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Home > 2023 > Continuity of Ukraine War: Diplomatic Lapse! | Nilofar Suhrawardy

Mainstream, VOL 61 No 8, February 18, 2023

Continuity of Ukraine War: Diplomatic Lapse! | Nilofar Suhrawardy

Friday 17 February 2023, by Nilofar Suhrawardy


Diplomatic Lapse specifically with reference to Ukraine-crisis appears to be deliberately indulged in as at least at present there seem to be so sign of this war coming to an end. Of course, a lot of importance is being accorded by so-called friends of Ukraine to help it with arms and weapons. This certainly is likely to help only in further prolonging the war. Ukraine is also keen to be included in the European Union and NATO, prospects of which happening at least in near future are not likely. Rhetoric Diplomacy displayed by Ukraine’s supporters can boost egos and that of present Ukrainian President must have been, when US President said it was an honour for him, Joe Biden to be by Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s side. This comment was made when Zelenskyy visited United States towards fag end of 2022. The same may be said about the manner in which he was received in UK on February 8. Or when he has shared stage with European leaders.

There is no denying that any kind of war cannot be expected to end till involved parties desire so or if either or all involved are not deprived of all means to continue the war. Here, at present, Ukraine and its key supporter- United States seem inclined to continue the war for in Biden’s words “as long as it takes.” He made this comment during his first address to US Congress this year and had expressed the same earlier too. Now, with due respect to differences between Russia and Ukraine on several key issues, neither can be expected to be resolved if both do not agree to come to a negotiating table after bringing their military activities to a suspension or agreeing to a ceasefire. If the key third parties from both sides desire and encourage both countries towards this crucial diplomatic move, this cannot be viewed as impossible. Here it may be noted, China and also India may not have talked about the need to bring Ukraine war to an end and initiation of peace talks if Russia was totally against the same.

President Vladimir Putin has reportedly stated that Russia is ready to negotiate with all parties involved in the conflict in Ukraine, but Kyiv and its western backers have refused to hold talks. True, credibility of this stand may be doubted. At the same time, the hard reality of those not appearing interested in ending the war cannot be ignored. Paradoxically, disagreeing with continuation of war, Henry Kissinger, former secretary of State and a Republican, stated earlier in an article for The Spectator, “The preferred outcome for some is a Russia rendered impotent by the war. I disagree.” Recently, he backtracked from this stand.

While supporting continuation of the war, several hard hitting realities are being side lined. These include sufferings –whether of Ukrainians, Russians and/or others. Prospects of US aid for Ukraine not being permanent or long-lasting also implies Kyiv’s diplomatic stand in possible talks with Moscow may weaken and not remain as strong as it seems at present. The same cannot be said about Moscow’s diplomatic standing. Notwithstanding all the criticism showered at it from several quarters, the fact that China is a strong power and has not refrained from voicing its support for Moscow cannot be ignored. If and when US chooses to step back or even reduces nature of its support for Ukraine, other western allies may be expected to follow suit. In contrast, prospects of China changing its stand towards Russia may be viewed as practically non-existent.

If Biden has set his eyes on targeting Russia, some attention should be paid to Ukraine apparently being used as a pawn. Clearly, so far, “Ukraine-Diplomacy” exercised by the so-called friends of this country has shown virtually no sign of ending the suffering of Ukrainians and of Ukraine crisis. Continuity of Ukraine War may also be viewed as a diplomatic lapse perhaps being deliberately exercised by probably those who want the war to continue. When diplomatic tactics, strategies and moves are deliberately side-lined instead of being considered seriously, this can hardly be suggestive of wise diplomacy being exercised.

One may briefly to draw attention here to Indo-Pak nuclear diplomacy, Afghanistan war and Arab Winter earlier viewed as Arab Spring. Despite being known as permanent enemies and their respective nuclear proliferation drives being opposed by United States, India and Pakistan have not restrained it. Rather, they have pursued a wise bilateral nuclear diplomacy. US feared that their nuclear proliferation would lead to Mutually Assured Destruction. It has not. If India and Pakistan can agree to disagree on several controversial issues and display wise nuclear diplomacy, what ails major nuclear powers – US and Russia from exercising nuclear diplomacy without using Ukraine as a pawn?

Why can’t diplomatic options be pursued to end Ukraine war? Or is it likely to it be prolonged like the Afghanistan war? It may be noted, India and Pakistan exercised bilateral nuclear diplomacy. Ukraine is too dependent on its western supporters to consider bilateral talks with Russia. At least, this is the situation at present. This only adds to its usage as a pawn against Russia. If use of weapons had spelled development of Afghanistan and of countries targeted in the name of Arab Spring, this question of giving importance to diplomatic moves would not have been raised. The so-called Arab Spring was initiated for democratic revolution in targeted countries.

United States is apparently more concerned about ensuring a decrease in power and strength of Russia as well as that of its key ally China. The language used by Washington as well as American media appears to be focused on hurling diplomatic missiles at Russia and its leaders. United States is certainly targeting Russia with probable purpose of securing Kremlin’s diplomatic isolation and strengthening its own diplomatic stature. Prospects of this decreasing suffering of Ukrainians are virtually non-existent. Russia has not yet lost diplomatic support of its allies. This aspect is given little importance by Western media.

Diplomatically speaking, as a superpower’s role US should give greater importance to limit escalation of bilateral, multilateral and other differences to the stage of any conflict, war and/or crisis. With the so-called “diplomatic” moves of Washington barely directed in this direction, till Ukraine crisis lasts, how can Ukraine diplomacy be hailed or the superpower be credited for exercising wise diplomacy towards this? And where would White House “diplomacy” stand if Russia moves towards diplomatic dialogue with Ukraine perhaps with help of China, India or other nations? There are limited prospects of the Ukraine crisis serving as Washington’s trump card leading to diplomatic isolation of Russia or its break-up, as is being speculated upon some. Similarly, the escalation of Ukraine crisis is least likely to help Russia emerge as a master strategist or stronger than it is now. Irrespective of whether Putin or Zelenskyy stay in power or not, neither Russia nor Ukraine can gain from continuity of this war.

Continuation of war without giving any importance to diplomatic measures or war being deliberately continued with certain third, external parties giving importance only to prolong the further may be viewed as diplomatic lapses purposely being promoted. The longer the war lasts, prospects of its spill-over having an impact on and within other European countries should also be considered. Are Ukraine’s European “friends” willing to welcome the same? The saving diplomatic grace is role played by countries which have maintained a neutral stand in exchange of prisoners of war between Ukraine and Russia. This has taken place on several occasions. All is not lost yet. Before it is too late, perhaps greater importance should be given to considering diplomatic options than on continuing the war. Chances of Russia gaining from war’s prolongation are stronger with greater strength and manpower on its side. Putin, it is said, views time as its ally- leading to greater destruction in Ukraine. With time as its enemy, clearly more importance should be given by Ukraine to diplomatic options rather than permit continuity of war spell greater problems. Weapons can kill and destroy, but cannot rebuild destroyed cities or bring dead to life.

(Author: Nilofar Suhrawardy is a senior journalist and writer with specialization in communication studies and nuclear diplomacy. She has come out with several books. These include:— Modi’s Victory, A Lesson for the Congress…? (2019); Arab Spring, Not Just a Mirage! (2019), Image and Substance, Modi’s First Year in Office (2015) and Ayodhya Without the Communal Stamp, In the Name of Indian Secularism (2006))

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