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Boardman writes: "How about mediation to seek a peaceful solution of Ukraine issues? Mediation? Who would do the mediating? And how many parties would have to mediate? Where would any mediation take place? And under whose auspices? And so on...All good questions, to be sure. And all beside the point."

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. (photo: Reuters)
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. (photo: Reuters)

Calm in Ukraine, Who Wants That?

By William Boardman, Reader Supported News

14 April 14


How about mediation to seek a peaceful solution of Ukraine issues?

ediation? Who would do the mediating? And how many parties would have to mediate? Where would any mediation take place? And under whose auspices? And so on … All good questions, to be sure. And all beside the point.

What’s the point?

The point is that no one of public stature is suggesting anything of the sort, from which it’s fair to infer that no one is serious about anything but stoking tensions until there’s a real crisis (not just governmental and media bloviating about a new Cold War).

You don’t think so?

Mediation, by definition, requires a neutral third party (to the degree that’s ever possible), namely the mediator. Bi-lateral or multi-lateral talks, whatever good they may achieve, are not mediation. Serious mediation begins with the assumption that all the parties have legitimate interests.

Does anyone involved in Ukraine’s turmoil grant that all the others have legitimate interests?

If there were a seriously peaceful party in the struggle, wouldn’t it be making peaceful suggestions? If not mediation per se, how about bringing it to the United Nations in a neutral form? How about UN peacekeepers in Ukraine, at least along the borders? How about UN observers for the May election? How about any other suggestion designed to calm things down?

If anyone is making such suggestions, you’d think we’d hear about them, somehow, from somebody. (Reportedly, on March 1, the US ambassador to Ukraine called once for observers in Crimea.) So why is actual solution-seeking so clearly off everyone’s table? Let us speculate:

RUSSIA feels threatened by the west, which is both real and paranoid. It took Crimea willingly, without firing a shot. It may also hope to take some of eastern Ukraine without firing a shot. It wants to get paid for its natural gas. It thinks it’s winning.

THE UNITED STATES feels almighty and self-righteous and sees bringing a military alliance (NATO) to Russia’s borders as God’s work or the equivalent. Having engineered a coup d’état in Ukraine, it expects the government’s illegitimacy to be expiated by the May election. It thinks it’s winning.

EUROPE, which would include all the countries, the European Union, and NATO, feels trapped between the US and Russia, with no obvious way out of the trap, except maybe neutrality, which won’t be allowed. Europe is the Rodney King of this situation: “Can we all get along?” It doesn’t think it’s winning, but it hopes it’s not going to lose (at least not lose too much).

UKRAINE is angry about just about everything, depending on which Ukrainian you ask. Ukraine would like to be free, peaceful, not corrupt, and nobody’s puppet – but it has no consensus as to how that can be achieved. The hope and idealism of the Maidan has passed with the coup. Ukraine’s divisions are bitter and ancient. One measure of Ukrainian desperation is their turning over at least part of the government to oligarchs, who became oligarchs by plundering the government. If everyone left Ukraine alone, Ukrainians would go on killing each other, because the extreme factions have one thing in common: they think they’re winning.

THE UNITED NATIONS should be a place for possible conflict resolution, but Russia and the US have Security Council vetoes, so forget that. The General Assembly might try to achieve something like a just solution, but why would they? And even if they did, how much more effective would it be than what they’ve tried to do for the Palestinians? Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has seen the UN help his country (South Korea) recover from war, if not unite it. But he has not been a particularly assertive leader. Maybe he thinks someone is winning – or should win. It’s not clear.

On April 12, 2014, the UN issued the following “Statement Attributable to the spokesperson for the Secretary-General on Ukraine”:

“The Secretary-General is deeply concerned about the deteriorating situation in Eastern Ukraine and the growing potential for violent clashes.

“The Secretary-General stresses that further disturbances will not serve the interests of any side. He therefore appeals to all sides to work towards calming the situation, adhere to the rule of law and exercise maximum restraint. He calls again for urgent and constructive dialogue to deescalate the situation and address all differences.

“The United Nations stands ready to continue to support a peaceful resolution to the current crisis facing Ukraine.”

Like Europe says: “Can we all get along?”

Encouraging blue skies, nothing but blue skies, is not objectionable, but it’s not all that helpful either, and it’s certainly not a practical proposal. If anything, Ban Ki-Moon’s focus only on “Eastern Ukraine,” while rational it its way, is a focus on only a symptom and is more likely than not to make the disease worse. He expressed the same selectivity on April 4, saying he had urged leaders in Kiev and Moscow to de-escalate, but not a word about Washington (which should have de-escalated 20 years ago). That’s not serious statesmanship.

What is serious is that so many of the parties to the conflict think they’re going to win. That is a sure recipe for creating a lot of losers.

According to an unconfirmed report, acknowledged as such by the Voice of Russia on April 8:

The United Nations Security Council has, for the umpteenth time, considered the Ukrainian issue, and experts made a rather unexpected conclusion. It turned out that Ukraine has no official boundaries. Since the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991, Kiev hasn’t demarked its borders. Nor has it registered at the United Nations the demarcation of its borders as a sovereign state.

If it’s true that in some way, legally or geopolitically, Ukraine has no meaningful boundaries with some or all of its seven border states, that might be a good place to start sorting things out. In 2009, the International Court of Justice ruled on a maritime boundary dispute between Ukraine and Romania. The same court issued an advisory opinion in 2010 that a unilateral declaration of independence does not violate international law (that was Kosovo; the Crimean example has not been litigated). In its global summary of international border disputes, the CIA provides partial support for the Voice of Russia assertion.

Meanwhile, Russians users of Google Maps see Crimea as part of Russia, while the rest of the world sees the Ukraine-Crimea border as “disputed.”

William M. Boardman has over 40 years experience in theatre, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary. He has received honors from Writers Guild of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Vermont Life magazine, and an Emmy Award nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner
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