By William Maddison
At the time of writing, Ukrainian officials have reported that 5,700 Russian soldiers have been killed since the war began. It’s hard not to detect a hint of positivity in the way this is being reported, and is part of a disturbing wider trend of the fetishization of this war, and the oversimplified way that it’s being covered.
This isn’t a movie. 5,700 Russian soldiers means 5,700 families will be waking up tomorrow to the news that their sons or daughters are dead. This is not some fantasy battle of good versus evil, it’s a horrific development in a global political conflict between Russia and the West, and we would do well to remember that the real enemy is war itself.
Support us by contributing as little as £1 so we can continue to give young people a voice and a platform they deserve
Time and again on the Left we allow ourselves to forget our values in the face of unspeakable horrors, and let’s be clear, Putin’s actions have been truly horrific, some likely amounting to war crimes. But the speed with which we have accepted that the solution to this problem is providing more military aid, and moving NATO forces into ever more aggressive positions, is frankly astounding.
Is it important that we provide support to Ukraine to defend itself? Yes, especially after enticing them to closer ties with the West and then essentially abandoning them. But isn’t it extremely immoral to only provide military aid and not facilitate the only means by which we can end this war peacefully?
The only solution to this situation is a diplomatic one. Allowing the war to rage on, no matter who wins, is an appalling option that the world should be baulking at. And yet, there is a distinct lack of voices on the left demanding our leaders to open up diplomatic channels, and to try to negotiate our way out of this hellish situation.
There seems to be a lack of direction on what we should be pushing for right now, so I propose we advocate for three main developments.
Firstly, Ukraine and Russia must negotiate a humanitarian corridor, allowing those trapped in the sieged Kyiv to leave, and proving that Russia is committed to avoiding civilian casualties. If they do not agree to this, we will know that Russia has no intention of allowing the Ukrainian state to exist, and are likely aiming for an all out destruction of the government and any of its supporters.
In addition to this, Ukraine must allow those, including men, that do not wish to fight to be able to leave. Despite huge popular support, there are many in Ukraine that do not want to fight, they should be allowed to leave immediately and given safe passage to do so.
Second, if the West is to persist with sanctions, it needs to impose the kind of sanctions that will actually work, namely stopping the use of Russian natural gas by EU states.
Around 40% of the EU runs on Russian natural gas. German industry in particular is heavily reliant on it, as well as other major EU players like Italy. The reason they are not taking this step is because it would badly hurt their own economies, a shameful calculation that drastically reduces the impact of the imposed sanctions.
The EU is essentially saying that protecting their industries is more important than stopping the war. If we are committed to sanctions (which incidentally, there is a good argument that they won’t work anyway), then we have to be serious, and impose the kind of sanctions that will truly hurt Putin and the Russian leadership the most.
Thirdly, and most importantly, we have to immediately bring both sides to the negotiating table and create a peace agreement along the lines of the Minsk II agreement of 2015. Most experts recognise this as the most viable way to achieve peace, as it would require Russian troops to leave Ukraine, in exchange for the promise that Ukraine will remain neutral, in a style of deal that has preserved peaceful relations between Russia and many of its neighbours, particularly in Scandinavia.
This will likely take the form of Ukraine promising to not join NATO, and will involve significant hurdles (especially in regards to the Donbas region), but is the only true hope of achieving an end to the war.
Putin has said consistently that NATO’s eastward movement is his primary concern, so why is this not on the table? NATO isn’t a global peacekeeping force nor is it the United Nations. It is a military alliance, responsible for multiple wars itself.
Whatever you think of NATO expansion into Eastern Europe, the closer NATO troops and missile launch facilities come to Russian territory, the closer we are to a wider war. Let’s not forget we are talking about war between the two largest nuclear arsenals in the world, and should want to avoid that at all costs.
We need to be opening up all the diplomatic channels we can to achieve peace immediately, and the good news is, at different points over these first few days of the war, both sides have made noises about willingness to meet and discuss a solution.
We should be encouraging this, and doing everything we can to facilitate, rather than undermining it with increasing militarization of the conflict and aggressive rhetoric.
As the siege of Kyiv and the rest of the country escalates, so too will the suffering of the Ukrainian people. A concerted, sustained and organised push from the Anti-War Left is what we need now to pressure our governments and end this war now.
Thanks for reading our article! We know young people’s opinions matter and really appreciate everyone who reads us.