A ray of hope has emerged after the statement made by Russian President Vladimir Putin on finding a ‘diplomatic resolution’ to the ongoing war with Ukraine. Realists will, of course, be cautiously optimistic, as there are few other indications of an improvement in the situation. It is possible that Putin is merely buying time till winter gets over and conditions become more suitable for continuing the assault.
There is enough evidence, however, of the Ukrainian resistance, and the support extended to that country by the West, having weakened the Russian resolve to continue with the pointless conflict. There are other reasons, also, to believe that a resolution is now possible. In fact, speculation has already begun on who would broker the peace – the UN Secretary General, the Pope, or even the Indian Prime Minister. It must not be forgotten that India’s relations with Russia have been maintained despite pressure from the West, even as Modi has unequivocally declared that ‘this is not the time for war’. Russia, on its part, had played the role of mediator at Tashkent between India and Pakistan during the ’65 conflict. Time, perhaps, to return the favour.
The display of solidarity during Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s visit to the US, and the continued willingness of Americans to back the resistance with weapons and money, may also have influenced Putin’s decision. There is no doubt that, despite Russia’s strengths, particularly its stranglehold over Europe’s energy supply, its internal situation has been deteriorating. The people may still be backing their President but they have no stomach for an unnecessary war. The best Russia can hope for now is to retain the Russian speaking areas it still occupies.
The loss of this territory is the reality that Ukraine will have to face if it negotiates for peace. This may be a price it may not be prepared to pay. Those brokering a peace will have to find some innovative ways to get around this undoubtedly difficult problem, as Putin cannot be seen to have come out empty-handed. Perhaps, these areas could be granted greater autonomy within Ukrainian sovereignty. And, despite which side nations back in the war, the entire world needs to pressure them to negotiate a truce; for the conflict has created problems for the global economy particularly as it came after the Covid crisis. Peace is definitely in everybody’s interest.