With the election of a staunch MAGA Republican to take the gavel of the House of Representatives in Washington, the end game of Ukraine counteroffensive might have come. House Speaker Mike Johnson
is against continued aid to Ukraine, and the Republican-controlled House could simply kill US President Joe Biden’s demand for aid both to Israel and Ukraine
The Western alliance’s military aid is the only lifeline for Ukrainian efforts to continue the war. If the United States drops out, it is hardly conceivable that Europe can fill the gap or is even willing to do so. Economies across Europe have struggled mightily in recent years, even those in leading countries such as Germany.
By contrast, Russia’s economy has not experienced a fatal wound despite the comprehensive sanctions regime
enacted against it. The Russian economy is projected to grow 2.5 per cent this year, a pace that would put it well ahead of Germany.
If economic sanctions do not work and military operations go nowhere, the only possible option is ceasefire.
The US and China had the same experience during the Korean war. This is the gist of the 12-point Chinese peace proposal. When the proposal
was floated in February, the Western reaction was not a welcoming one.
US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan dismissed the entirety of the proposal, saying the plan should have ended after the first point
, which calls for “respecting the sovereignty of all countries”. However, this does not deal with the Ukraine conundrum in reality. Despite the massive loss of life on both sides of the war, the Nato countries have so far failed to provide any alternative peace plans.
The key point of the Chinese proposal is ceasefire first, negotiate later. As the war has reached a stalemate
, negotiation for ceasefire is the only choice for both Ukraine and its Western allies.
Russian President Vladimir Putin can afford two options: continue the fight
until the result of next year’s US presidential election comes out or negotiate for ceasefire now to keep Russia’s newly acquired territories. Comparing the two, it is a better for the West and Ukraine to choose the latter.
Ceasefire should be the first step to peace. By definition, any ceasefire agreement can be precarious because it is not an international peace treaty protected by international law. As the second-best choice to stop humans killing each other, it must be maintained not only by good faith on both sides but also a practical mechanism.
There are three models for effective ceasefire. The first is the Korean Armistice Agreement in 1953. Although this model is not ideal for reaching permanent peace between the two Koreas, it has maintained an absence of active warfare for 70 years
. The mechanism is a demilitarised zone respected by all parties involved.
The second is the Kashmir model in the China-India border dispute. Ceasefire is maintained by the Line of Actual Control
that separates Indian-controlled territory from Chinese-controlled territory, in which neither side has to recognise the territorial claim of the other. It is precarious but has managed to stabilise the area since 1948, with only a few small-scale conflicts.
The third and ideal model is the Cyprus ceasefire agreement, in which a ceasefire between Turkey and Cyprus has been in place since 1964. Even though a permanent solution has not been agreed, UN peacekeepers are allowed to operate a buffer zone between the two regions to maintain ceasefire.
The ceasefire for the war in Ukraine can perhaps only follow a Kashmir model, as the other two models require Ukraine to recognise Russia’s territorial gains. The question is what mechanism can be put in place to maintain its stability.
It seems that, as Henry Kissinger has suggested
, Nato membership for Ukraine is the only solution. After its entry into the transatlantic alliance, it will not just enjoy Nato protection of its territory but also will be restrained from launching another war to reclaim its lost territory by Nato’s collective mechanism, preventing what would automatically become a war between Russia and Nato.
With its chance at securing neutrality gone forever, this is perhaps Ukraine’s best option. As Lord Ismay, the first Nato secretary general, said, the group’s original purpose was to “keep the Soviet Union out, the Americans in and the Germans down”.
Now that the Germans are no longer the problem, it is Ukraine’s turn. It is hard to believe Putin is not tempted by a Kashmir-style ceasefire. Rhetoric from Washington and Brussels about supporting Ukraine as long as it takes to fight this war cannot be sustained for long.
Lanxin Xiang is professor emeritus at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva, and a distinguished fellow at the Stimson Center, Washington, DC