Is there an end in sight for the Ukrainian conflict?


The conflict in Ukraine, which began in 2014 and escalated significantly in February 2022 with Russia’s large-scale offensive, seems to be showing signs of de-escalation after almost 22 months of intense warfare. However, this apparent winding down is complicated by congressional deadlock in the United States over additional funding for Ukraine. Speaker Mike Johnson’s ultimatum, tying support to comprehensive border security reform, raises concerns that American aid might soon diminish entirely.

This shift comes following Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief Valery Zaluzhny’s acknowledgment to The Economist in early November that the conflict has reached a stalemate despite his side’s summer counteroffensive. According to The New York Times in late September, Russia now controls nearly 200 square miles more territory in Ukraine than at the start of the year, a situation unexpected by Ukraine and its Western allies. This outcome is partly attributed to strategic miscalculations by both sides, as detailed in a recent two-part series in The Washington Post.

Given the immense costs—financial, physical, and strategic—of another counteroffensive, the likelihood of such an action is low. Consequently, a potential opportunity for renewed peace talks may arise. China’s 12-point position paper on the Ukrainian conflict, unveiled on its one-year anniversary, holds promise, especially if the EU considers Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s advice from late November. Yi stressed the importance of collaboration between China and Europe to prevent bloc confrontation, global disintegration, and a new Cold War.

The EU’s draft security guarantees to Ukraine, China’s pragmatic 12-point position paper, and Turkiye’s potential role as the talks’ host could collectively pave the way for a diplomatic breakthrough. Additionally, the recent thaw in China-US relations observed during their leaders’ meeting could encourage Washington’s support for Beijing’s involvement in the peace process.

The Ukrainian conflict has been a global tragedy, underscoring the urgency for responsible stakeholders to unite and seek resolution. Until recently, political barriers hindered such efforts, particularly the US’ pursuit of a strategic defeat against Russia. However, America’s goals have seemingly shifted following the failure of the counteroffensive and congressional gridlock. It’s hoped that this change won’t obstruct others’ attempts to reignite peace talks in the future.

Predicting the exact outcome or timeline is premature. However, a scenario might unfold where dwindling American financial and military aid persuades Ukraine to rejoin the Istanbul peace process in exchange for the EU’s reported security commitments. China’s 12-point position paper could guide negotiations, potentially leading to an armistice freezing the line of control without formal abandonment of territorial claims by either party.

Should both sides prioritize humanitarian interests over military, political, and strategic objectives, a cessation of hostilities could bring relief to civilians affected by the conflict. This pause could allow for reconstruction efforts and pave the way for detailed peace talks addressing the root causes of the conflict. Conducting these talks during an armistice could significantly increase their chances of success.


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