The Paradox of Powerless Superpowers Versus the Plight & Power of the Ukrainian People

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told news reporters on 28 September 2022 that Russia’s plan to annex four occupied regions in Ukraine would be an illegal move, a violation of international law, and should be condemned, as a “dangerous escalation” in the seven-month war. “In this moment of peril, I must underscore my duty as Secretary-General to uphold the Charter of the United Nations,” he told journalists in New York. “The Charter is clear. Any annexation of a State’s territory by another State resulting from the threat or use of force is a violation of the Principles of the UN Charter and international law.” Credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten

By John R. Bryson
BIRMINGHAM, UK, Dec 8 2022 – The one thing that has become clear is that there is no point in negotiating with Putin. Ukraine is considered as the gates of Europe, or a borderland with a brutal past.

It is time to develop a permanent solution to the Ukrainian problem. This can only be achieved by Ukraine continuing to stand united against Russia and with the support of all nations and their leaders interested in supporting an independent nation against unwarranted aggression.

Every day that passes comes with more atrocities committed by Russia on Ukrainians. The current phase of Russia’s ‘rapid’ special military operation is focused on disrupting the everyday lives of Ukrainian citizens. This is about deliberately bombing critical national civilian infrastructure with a focus on electricity and water.

It has included a Russian missile strike killing a new born baby when a rocket struck a maternity ward in southern Ukraine. Evidently, to Russia maternity wards represent military assets.

This phase of Putin’s war with Ukraine is about trying to force President Zelensky to enter in to negotiations that might end with some temporary truce. Any truce would be temporary as Russia would use this period to rearm.

It is critical that no negotiations or truce occurs whilst Russia continues to occupy Ukrainian territory. Any truce would represent a defeat for Ukraine and a win for Putin. Moreover, Russia’s military capacity and capability must be eroded to ensure that there is no possibility for Putin to restart his special military operation.

Zelensky is very aware of the dangers of negotiating with Russia. On 21 November 2022, Petro Poroshenko, former Ukrainian president, outlined Ukraine’s reaction to any proposed negotiations with Russia to the Council on Foreign Relations, an American think tank, when he asked his audience to imagine that you are sitting in your own home and “the killer comes to your house and kills your wife, rapes your daughter, takes the second floor.

Then opens the door to the second floor and says, ‘OK come here. Let’s have a negotiation how to live further’. What would be your reaction?” He then went on to note that “from my personal experience. . . don’t trust Putin”.

Negotiations, or a truce, then should be avoided, but how will Russia’s war with Ukraine end? Perhaps Ukraine will be forced to negotiate when Russia has destroyed all the country’s critical civilian infrastructure.

Nevertheless, responsible nations should try to prevent this from happening. An important question to consider is which organisations have the interest and power to persuade Russia to cease its special military operation?

The answer to this question is intriguing. The United Nations is just a talking shop and has no power. Most of the UN members are against Russia’s war and this includes all the actions targeted at civilians. President Joe Biden appreciates the plight of the Ukrainian people and is ensuring that the American people provide assistance.

Nevertheless, Biden is powerless as he has no authority over Russia. The same is the case for Emmanuel Macron, President of France. Macron has tried to negotiate and influence Putin and discovered that he has no influence and no power.

Macron’s current plan is to try to resume direct contract with Vladimir Putin, but for what end and whose purpose. What right does Macron have to try to negotiate on behalf of Ukraine?

Olaf Scholz, German Chancellor, initially hesitated in supporting Ukraine and more recently has appealed to Putin to “stop the senseless killing, withdraw your troops completely from Ukraine and agree to peace talks with Ukraine”. Putin will perhaps not even hear this appeal and he certainly will not take advice from the German Chancellor, the French President, or the President of the United States.

The implication is that the UN and all the prime ministers and presidents are powerless in the face of Putin’s aggression in Ukraine. Thus, who has the power to persuade Putin to cease and desist? There are only three stakeholders who have any power over Putin.

First, there are the Ukrainian people who have shown that they have the capability, persistence, power, and courage to stand up against Russia. The best outcome is that Russia is defeated on the battlefield and is forced to leave Ukraine.

Second, there are the Russian people. They have the option of revolting against Putin and declaring that they have had enough, and it is time to stop sending Russians to their death.

Third, there is Russia’s political elite or the country’s political, economic, and military decision makers. They are increasingly concerned over Putin’s war but have yet to reach a tipping point that would lead to action.

The one thing that has become clear is that there is no point in negotiating with Putin. Ukraine is considered as the gates of Europe, or a borderland with a brutal past. It is time to develop a permanent solution to the Ukrainian problem.

This can only be achieved by Ukraine continuing to stand united against Russia and with the support of all nations and their leaders interested in supporting an independent nation against unwarranted aggression.

John R. Bryson is Professor of Enterprise & Economic Geography, Birmingham Business School

The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions. Its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers, teachers and more than 8,000 international students from over 150 countries.

IPS UN Bureau

 


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