Small Wars Journal

Steps to Peace in Ukraine

Tue, 02/21/2023 - 9:59am

Steps to Peace in Ukraine


by Richard A. Dean, 2/21/2023

Make no mistake: if left unchecked, the war in Ukraine will bring about wider conflict. Today, the world over, executives and their tutors view the turmoil in Ukraine with an ever-increasing sense of dread. To properly grasp this circumstance, consider the morphing response of the Western world. A year ago, they responded to Russian provocations with rhetoric. Yesterday, they answered with shoulder-fired missiles and artillery. Today, they reply with tanks. Now, the greater world stands at a juncture, one created by an ill-fated mixture of interest, policy, and sentiment. The question to be asked now – the point that must be settled – is where to go from here?

Had I been asked this central question a year ago, I would have recommended to President Putin that he invite the Western world into Ukraine – flush with their dollars and ideas. After all, what better a remedy for a nation awash in oil and oligarchs, but short on reformists and entrepreneurs – than to invite them next door? From such proximity, Russia could have watched the workings of the West as they weaved their magic on a nation of the Russian-type. Perhaps over time, Russia could have mimicked the actions of these wizards and learned to insulate their economy from the boom-and-bust of global markets. In the end, the goal would have been to patiently steal the ideas of the West – the ones that worked anyway – and use them to properly attune the Russian state to the tenor of the modern day.

Unfortunately, that ship has sailed and as much as I have lamented the missed opportunity, I have searched for an alternative way forward. Whatever that course proves to be - it will be difficult. This is especially true given the nature of the conflict in Ukraine and how it has engendered such bitterness – a deep resentment that may require the passing of a generation to diminish. At length, here is my prescription: First, President Putin must take his cue from the former American President and General, George Washington, and for the betterment of Russia - immediately step down as its leader.

The wisdom of this decision is borne out by the following truth: No matter what hand Russia extends to Ukraine in the aftermath of the war, should it be attached to the arm of President Putin - it will be rejected. Too much needless death and destruction has occurred for this to be otherwise. Ultimately, George Washington’s decision to step down from the American presidency was an effort to provide a standard for the future. Similarly, no matter what aspirations President Putin may have for the Russian state and its people, he must know that, now, they can never be achieved with his involvement.

Step 2 is the far easier stride: Ceasefire - and only the rearward movement of military forces.

Step 3 is negotiation. Central to the success of these efforts is the following: A partial return to the borders of pre-2014 hostilities with the significant exception of Crimea and its crucial military seaport of Sevastopol; the repair and renewal of the Nordstream I and II pipelines by international effort and expense; and the cessation of international sanction and boycott of Russian industries and persons. Some may rail at these terms, suggesting that I offer too much for peace. My counter is simple: each item I yield is of existential importance to Russia, and as one quibbles over the limits we should exchange for peace, it is the Ukrainian people who continue to suffer.

I will close with an important appraisal: In my estimation, President Putin is an intelligent and capable leader. Some may gasp at this declaration, but I make it without reservation. President Putin rode a wave of public approval to the pinnacle of leadership in Russia with two primary traits driving the wave’s formation: a capacity for ruthlessness and heaps of political savvy. Like you, I know that even the shrewd can make mistakes. Churchill and Roosevelt, as great as they were, did not unerringly glide through peril. President Putin can and should yield to others and allow them to repair what is broken.

This is the first step.

About the Author(s)

Richard A. Dean is a former US Army Infantry leader and an independent analyst of international security. 



Mon, 02/27/2023 - 11:34pm

Your work is excellent, and the information is well-written and easy to understand. I'll be regularly checking back to see what you have to say. Enjoy the online version of the classic arcade snake game.