Russia’s leadership in helping to resolve the crisis in Ukraine is desperately needed. A proactive Russia could help to find a path to a peaceful resolution and win the respect of the global community for its leadership. Instead, Russia has rejected further multilateral talks to stop the escalating violence in eastern Ukraine.
Ukraine is increasingly lurching towards a civil war and possible war with Russia. The amount of death and destruction for Ukraine will be unthinkable, as well as the security and economic crisis of global proportions that will be ignited. The global community has lots of examples since the dissolution of the Soviet Union when major powers failed to take timely actions to stop a human tragedy in the making, such as the Balkans, Rwanda and the Sudan.
On Tuesday, May 6th, Russia rejected calls from the Council of Europe for multilateral talks on Ukraine, saying Ukraine has failed to live up to the April 17th Geneva Agreement.
In the past few months, Russia has called UN Security Council meetings on the crisis in Ukraine thirteen times. According to news reports, the May 2nd meeting was like the rest with Russia’s UN ambassador blaming the US and Europe. Not once did Russia suggest the option of a ceasefire and empowering the UN to intervene to reduce tensions and violence.
The UN could provide mediators and peacekeeping forces to enforce a ceasefire between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian security forces while talks between Russia, Ukraine, EU and the US took place. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon can be given this authority with the unanimous consent of the UN Security Council.
In my opinion, if Russia supported a UN peacekeeping initiative to help de-escalate the crisis, the other Security Council members would agree. Unfortunately, this has not happened. If another member of the Security Council made the proposal, I think Russia would almost certainly veto the measure. Thus, we have geopolitical gridlock.
Russia and all members of the UN Security Council know the tragic lessons of the 20th Century. The geopolitics behind the positions on Ukraine taken by Russia are valid from the standpoint that any country has a legitimate right to advocate for its national interests. But, now is the time for Russia to show global leadership on Ukraine. Russia, as well as Ukraine, suffered so terribly from wars, famine and revolutions during the 20th Century. That should be enough of a grim reminder to do the right thing.