The War in Ukraine: Is It Time For a New Approach to Politics and Peace?

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The war in Ukraine has been in the global spotlight for months. Yet, it’s only recently that the global community has admitted something Ukraine has been shouting for a long time: the rebels in the East aren’t local terrorists and separatists but Russian fighters, army and officers of the Russian secret service. Many of them openly admitted holding Russian passports and receiving all kinds of support from Russia.

It took the world a long time, numerous diplomatic statements expressing deep concern, the MH17 tragedy and dozens of tanks crossing Ukrainian border to reazile: we have a war in Europe. So are there any hopes to stop it? Is the modern system of international relations capable of stopping it, and if not, how can we find the approach to ensure stability and peace?

The War

A year ago, this would seem unthinkable: the war is unfolding close to the EU border, along with first landgrab in Europe since World War II (Russia’s pseudo referendum and annexation of Crimea). This is another conflict that can potentially become yet another Russia-caused ‘frozen conflict’ that last for decades, like Nagorno-Karabakh or Transdniestria.

However, Ukraine would be lucky to have this conflict ‘frozen’ and avoid the climbing death toll, both among civilians and the military. Yet, the fighting isn’t likely to stop any time soon as Putin’s Russia strives to make its way to the mythical state of ‘Novorossiya’, establishing control over the south of Ukraine and create a land link to Crimea. At the moment it is nearly impossible to support the peninsula which is now experiencing constant shortage of basic supplies. These Novorossiya ads demonstrate the ultimate goal of the Kremlin acting through the DNR and LNR(“Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics”) militants:

ukraine_3According to these maps, actively circulated in the Russian media, the Southeastern part of Ukraine (pink) should become the mythical state of Novorossiya.

 Indeed, Novorossiya is an absolute myth created in Moscow. A PR person responsible for the project apparently had either a wicked sense of humor or demonstrated an amazing ignorance coming up with the Novorossiya flag by removing the stars from the US Confederate flag.

Restoring the Empire?

So what are Russia’s goals and why it is worth the mess? This has probably been the most frequently asked question of this year so far. Besides the economic goals (which are now being seriously hampered by the sanctions introduced by the EU, US and Canada), Russia is fighting for keep its influence over Ukraine, and, charismatically, to maintain itself as an empire. Since President Putin came to power in 2000, he consistently tried to restore some elements of the Soviet Union, like the Soviet anthem. Even with lyrics written anew, the message was more than clear. This and other aspects, combined with constant human rights violations and legislation consistently turning Russia into a strictly authoritarian state, indicate the country’s ‘back to USSR’ path.

 When people came out to Maidan in Kyiv in November 2013, they wanted more than signing the Association Agreement, which President Yanukovich backed out from – just days before the EU summit in Vilnius. For those starting ‘Euromaidan’, the closer ties with the European Union meant leaving the past behind and breaking away from ‘sovok’ – the old Soviet ways, including not valuing the human life, not respecting the human dignity to name a few. This explains the strong support Ukraine gets from the Baltic states, especially Lithuania, since these countries have gone through the same breakaway and know how painful yet important it is.

So, as Russia strives to rebuild itself as an empire, Ukraine is an integral part of this process. Internally, the Russian propaganda machine has been making an incredibly heavy emphasis on the Russian Orthodox Christianity as the unifying religion of the Russian people. This is a strange approach to be used in a state as culturally diverse, complicated and multi ethnical as Russia. One would expect the ‘melting pot’ rhetoric, mutual respect, the values of cultural diversity and freedom, to be emphasised as the national foundation, yet the Russian leadership keeps strengthening the message of the ‘Orthodox state’. This dangerous approach will be very likely to backfire, but at the moment, this idea would be hard to justify without Ukraine. To remind, it was Vladimir the Great of the Kievan Rus’ who converted the state to Christianity in 988, including the areas and ethnic groups that later became Russia. As the historic event took place in Kyiv, the loss of influence over Ukraine right now is perceived by the Russian leadership as the loss of the nation’s cultural and religious cradle.

Crimea has always been a complicated area in Ukraine and a conflict in the making, detonated when the time was right. Although this is a topic for a separate publication, it is worth remembering that Russia’s Black Sea fleet does not carry much military value for Russia. As Russia kept its naval base in Ukraine after 1991, it ensured that the country wouldn’t join NATO (due to having a foreign military base on its territory). All these years, Sevastopol was the last outpost of the late Soviet empire, ensuring that Ukraine is still perceived as a dominion.

As Ukrainian continues its fight, the country is unlikely to be the last victim of Russia’s ambitions: Belarus and Kazakhstan have every reason to fear facing similar conflicts. Putin has recently mentioned that ‘Kazakhstan has never been a state’. Earlier, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, one of Russia’s most controversial politicians who tends to voice Russia’s worst intentions, made a number of statements about Kazakhstan’s northern regions ‘historially belonging to Russia’.

What Can The World Do?

Amidst the war and uncertainty of what’s to come, Ukrainians have been joking about Western leaders being ‘deeply concerned and increasingly worried yet again’, ridiculing what’s perceived to be inaction of the international community. While Ukraine is hoping for the strongest military support it can get, it becomes more and more obvious, that the war is not the answer, and a different solution needs to be found.

But is there a solution? As the European Union and NATO are now struggling to pass this test for leadership and effectiveness, there doesn’t seem to be any solution in sight. As a side note, there are speculations as to ‘What would NATO do if Russia -hypothetically – attacked a Baltic country ( with the latest Russia-Estonia incident, these speculations seem to have more grounds)? As these countries are NATO members, this attack could lead to other NATO members entering the war, but what are the chances that they would risk the World War 3 for a small state? Could this end NATO? And how efficient this current system is?

As the debate about the United Nations not being the most efficient among international organizations (to say the least) has been going on for decades, the same can probably be said about most international organizations today. As international community has failed to find solutions for most recent conflicts, including Ukraine, Syria, Israel-Palestine. In 2008, the world basically ignored Russia’s attack on Georgia. But now that the war is literally on the EU border, an efficient nonviolent solution is just crucial to be found, and so is brand new approach to decision making.

It’s Time for Entrepreneurs to Take The Lead

Every time, when a well established entrepreneur enters a political office, this person faces a number of doubts and criticism. Yet, when businessmen enter negotiations, they usually come to a decision while political negotiations that end with zero result aren’t uncommon. Businesses always find ways around crises and work things out based on their interest, this isn’t the case in politics where interests are often much more blurred, especially when there’s an election in sight.

Over the past decades, the landscape and approaches of the global business have changed tremendously. As ambitious startups and smart ideas change the world, Nike’s famous ‘Just do it’ tagline has become the motto for generations of entrepreneurs who achieve sustainable results faster and easier than ever before. With Google and Facebook and people behind these brands being just a few examples of how great ideas change the world, it is time for the politicians to follow this lead.

As the world presents new challenges, politicians have a lot to learn from entrepreneurs: how to negotiate and actually achieve results; how to identify real decision makers and approach them with an action plan in mind; how to never let the protocol dictate your decisions to the point of complete inefficiency. Entrepreneurs can teach politicians how to not let your customers/voters happy and increase their bottom line at the same time, and together they could ensure that the world is just as stable and peaceful as we hope for it to be.

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About the Author

Sofia Mashovets

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