Hopes of an early end to the Ukraine crisis, raised by the start of talks between Moscow and Kyiv a couple of weeks ago, seem to be fading quickly. There is fear that the conflict could escalate beyond its current peripheries.
The crisis, which began on February 24 when Moscow sent thousands of troops into Ukraine, is slowly but steadily becoming a war by proxy between Russia and the West, led by the United States, despite the repeated assurances of Nato leaders that the alliance member countries will not be dragged into what so far has been a limited war.
A few weeks ago, the world had hoped for a quick end of the war as senior delegations from the two countries met several times in Minsk and Istanbul with reports that a first draft agreement was being written to pave the way for a meeting between the two countries’ leaders. To support those efforts, Russia last week announced that it was withdrawing its troops from the region surrounding the Ukrainian capital Kyiv.
However, Ukraine, buoyed by the Russian partial drawdown and the intensifying Western military and financial support, has since taken a harder line. Some analysts point to the surprise visit of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to Kyiv last week as a turning point in the Ukrainian position.
A war by proxy
Any hope of comprise seems unrealistic today, especially after Wednesday’s announcement by President Joe Biden of a $800 million package of offensive weapons including heavy artillery and assault helicopters. The nature of the US military aid to Ukraine and Biden’s unusual rhetoric (describing the war as a genocide) suggests that for the US and its Western allies, this has become a war by proxy.
Another indication of the escalation of the war is the latest statements coming from Nordic countries, which are not Nato members. Wary of the possibility of a wider conflict, these states, such as Finland and Sweden, seem to have abandoned their long-held policy of neutrality and took major steps towards joining the organisation, despite Russian objections.
Finnish Prime Minister, Sanna Marin, said on Wednesday that her country, which shares a 1,300km border with Russia, would decide on this “quite fast, in weeks not months”. The Ukraine war has not only changed Europe’s “whole security landscape” but also “reshaped mindsets” in her and neighbouring countries.
Moscow was quick to warn Nato of admitting those countries. UN chief, Antonio Guterres, on Wednesday warned that the war in Ukraine looks more like a “perfect storm” of global catastrophes and will devastate economies in dozens of developing countries.
The US, Nato and Russia must work together for an immediate ceasefire. This war needs to end now before it spirals out of control — with the increasingly hardened position of the US and its allies, that is no longer a distant possibility.