Connect with us

Eastern Europe

How to End the Ukraine Crisis in 4 Steps

Avatar photo



Authors: Alexander Dynkin and Thomas Graham*

Europe is on the brink of war. The United States and its allies are convinced that Russia is planning an invasion of Ukraine, and they are threatening “devastating” sanctions should it take that step. Moscow vehemently denies any such plans, while maintaining that Kyiv is preparing for an assault on the Donbas separatists in Eastern Ukraine. Russian military maneuvers in Crimea, Western Russia and Belarus unnerve the West, while NATO plans a buildup of forces along its long frontier with Russia stretching from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea. Meanwhile, a fitful round of diplomacy preserves hope that the crisis can be defused without military conflict — although the leaked “confidential” U.S. response to Russian demands to halt NATO expansion underscores how far apart the two sides remain.

Is there a diplomatic resolution that will bring enduring peace and stability to the troubled region of Eastern Europe? There is, but getting there requires understanding the essence of the current crisis. It is not simply about Ukraine. It is about the broader European settlement at the end of the Cold War 30 years ago, which Moscow contends was imposed on it at a time of extreme weakness and fails to take into account its national interests. The subsequent eastward expansion of Euro-Atlantic institutions — notably NATO, a political-military organization designed to contain Russia, and the European Union, an economic community that Russia can never join — in Moscow’s views jeopardizes Russia’s security and prosperity. A revived Russia is determined to halt, if not reverse, that process, using all necessary means.

This should not come as a surprise. Great powers, once they can, will seek to revise a peace that was imposed on them after a defeat in a major war. That was the lesson of the Versailles Treaty at the end of the First World War, which was negotiated without the participation of Germany or Soviet Russia. Russia’s economic recovery in the 2000s and the rapid modernization of its military in the past decade have given it the capacity to dispute the Cold-War settlement for the sake of what Moscow believes is a more just one.

The United States will be reluctant to revise a European order that has served its interests extraordinarily well for the past three decades. Absent significant adjustments, however, intermittent crises such as the current standoff are inevitable. A lasting peace requires that Russia’s interests be accommodated so that it has a stake in that order. The challenge is to find a way forward that satisfies at least Moscow’s minimal security requirements without requiring the United States and its allies to compromise their core principles and interests.

This might seem to be an impossible task — how to you reconcile the irreconcilable? How do you reconcile the principled U.S. insistence that NATO’s door remain open to membership by former Soviet states, notably Ukraine, with Russia’s non-negotiable demand for a sphere of privileged interests that would include those former Soviet states?

To be sure, the path forward is treacherous, but it exists. It will take flexibility and creativity on both sides to navigate it successfully. The risk of a war that would prove catastrophic for Europe, and first of all Ukraine, and threaten escalation to a nuclear cataclysm should concentrate minds.

We have both served in senior policymaking roles in our governments, and while we no longer represent our respective governments, we think we have identified an off-ramp for this standoff that could work for our respective countries.

We see four elements to a solution. First, restrictions on military operations along the NATO/Russia border. Second, a moratorium on NATO expansion eastward. Third, resolution of ongoing and frozen conflicts in the former Soviet space and the Balkans. And fourth, modernization of the 1975 Helsinki Accords, which created a pan-European forum and articulated agreed principles of interstate relations to undergird East-West detente.

These four elements must be negotiated as a package, although progress is likely to proceed at different paces along the four tracks, because both the United States and Russia need to see where they are headed before they will engage in substantive talks on details.

Curb military operations. To reintroduce military restraint along the Russia/NATO frontier, the two countries can begin by resurrecting aspects of Cold War agreements that have fallen into abeyance in recent years as one or the other side lost interest in adhering to them. Both sides agree that this is an important step, although Russia insists that it be taken only after the issue of NATO expansion is addressed — one more reason why all aspects of the settlement must be on the table if there is to be progress on any one of them.

Today, the two sides need to reaffirm agreements to avoid dangerous incidents at sea or in the air. They need to negotiate something akin to the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty that regulated military activities in nonthreatening ways in border areas, taking into account current realities. They need to resurrect the INF Treaty at least for Europe — that is, no deployment of land-based intermediate-range ballistic missiles on the continent. That will require the United States and Russia to resolve grievances that led to the treaty’s demise in 2019, when neither country was prepared to muster the political will to pursue the technical fixes that could answer its concerns. Reaching agreement on these matters will take time, as it did for analogous agreements during the Cold War, but agreement is surely possible.

Agree to a moratorium on NATO expansion. NATO’s expansion eastward is the crux of the current dispute. One of us has proposed a formal moratorium on expansion into former Soviet states, including Ukraine, for 20-25 years. The other proposes 2050 as the year in which the moratorium would end. There is nothing magical about the period; it just needs to be long enough so that Russia can claim its minimal security requirements have been met, and short enough so that the United States can credibly claim it has not abandoned the open-door policy. Even if a moratorium cannot be agreed, it should prove possible to find a mutually acceptable way to make it clear that Ukraine is not going to join NATO for years, if not decades, to come — something American and NATO officials will readily admit in private.

At the same time, the two sides should seek agreement on limits to NATO activities in and around Ukraine that meet Russia’s security concerns, but once again do not compromise NATO’s principles. Those could include a pledge by NATO member states not to build or occupy military bases in Ukraine or to supply Ukraine with offensive weapons systems that could strike Russian territory in exchange for a Russian pledge not to deploy certain weapons systems within a defined zone along Ukraine’s borders. This would not be an extraordinary concession by NATO members. In the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act, NATO pledged not to deploy nuclear weapons or substantial permanent combat forces to new member states — because it had no plans to do so in any event. Certainly, NATO can now make pledges to refrain from certain types of activities with regard to nonmembers, if that will help ease Moscow’s concerns.

Resolve “frozen” conflicts. The ongoing and frozen conflicts in the former Soviet space and the Balkans, including Crimea, Kosovo and Donbas, all involve separatism of some sort. All should be resolved on the basis of some form of local democracy, that is, a vote to ascertain the will of the people in the separatist regions is the starting point, after which a series of technical agreements need to be reached to regulate issues that would necessarily grow out of any peaceful secession of a territory from a larger state. The exact form of the vote could be adapted to the specific circumstances of each conflict. It need not be a referendum on the issue of separatism. In the cases of both Crimea and Kosovo, the most prominent conflicts, regularly scheduled elections could serve this purpose, with the stipulation that victory would require that a qualified majority of the electorate vote for candidates who support separatism. The only requirement would be that the vote be internationally observed and then certified as free and fair to erase any doubt that it was legitimate. Such votes would undoubtedly reaffirm what most impartial observers know to be the hard truths that Kosovo will remain independent and Crimea will never go back to Ukraine. A similar vote could be used to determine how to move forward with the Donbas separatist regions, including whether the Minsk agreements should form the basis of the resolution or whether some minor adjustments have to be made to take into account local preferences.

Update the Helsinki Accords. Updating and modernizing the Helsinki Accords would cap a comprehensive settlement, laying the foundation for decades of peace in Europe. In particular, the two sides should seek agreement on the interpretation of the 10 principles guiding relations between states, to which all the parties agreed, including respect for sovereign rights, self-determination, noninterference in internal affairs, restraining from threats or use of force, and peaceful settlement of disputes. The goal is to establish a firm basis for the organization of European security going forward that takes into account historical developments and technological advances since 1975 that affect the way states relate to one another and act on the global stage.

Reaching a comprehensive settlement will take considerable time and effort, but now is the time to start. As was true five decades ago when the Helsinki Accords ushered in a period of detente, no country will get all that it wants, and no country will capitulate to an imposed peace.

The final settlement will be far from ideal in the minds of many; critics will denounce it as appeasement. But the result will be better for all parties than any armed conflict could possibly deliver.

*Thomas Graham, a distinguished fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, was the senior director for Russia on the National Security Council staff during the George W. Bush administration. 

From our partner RIAC

Alexander Dynkin is president of the Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Affairs of the Russian Academy of Sciences and served as an assistant to former Russian Prime Minister Evgeny Primakov.

Continue Reading

Eastern Europe

Latvia risks to turn to a ghost state



Latvia 2020 population was estimated at 1,886,198 people at mid year according to UN data.

At the beginning of 2022 population of Latvia accounted for 1 million 876 thousand people, which is 17.5 thousand people fewer than a year ago.

The current population of Latvia is 1,826,608 as of May 17, 2023, based on Worldometer elaboration of the latest United Nations data.

For many years Latvia has suffered from a so-called “brain drain”, a phenomena when young highly trained and qualified people emigrate from the country. Since Latvia became a member of European Union and Schengen Area and when working in other countries became especially easy, the human capital flight from the country has intensified and reached high figures, when Latvia lost many residents due to emigration.

The number of young people continues to has decline sharply. At the beginning of 2022, there were 234,500 boys and girls aged 13 to 25 living in the country. This is 12.5% of all residents. Behind the reduction of this group is not only a decrease in the birth rate, falling living standards but also emigration. The young and talented people prefer not to stay here.

One new reason for youth to leave the country has appeared this year. Latvia reintroduces compulsory military service. The decision was made by the country’s parliament on April 5. Latvia has not had compulsory military service since 2007 when it was abolished.

From 2024 onward, the number of conscripts will increase. The plan is to call up 7,500 Latvians every year, starting in 2028. This will increase the size of the army from over 22,000 soldiers to 50,000, including territorial defense and reserves.

The Baltic nation feels threatened due to the war in Ukraine. But, new public surveys show that many young men are not convinced that compulsory military service is the right reaction. Only a small share of people back compulsory military service.

Young men are known for their rebellious ways. So, it’s hardly surprising that the Latvian government’s recent decision to reintroduce compulsory military service has not gone down particularly well with them.

Far fewer people wanted to become professional soldiers. There have not been any national opinion polls conducted on the topic recently. But a study in May 2022 found that more than 40% of Latvians opposed it. According to Maris Andzans, a professor at Riga Stradins University, who wrote in a February briefing for the Washington-based Center for European Policy Analysis, support was lower among younger respondents, with only 34% in the 18-24 age group supportive of the idea.

In Latvia, there is also another segment of the population that doesn’t like the idea of military service. Some members of the country’s Russian-speaking minority are skeptical about what they perceive as the country’s pro-Western course. Russian-speakers make up about a quarter of Latvia’s 1.9 million-strong population. Joining the Latvian army to “fight against your own people” is not something they wanted to do. So many are planning to leave. So, a phenomena of “men drain” when young highly trained and qualified people emigrate from the country because of unwillingness to serve.

Continue Reading

Eastern Europe

Russia and Georgia Working Towards Improving Bilateral Relations

Avatar photo



Russian President Vladimir Putin’s latest decree to review the visa regime for Georgian citizens and relaunching Tbilisi-Moscow flights between the two capitals starting May 15, has sparked antagonism among members of the European Union. Putin signed the decree waiving the visa requirement for Georgian citizens. In another decree, the president canceled the ban for Russian air carriers to perform flights to Georgia and on selling tours to the country.

According to the document, “from May 15, 2023, citizens of Georgia may enter the Russian Federation and leave the Russian Federation without visas, on the basis of valid identity documents.” In addition, a decree was issued to lift restrictions on flights to Georgia, which have been in force since July 2019.

Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili branded these decisions as provocative, while Georgian Foreign Minister Ilia Darchiashvili said that he welcomed the visa-free travel and direct flights. Russia introduced visas for Georgians in 2000. Georgia waived the visa requirement for Russians in 2012.

According to several media reports, the United States and the European Union have warned Tbilisi about the risks of sanctions in the event of the resumption of air traffic with Russia. Both Russia and Georgia have had cross-haired relations down the years. Diplomatic ties between the two countries were severed by Tbilisi in 2008 after Russia recognized the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Georgia, like any other former Soviet republics, to some extent have reservations on their political relations with Russia. In a number of post-Soviet republics prefer dealing with the United States and the European Union. Russian authorities are aware of these facts and trends, while policies are still considered or seen as hard and dominating.

Addressing the third Central Asian Conference of the Valdai Discussion Club on May 16, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Galuzin said that some Central Asian countries and the former Soviet republics are showing little appetite for risk and, there also signs that may join sanctions against Russia. 

However, he warned that any artificial severance of ties with Russia may cause more damage than the costs of any secondary sanctions. The senior Russian diplomat emphasized that Russia is seeking to consistently intensify its strategic partnership with these countries across the region. With with the bulk of them experiencing economic transformations, more foreign investments are trickling in from the United States and European.

Despite that, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili expressed hope that European partners would understand the importance of the decision to carry on trading with Russia because trade is among the broad interest of and the proximity as a factor for Georgia.

Georgian Airways launches its Tbilisi-Moscow flights starting May 20, the Civil Aviation Agency has already issued a permit to Georgian Airways for flights, to be operated seven times a week, to Russia.

The Russian Transport Ministry said that after the restrictions are lifted, Russian airlines will also fly between Moscow and Tbilisi 7 times a week using domestic aircraft. Red Wings, whose fleet is comprised mainly of Russian SSJ100s, quickly announced they were ready to start flights to Georgia if they could receive the necessary permits. Three Russian airlines have applied for direct regular flights to three Georgian airports including Tbilisi, Kutaisi and Batumi.

Restoring flights between Georgia and Russia in 2023 could bring $300 to $400 million in additional revenue for the Georgian tourism sector, Georgian Deputy Prime Minister and Economy Minister Levan Davitashvili said at a briefing after a government meeting held May 15.

Davitashvili noted the successes achieved in the tourism sector in the post-pandemic period and expressed hope that this year the flow of travelers from Russia will increase even more, as well as from other countries, in particular from neighboring Azerbaijan.

The Deputy Prime Minister stressed that it would not be “pragmatic” to turn down direct flights between Russia and Georgia. That the country’s population would positively assess the efforts that the authorities are making to improve the country’s economy. At the same time, Davitashvili stressed that the country’s course towards joining the European Union remains unchanged.

After the Soviet Union collapsed, Russia’s relations with former Soviet republics has remarkable difficulties due to several factors. Georgia, like all the former Soviet republics, has its political sentiments, viewpoints and approach towards Russia, which mounted ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine since February 2022, and has currently come under a series of stringent sanctions.

Continue Reading

Eastern Europe

Russia, Ukraine to receive African Delegation for Potential Peace Plan

Avatar photo



Local Russian and foreign media awash with the latest potential peace efforts, this time, from African leaders. Presumably this group of peace-makers, headed by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, will demonstrate collective efforts at resolving the heightened political differences between Russia and its neighbouring Ukraine.

According official sources monitored by this author, the peace plan is backed by African leaders of Senegal, Uganda, Egypt, the Republic of the Congo and Zambia. Four of those six African countries – South Africa, Congo, Senegal and Uganda – abstained from a U.N. vote last year on condemning Russia’s invasion. Zambia and Egypt voted in favour of the motion.

Zambia has historical ties with Russia. Uganda is a U.S. ally on regional security in East Africa, but Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has spoken of his country’s friendship with Russia and its neutral position in the war in Ukraine. Previously, the African Union, regional economic organizations have officially called for the adoption of diplomacy mechanisms and negotiations through which to end the crisis between Russia and Ukraine.

Last year in March, Senegalese President Macky Sall and the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, held discussions on the main aspects of the special military operation and on the importance of humanitarian issues and suggested ending the conflict through diplomacy with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In a phone conversation May 12, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said Putin supported his idea of several African leaders participating in the Ukrainian settlement. The South African leader pointed out that the Ukrainian crisis negatively impacts Africa because it triggered growing food and fuel prices. “A group of African heads of states took the view that Africa does need to put forward an initiative, a peace initiative, that could help to contribute to the solution of that conflict,” he added, according to report by Singapore’s CABC radio station.

Ramaphosa said he spoke with Putin and Zelenskyy by phone over the weekend and they each agreed to host “an African leaders peace mission” in Moscow and Kyiv, respectively. “Principal to our discussions are efforts to find a peaceful resolution to the devastating conflict in the Ukraine,” Ramaphosa was quoted in media reports.

According to Russian media, a group of African countries is in the process of coordinating the terms and timeframes of its visit to Moscow and Kiev in order to lay out their Ukrainian reconciliation initiative. It said further that “the modalities of the trip are being worked on with both countries. It’s a group of African Heads of State.”

It said the governments of Russia and Ukraine had agreed to receive an African delegation, whose goal is to find a peaceful solution to the Ukrainian conflict. Vladimir Putin and Vladimir Zelenskyy have given their consent to receive the African delegation in Moscow and Kiev.

Details of the plan have not been publicly released, although Ukraine’s stated position for any peace deal is that all Russian troops must withdraw from its territory. But Ramaphosa said the United States and Britain had expressed “cautious” support for the plan and the U.N. Secretary General had also been briefed about the initiative.

Considered one of Moscow’s closest allies on the continent, South Africa says it is impartial and has abstained from voting on U.N. resolutions on the war. Last week, it rejected claims by U.S. ambassador to South Africa that weapons were loaded onto a Russian vessel from a naval base in Cape Town in December. Reports said Ramaphosa had opened an inquiry into the allegation.

South Africa is preparing to attend the next Russia-Africa Summit in July 2023 in St. Petersburg. In August, it will host the next BRICS gathering in Durban. The BRICS group of nations  are Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. With BRICS as an example, China has attempted playing a crucial role in the conflict resolution between Russia and Ukraine.

China has been, so far, offering to mediate possible peace talks, an offer clouded by its show of political support for Moscow. Beijing released a proposed peace plan in February, and a Chinese envoy is preparing to visit Russia and Ukraine. But there appeared to be little chance of an imminent breakthrough to end the war since Ukraine and its Western allies largely dismissed the Beijing’s proposal.

The Kremlin wants Kyiv to acknowledge Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula and the Ukrainian provinces of Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia, which most nations have denounced as illegal. Ukraine has rejected the demands and ruled out any talks with Russia until its troops pull back from all occupied territories. Ukraine is determined to recover all Russian-occupied areas.

Zelenskyy’s 10-point peace plan also includes a tribunal to prosecute crimes of aggression, which would enable Russia to be held accountable for its invasion. Zelenskyy had private talks with Pope Francis at the Vatican on May 14, later saying he sought support for Ukraine’s peace plan from the pontiff.

As a new world is awakening to the worsening situation, it is necessary that all countries must be guided by the principles of non-interference, respect for national sovereignty and territorial integrity. Due to its ‘special military operation’ that it started in February 2022, Russia is currently experiencing a raft of sanctions imposed by the United States and Canada, European Union, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and a host of other countries.

Continue Reading



Russia2 hours ago

Mikhail Bogdanov’s Passion for Africa and the Critical Russia’s Policy Debates – Part 6

During Africa Day, celebrated annually on May 25th, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov reiterated that Moscow’s decision to return...

Putin erdogan sochi Putin erdogan sochi
World News5 hours ago

Newsweek: “Putin scores a win in Turkey’s election”

Russian President Vladimir Putin secured a victory in Turkey’s presidential election results on Sunday, writes ‘Newsweek’. Turkish President Recep Tayyip...

World News10 hours ago

Larry Johnson: The aftermath of Bakhmut and why the CIA is in trouble

The West is desperate to avoid having any meaningful discussion or review of the Battle of Bakhmut because it was...

World News12 hours ago

Drone attack on Moscow

The Russian Defence Ministry: – This morning, the Kiev regime has launched a terrorist drone attack on the city of...

Africa16 hours ago

Horn of Africa Crisis: Critical Challenges Ahead

Ultimately the situation in the Horn of Africa is rapidly deteriorating due to frequent militant attacks and terrorists’ pressures in...

Middle East18 hours ago

Can Erdogan repay the people’s trust?

The Turkiye nation has concluded the most important election in the country’s modern history. The people of modern Turkey came...

East Asia20 hours ago

The Sino-Russian-led World Order: A Better Choice for the Globe?

International forums, which were once established to promote cooperation and dialogue among the world’s states, are now increasingly being used...