Decisive victory for either side looks remote. The only possible solution is a process of negotiation writes Shadia Edwards-Dashti

The 31st anniversary of Ukrainian independence also marks half a year since Russia invaded. The war has been a disaster for the Ukrainian people, resulting in tens of thousands of Ukrainian casualties and displacing more than 13 million people – just shy of a third of the population. On the Russian side, some estimates suggest up to 75,000 are dead or injured.

From the very start of the invasion the Western response has focussed on the military solutions. Within a week of the invasion, NATO forces had drummed up their biggest military mobilisation in Europe since the end of the Cold War. The aim from the start was a decisive military victory against Russia. As a result, negotiations have been discouraged and chances for peace squandered. British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has been particularly active in persuading Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, not to pursue diplomatic initiatives.

The level of the West’s military aid for Ukraine over the duration of the war has been staggering. Ukraine’s defence has been boosted by $30bn worth of weapons supplies pledged by the US, UK and other NATO allies. Britain has been one of the largest suppliers of arms to Ukraine and has committed over £2.5 billion in military aid. The result has been that the conflict has developed into a proxy war.

At some point, the present conflict will come to an end, almost certainly as a result of negotiations. At its current stage, the war between two relatively evenly balanced forces has reached a violent stalemate and recent developments have made the prospect of discussions more remote.

Ukraine is now pursuing a new strategy of attacks on targets in Russian-held territory. Reports suggest Ukraine was behind the three recent explosions in Crimea, including one at a Russian air base on the west coast. President Zelensky’s rhetoric has changed to match this new military approach. Earlier this month he said the war “began with Crimea and must end with Crimea – its liberation.”

Western powers have played a role in the recent escalation. The US has delivered longer-range weapons in the hope of a game changing moment. High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) are now being used to try to disrupt Russian deep supply chains, to “break the active operational support and bleed the Russian army” according to an adviser to Zelensky. This policy being pursued by Ukraine’s Western backers not only prolongs the conflict but risks triggering a wider war.

As a result of these developments, Moscow now says there is no possibility for diplomatic contacts, and both sides have said there is no prospect of talks. Earlier this week, Gennady Gatilov, Russia’s permanent representative to the UN in Geneva said, “the more the conflict goes on, the more difficult it will be to have a diplomatic solution.”

Don’t expect a change of approach from either of the British Prime Ministerial candidates. Liz Truss has consistently used inflammatory rhetoric, calling Putin a “rogue operator” and saying, “we will keep going further and faster to push Russia out of the whole of Ukraine.” Her competitor, Rishi Sunak, has also made clear his severe scepticism of peace talks.

A disaster for the Ukrainian people, the war is continuing to destabilise the whole world. As mainstream commentators admit, the dislocation caused by the war and economic sanctions have been amongst the key drivers of both food and fuel inflation. The war has already had a disastrous impact on countries in the global south including Egypt, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Its impact threatens to become catastrophic in other parts of the world by the winter. Russian gas exports account for 40% of European consumption. Germany in particular is heavily reliant on Russian for its energy. Serious outages are likely there and in other European countries at a time of growing economic turmoil.

We simply cannot allow this six-month war to drag on for years as some analysts are predicting. Decisive victory for either side looks remote. The only possible solution is a process of negotiation.

As the economic crisis deepens and Western governments threaten to raise defence spending, we in the West must intensify our call for peace and sanity. In Britain, the establishment is publicly united in its support for war but there is little enthusiasm for escalation in the country at large. Around the world polls show majority opposition in many countries. As protests grow against the cost-of-living crisis, the call for peace must be at the centre of the movement.

24 Aug 2022 by Shadia Edwards-Dashti

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