Achieving peace in Ukraine requires an emerging mediating power
As the Russo-Ukrainian war continues unabated and ultimately without a clear goal, the question remains: How much longer can this war go on?
Edward Salo, associate professor of history and co-director of the PhD program in Heritage Studies at Arkansas State University, said in a report by the American magazine National Interest that there have been tips from both sides in the past few days Russo-Ukrainian war that there could be grounds for a diplomatic solution.
He stated that this road to peace held promise due to Russia’s massive military losses, which had seriously weakened the state, and would take years, if not decades, to recoup. Both sides also know that the coming winter months will make military operations more difficult and result in more deaths on and off the battlefield.
Salo says that while the current atmosphere looks bleak for a diplomatic solution, I would argue that this is an opportunity for a rising power to step onto the international stage, broker peace between Russia and Ukraine, its position as a leading power to consolidate, as did the United States during the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905).
Salo believes that many of the issues surrounding the Russian war in Ukraine are reminiscent of the situation during the Russo-Japanese War, and the war resulted from the competing colonial expansion of Russia and Japan, both of which wanted control of the Far East. Furthermore, the Tsar of Russia saw the war as a way to increase his regime’s popularity at a time of national decline and to strengthen Russia’s position among the great empires of Europe. Japan saw the war as an opportunity to become the superpower in Asia.
After a series of failed diplomatic missions to avert war, the Japanese Navy launched a surprise attack on the Russian Navy at Port Arthur. After this crushing attack, the Russians suffered further defeats before finally agreeing to a negotiated peace in 1905. The Japanese army was closer to collapse than it seemed, although it wasn’t obvious to the Japanese.
Salo argues that while the actual situation of 1904-1905 is not in the context of the current Russo-Ukrainian War (1904 Japan attacked Russia, 2022 Russia attacked Ukraine), he offers several parallels that make the war Japanese-Russian a useful example.
Russian forces in Ukraine, as in 1905, suffered heavy casualties against an enemy initially seen as inferior.
The Russo-Japanese War was also one of the first conflicts to demonstrate the power of the Industrial Revolution in the mass production of weapons and equipment, just as the Russo-Ukrainian War demonstrated the effectiveness of drones and other technologies on the battlefield.
In 1904-1905, the Russian Navy lost much of its fleet, which was the focus of the show of force at the time.
In Ukraine, Russia lost many naval vessels and more than 1,400 tanks and armored vehicles, hallmarks of modern land warfare. In the period 1904-1905 and today, losses and defeats on the battlefield have been painful for Russia, both domestically and internationally.
With such catastrophic events in Russia and Ukraine, the question is how to end the war and negotiate peace. Once again, a look back in history offers a possible scenario.
In the case of the Russo-Japanese War, the United States acted as a peace mediator. The United States was a rising world power after Spain’s defeat in the Spanish-American War. Some say the victory marked the beginning of their empire and a period of explosive economic growth.
However, the United States was not a traditional world power like Britain, France, Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Russia because it was not a party to the treaties and diplomatic arrangements that these countries had, including the 1902 Anglo-Japanese Alliance most European powers are not considered neutral enough to allow for a non-unilateral treaty.
Today, the United States and Western European countries are so involved in supporting Ukraine that they cannot be considered a neutral arbiter of the peace. Any negotiation by Russia would only be seen by hardliners in Moscow as weakening their state (which war already does).
However, this is an opportunity for another emerging power to establish itself on the international stage as a mediator in a peace conference. This country must have the diplomatic and military might, like the United States did in 1905, to be perceived as a close match Russia, but it is not a threat to Russia’s existence. In addition, this country should not have a direct interest in the region (e.g. Turkey), but have some economic interests at stake (e.g. Ukrainian food production). After all, the country was said to have few formal ties with allies Russia or Ukraine.
As the war progressed, the number of countries that met these criteria dwindled, and Iran, which had been attempting to become a regional power, walked away as a potential peace broker by selling arms to Russia. China, which many countries see as another leading player, has been very supportive of Russia.
Of course, even if a rising power like Brazil, Saudi Arabia or India tries to negotiate a peace deal, that doesn’t guarantee it will be accepted or that Russia will stick to the terms in the long run.
However, as more and more Russian forces are lost on the battlefield, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s allies are beginning to suspect him, Ukrainians are enduring a harsh winter, and more international pressure is being put on Kyiv and Moscow to start peace talks, and this provides a Opportunity for another country to take its place on the stage globally as a neutral referee. The United States and NATO must understand this likely scenario and determine the best course of action for peacemaking and the lasting implications.
The United States and Western European countries are so involved in supporting Ukraine that it cannot be considered a neutral arbiter of the peace. Hardliners in Moscow would only see any negotiations by Russia as a weakening of their state.
After more Russian troops are lost on the battlefield, allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin begin to suspect him. Ukrainians are experiencing a harsh winter, and more international pressure is being put on Kyiv and Moscow to start peace talks.
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