Fri 09 Jun 2023 10:17 am - Jerusalem Time

Ukraine and the path to peace

Any accurate assessment of the war in Ukraine must conclude that there is no foreseeable end to the conflict. Both Russia and Ukraine are now stepping up their attacks. Russia continues to find sources to enhance its weapons, and the United States either supplies weapons to Ukraine or facilitates the transfer of new advanced weapons to Ukraine by its allies. International law is “followed more in breach than in bound.” Ukraine cannot turn to the United Nations or the International Court of Justice.

And both institutions that were created precisely to deal with this kind of behavior are immobilized by a lack of capacity, recognition, or support from a superpower, or all of these. As a result, the world split into camps.

There is the United States leading one group of Western countries mainly supporting Ukraine, and there is Russia leading a smaller group of supporters, and there is China, although it is not openly in the Russian camp, but it plays the role of "non-alignment" with the rest. Early efforts by the Biden administration to punish Russia through sanctions met with limited success, as most countries in the Global South chose to commit to non-alignment or to seek "strategic autonomy."

In some cases, this is due to a lack of confidence in the United States. Because of the US foreign policy that has baffled the world in the past two decades, the US is not seen as a reliable partner. Many countries in the global south are unwilling to risk their strong trade and investment ties with Russia and China. After our occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, our offensive for regime change in Libya, and drone attacks in countries across Asia and Africa, it's hard for other nations to follow the example of the United States as a beacon of righteousness.

For the Arab world, these double standards are of particular concern to the people. Anger over attacks that use excessive force on civilians and the struggle for territorial annexation, some may find justified. But the US claim to moral leadership is unconvincing or even hypocritical to many Arabs.

Finally, there is the argument that states must band together to oppose behavior that threatens the "liberal, rules-based international order." This unique American perception ignores the mention of international law or international agreements that the United States has been violating, or the mention of the International Criminal Court, which the United States does not recognize and mention only when it serves the interests of the United States.

This hides an American attempt to apply the "rules" you want to create the "system" you want. Given this growing disconnect and mistrust between the United States and many other countries, we entered into a new Cold War, rather than mobilizing the world against the war in Ukraine. Some countries oppose our leadership, while most of them are hesitant and put one foot in one camp and the other in another. The tragic fact is that when one side provides new weapons, the other will do the same.

And when one side escalates the proceedings, the other will follow suit. As a result, this war may continue indefinitely, posing untold risks to the Ukrainian people and the possibility of a broader regional war. The time has come to quell the illusions of a "total and humiliating defeat" and chart a path towards resolving this unwinnable conflict. Instead of fueling the fire, the United States should put China to the test by inviting it to join us in marshalling a new multinational peace coalition to secure sovereignty and security for the Ukrainians.

If we demand a change of perspective and discourse, we will have to provide incentives for peacemaking. Instead of pressuring others to support what they have come to see as our war, and forcing them not to take sides, we must invite them to join the campaign for peace, security, investment and trade that can benefit Eastern and Central Europe. This may seem unrealistic, but it is a better path than the foolish task of stoking this conflict for years to come, with the unrealistic expectation that outright victory is possible.
* President of the Arab American Institute - Washington


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