What chances for diplomacy in Ukraine? The great debate [OPINION]


How to find the way out of the war in Ukraine, stuck in a stalemate on the ground, neither side having the strength to win a military victory? At the diplomatic level, Italy has just submitted a plan with 4 points at the UN and the G7:

  • a ceasefire and the demilitarization of the front under UN control
  • neutrality of Ukraine, which would have the possibility of joining the EU but not NATO
  • a bilateral agreement concerning Crimea and Donbass, which would have autonomy while respecting Ukrainian territorial sovereignty
  • a multilateral agreement on peace and security in Europe

For Italy, a “fair and equitable solution” must be based on “the independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine”. It is precisely this question of guiding principles for diplomacy which was the subject of a contradictory debate at the famous Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto, with political scientists John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt on one side, and on the other Michael McFaul, former American ambassador to Moscow, as well as Radek Sikorski, former Polish defense minister. The former supported the idea that Russian interests in terms of security should first be taken into account (a position shared by 53% of listeners before the debate). Mearsheimer, representative of the "realist" theory in geopolitics, considered that we can certainly deplore the possibility of large countries dictating their will to smaller ones, but that we would ultimately have to live with it: if Ukraine and Westerners annoy the Russian bear with a stick (NATO's supposed expansionist policy), this can only lead to disaster.

In one recent post for  Le Figaro, Nicolas Sarkozy's former adviser Henri Guaino offered a reading of the genesis of the conflict close to that of Mearsheimer, also castigating what he sees as Washington's current desire to corner Russia. Stressing the danger of an escalation analogous to that of 1914, Guaino speaks of “the tragic cycle of mimetic violence that no one would have wanted but to which everyone would have contributed”. However, he distances himself from pure realism by saying: “To make concessions to Russia today is to submit to the law of the strongest. To do none is to comply with the law of the craziest. Tragic dilemma. ". In the case of a generalization of war, Guaino mentions two highly undesirable possibilities. If the nuclear destruction of Europe is obviously the most dramatic, the West could also be tempted to give in to the “Munich capitulation” by dropping Ukraine, or even the Baltic States or Poland.

For their part, McFaul and Sikorski raised objections to Mearsheimer that could also apply to Guaino's article. Citing their own diplomatic experience, they dismiss as overly simplistic the narrative of an inevitable conflict between Russia and NATO that has been simmering since the end of the USSR in 1991, noting that until the presidency of Dmitry Medvedev (2008 -2012), Russia was not closed to the idea of ​​collaborating with the Atlantic Alliance. This interpretation is confirmed by the recollections of other former Putin interlocutors such as Tony Blair, the former Secretary General of NATO George Robertson ou Andrei Illarianov, economic adviser to the Russian president until 2005. The evolution of the Kremlin's position towards the West has not been linear, to evoke the invariable “interests of Russia” would therefore be reductive. Separately, McFaul challenged the notion that only the current power would have the right to define these interests, citing his recent exchange with opponent Alexei Navalny which presents a completely different reading of the situation. In this, McFaul joins another Russian opposition heavyweight, Garry Kasparov : the ex-chess champion affirms that it would rather be the definitive defeat of Putin which would be in the true interest of Russia which, freed from imperialist dreams, could then be a partner of the West against China. Sikorski's argument is similar: it is only by recognizing the otherness of its colonized neighbors that Russia could finally redefine itself. Against Mearsheimer's "realism", McFaul offered a more idealistic view, saying that while European history did unfold according to the logic of the fittest, the path of the Realpolitik is not only immoral but has led to war in Europe in the XNUMXth century.

The participants of the debate in Toronto ended up being quite close to the initial question. According to Sikorski, "we should recognize Russia's legitimate security interests, but Russia must recognize the right of its neighbors to exist and have their own interests."

60% of listeners ultimately supported McFaul and Sikorski's position over that of Mearsheimer and Walt.

peter banister

source: The Press+

This article is published from Selection of the day.

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