Saber Rattling and Tension Reduction in Ukraine
TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 26 Apr 2021
In the 19-25 April 2021 issue of TMS, in a short article, “Saber Rattling along the Frontiers of Ukraine,” I highlighted the 16 April 2021 meeting in Paris between the President of Ukraine, Volodyme Zelensky, and the President of France, Emmanuel Macron. France has been playing a lead role to reduce tensions in the Russia-Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics-Ukraine tensions. The Saber Rattling was illustrated by the large number of Russian troops moved to the frontiers of Ukraine, and the repeated comments of Ukrainian officials that Ukraine wanted to join NATO.
My article was a call to non-governmental peacebuilders to respond actively to this challenge, and to propose ideas for appropriate forms of government within Ukraine which would give real autonomy to the largely Russian-speaking population of Donetsk and Luhansk without creating independent states, and to develop Ukraine-Donetsk-Luhansk-Russia cross-frontier cooperation.
The Saber Rattling was loud enough so that government officials reacted more quickly than non-governmental peacebuilders. Within the week, the Foreign Ministers of the European Union (EU) met and called upon the Russian Federation to reduce the number of troops. The EU Foreign Policy Representative Josep Borrell warned that it will only take a spark to set off a confrontation and that “a spark can jump here or there”.
The U.S. President urged to de-escalate tensions saying “the way forward is through thoughtful dialogue and diplomatic process.” The Russian President Vladimir Putin in his yearly “State of the Union” speech, in a determined passage indicated that Russia would respond with force to any attack on its soil, but without much discussion of the Ukraine situation, has ordered a significant reduction of Russian troops near the frontiers with Ukraine.
For the moment, the sabers have been put back into their holders. The fact that governments reacted as quickly as they did indicated that there was a shared analysis of the dangers. There were no direct governmental discussions as such. No doubt President Macron told President Zelensky that talk about joining NATO was not what was needed in world politics at this stage, even if he understood the need to reassure parts of the Ukrainian population.
The world is not back to “square one”, but there has been a significant reduction in tensions. This is not to say that “Saber Rattling” will always work or that there cannot be better ways leading to thoughtful dialogue and a diplomatic process. Governmental actions of sending symbols rather than having face-to-face meetings can have its limits.
Symbols can be effective but can also be misunderstood. In this case, governments were able to act more quickly than non-governmental organizations. Governments have permanent staff for dealing with foreign policy issues and often have contingency planning for possible crises. The Ukraine-Donbass-Russia crisis is a call to us in the non-governmental world to be able to move quickly and in a somewhat coordinated way.
René Wadlow is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment. He is President of the Association of World Citizens, an international peace organization with consultative status with ECOSOC, the United Nations organ facilitating international cooperation and problem-solving in economic and social issues, and editor of Transnational Perspectives.
Tags: Anglo America, Balkans, Conflict, Eastern Europe, NATO, Russia, USA, Ukraine, Violent conflict
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 26 Apr 2021.
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