Current location:Home > Latest Updates > Browse articles

About the Current Russia – Ukraine Conflict and Thereafter
 Source:Centre for Strategic Thinking  Views:558 Updated:2022-03-01

Till 1 March, the fighting between the Russian and Ukrainian troops has lasted for six days already. The past six days have been a difficult time for the country Ukraine and the people living there. A large portion of them have already fled out of the country. The past six days have also been a very challenging time for those who are committed to finding a solution to stop the conflict and get Russia and Ukraine to the negotiation table.

In a televised speech on 25 February, Russian president Putin announced that Russia has no plan to seize the Ukrainian territory. The bottom line for Russia is to demilitarize Ukraine and to prevent the country from joining NATO and relying on its NATO membership to threaten Russia. The Ukrainian side previously also expressed its intention to talk with Russia regarding Ukraine’s neutral position between Russia and NATO.

For the past few days, the two sides have been consulting on the venue for negotiation. Belarus was finally selected. The most crucial issue now for both countries is that they must be clear about their positions, what they want to achieve, and what they can get, and then based on which, manage to make independent decisions and avoid being influenced by other powers or forces at this critical moment.

According to the media release on 1 March Beijing Time, the Ukrainian president revealed that the negotiation between the two countries didn’t go the way as the Ukrainian side expected. Thus, regarding what is going to happen next, it is yet to be seen. 

Anyway, after the war erupted, some countries have subsequently imposed sanctions against Russia, and in the meantime, some also have provided Ukraine with more military weapons and equipment. If the politicians of these countries tend to once again understand the root cause of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, they should have been aware that these kinds of moves, apart from deteriorating the current situation, would do no help to fundamentally address the critical challenges faced by both Russia and Ukraine right now and in the future.

Both Russia and Ukraine are the victims of NATO expansion. What have driven the parties to come to today’s stage? - NATO’s ignorance of Russia’s strategic concern by keeping pressing the limit of Russia’s strategic patience, Ukraine’s anticipation to be a NATO member, and the failure of implementing the Minsk Agreement by the Ukrainian side as well as a range of misleading information deliberately targeted Russia touched the last straw of Russia’s strategic patience.

In the case of Ukraine, it is a victim of great power strategic competition. Before the eruption of the war, the Ukrainian authority and the people in that country would never want or anticipate a war to come to the Ukrainian territory. A series of misleading claims made by certain politicians led the Ukrainian authority to believe that Ukraine had a big leeway to bargain with Russia before any serious conflict to take place. Unfortunately, the country is now in a war and bearing the consequences of the misleading messages.

So far whoever have provided Ukraine with military support, and for whatever reasons they have done so, there is a need for the Ukrainian authority to see that Ukraine is in the front line of the conflict right now, and the Ukrainian government and the people are suffering from and will continue to bear the repercussions of this war in a long term.

Ending the war in the first place should be the number one interest for Ukraine. Humanitarian support offered by some countries and organizations is understandable, while acquiring military weapons from certain countries, apart from immediately adding fuel into the fire, postponing the conflict, and escalating the situation on the battle field, would do little help to meet any of Ukraine’s interest in a long run.

The conflict cannot last forever. No matter how long it will last and in whatever way, it will end ultimately at a particular moment, and Russia and Ukraine will have to sit together to agree on something then. Therefore, the sooner they can put the conflict to an end, the earlier all matters in Ukraine can get back to normal.

After this conflict, both Russia and Ukraine will have to find a different way to engage with each other. For Ukraine, managing to develop constructive relations with both Russia and western countries, rather than taking sides between them, should be in the biggest interest of Ukraine.

Within the Ukrainian society, there are a large proportion of Russian-speaking and pro-Russia population. Russia and Ukraine have the same roots in culture and language. These facts cannot be denied. Hence, from a long-term perspective, to better unite the Ukrainian society, make the country grow stronger, and avoid being used by any great power, the Russia factor and Russia’s historical connectivity with and influence to the Ukrainian society shouldn’t be ignored by the Ukrainian authority. Intentionally denying these facts can only lead the Ukrainian people and society to be more divided, and further drive the Russian-speaking population to come to Russia’s arms while the pro-western Ukrainian people to embrace the west. In reality, the Ukrainian society since the end of the Cold War has been seriously divided already, as reflected by what has been happening in Ukraine over the past at least eight years. The country’s authority will have to adopt certain means to stop this dividing trend.

Ukraine is a large country in terms of its territory. It has a sound industrial base, and has good advantage in agricultural development etc. Nevertheless, the country’s economy so far hasn’t developed well as expected, because it hasn’t found a proper path to mostly fit the country’s needs; and there has often been a struggle between pro-west and pro-Russia. Generally numerous conflicting factors have prevented the country from adopting a right path.

In the coming years, even though there will still be some uncertainties facing the country in the economic and security areas, at least the Ukrainian authority, instead of following the old path, should start from the current stage to try some other means to deal with the similar issues the country has ever experienced in the past. Constructively engaging with both Russia and its western neighbours rather than preferring one against another can be an alternative solution to get the country out of the similar dilemmas having faced in the previous decades.

For the Russian side, the military operation has turned Russia from a victim of NATO expansion to a seemingly aggressor. At this very sensitive moment, the safety of the Ukrainian leadership should be guaranteed, otherwise that would be a big loss for Russia if it makes the same mistake as the United States ever made. Whether the Ukrainian president would be the leader or not in the years ahead should be decided by the Ukrainian people, and not by any external power or force.

Ukraine is an independent country, Ukraine’s capacity in independent decision-making should be valued. The Russian side is in need to especially avoid assuming that the country’s authority is not fully capable of making its own decisions. Even though Ukraine’s policy-making somehow has been and might still be influenced by certain countries, Ukraine’s attitude rather than the position of any other countries is expected to always be of the most significance in deciding the Russia - Ukraine negotiation as well as the bilateral relations between the two countries from a long-term perspective. Under this circumstance, keeping a more constructive and friendly relationship with Ukraine serves the interest of Russia. Meanwhile, Russia’s improved approach in dealing with Ukraine also meets Ukraine’s interest, as it would be conducive to the efforts of the Ukrainian government in uniting the Ukrainian society.

After all, to have a more constructive future, the two countries need to find a way to end the current conflict first.

Address:Room 417, 4th Floor, Building 435, Bai Zi Wan Xi Li, Chao Yang District, Beijing, P.R.China
Copyright:Centre for Strategic Thinking