On 24 February, not only a local armed conflict broke out between Russia and Ukraine, but also a new era began in the European history. The birth of the European Union and – its history so far – was closely related to the values of peace and stability, since the establishment of the economic cooperation was a guarantee for these values. In 2012, the EU – and its predecessor organizations – was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of its contribution to the promotion of peace over six decades, transforming Europe from a “continent of war to a continent of peace”. Today, however, the European Union has become from being the main guardian of peace to one of the biggest financiers of war. It was a watershed moment when Member States, with the exception of Austria and Hungary, began to supply weapons to Ukraine from their own arsenals, and the European Union began to purchase arms to support an attacked country for the first time in its history.
Organisations nominally set up to promote human rights also argue that assisting in war is the real moral duty. According to the pro-war narrative, pacifism is not only impractical, but its promoters – reminiscent of the worst times – are labelled as extremists and populists. Promoters of peace are accused of being pro-Russian, defeatist and nationalist, and voices opposing the war are portrayed as “toxic pacifism”.
Although a vocal part of the Western world calls for further financing the war and demonises pro-peace voices, the more sober half of the world is struggling to stop the conflict as soon as possible and to stabilise security. Thankfully, we have not only hope, but also useful examples of peaceful settlements that can serve as a lesson for us. Moreover, it is necessary to negotiate with each other even when the parties do not trust each other, and this is always the case with warring parties. Of course, peace negotiations are not a solution in themselves, but they do allow us to deal with the real and most difficult questions, while minimising casualties.
The warring parties are known to everyone, but it is not clear who could really negotiate for peace. Zelenskyy has previously stipulated in a decree that Ukraine cannot negotiate for peace as long as Vladimir Putin is the Russian president. In the same time, the United States and Russia are the ones who have real negotiating power. Despite the fact that they are not officially warring parties, they are the biggest financiers of the war. There is also the question of who could be the possible mediators in the negotiations. Many have already offered their services, including Pope Francis, Turkish President Erdogan, Israel, India and also Hungary.
Perhaps the biggest question is what compromises the parties would accept in any negotiations. Would they be willing to give up any part of Ukraine’s territory, and is there any way back after Russia has annexed territories and validated them by referendums? Is there still a chance for Ukraine to join NATO, which was one of the main reasons for the outbreak of the war, but which could also be a guarantee that the aggression will not be repeated? Can the violation of the linguistic rights of national minorities in Ukraine be remedied at the same time? There is also the question of whose duty is to restore the destruction caused by the war, whether Russia can be obliged to pay compensation, and whether there will be any accountability for war crimes.
It is important that not only pro-war voices are expressed, but also the ideas that aim to end the war. The Nézőpont Institute presents five peace plans with concrete conditions that offer different answers to the above discussed difficult questions of peacemaking.
The “Minsk 3” agreement should address the mistakes of the previous compromises, in particular, it should guarantee that the promises of both sides are kept. The Ukrainian peace model would be based on Ukraine’s dubious victory and would mean the recovery of the annexed Russian territories. This concept of “fair peace” could only be achieved with significant concessions from both sides. A third peace model, originated from Gerhard Schröder, would build a new, post-war Ukraine, based on the constitutional model of Switzerland, with extensive autonomy of the “cantons” and severely limited power of the federal state. The fourth plan is Kissinger’s carefully formulated concept, which builds on the pre-war status quo and would create an ethnically more homogeneous and thus more united Ukraine at the cost of giving up Crimea and those eastern territories of the country where Russians constitute the majority of the population. Finally, there is the idea of the Hungarian-born American security expert George Friedman, who proposed the restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and the country’s permanent neutrality, which would be similar to the 1955 model of Austria, and would be based on the concept of preventing the two sides from losing face.
The full analysis of the Nézőpont Institute is available here.