There is a single word that is best suited to describe the position of Moscow, Washington, and Kyiv regarding the Russo-Ukrainian war – intractable. Six months into to the war and it appears that nothing can be done to bring these parties to the negotiating table. All three governments remain as thoroughly entrenched in their all-or-nothing positions, and it appears that they are unlikely to change their minds any time soon.
Another term, however, must be used to explain the less enthusiastic attitudes of the European states. Their position seems to be one of resignation. They appear resigned to the fates that are inescapably leading them down the path of economic and political devastation. Washington has effectively bullied most of the European countries into going along to get along.
The resignation in the voice of Emmanuel Macron last week was palpable as he delivered his first cabinet speech after the summer break. Macron declared that France was at a "tipping point," and the country had come to the end of "an era of abundance." The whole speech was a somber and sad affair. According to Macron, the drought, the fires, the storms, and the war were bringing France and Europe to the brink. Macron said that his first duty was to speak "frankly" without "doom-mongering." Regardless of his intent to do otherwise, his speech contained enough doom and gloom to bring the morale of the French people to an all-time low.
Moreover, this rather foreboding sense of doom seems to capture the sentiment of Europe as a whole. There are a few exceptions such as Hungary who has decided against sanctions in favor of its own national interests. A bold move by Viktor Orbán that many leaders in Europe may soon regret they did not follow.
We don’t often hear much about what the rest of the world thinks concerning this conflict. Perhaps it’s best described as bewilderment. It is difficult to even begin to explain the perplexity much of the world feels towards this most unnecessary of all wars. It is notable that the antiwar populations in these countries and regions are far more numerous than the pro-war countries in North America and Europe.
India, Pakistan, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, Turkey, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Hungary all refuse to pick sides in this conflict. This is also true of most of the countries in the Asian Pacific and the Global South.
It appears the world never wanted this war. And if we are honest, neither Russia nor Ukraine really wanted this war either.
As Senator Richard Black (R) of Virginia has said, "The decision for war was made in Washington, the decision to attack was made in Russia. But once we made the decision to go to war, the decision to attack was inevitable."
The decision for peace, however, is not inevitable.
America and Russia are apparently willing to sacrifice Ukraine in order to achieve their own geostrategic objectives. And contrary to conventional wisdom, a war of attrition favors Russia, not America and NATO member countries.
As Jeffery Sachs has observed, in recent history wars seldom end with an outright victory of one side over another. It is much more common for wars to evolve into wars of attrition, or to end in a frozen conflict or some sort of negotiated peace. The latter being much more desirable for the world than the former options.
But what would a negotiated peace look like?
Sachs’ has suggested an outline of the best case scenario at this point in the war.
Russia has already issued its terms for peace: Ukrainian neutrality, Russian sovereignty over the Crimea, and recognition of the independence of pro-Russian separatist regions in Luhansk and Donetsk.
Sachs’ offers a reasonable counter by Ukraine: Ukraine should accept neutrality as a prudent course with certain guarantees, Crimea should be ceded to Russia de facto but not de jure, and Ukraine should grant autonomy to the breakaway Donbas regions as outlined in the 2015 Minsk II agreement while rejecting demands for outright independence.
In addition, a negotiated peace should include provisions committing all parties to rebuilding Ukraine, including part of the Russian assets currently frozen by the international community.
Beyond this proposal, or one’s similar to it, there are few prospects for resolving this conflict in a peaceful way. The imprudent and unrealistic idea held by the US and NATO that they can somehow weaken Russia to the point of forcing Moscow to withdraw, or inflict so much harm on Russia that the political tide may somehow turn against Putin at home, may well see all of Ukraine destroyed.
The US and NATO must quickly come to grips with the failure of its policy, change course, develop terms for peace, and convince Kyiv to sue for peace immediately. Otherwise, we will continue to witness the slow, steady, and painful destruction of Ukraine city by city, and town by town.
Jim Fitzgerald is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and a missionary in the Middle East and North Africa. His articles have appeared in American Greatness, American Thinker, Antiwar.com, and the Aquila Report.