Russia-Ukraine Conflict Requires Urgent Diplomacy

Peace Advocate February 2022

(Reuters) Mr Blinken met his opposite number, Sergei Lavrov - but neither expected a breakthrough

By Elizaveta Kupriyanova

The unresolved conflict between Russia and Ukraine goes back to the Orange Revolution of 2004. Massive protests spread across Ukraine as a result of the rigged elections that gave victory to pro-Russian candidate Viktor Yanukovych. This caused internal divisions within the revolutionist bloc, threatening a governmental crisis. 

Later, in 2013, the Maidan Revolution took place. Thousands of people went to the streets to protest Ukraine’s decision to abandon plans to sign an agreement with the EU, blaming pressure from Russia. As a result, Ukraine refused to join the Moscow-dominated Eurasian Economic Union, demonstrating its refusal to be tightly linked to Russia. At the same time, the Minsk Protocol was signed in 2014 in an attempt to end the war in the Eastern region of Ukraine. Unfortunately, this failed and the protocol was broken from both Russia and Ukraine. Minsk II was a follow-up attempt at peace in 2015. Again, both sides quickly broke the ceasefire.       

Today, Russia and Ukraine are on the verge of war, and immediate actions must be taken to prevent further displacement of people and additional loss of innocent life.  The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was founded in 1949 in the aftermath of World War II. The alliance was created to provide peace and protection to European countries. When NATO was established, there were 12 member states. Since then, NATO has expanded 8 times, there are currently 30 member states, and it is looking for further expansion, including adding Ukraine. This discussion of Ukraine joining NATO is not new, but has not progressed because NATO promised not to expand east after the Cold War and the dissolution of the Soviet Union. This promise is being broken as discussions about expansion to the east become more frequent. 

This is not the time for Ukraine to join NATO. Such expansion would escalate the  conflict. Russia fears NATO expansion close to its borders and wants NATO to keep its promises. During the1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, the US felt threatened when Russia placed missiles close to its borders. By this same reasoning, Russia feels threatened by the further expansion of NATO. 

While it is clear that NATO should not expand, complete abolition is more complicated.  NATO was established in part to protect smaller European countries. If NATO is abolished, countries like Germany would have the potential to build a military as strong as those of Russia and the US in a matter of 5 to 10 years. Dissolution of NATO can only happen if another similar agreement is established. 

For the time being, a compromise preventing NATO from deploying offensive weapons to territories near Russia’s borders is necessary. Further discussion between NATO and Russia should be taking place. It is essential that attempts towards a resolution of the conflict are made now. Since the beginning of the UN peacekeeping missions in 1948, no peacekeepers have been deployed to Ukraine. Given the highly volatile situation in eastern Ukraine and the fragility of all ceasefires between Russia and Ukraine thus far, the presence of UN peacekeepers could prove effective in not only enforcing a ceasefire but also aiding the Ukrainian people in their recovery. Additionally, a treaty or an agreement can be put in place that is acceptable to both of the parties so they are more likely to observe it.

Elizaveta Kupriyanova is a Northeastern student from Moscow, Russia and a MAPA intern.