February 24, 2022
This manuscript was finalised on February 23, about 15 hours before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. If just a little of what I describe below had been tried during the last 30 years, what we witnessed in the last months and in these hours would never have been possible.
Thanks to the rampant security intellectual disarmament since 9/11, the US/NATO world seems to think that it is not itself a party to any conflict but merely a witness to criminals doing evil things – Russia, China, Iran, Syria, North Korea, etc. And criminals must be judged and punished.
However, if there is only one troublemaker, this US/NATO world isn’t obliged to take ”the others” into account, look into the problems that stand between itself and them. Neither do they have even to try to use mediation and negotiations to find solutions that all parties can live with in the future. Since the US/NATO is still militarily ’second to none,’ it bullies, threatens and ’deters’ as it pleases.
The present situation in and around Ukraine is a good example. It feels as if this has been said: ”We in NATO have done nothing wrong, we simply deny that 30 years ago all the important Western leaders promised Mikhail Gorbachev that NATO would not expand one inch to the East; we see no reason to allow Russia to have security concerns as we ourselves have and, since Russia and Putin are simply bad guys – criminals – we can talk down to them, demonise and accuse them of invasion plans. Without a shred of evidence.
There will only be peace if Russia does what we deter them to do – namely to accept our ’rules-based international order’ and superiority.”
This way of thinking makes civilian conflict-resolution impossible and, therefore, cooperation, common security, reconciliation and peace. It harms the world but serves the declining US Empire and the elites of the Western Military-Industrial-Media-Academic Complex (MIMAC).
A completely different approach was possible
How do we analyse and solve conflicts?
Most people – decision-makers in particular – do not know such things. Their advisers wear either an outer green or inner Realpolitik uniform. Thus, they are conflict and peace illiterates manipulated by the MIMAC.
Therefore, they should learn the ABC of conflict. ”A” stands for Attitudes, ”B” for Behaviour and ”C” for the Conflict or Contradiction – what’s the problem, not who is right and wrong? And who are the parties (P) and when did the conflict start (S)?
After the ABC comes conflict Diagnosis, Prognosis and Solutions.
Let’s now apply this – very superficially – to the larger Ukraine conflict cluster:
Parties and Start
1) Many conflicting parties inside Ukraine – simplified East and West, Ukrainian- and Russia-oriented/speaking, some ten religious groups and a political spectrum from socialists to Neo-Nazi/Fascist and, of course, the people of Donbas.
2) Regionally: Russia-Ukraine-EU-NATO-US
3) Globally: US-NATO-Russia-China.
4) When did the conflict – not the violence – start? In 1990? In 1994 when Clinton broke the promises and began expanding NATO? In 2014 with the US-supported regime-change in Kyiv? With the annexation of Crimea? Or in 1954?
1) Numerous contradictions inside Ukraine – past, present and future. Domestic structure – unitary state or federation, confederation, partition, or what? And democratisation, nation-building, economic development, security, to mention some.
2) Ukraine’s present and future foreign relations: Closer to Russia, to the EU, to NATO, or neutrality, equidistance or something else?
3) NATO’s expansion, Ukraine as a NATO member (but with limitations), Russia’s security concerns, Cold War or detente, accommodation versus confrontation, common security or unilateral national security strategies, win/win or win/lose security?
4) Which conflicts are manifest and which latent? Which are symmetric, which a-symmetric?
On all sides, more or less: Hard confrontational. Getting our way. No compromise. Provocation. Feeling hurt not being listened to. Lack of empathy. Historical grievances. Traumas. Military language. Threats. Projecting bad characteristics onto ”the others.”
Military deterrence and sabre-rattling. Troop movement and reinforcements. ”Signalling.” Only conditional meetings. Political and military attack/surprises. Accusations. Statement-making – ”we good guys, you bad guys.” Interventions. Coup d’etat/regime changes (2014). Law-breaking. Ignoring agreements and promises.
Conflicting parties and the media love to apportion guilt – good/bad guys. In contrast, conflict-resolution explores: What are the problems that stand between the parties, what are each party’s main issues, what do they fear and what do they want – and how can we think creatively about future(s) – that is Prognosis – that maximise the satisfaction of all parties. And how do we compensate potential losers?
And then we can move towards exploring and suggesting:
Conflict-resolution and peace-making is a science and an art – dialoguing/brainstorming with all parties about a better future rather than getting stuck in the past. Like a doctor must do not only Diagnosis and Prognosis but also suggest Treatment.
The ABC could spark off creative mediating ideas towards solutions. You present them to all the parties and see where their responses overlap: What is acceptable to everyone?
To stimulate solution thinking, here are some ideas (not prioritised):
• Ukraine as a Switzerland-like country, neutral, non-aligned, federations, autonomies and cantons. Defensive defence.
• Turn Ukraine into a cooperative project between Russia and the West. Let it host a particular global institution and be useful to – and getting the best from – all sides: A space for West and Russian and Chinese development, perhaps a member of the EU and the Belt and Road?
•A big robust UN peace-making mission with the classical three legs – Military, Police and Civil Affairs; an expanded OSCE Monitoring Mission.
• No further NATO expansion (easy when you give Ukraine better options than full NATO membership). Withdrawal of all offensive long-range weapons.
• Russian military withdrawal from Donbas after an autonomy solution and demilitarisation by the UN.
• Non-aggression pacts with Russia and NATO, advanced defensive security structures, troop withdrawal from borders, demilitarized zones.
• A UN-organised negotiation structure addressing the problems and knitting together one agreement after the other to construct a larger sustainable future peace. Include the Minsk Agreement but go much further.
• All of Europe, including Russia, come together and construct the post-NATO system for conflict-resolution and peace, a European United Nations. (The Ukraine crisis shows that the present European security architecture and NATO are dysfunctional. NATO’s peace promises since 1949 have ended in a 2nd Cold War. NATO even violates its own Treaty).
When will they ever learn?
The MIMAC elites on all sides have created this Second Cold War with Ukraine inside it.
Its basic elements are primitive militarism – weapons as our only tool, tit-for-tat, brinkmanship and blame games – all intellectually and ethically indefensible and never touching the conflicts, the problems. Adding violence to conflicts invariably only make them even more difficult to solve.
European citizens hate all of it! But they pay for it with their tax money and perhaps – God forbid – their lives. Ukraine is also a conflict between authoritarian elites and the citizens who are never consulted about their governments’ sandbox-like escalations.
The misuse of wars, weapons and violence will stop the day people – governments in particular – educate themselves in using all the other tools.
Intellectual armament – the only armament the world needs – can bring peace.
Why has none of this been tried by anyone?
I am indebted to Johan Galtung for his classical ABC and the DPT model – to which I have added other elements.