and energy comes from the region. The result is spiking food and energy costs in some nations and shortages in others. Europe is already talking about rationing energy while developing nations are warning of mass famine.
So what are we to do? We need to push for peace. With casualties above 14k (3k of them being civilians) Ukraine is unable to expel Russia, and Russia has shown willingness for extreme measures threatening tactile nuke or chemical weapons usage. Going back to the Minsk agreements is not in Russia’s interest, and a coup in Russia is equally improbable, so there are only a few options.
- Defacto Partition
- Neutrality for Ukraine with accommodations
- Continued conflict
None of these are great options, but because we can not go back and stop the invasion, these are the options available. A negotiated settlement resulting in neutrality with each side giving concessions keeps the rules-based order intact and deters others. There were great costs to Russia, and allowing The UN to adjudicate the conflict and settlement allows punishment to deter further aggression from Russia or others. Going forward, we should look at what made Russia more inclined to invade Ukraine our violations of international law, arming and training Ukraine before the invasion, possibly being involved in the Ukraine coup in 2014, and expanding beyond our core interests. We are now in a multipolar world where we have regional players with competing interests; we should focus on expanding international cooperation and organizations to reinforce a rules-based order.