Navigating a Path to Peace in Ukraine: The EU, ASEAN, and Kissinger's Proposal
Executive Summary: The Russo-Ukrainian war, which began in February 2022 or, if the Russian annexation of Crimea is included, over 8 years ago, shows no signs of ending. Both Russia and Ukraine will need to build up their bargaining power and search for potential avenues of negotiation in order to reach a resolution. While Russia, as a nuclear power, holds the upper hand, it also faces economic challenges due to sanctions from Western allies and skepticism from its own people. Putin's use of the term "special military operation" rather than declaring war suggests the possibility of a truce. Henry Kissinger's proposal for a peace process and ceasefire line in Ukraine has weaknesses, as it may not address the root causes of the conflict and overlooks the potential role of international institutions in promoting peace. The EU and ASEAN, both of which have condemned the war and called for respect for Ukraine's sovereignty, may serve as potential peace brokers. To reach a resolution, it will be necessary to bridge the gap between conflicting worldviews and approaches to knowledge and work towards building a more cooperative and peaceful world order.
Image: Henry Kissinger at the LBJ Library, Public Domain.
The Russo-Ukrainian war has persisted for 10 months, beginning in February 2022, or for over 8 years if the Russian annexation of Crimea is included. With both sides showing no signs of backing down, it appears that the coming winter in Ukraine, from December to March, will be a crucial test of their ability to negotiate a resolution. Both sides will need to build up their bargaining power and search for potential avenues of negotiation.
Although the Russian army has suffered setbacks in the face of fierce Ukrainian counteroffensives, the fact that Russia is a nuclear power means that military strikes on its territory (prior to its illegal annexation of four oblasts in Ukraine) are not a viable option. The dynamic of this conflict is unusual in that one country can carry out military offensives on its adversary's territory without worrying about its own territory being invaded. Overall, Russia continues to have the upper hand. As the war drags on and becomes a prolonged attrition conflict, Ukraine, as a smaller country, will deplete its resources more quickly than Russia. Russian missile strikes on Ukrainian infrastructure have caused widespread power outages, which have disrupted economic activity and forced the government to rely on foreign loans and donations for funding. This raises concerns about the sustainability of this approach, given the changing public mood in Western countries and the need to strike a political balance between Washington and Brussels.
Russia is also not in a strong position, as it faces several sanctions from Western allies that could lead to economic depression. Additionally, its military arms, including artillery shells, are being depleted, requiring the purchase of arms from countries like Iran and North Korea. This is not a sustainable solution, and it is also facing skepticism from its own people despite extensive propaganda efforts.
However, it is important to note that Putin is not a superficial leader. The annexation of Crimea and the ongoing conflict in Ukraine may be seen as an attempt to assert Russia's influence and counter the expansion of NATO. Putin's consistent use of the term "special military operation" rather than declaring war may be an effort to avoid the legal and political consequences of a formal declaration of war, such as international condemnation and the activation of collective defense mechanisms. This allows Russia to avoid direct military engagement with Western powers and maintain a degree of deniability. This narrow clue suggests the possibility of a truce between the two adversaries.
While Henry Kissinger's proposal for a peace process and ceasefire line in Ukraine has merit, it does have some weaknesses. Specifically, it may not effectively address the root causes of the conflict, which may require a more cooperative and nuanced approach. Additionally, the emphasis on the importance of the balance of power and maintaining a new equilibrium in Europe overlooks the potential role of international institutions and global governance in promoting peace and stability. In this context, the European Union and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) could serve as potential peace brokers.
The first leaders' congress of both the EU and ASEAN in Brussels marked a new era of cooperation between these two significant economic communities from both the western and eastern hemispheres of larger Eurasia. The joint leaders' statement emphasized the importance of strengthening economic ties between the two blocs, while also supporting a "rules-based multilateral trading system with the World Trade Organization (WTO) at its core" that is "open, free, inclusive, non-discriminatory, transparent." While both blocs may have different stances on Russia, most of their members have condemned the war and called for the need to respect the sovereignty, political independence, and territorial integrity of Ukraine.
Both the EU and ASEAN also reaffirmed their commitment to the principle of Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones, specifically the 1995 Treaty on Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (SEANWFZ), and recalled Myanmar's commitment to the ASEAN Five-Point Consensus, among other issues.
Achieving a truce in Ukraine will not be easy, given the deep philosophical debates within Russia, such as those championed by Aleksandr Gelyevich Dugin. However, Dugin's concepts of multipolarity (influenced by Huntington's "clash of civilizations") and the "4th political theory" are flawed. Dugin's concept of multipolarity relies on a narrow and oversimplified understanding of international relations, focusing on the role of major powers at the expense of smaller states, regional organizations, and other factors that shape the global order. His "4th political theory" represents an authoritarian and illiberal worldview that is incompatible with the principles of democracy and human rights. Its emphasis on traditional values and strongman leadership is incompatible with the values of liberal democracy and the rule of law.
While the EU and ASEAN may consider some concerns from figures like Dugin, such as concerns about liberal values potentially threatening Russian identity based on Orthodoxy, finding a peaceful resolution to the conflict also requires bridging the gap between conflicting worldviews and approaches to knowledge.
Ultimately, the annexation of Crimea and the ongoing conflict present an opportunity to work towards building a more cooperative and peaceful world order. By leveraging the influence of major powers and regional organizations, supporting international institutions, and encouraging dialogue among different perspectives, we can find a resolution that benefits all parties involved and promotes stability in the region.