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Russia-Ukraine Crisis: Diplomacy The Way Forward
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Russia-Ukraine Crisis: Diplomacy The Way Forward

The world is on edge as the tension between Russia and its neighbour, Ukraine heightens. Will the simmering conflict over whether Ukraine should join the US led NATO boil over into a war? Will diplomacy reign and tensions ease?  Nigerian correspondent Chimaobi Omeye, 26, takes a look at the complex issue and shares his view.

If you haven’t heard about the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, you might be living under a rock. World media has been consumed in recent weeks by the tension between the two states over the latter’s bid to join the US led North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). With Ukraine being a former member of the collapsed Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), Russia and its president Vladimir Putin do not want Kyiv to go forever into the hands of the West.

Instead, Putin would prefer for Ukrainians to still be seen as culturally and politically a part of Russia’s sphere of influence. For Russia, Ukraine’s democracy is taken as a threat. And it is becoming clear that Russia and its closest ally China appear tired of the current world order, characterized by American attempts to impose western dictates on other countries. They both want a new order, to have influence and a stake in global affairs, but the major question remains whether their quest for this new order will result in war, using Ukraine and Taiwan as the catalysts.

According to Stephen Walt, a Harvard University professor and columnist at Foreign Policy, the current crisis rocking Ukraine would have been well avoidable had the US and its allies not succumbed to hubris, wishful thinking and liberal idealism, but instead relied on realism’s core insights. Realistically, the US and NATO should have known that spreading their reach into traditionally Russia-influenced areas would pose a threat. Would Russia, with its great military power, stand by and allow the United States, its rival and another great military power, to essentially move next to its border by forming an alliance with Ukraine? 

I am a firm believer that a neutral Ukraine – not joining NATO and also not aligning with Russia – will do good for the stability of Europe and the world at large. NATO’s open-door policy as specified by the Helsinki Final Act (1975), The Charter of Paris (1990) and Istanbul Document (1999) is against ‘spheres of influence’ but mentions vividly that states must not strengthen their security at the expense of other states. As such, the Kremlin demands three things:

  • Written agreement that Ukraine will never be part of NATO
  • No alliance weapons will be deployed near Russian borders
  • NATO must pull back its forces from Central and Eastern Europe

Russia’s demands from NATO would have come from any superpower that felt endangered or threatened towards its borders. After all, Ukraine had been experiencing peace until the Euromaidan uprising of 2014 – an incident in which Moscow accuses Washington of having a hidden hand and that resulted in Ukraine’s pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych being overthrown.

Many will argue that the sovereignty of Ukraine was violated by the supporters of the uprising and the US’s likely influence in the matter led to Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the uprising within the Donbass region of Donetsk and Luhansk. Russia and China have equally been concerned about Washington’s hidden hands in the Hong Kong protest of 2019, Middle East and North Africa springs, anti-government protests in Belarus and even the Kazakhstan unrest of 2022. 

Despite acknowledging that it is ‘very open’ to Moscow’s concerns, NATO recently rejected the demand that Ukraine will never be a member, stating that the country has the legal right to do so. But I believe there is need to address Russia’s demands without violating laws. Some have argued that the Bucharest Summit Declaration of 2008 should be partially withdrawn, especially Section 23 that states that Ukraine ‘will become’ a member of NATO.

At the moment, Ukraine is an ‘aspirant country’ and has not yet received a Membership Action Plan to join NATO, but it has failed to show progress on identified criteria like curbing corruption and resolving conflicts with neighbours. It is for this reason that opponents believe Ukraine’s status should be withdrawn. In fact, even some NATO interests, including Croatia’s president and a senior German military official, have spoken against Ukraine’s membership.

The world cannot afford a nuclear war; neither will Europe be able to cope with a refugee crisis that might result from this potential catastrophe. The world is totally divided on the basis of views and beliefs, but confrontation and provocation should not be allowed. A peaceful, neutral Ukraine is the best hope for Europe and the world. 

An African proverb says, ‘When two elephants fight it is the grass that gets trampled.’ Ukraine might eventually turn out to be the real victim if diplomacy does not take its course.

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Photo Credit: Canva

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About the Correspondent: I am Chimaobi Omeye, a Geology graduate of the University of Nigeria. I’m currently a renewable energy (solar) mini-grid data analyst with a leading renewable energy firm in Nigeria and, most importantly, a lover of writing. The degradation of Nigeria has been of major concern to me and I hope to make a huge impact on the development of my country by writing and telling the truth even when it seems hidden. I love my career (geology), environment, renewable energy, politics and football.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles

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