War in Ukraine Bringing peace will be difficult, but not impossible

Foreign Minister of Ukraine Dmitry Kuleba expressed his desire to hold an international conference under the auspices of the United Nations (UN) by the end of February. He would see Secretary-General Antonio Guterres as a mediator between his country and Russia.

However, he added that Russia should be tried for war crimes first. In the process, he also wants Russia to lose its seat on the Security Council. The Russian Embassy in the UN immediately rejected these proposals.

At first glance, they seem unrealistic in the context of the current intensity of the conflict. However, there is no other international organization better placed than the United Nations to attempt to bring the parties to the negotiating table. The UN is already involved in Ukraine at many levels through its agencies: humanitarian aid, refugee protection, security of Ukrainian nuclear power plants.

In addition, a few months ago, the Secretary General of the United Nations reached an agreement that allowed Ukraine to export wheat, thereby preventing a food crisis in many countries.

At this point, it is hard to imagine an end to the battle as the warring parties say they are confident of a final victory.

Russian President Vladimir Putin needs a military breakthrough as his campaign to seize Kiev and topple the government of Vladimir Zelensky has failed. Ukrainians are enthusiastic and receive generous support from much of the international community. They have proven to be formidable fighters and are gradually regaining their ground. They hope for complete conquest, including Crimea.

Despite the improbable collapse of Russian or Ukrainian forces, the exhaustion of armies and populations, as well as economic difficulties, should push them to negotiate one day or another. Their respective allies will certainly play a stimulating role.

The road to negotiations promises to be long and complicated. Territorial issues, war reparations and the abuse of humanitarian law and war will be key issues.

The security of Europe should also be on the agenda. As well as the political and economic sanctions adopted by many countries against Russia.

The role of the UN

The United Nations finally has the necessary experience and credibility to promote and implement the peace process, as well as basic neutrality.

The main problem is that Russia is on the Security Council, which can use its veto power to block any resolution or approach it deems unacceptable. China could do the same. Therefore, it will be necessary to involve various actors of the international community.

It can be imagined that peace settlement may primarily involve the establishment and maintenance of a ceasefire regime, the organization of referendums, the creation of demilitarized zones, if not the creation of peacekeeping forces. Some of these measures can be implemented with the consent of the UN and Moscow, and others within the framework of a willing coalition of countries. Ukraine will want to join NATO.

There is already a useful example, Multinational Forces and Observers (OFM in English) examines the application of the Camp David agreements between Israel and Egypt in the Sinai. It is made up of a group of countries, not the UN, which has been accepted by both parties to the treaty, including Canada.

The question of ending political and economic sanctions against Moscow will be at the discretion of the countries that apply them in the context of the G7 or the European Union.

Examples from the past

The UN has already managed the long-standing mandate of the Commission on Reparations for the 1990 invasion of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. This amounts to $50 billion recovered by Kuwait. A model in terms of reconciliation that we can take inspiration from in the example of Russia.

Apparently, the European Union is already working on the creation of a special tribunal to try war crimes. Russia will certainly do everything to block any possible UN intervention in this matter.

The Vienna-based Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), an expert on human rights, election monitoring and arms control, should also be involved in post-conflict work.

When it comes time to end a major and dangerous conflict for international stability, diplomats can show imagination and their political leaders show realism.

Canadian statesman Lester B. Pearson took the original initiative with the first United Nations peacekeepers after the Suez Canal crisis in 1956. He proved that while the challenge may seem great, peace and the means to maintain it are possible.

The parties to the conflict must first agree to negotiations. Unfortunately, this is not yet open, but this deadline is imminent. We have to prepare for it, and that includes our government in Ottawa.

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