Ukraine Conflict: A Peace Proposal To Avert An All-Out War – OpEd


By Michael von der Schulenburg*

At the end of August this year, four highly respected German personalities1 presented a peace proposal for ending the war in Ukraine through a ceasefire and subsequent peace negotiations: It is arguably the most comprehensive and groundbreaking peace proposal made by any government, international organization, or, as in this case, any private party since the war began 18 months ago.

This peace proposal comes at an extremely critical time in the Ukraine war. With a possible failure of the Ukrainian counteroffensive and the resulting weakening of the Ukrainian armed forces, NATO could be faced with the decision in the next few months, perhaps even in the next few weeks, to either further escalate the war against Russia or to go down the path of negotiations. However, a decision to continue the war carries the enormous risk that it could increasingly develop into a direct NATO-Russia confrontation.

This would not only result in further suffering for the Ukrainian population, but it would also bring the world one step closer to nuclear war. It is only to be hoped that reason will prevail and NATO, Ukraine, and Russia will opt for a ceasefire with immediate peace negotiations. The detailed German peace proposal has now shown the way to this end. It is, therefore, of utmost urgency to draw the attention of political decision-makers around the world to this peace proposal and win public support for it.

The African Union, China, Brazil, Mexico, and Indonesia have made peace proposals, and a peace proposal was earlier developed at the invitation of the Vatican. In addition, Turkey and Israel have undertaken laudable peace initiatives. However, the European Union, which should be most concerned about peace in Europe and is deeply involved in this war, has not yet proposed how to end this war through a political solution.

Moreover, except for a proposal for peace negotiations by former Italian Prime Minister Draghi a year ago, none of the EU member states has undertaken any peace initiative. Sadly, this is also true for the German government.

Political rigidity

At a time when the Ukraine war presents Europe with a supreme peril, the European Union seems to have lapsed into political rigidity. It has no obvious strategy for what it wants to achieve with its military support for dragging on the Ukraine war, nor has it developed any ideas of what a peaceful Europe might look like after this war.

As if this old continent had learned nothing from the terrible experiences of the two World Wars, which, like the Ukrainian war now, were fought mainly on European soil, it still clings to increasingly unrealistic maximum demands and the shocking idea that these can be achieved on the battlefield. In the process, Ukraine is being bled dry in the truest sense of the word.

EU policy also seems to be deaf to the political, social, and economic consequences the continuation of the war will have for the people of Europe and around the world and the enormous dangers that would emanate for humankind from its continuous escalation.

Against this background, it becomes clear why such a detailed German peace proposal is of such great importance right now. It breaks with the fatal belief that military victories could bring peace and, in contrast, outlines ways to achieve a peaceful solution to this war through political negotiations. The prevailing highly belligerent atmosphere in European politics, media, and think tanks requires considerable personal courage from the initiators to stand up for peace

Immediate ceasefire and peace negotiations

Their peace proposal is also based on the Western view that Russia has started an illegal war of aggression and that, thus, Ukraine has every right to defend itself militarily and accept foreign military support. However, they go a decisive step further by emphasizing that this “does not absolve the government in Kyiv and its supporting states… from politically promoting the achievement of a just and lasting peace.”

Now that this war has entered a highly destructive stage, in which there can be no more victors, their call on all warring parties and their supporting states that it is time to seek a political solution for peace has become even more urgent.

Thus, the initiators call for an immediate ceasefire along the existing frontlines and demand the simultaneous start of peace negotiations to prevent a ‘freezing’ of this ceasefire line and, thus, of the entire conflict. To avoid any delays through political rankling, they propose that these peace negotiations go straight to the core controversial issues of the conflict: a neutral Ukraine, security guarantees for Ukraine, the future status of the Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhya and Kherson regions as well as Crimea.

For each of these controversial issues, they outline possible solutions based on the outcomes of the Russian-Ukrainian peace talks in March 2022 and Ukraine’s negotiating position at the Istanbul peace summit on 29 March 2022.

This peace proposal from eminent Germans complements the peace proposals already made by countries or regional organizations outside Europe. Like those, it assumes that Russian security interests, as outlined in Russia’s letter to NATO and the US of 17 December 2021, must be considered. But in contrast to the views prevailing in the EU, the initiators of the German peace proposal share the assessment of non-Western countries that Russian President Putin is very much willing to negotiate peace. This does not yet mean that the negotiating positions have converged.

EU desperately needs peace

As in all other peace negotiations, in the case of the Ukrainian war, one will have to painstakingly negotiate over the conflicts between the warring parties and their supporting states. This will, no doubt, be extremely difficult because there is no trust between the warring parties; peace negotiations occur between war enemies and not between friends. Nevertheless, the path now charted by Germany’s peace proposal for a negotiated peace represents a significant advantage over any further attempt to achieve a militarily enforced solution.

Therefore, it should be in the self-interest of the EU and its member states to embrace this peace proposal wholeheartedly. Not only would the EU find itself on the frontline should this war escalate into a direct NATO-Russian confrontation, but it would also be left with all other adverse aspects of the fallout of the war. This will include the present costs of the war and, more importantly, the long-term costs of supporting a destroyed, impoverished, and depopulating Ukraine.

While the U.S. can withdraw back across the Atlantic, the EU will continue to face many of the world’s crisis regions in its immediate neighborhood. It will also be the EU’s economy that suffers most, not only from its homemade sanctions but also from an increase in the cost of raw materials, the loss of sales markets, and the disruption of direct trade routes to the growth regions of Asia. And if one correctly reads the signs of the BRICS+ summit, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and now also the G-20 summit, one may conclude that it is not Russia that is internationally isolated, but instead that it is the EU that loses international influence over its Ukraine policies, its failure to have prevented the Ukraine war, and now its unwillingness to end it.

The EU now desperately needs peace, and the German peace proposal should be accepted as a one-time chance that would allow it to switch its policies towards achieving this peace while moving away from supporting a continued war.

The decisive role of the UN

The German peace proposal relies heavily on a decisive role for the United Nations in its implementation. According to the proposal, the framework for a comprehensive cease-fire is to be decided in the UN Security Council, while the monitoring of the demilitarization of the now Russian-occupied territories and the military separation of forces along the cease-fire line are to be guaranteed by UN peacekeepers.

Subsequent peace negotiations should take place under the auspices of the UN Secretary-General or a High Commissioner appointed by him. Since the United Nations, the UN Security Council, and the UN Secretary-General have played rather disappointing roles in this conflict, these proposals will undoubtedly be questioned by many observers.

And yet, these proposals, in particular, could have far-reaching significance for global peace. It would lead to the rehabilitation of this world organization that is indispensable and central to maintaining world peace. It would mean that within the confines of the UN, the various peace proposals and peace initiatives of the member states could come together, not as competing but as mutually reinforcing forces for peace.

Such a strengthening of the United Nations and the associated affirmation of the universality of the UN Charter would undoubtedly be welcomed by the vast majority of member states. The German peace proposal could make a decisive contribution to this end.

The United Nations and the UN Charter came into being in response to Germany’s awful war crimes and atrocities during World War II. Hence, Germany should feel a special responsibility to uphold the UN Charter’s obligation for all member states to seek peaceful solutions to conflicts and prevent wars.

Now presented by four imminent German personalities, this groundbreaking peace proposal is a step towards Germany fulfilling its special responsibility. If the EU and the international community want to end the war in Ukraine peacefully and preserve global peace, there will be no alternatives to this peace proposal!

*Former UN Assistant Secretary-General, escaped East Germany in 1969, studied in Berlin, London and Paris and worked for over 34 years for the United Nations, and shortly the OSCE, in many countries in war or internal armed conflicts often involving fragile governments and armed non-state actors. These included long-term assignments in Haiti, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and Sierra Leone and shorter assignments in Syria, the Balkan, Somalia, the Balkan, the Sahel, and Central Asia. In 2017, he published the book ‘On Building Peacerescuing the Nation-State and saving the United Nations’, AUP.


IDN-InDepthNews offers news analyses and viewpoints on topics that impact the world and its peoples. IDN-InDepthNews serves as the flagship of the International Press Syndicate Group

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