Even though the Ukraine war continues to be a cause for very serious concern, increasing voices for peace have been able to bring some hope and these voices need to become stronger. Even while political leaders have been found wanting in the quest for peace, several academics and former diplomats in western countries have helped to strengthen the peace efforts. In this context particular mention may be made of several peace organisations in the USA which have not hesitated to question the policies of their own government in their quest for peace and an early resolution of the Ukraine conflict.
A feminist organization, Codepink, has been taking a consistent stand in favour of bringing early peace in Ukraine, building on the earlier experiences of the women’s movement to be a strong voice for peace. Another organisation which deserves much admiration is Veterans for Peace, a body of retired military officers and soldiers with several branches which has been consistently speaking for peace and has been active in the context of efforts to resolve the Ukraine conflict.
A big mobilisation of various peace organizations, including these two, is planned in March, coordinated by the ANSWER Coalition. The ANSWER Coalition had organized massive protest demonstrations against the Iraq invasion in 2003 in which several hundred thousand people in the USA had participated initially, and this mobilisation had spread to other western countries as well.
In Germany a recent signature campaign for de-escalation and to check the ever-increasing inflow of deadly weapons into Ukraine has received extensive support, with as many as a quarter of a million signatures being obtained quickly.
In fact, as the high costs of escalation of Ukraine conflict are counted and even possibilities of the use of nuclear weapons and the third world war have been discussed, even some of the previously hawkish think-tanks in the USA have adopted a cautious tone in their more recent reports and this may be helpful for the cause of peace.
Some countries have also been busy at official levels in trying to secure early peace. In fact, the efforts of Turkey in this direction had come quite close to achieving peace as early as April 2022, but some other leaders, particularly Boris Johnson, disrupted this effort. With the passage of time and more destruction, the prospects for official peace efforts dimmed but leaders of important countries like India, Brazil, and Mexico (apart from Turkey) have been often mentioned as those who can contribute to peace efforts in more significant ways.
In this context a three-phased programme of peace may prove to be the best hope. In the first phase an unconditional ceasefire can be declared on the basis of the current line of control, while all contentious issues (including those of territory) are sought to be resolved later on the basis of negotiations. This appears to be the only way of stopping the highly destructive fighting immediately, something which is important as each day of conflict brings more avoidable destruction and bitterness.
In the second phase, which may last up to one year, various goodwill building gestures can be attempted and preparations for negotiations ahead can be made by both sides. However, the most basic task for this second phase would be to start a very large-scale reconstruction process, with all OECD countries and even some of the emerging economies contributing. Another priority for this phase would be to ensure that the ceasefire holds, and treatment needed by all injured and diseased people can improve. All displaced people who are eager to return to their home should be helped and facilitated in various ways, while those who for various reasons want to continue living in their existing shelters should be allowed to do so.
In the third phase, the negotiations can start, while reconstruction continues and expands. The emphasis would be on first securing those agreements which are easier to reach. Regarding the more contentious issues, patience should be observed, and negotiations can continue for a long time, with various periodic breaks, but without breaking down. Various countries have managed to live peacefully despite continuing to have important differences including territory, and there is no reason why Ukraine and Russia with their long history of cultural and other ties cannot do so.
Various countries and the United Nations can contribute to ensuring that this peace process keeps getting stronger, and there is no going back to fighting. More hostile and militant forces on both sides should be exposed internationally as enemies of peace in an unbiased way, while efforts to strengthen and encourage in various ways the forces of peace on both sides should be made.
Most countries, particularly developing and poorer countries, want peace to return immediately to this troubled region, both because they recognize the wider dangers of conflict escalation and also because they are already suffering from this conflict in various ways.
These countries should assert their voice for peace more forcefully in the United Nations and at other suitable forums. These efforts for early peace and the end of the Ukraine war should receive very high priority in the coming days.
(The writer is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Planet in Peril, Protecting Earth for Children and A Day in 2071.)