Towards a cold peace

IFSH Brief Analysis by Dr Hans-Georg Ehrhart

 

 

"Given the real danger of mutual nuclear annihilation and the high cost of such a long war a cold peace would be preferable. That is why Putin should not be treated as persona non grata with whom you cannot come to a robust agreement but to do everything to make a cold peace possible." (Dr. Hans-Georg Ehrhart)

As each war comes to an end eventually, so will the war in Ukraine, hopefully soon. According to the philosopher of war Carl von Clausewitz war is an extended duel normally limited by a political purpose. Hence, war is a political instrument. In principle, there is an immanent tendency towards the utmost escalation of violence. This is what Clausewitz calls absolute war. Limited political goals usually restrict this escalation dynamics to the extreme.

Russia’s interventions into Ukraine 2014 and 2022 have shattered the European peace order of the Paris Charter. There is still a limited war going on but with the potential to escalate in two dimensions: horizontally across Europa and beyond, vertically on the level of chemical and nuclear weapons of mass destruction. This is why this war should be stopped as soon as possible. However, while Moscow is regrouping its military posture in order to concentrate on the south-eastern Ukraine the West is increasing its military support of Ukraine and its sanctions against Russia. How and when can this war come to an end?

Currently both parties of the conflict strive for victory, whatever this may mean concretely. Neither the conquest or the occupation of the whole country by Russia seems an real option nor the complete ousting of the invader by the Ukrainian armed forces. The option of a dictated peace leading to one winner and one loser can be discarded as long as the West continues to support Ukraine defense efforts and Russia keeps sticking to its meanwhile reduced war goals.

It seems to be more probable that a long-term military confrontation is evolving with no winner at all. In such a scenario the conflict parties would use methods of conventional and unconventional warfare. Phases of warring and fire brakes would possibly alternate but the war would continue in the grey zone. A peace agreement would be evasive as long as Moscow is thinking to defend the “Russian world” by its de facto imperialism and the Ukraine to defend not only itself but the whole “free world” with support from the West. Only if one or all of the protagonists is exhausted the conflict could come to an end, possibly only for the time being.

All options sketched above would cause immense social, political, economic, financial and psychological effects for the people in Europe and the world. That is why there is no other way than a negotiated peace agreement which asks for hard concessions by both sides. This will probably not be possible by one single peace agreement but by a peace process enabling a step-by-step de-escalation of violence. As distrust and acriminy is dominant this process can only lead to a cold peace by strength and military equilibrium and ongoing ideological conflict.

Given the real danger of mutual nuclear annihilation and the high cost of such a long war a cold peace would be preferable. At least it would enable the survival of people by co-existence and herewith a precondition that one day the logic of peace will dominate again. That is why  Putin should not be treated as persona non grata with whom you cannot come to a robust agreement but to do everything to make a cold peace possible.