Experts Speak Out on Ukraine Diplomatic Solutions


Is it possible to end the conflict in Ukraine through diplomacy? If yes, how and when will you do it? In pursuit of solutions, RM staff delved through recent comments from experts on both sides of the geopolitical divide. Even before Russian and Ukrainian authorities said this week that peace talks were “on hold,” no one expected a long-term agreement to be reached anytime soon.

That should unsurprising, given that neither of the combatants has given up prospect of victory. “The conflict… will not finish until the protagonists understand that they will not be able to achieve all of their original goals and will have to accept a less-than-ideal conclusion,” as Harvard’s Stephen Walt put it. This may be the one point of agreement between Russian and Ukrainian experts.

If the warring parties are able to begin serious negotiations, a lasting peace accord will need to meet their minimal security demands, such as Ukraine’s need for security assurances and Russia’s request for Ukraine’s impartiality. Here are some of the theories being discussed among analysts:

-A “Ukrainian treaty of neutrality,” as proposed by George Beebe and Anatol Lieven, would include the adequate security Kyiv wants, with contributions from UN Security Council members as well as Turkey, Israel, Canada, Germany, and Poland. Russia would remove its objections to Ukraine joining the EU, deferring resolution of problematic issues like Crimea’s sovereignty and the separatist Donbas republics.

-Ukraine is still armed: Rose Gottemoeller, Thomas Graham, and Rajan Menon, as well as Audrey Kurth Cronin, believe that Ukrainian neutrality could be part of the answer; nonetheless, they all point out that neutrality does not imply disarmament. Cronin says Ukraine can learn from Switzerland, Sweden, and Finland, while Gottemoeller suggests Austria.

A Korea scenario, perhaps? Graham Allison of Harvard has drawn parallels between the situation in Ukraine and the Korean peninsula, claiming that dividing Ukraine into two pieces without a formal treaty would allow the Western-allied side of Ukraine to develop, similar to South Korea.

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