‘Don’t humiliate Russia, but integrate it into Europe’: A NATO-based peace plan for Ukraine


With winter approaching, the war in Ukraine threatens to literally and figuratively become a ‘frozen conflict’. Therefore, no victory for either of the warring parties can be expected in the short term. It is even questionable whether, with today’s weapons of mass destruction the war can even be won militarily. It is therefore wise to look also for diplomatic solutions to end this war.

There have already been some peace initiatives, but these have not been successful because they build on the existing European situation. In this Europe, both Ukraine and Russia feel unsafe. That is why striving for peace alone is not enough. Peace must be preceded by security, so that the grounds for war are reduced and peaceful relations can be established on a lasting basis.

With this idea in mind, the Hague Peace Proposal has been developed in the city of ‘peace and justice’. Central to this plan is the NATO-alliance, which already guarantees the security of a part of Europe. If the alliance is expanded with Ukraine and Russia, their security will be guaranteed as well, creating lasting peace and the rule of law.

The attractive, but also compelling character of this peace initiative ensures that new European relations are not created from ‘the barrel of a gun’, but from NATO treaty law itself. International law thus overcomes the current ‘law of the superpowers’, making military aggression and land grabbing a thing of the past.

The Hague proposal

The fundamental cause of the conflict in Ukraine lies in the geopolitical division of Europe between NATO and Russia, which has persisted after the Cold War. After Germany in the past, Ukraine now threatens to be torn apart between the two superpowers.

To restore peace in Ukraine, this geopolitical division must first come to an end. Therefore Russia’s pretense as a superpower must be tempered, something that US President Obama already advocated in 2014.[1] Not to humiliate Russia, but to integrate it safely into Europe.

The Hague Peace Proposal is aimed at compensating Russia for this loss of power with Western security guarantees. Not as a ‘privileged’ partner within the current NATO-Russia Council (NRC), as this has proven to be too non-binding. Only if Russia is fully integrated into a European security structure, the security of both Russia and the rest of Europe can be guaranteed.

Due to Russia’s enormous power potential, this can only be achieved safely by committing Russia to transatlantic cooperation, as it takes place within NATO. Russian dominance can be neutralized by American counterbalancing. To resolve the war in Ukraine, it will therefore be necessary that Russia joins NATO.

Geopolitical consequences

If Russia commits to the NATO treaty, it will indeed be geopolitically downgraded to the level of France or the United Kingdom. But as a regional partner it will benefit from European strategic, political and economic cooperation. This changes Russia from pariah to partner.

NATO will also lose its superpower status if Russia joins in. However, it can thus evolve into a fully-fledged European security structure that guarantees peace and justice for the entire continent. Dutch professor Rob de Wijk previously spoke out in favor of such a NATO as an ‘armed branch’ of the European security organization (OSCE).[2] This keeps NATO relevant, even in times of peace.

Moreover, as mentioned earlier, Russia’s membership of NATO requires American commitment to the Alliance and is therefore, paradoxically the best assurance for the United States to remain permanently involved in Europe.

Russia’s membership in NATO will make the alliance neutral, which will also allow Ukrainian NATO membership, as this gives Russia the best guarantee of Ukrainian neutrality. This will reduce Russian influence on Ukraine, leading to a full restoration of its sovereignty; and without Russian dominance, Ukraine will be able to give autonomy to its minorities. As a result Russia will have to return annexed territory. This sequence will ultimately lead to peace.

From The Hague 2023…

The first phase of the Hague peace process focuses on security. It is crucial that NATO members realize that a ‘NATO-bound’ Russia is easier to contain, than a one that remains dangerously on the sidelines of  Europe. A unanimous decision is needed to offer both Russia and Ukraine NATO membership under strict conditions.

Led by NATO, delegates from Ukraine and Russia are invited to the Peace Palace in The Hague, to agree on a ceasefire, accept the conditions of the peace process and start with NATO’s Membership Action Program (MAP).[3]

If this peace agreement is violated, the peace process will stop, resulting in both being excluded from joining NATO. After all, the alliance does not allow membership of countries involved in conflict. This combination of ‘soft power’ (NATO-admission) and ‘hard power’ (NATO-exclusion) makes parties willing to make far-reaching concessions.

As soon as the guns fall silent, NATO, in close consultations with Ukrainian and Russian military authorities, will deploy a robust peacekeeping force to establish a neutral position on the Russo-Ukrainian front. Troops from opposite sides will then be invited  to join the NATO-force, which thereby becomes a multilateral force, comparable to the previous IFOR/SFOR missions in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The peacekeeping mission will implement and stabilize the peace agreement across Ukraine, monitor the progress of the MAP and initiate the next phase of the peace process.

…to Yalta 2024

The next step aims to restore justice and peace. Therefore debt must be determined and financial recovery must take place. This requires legal proceedings between Ukraine and Russia at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague. The prosecution of the Russian president at the International Criminal Court (ICC) must be dropped, as it represents a major obstacle to peace. Moreover, it seems fairer to hold the Russian electorate and not its legal representative accountable for any crimes committed against the Ukrainian people.

To prevent renewed tensions and separatism, Ukraine will have to implement a federal state structure with far-reaching autonomy for its minorities. Like Bosnia-Herzegovina, multi-ethnic Ukraine can never be allowed to adopt a unitary form of government.

At the same time Russia has to give back all annexed territory to the rightful owner: Ukraine. Just as both worked together as strategic partners within the former Soviet-Union, future cooperation within NATO makes a dispute about the national status of the Donbas and Crimea pointless anyhow.

In 1954 Crimea was donated to Ukraine ‘demonstrating the unlimited trust and love of the Russian people for the Ukrainian people’.[4] This gesture could be repeated seventy years later so that the final peace can be signed at the Livadia Palace in the Crimean city of Yalta. This paves the way for both countries to join NATO, which can adopt a new, more peaceful strategic concept on its 75th anniversary in 2024.

However, due to the soured relationship between Ukraine and NATO on the one hand and Russia on the other, this Hague Peace Proposal seems currently unfeasible and irrelevant. But if NATO, in accordance with its intergovernmental nature, takes a mediating position between the warring parties, Europe’s geopolitical division can be resolved, creating peaceful international relations.

               If even neutral countries like Sweden and Finland can become NATO-members, NATO expansion with former ‘privileged’ partner Russia doesn’t have to be so unrealistic. Certainly not if this leads to peace and justice for all. 

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/mar/25/barack-obama-russia-regional-power-ukraine-weakness

[2] Rob de Wijk, ‘Rusland moet volwaardig lid van de Navo worden’, NRC Handelsblad May 29 2002.

[3] https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/topics_37356.htm

[4] https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/meeting-presidium-supreme-soviet-union-soviet-socialist-republics

Arne Tulner
Arne Tulner
Arne Tulner (1974) is a Dutch historian. He studied international relations at the University of Utrecht and writes about national and international political issues. Arne is an affiliate member of The Hague Peace Projects, which supports dialogue as the route to peace around the world.


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