After some 18 months into a brutal war finally someone is talking of bringing the aggression to an end; and the fact that this is coming from the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, is itself significant. Putin has now said that as a first step towards dialogue, Ukraine must lift its self imposed ban on negotiations, a condition President Volodymyr Zelensky is said to have imposed on himself and others. Putin is said to have made this remark at the Eastern Economic Forum at Vladivostok and quoted by state owned news agency TASS.
“If the United States thinks that Ukraine is ready for talks, let them cancel the ban on negotiations imposed by a decree of the Ukrainian President by which he prohibited himself and all others from conducting negotiations… Let them do so if there is a sincere wish to achieve something through the negotiating process, let the Ukrainians themselves make another public declaration that they are now willing [to engage in talks]. I don’t see anything here that would somehow impair their image”, Putin has said.
After several months of intense conflict and a lot of loose talk on the use of weapons of mass destruction, it appears that some sober minds are finally prevailing; and significantly shortly after the conclusion of the G-20 summit in New Delhi in which the Declaration had the backing of not just the West but also of Russia and China. Nations and leaders attending the two day conclave refrained from directly criticising Russia for the war in Ukraine but specifically made the point that “all states must refrain from the threat or use of force to seek territorial acquisition” as also making a pointed reference to the “human suffering and adverse repercussions of the conflict in Ukraine on global food and energy security”.
For all those who have taken the position that the G 20 Summit came away with nothing on the Ukraine War, they seem to have missed the essence of the message which is NOT one of taking sides; but in a conscious effort to look at how the participants in the war and their backers get find a way forward to get out of the mess. And the bottom line message of Prime Minister Narendra Modi statement of several months ago of “Today is not an Era for Wars” is very relevant for the present and for the foreseeable future. Nailing Russia or calling Putin names would have resulted in a futile exercise.
Being dismissive of anything and everything that comes out of the Kremlin will only be counterproductive. This is the time for Kyiv and its staunch supporters in the West to take on Putin’s statement on face value. If the Russian leader falters then the world will see this as an attempt to buy time for perceived strategic gains. What Russia, Ukraine and the world at large need right now is some plain talking on the negotiating table, not a fresh supply of weapons on the battlefield. And it hardly matters if the source is Washington or Pyongyang.