When traditional diplomacy and intergovernmental communication collapse and politicians cannot find a way to common ground, Track-II diplomacy comes to rescue. This was seen in the meeting of Russian and American experts which took place on Boisto Island in Finland this June over Ukraine. The results of the meeting of the so-called “Boisto working group” were revealed this week ¬– a 24-step plan of the Ukrainian conflict resolution. The road map is remarkable, but it seems to be ahead of its time.
Any crisis, no matter how bloody it is, ends with a diplomatic solution. The difference is only when this diplomatic solution trickles down to ground level. One thing is clear and appropriate for any case: the earlier it comes – the better.
In my article published in May, I proposed four key scenarios of how the Ukrainian crisis could develop and said the situation was progressing in the worst possible way. Then the parties had all the chances to turn the situation for the better with minimal losses. Now the opportunity is missed.
The crisis over Ukraine is getting more complicated by the day. All the parties are playing for the rise of stakes. Tensions between the U.S. and Russia seem to be at the highest level since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Their rhetoric is tough and aggressive. NATO is sustainably trying to return the lost purpose of its existence and its role and place in global affairs – to withstand the menace from the East. And the media plays a great role in creating a concrete perception of the events and panic among the masses needed to form the popular support for NATO.
Russia, taking the position of blind defense, makes it clear that it has no intention to yield pressure from the West. Its old fears over NATO’s enlargement and America’s double standards game were confirmed these months.
Pressure causes resistance
This has allowed Russia to act strictly in accordance with its national and security interests. Pressure causes resistance. Resistance causes more pressure. It’s a vicious circle where it’s already impossible to find out who started it, but important to find the exit. It means that one should not react to the provocative step of another ¬– so as not to raise the stakes, but to down them to create the preconditions for de-escalation. But the recent declarations of the Russia’s president during the international youth forum “Seliger” show that Russia is not going to be the first to make the exit steps out of the vicious circle. And most likely, the longer the crisis will continue the less flexible its position will become.
However, while politicians are brutally flexing their muscles, the experts, ex functionaries are trying to lay the foundations for de-escalation and for a new chapter of the history in international relations.
Russia, taking the position of blind defense, makes it clear that it has no intention to yield pressure from the WestMaria Dubovikova
The Russian and the U.S. experts proposed an exit from the crisis, based on reason, mutual trust and conscious necessity of cooperation for the benefit of the global stability. If to return back to my four scenarios, the proposed road map corresponds to the one, which supposes the major role of the OSCE, the peace enforcement mission and the decline of Cold war rhetoric.
The 24 proposed points of the Ukrainian crisis regulation are divided into six major blocks: elements of an enduring, verifiable ceasefire, humanitarian and legal issues, economic relations, social and cultural issues, Crimea, international status of Ukraine. The experts, evidently, were basing their ideas on the premise that Ukrainian parties will never stop violence themselves and the civil war there could be stopped only by common international will. So the key role in this road map was given to the OSCE, as a most reliable guarantee of the enduring ceasefire and effective mediator.
The U.N.-authorized peacekeeping mission is anticipated either. The major humanitarian issues, such as humanitarian aid, refugee assistance, post conflict recovery, respect of minority rights are of great importance.
But they have little novelty for global conflict regulation practice and can be implemented in any conflict settlement road-map. As for the rest of the blocks and the steps proposed in them, they could give an impression of being totally pro-Russian, as for example, the ones which appeal to preserve Russian-Ukrainian economic ties even in the defense industry, to presume the protection of traditional cultural ties between the two countries, as well as protection of the Russian language in Ukraine. The status of Crimea is not discussed either, while the Ukrainian non-block status is supposed to be respected and preserved. The Ukrainian interests seem to be downtrodden. But this seems just at first sight.
Ukraine has depended and will depend on Russia economically. The production of its industry is interesting exclusively for Russia and primarily for its military sector. The agricultural sector is mostly Russia oriented. To re-orientate the economy and industry is impossible in midterm future. The costs and losses of the possible re-orientation could be much more significant than possible benefits. What can reanimate the Ukrainian economy in the post-crisis recovery is the reestablishment of effective economic and industry ties with Russia, maybe on even higher levels and more intensively, than it was before the crisis. And this is comprehended both in the EU and the U.S.
The measures to provide energy security that are also among the points of the plan are the questions of vital interest for both Russia and the EU.
The respect of the Russian-speaking minority and its interests, as well as maintenance of historical cultural ties with Russia mentioned among the points is not Russia on a whim, but an indispensable condition for Ukrainian unity and safety.
Crimea stance won’t change
It should be admitted that Russia’s stance on Crimea is unlikely to change. Crimea is its vital interest, so no concession is possible. The international community and Ukraine should accept the return of Crimea back to Russia. Otherwise the situation would never drift from its dead point.
And finally, the 24th point - the non-block status of Ukraine - is an indispensable condition of the international stability. This could contradict the interests and the will of the Kiev’s elites, but it corresponds the interest of the global players on both sides of Ukrainian barricades.
The 24-point way out of the conflict is logical and clear. It lays the background for fair and intense international cooperation, restoration of the mutual trust on the Transatlantic-European space. It implies measures preventing Ukraine from becoming a black hole in the European continent both in terms of economy and stability. The moment, when all the parties would be able to communicate with reason and cool heads is still distant, though. The fact that such a decisive moment will come sooner or later is evident and the plan proposed by the “Boisto group” is fitting. The only hope is that this long-awaited moment will come as soon as possible.
Maria Dubovikova is a co-founder of IMESClub (International Middle Eastern Studies Club), IMESClub Executive Director and member of the Club Council, author of several scientific articles and participant of several high level international conferences. She is a permanent member of the Think-tank under the American University in Moscow. Alumni of MGIMO (Moscow State Institute of International Relations (University) of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia) (honors diploma), she had been working for three months as a trainee at the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI) in Paris. Now she is a PhD Candidate at MGIMO (Department of International Relations and Foreign Policy of Russia). Her research field is Russian foreign policy, especially in the Middle East, the policy of France and the US towards the Mediterranean, theory of international relations, humanitarian interventions and etc. Fluently speaks and writes in French and English. She can be followed on Twitter: @politblogme