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No Alternative to the Ukrainian Vision of Peace, - Petro Oleshchuk

The path to peace: liberation, restoration of clear borders, guaranteeing these borders, which will make war impossible in the future. Petro Oleshchuk, an expert at the United Ukraine think tank, writes about this in his article for The Gaze. The text of the article can be found below.


After the collapse of the USSR and the Warsaw Pact, the West long believed in the prospect of building stable and mutually beneficial relations with post-communist Russia, as it was believed that communist ideology was the main factor in the Cold War confrontation. Accordingly, in order to develop relations with Russia, concessions could be made, including on the issue of NATO's eastward expansion. An example of such concessions was the 2008 Bucharest summit, when Ukraine and Georgia did not receive the MAP. At the same time, it is clear that Russia itself perceived such concessions as a recognition of most of the post-Soviet space as its "zone of influence." This contributed to the revival of imperialist sentiments in Moscow, which, in turn, led to aggression against Ukraine.


The very model of relations, in which Russia was surrounded by "buffer" neutral states outside NATO, and which was supposed to demonstrate the absence of aggressive intentions on the part of the West, in reality simply provoked a new round of imperialist wars in Europe, and this situation must be both realized and corrected. And it is quite logical that one of the steps towards this correction could be Ukraine's accession to NATO.


At the same time, the topic of Ukraine's accession to NATO has gained new prominence in the context of Russia's aggression against Ukraine. On the one hand, Russia has declared that one of the goals of its "Special Operation" is to prevent Ukraine from joining NATO. At the same time, the West is increasingly convinced that without Ukraine joining NATO after the war, it will be impossible to talk about any stability in the world.


Kissinger's "Partial Accession" Model

In the spring of 2023, the famous American diplomat Henry Kissinger came up with an original concept of Ukraine's accession to NATO. In his publication, he argues that the decision to leave Ukraine's membership in NATO open was wrong. It was a destabilizing factor, because dangling promises of NATO protection without a plan to implement them left Ukraine poorly protected. The challenge now is to end the war without creating the conditions for another conflict. Mr. Kissinger says he wants Russia to give up as much of the territory it has gained since 2014 as possible, but the reality is that in any ceasefire, Russia will likely keep Sevastopol. Such a settlement, in which Russia loses some benefits but retains others, could leave both Russia unsatisfied and Ukraine dissatisfied. In his view, this is a recipe for future confrontation.


To establish a lasting peace in Europe, the West needs to make two leaps of imagination. First, Ukraine needs to join NATO as a deterrent. Secondly, Europe plans a rapprochement with Russia as a way to create a stable eastern border. It is clear that many Western countries would abandon one or the other of these goals.


Thus, if we systematize Kissinger's position, it is as follows.


First, Ukraine should be a member of NATO, and this should be a deterrent. Secondly, Ukraine should not restore its territorial integrity and sovereignty in full for this purpose. Third, the overall settlement should be based on the involvement of China as a "mediator" who does not want Russia's complete defeat and disintegration.


Problems of "Partial Accession to NATO"

Let's leave the moral part of the question out for now, because it is not acceptable for Ukraine to refuse to liberate its territories. Let's focus on the very possibility of realizing this issue. The main value of NATO as a factor of stability is Article 5, which provides for the principle that all states jointly defend each member of the Alliance in the event of an attack on it, and this is a really powerful safeguard, since the prospect of entering into a direct military confrontation with the United States should be a serious warning to any potential aggressor.


At the same time, aggression is obvious and unconditional only in a situation where there are clearly defined borders, the violation of which will be treated unambiguously. Under such conditions, what would be an attack on an Alliance member if its territory is already partially occupied? As the practice of the "Minsk Agreements" shows, which turned the Russian-Ukrainian war of 2015 into a low-intensity war, no "truce" without the withdrawal of foreign troops from Ukraine will mean a real ceasefire, but only a significant reduction in its intensity and only for a certain time.


If, hypothetically, Ukraine and Russia agree on a truce, and Ukraine's membership in NATO is a guarantee of its inviolability, this will raise a number of additional problems. The first of these is how will it be possible to reconcile Article 5 and a low-intensity military conflict that could continue on the demarcation line? Obviously, regular shelling of the territory of a NATO country could well be interpreted as an attack. At the same time, would a low-intensity conflict be considered sufficient grounds for the United States to enter the war?


Obviously, all of this will require a number of clarifications to allow Ukraine to become a NATO member without controlling all of its constitutional territories. This, in turn, could significantly affect the effectiveness and efficiency of NATO as an intergovernmental institution.


Most importantly, all of these factors will be taken into account by the national governments of NATO member states in one way or another. Is it worth risking their own security for the sake of Ukraine, especially if the situation may call into question the effectiveness of NATO as an instrument of common security, including for them? We should not forget that NATO members are democratic states with governments that are regularly re-elected. It will be quite difficult for each national government to ensure support for the idea of Ukraine's membership in the North Atlantic Alliance in their own societies, so the whole concept may be stillborn in the early stages of its existence.


***

Thus, an analysis of all relevant proposals shows that in the end, everything still comes back to the "peace plan" previously outlined by President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy in 10 points, which, first of all, require the complete withdrawal of foreign troops from the constitutionally recognized territory of Ukraine. Only this will actually unblock Ukraine's membership in NATO, as it will remove the last barrier - the fears of other NATO members that Russian aggression against Ukraine will trigger a world war. At the same time, a mutual understanding of the risks in this situation will ensure that once Ukraine joins NATO, Russia will never be able to repeat its aggression, which will mean a sustainable and stable peace for Europe for a long time. This is exactly how it works: liberation, restoration of clear borders, and guaranteeing these borders, which will make war impossible in the future.


Since the end of the Cold War, the West has already made many mistakes in its relations with Russia, including the idea that some concessions could appease Russian imperialist ambitions and thus stop any future military conflicts. In reality, this was not the case, and it is necessary to take into account the experience of the past in order to avoid repeating mistakes.


Source: "The Gaze"


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