Diplomatic Solutions to Prevent New Shockwaves

2022-05-13 23:24ByZhongCheng
Beijing Review 2022年10期

By Zhong Cheng

The world has been placed on high alert by the escalation of the RussiaUkraine crisis. The logic behind Russia’s actions is to protect its national security and to counteract NATO attempts, led by the U.S., to press itself forward onto Russia’s borders and overshadow Moscow. As President Vladimir Putin noted on February 25 in his phone conversation with President Xi Jinping, the U.S. and NATO have long turned a blind eye to Russia’s security concerns, and have repeatedly negated their promises to Russia, and their continued military deployment eastward has challenged Russia’s strategic red line.

The U.S. has imposed sanctions on Russia, cutting the country off from the SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) international payments network, and pledged an additional $350 million in military assistance to Ukraine, including providing anti-tank weapons, body armor and small arms. Europe is also mulling its own raft of new sanctions. The U.S. and other global powers have moved to freeze the assets of Putin and his Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, as part of tougher sanctions on Russia. Many Western countries continue to send weapons to Ukraine. Germany, which refused to send weapons to regions of conflict, has changed its strategy and has allocated $112 billion to revamp its armed forces.

Russian and Ukrainian officials held two rounds of talks in Belarus in late February and early March, and promised to meet again. At the same time, the UN General Assembly met in an emergency session, with Secretary General António Guterres calling for an immediate ceasefire.

This crisis is not just about striking a balance in relations between the U.S. and Russia. The strategic dimension is much bigger, including the entire post-Cold War security architecture. It is possible that the current developments in Ukraine are in the process of shaping a new world order that will be with us for decades to come. It reveals problems in the post-Cold War arrangements, the failure of arms control policies, weaknesses in the European security order, and latent tensions between Russia and NATO, raising questions about demilitarization and denuclearization policies as well as NATO expansion. It may still be too early to predict how this crisis will end, but it has been widely discussed that the Russia-Ukraine conflict exposes the inability of the U.S. to intervene militarily to defend its allies. None of U.S. President Joe Biden’s warnings about unprecedented economic and political sanctions have deterred Russia from amassing more forces on Ukraine’s borders.

Russia’s calculations of the costs and benefits of this war differ from those of the West. Ukraine will not return to the way it was before the crisis because, at the very least, it will lose its eastern territories, including Donetsk and Lugansk.

The idea of Ukraine joining NATO, or what’s left of it, will take years to become reality and is unlikely to sit well with Russia. The latter’s recent military actions have demonstrated it will not tolerate threats at its borders.

On February 27, the UN refugee agency estimated that approximately 368,000 Ukrainians had fled abroad. Exact death tolls are unclear, but UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said 102 civilians had been killed and hundreds wounded in the first five days of fighting since February 24.

Global and regional financial markets have been exposed to intense pressure. European stocks have slumped. U.S. stock futures are deep in the negative territory. Oil, gas and wheat markets have been impacted. Oil prices surged, reaching $101.4 a barrel on February 26.

The prospect of more Western economic sanctions raises fears of further conflict escalation, which in turn will cause higher energy prices and lead to the possibility of continued food price inflation. Countries depending on Russia and Ukraine for wheat supplies are facing challenges.

Even before this war, the global economy was strained under a range of burdens, and the Ukraine crisis magnified each threat and further complicated the post-pandemic supply chain syndrome.

The Ukraine issue has a very complex historical context. China stands on the side of peace and justice.

When it comes to peace and security, China has the best record among major countries. It has never invaded other countries or engaged in proxy wars, nor has it ever sought spheres of influence or participated in military bloc confrontations.

China has actively promoted the diplomatic settlement of the Ukraine issue. During a telephone conversation with French President Emmanuel Macron, President Xi stressed all relevant parties should adhere to the general direction of political settlement, make full use of multilateral platforms, including the Normandy Format talks involving German, French, Russian and Ukrainian officials, and seek a comprehensive resolution through dialogue and consultation.

President Xi, in his phone conversation with President Putin, said China determines its position concerning the Ukraine issue on its own merits. It is important to reject the Cold War mentality, take seriously and respect the reasonable security concerns of all countries, and reach a balanced, effective and sustainable European security mechanism through negotiation. China supports Russia in resolving the issue through negotiations with Ukraine. China has long held the basic position of respecting all countries’ sovereignty and territorial integrity, and abiding by the purposes and principles of the UN Charter. China is prepared to work with other members of the international community to promote common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security, and to resolutely safeguard the UNcentered international system and the international order underpinned by international law.

Following the abrupt deterioration of the situation in Ukraine, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi made separate phone calls to his Russian and U.S. counterparts, pointing out that any country’s legitimate security concerns should be respected and the purposes and principles of the UN Charter should be upheld. He also called on all parties to exercise restraint, de-escalate the situation and resolve differences through dialogue and negotiations.

The current situation is not what China wants to see. The top priority now is for all parties to move quickly to stop conflict escalation and not fuel it. The safety of civilians and their property should be effectively guaranteed, and large-scale humanitarian crises, in particular, must be prevented.

The U.S. has imposed sanctions on Russia more than 100 times since 2011. Facts show that sanctions are never the fundamental or effective way to solve problems. They will only bring serious difficulties to the economy and people’s livelihoods in the countries and regions involved.

China believes that the UN Security Council should play a constructive role in resolving the Russia-Ukraine conflict, and give priority to regional peace and stability and the universal security of all countries. The UN and the international community should provide humanitarian assistance in accordance with the principles of humanity, neutrality and impartiality in order to avoid politicization. Actions taken by the UN Security Council should help cool the situation and facilitate a diplomatic resolution, rather than fueling tensions and causing further escalation. In view of this, China has always disapproved of willfully invoking UN Charter Chapter VII that authorizes the use of force and sanctions in UN Security Council resolutions.

Any war should end with negotiations to stop the bloodbath and offer solutions to the pending problems. China welcomes the earliest possible direct dialogue and negotiations between Russia and Ukraine. It also supports the EU and Russia entering into dialogue on European security issues on an equal footing, and implementing the philosophy of indivisible security.

Going forward, China will continue to play a constructive role in promoting the political settlement of the Ukraine conflict. BR