West must engage with Putin to end Ukraine war

'Europe faces a refugee crisis but its leaders are still struggling to find ways to talk to their adversary in the Kremlin'

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Photo: AFP
Photo: AFP

Published: Mon 27 Jun 2022, 10:32 PM

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has appealed to the G7 group of nations to end his country’s war with Russia by the end of the year. The bloc, meanwhile, is busy supplying the Ukrainians with more advanced weapons that some experts fear only serves to prolong the war. Nato estimates that the conflict could continue for two years and has plans to bolster rapid-action forces from 30,000 to 400,000. Warships and fighter aircraft have been kept ready for any eventuality if the war spreads beyond Ukraine and envelopes Eastern Europe that the erstwhile Soviet Union controlled before the fall of communism in the 1990s.

Europe feels insecure and vulnerable so do the Russians who are silent about their military objectives and continue their war of attrition hoping that the Ukrainians would still throw down their weapons and surrender territory The result has been a stalemate in a war that the rest of the world doesn’t appear to be interested in after five months even as oil prices and inflation worries mount and hurt finances. Russian forces continue their attacks on Ukrainian positions on the eastern flank and are being met with stiff resistance by government troops. Cities in the country are in ruins, and ordinary Ukrainians are being displaced by the thousands daily. Twelve million have already left their homes. Europe faces a refugee crisis but its leaders are still struggling to find ways to talk to their adversary in the Kremlin which reveals a lot about their interest in peace. A plan to open diplomatic channels with Russian President Vladimir Putin is missing and the G7 is only fueling the fire. It’s not about who started the war; how to end it without further bloodshed should be on top of their agenda as they meet in Germany.

Many countries in the continent fear that the war is coming home. This is not about Ukraine and Russia alone, it’s also about the state of smaller, less powerful liberal democracies in the continent that fear a return to their satellite status under Russia. Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland feel closer to the line of fire. Finland and Sweden are also worried about a Russian bear hug and have recently applied to join Nato, the US-led military alliance. The tragic reality is this: no one’s winning this war yet, though Russian forces are slowly gaining ground in the east of Ukraine. Lysychansk, Kyiv’s last stronghold in the region is also set to fall according to the latest reports. What’s clear is that Russian forces didn’t expect the conflict to last this long back in February when they attacked their smaller neighbour. Now with the Ukrainians fighting for every inch of their land, Moscow is determined to wear them out. In this scenario, the G7 should go beyond sanctions on Moscow, and find ways to resolve the conflict. They would be advised to start a conversation with Putin. Zelensky’s year-end deadline is impossible unless the Kremlin is on board.

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