By Jan Oberg
Lund, Sweden, March 13, 2015
If the parties continue this way, there will be no peace in Ukraine but probably war in Europe. With a little out-of-the-box thinking, we could move in a safer direction.
You’ve heard everybody involved in the Ukraine conflict solemnly declare that there is no military solution.
And what do they all do? Right, they militarise the situation further, use bellicose language, speak bad about each other, take provocative steps, use propaganda and flex their military muscles. It’s thoughtprovokingly thoughtless.
These men – sorry, but the are all men – who are competent in war and other violence run our world. They are conflict and peace illiterates embedded with MIMACs – Military-Industrial-Media-Academic Complexes – which exist in both Russia, EU, NATO and the U.S.
It’s not about evil – they are probably all good spouses, nice to their children or grandchildren and enjoy literature, painting or music in their few hours of leisure. But the system they operate inside is as evil as it is dangerous for us all, for the world’s future.
Their problem – and thus your and my problem – is that they just don’t have a clue about peace-making. No education, institutions or advisers in civilian conflict-management.
And since they lack that they fall back on the convenient but proven illusion that peace will come if we just force “the other” to back down.
And since there is no lack of (tax payers’) money to fund weapons (only to fund social and cultural development) and these weapons are on the government shelves that’s what they use – instead of their intelligence and empathy.
If you think so, take a look at these facts:
1. We have Minsk II – a fragile ceasefire agreement but we have no enforcement capacity, no way of securing that violence won’t break out again.
2. There are no all-party peacebuilding initiatives, no forums or processes where possible future solutions are being brainstormed, mediated impartially and hammered out in text for a peace agreement. Not even consultations.
That is, not one single fall-back plan/process in case the ceasefire breaks down.
3. Russia seems to have up to 10,000 “forces” in Ukraine – some of them private mercenaries? – according to a new RUSI report. And controls Crimea (but rushed to arrange a referendum (better at least than bombing Serbia to pieces to make Kosovo independent, but still) and forgot to offer autonomy for non-Russians).
4. The UK sends limited “forces” into Ukraine to train its army.
5. These very days, NATO holds at least 3 significant military exercises (non-provocative, it says, just re-assuring their allies) – Atlantic Resolve (see interesting maps on the link) in the Baltic region, Joint Viking in Northern Norway and one in the Black Sea – coincidentally, we must assume, all around Russia. This comes in continuation of NATO’s earlier decision to set up a new Rapid Reaction Force of about 30,000 troops in six East European countries.
6. Ukraine, on the verge of economic collapse, seeks weapons in the UAE and asks for more weapons from the West and gets some “non-lethal” equipment and private mercenaries. The West has introduced a funny category called “defensive” weapons that may fit the case (meaning that everything else they themselves have in their arsenals is offensive – but assumed to be used only for defence…).
7. All sides take confrontational steps to show off – such as sanctions and use of the oil/gas weapon – and make the distance to “the others” larger. Where there used to be confidence, even common exercises, there is now no communication, only mistrust.
8. As if this was not enough, Jean-Claude Juncker, the EU Commission President, says that we must have a new EU Army to face up to Russia (whose military expenditures is as small as 10% of NATO’s should anyone bother about the military (un)balance.
If there is no military solution – why then all these military steps and no single move, no sending of signals, in the direction of confidence-building and peace?
Each of these moves, posturings and signals – and their tit-for-tat accumulated effect over time – pushes the situation closer to war than to peace. It even seems divisive within NATO.
European citizens – also way outside Ukraine – have reasons to fear where this could end. They have no influence on what all these MIMACS do – also not in democratic countries.
They have no way of saying no to their tax money being used to their own security. It may not be in our name, but it is certainly by our taxes.
If they knew what peace could be and how to make it
If parliamentarians, ministers, presidents and mainstream media were not – of course with some few exceptions – part of the vested MIMAC interests and could think freely outside the box, they would come up with some self-evident proposals such as these (not linear and with no priorities or who should do what first):
1. Stop trying to get Ukraine into NATO.
2. Let Ukraine join both the EU and whatever Russian-lead civilian organisation all Ukrainians can agree on.
3. Withdraw all kinds of forces from Eastern Ukraine.
4. Let a robust UN peacekeeping force – with a military, a civil affairs and a police element à la Yugoslavia – operate in the whole Eastern region together with the OSCE.
5. Begin confidence- and peacebuilding consultations, with professional, impartial mediators – leading over the years (yes it takes time) to a peace agreement with civilian and military modalities for the future.
6. Discuss possible futures for Ukraine – unitary, federated, con-federated, autonomous regions, governance etc. ending with referendum for all Ukrainians voting on 2-3 possible structures.
7. Respect the new opinion poll of all Ukrainians which shows that they are more united around accepting a neutral status – or equidistance – to Russia and the West than any other alternative and that they want their country’s unity preserved.
8. Withdraw NATO’s new rapid force from the six East European countries and get back to the spirit of the 1997 Founding Act on Mutual Relations between Russia and NATO.
9. A massive economic aid and development package to Ukraine – financed by Russia, EU and the US together.
10. Dropping all sanctions and other economic warfare whichever way and re-connect. All parties in this conflict have a crystal clear win-win situation in front of them if they could only recognise it.
11. People-to-people activities crisscross, reconciliation and closure and stopping mass media propaganda warfare, stereotyping, demonising and self-righteous coverage.
Peace won’t come easy or quick but it is fully possible.*
But not with the stone-age, peace-preventing policies we’ve witnessed on all sides the last year. If some of these proposals were implemented, we could see a 12th emerge:
A Russian-Ukrainian-EU Academy of Peace – the first throughout the area filled with military academies – where students from these countries would pursue an MA and PhD, become peace professionals and good mediators – helping us all to prevent in the future the tragic but avoidable situation we are in now.