On one side of the table, russians dressed in jacket and tie. In front, the Ukrainians with military uniforms and less formal clothes. Under these conditions, the diplomatic missions of Russia and Ukraine met on Monday 28 in the border region of Gomel (Belarus). His objective: to try to agree on peace. Meanwhile, the war continues and the president Volodymyr Zelensky strives to join Ukraine in the European Union expressly. Could it be that the end of the siege orchestrated by President Vladimir Putin? We spoke about this with Mayte Dongo Sueiro, a doctor from the Freie Universität Berlin specializing in international relations and a professor at the PUCP.
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—It seems that the only thing Ukraine has to offer is its surrender and future neutrality. Is it so? Is there anything else Russia might be interested in?
Before starting the dialogue, the Russians were asked what their position was and they replied that it was secret, which would show that they have more objectives than those they have disclosed. However, Ukraine cannot offer much more, considering its national interests. Ideally for the Russians, they would gain more influence in Ukraine with a friendlier government, or secure control in regions they recently accepted as independent. But I don’t think Ukraine is ready to give in.
– Recently, the president of the Ukraine, Volodimir Zelensky, said that the West had abandoned them. This could give him an option to end the slaughter: switch sides and support Putin. Would it make sense?
No. Zelensky responds to the internal Ukrainian demand that, in this century, has been mostly in favor of the West and the European Union, specifically, so much so that they went out to protest when the association treaty with the EU was not signed. Being close to NATO is not a whim, so you can’t change your shirt because it’s the right thing to do at the moment.
—Even though the NATO issue never had head or tail?
When one listens to the Europeans talking about it, it becomes clear that Ukraine’s accession was very difficult. First because it is a process that takes years, and second because it is very difficult for them to achieve it. In 2008, France and Germany were at loggerheads.
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“Would you say, then, that it is clear that Russia took this issue as an excuse to invade?”
I don’t know if it was an excuse, but it seems like it at times. This makes one wonder what changed so that Russia made the decision to attack from one moment to the next and not in previous years. It also invites us to think about what is behind all this, what is it that we do not know and cannot see clearly.
‘All previous negotiations failed. Would it be logical to think that the ones developed in Belarus will not be successful either?
It seems to me that they are different. Let us remember that the last dialogue was promoted by Emmanuel Macron and that, although Putin was initially interested, he later declined. On this occasion it is Putin himself who, after the conflict began, maintained that he was willing to speak. He even called on the Ukrainian Armed Forces to lay down their arms. Only with that we could think that Putin’s strategy was to start the conflict, but not to spread it too much. He knows that the economic sanctions are not transcendental nor are they going to break him, that he can withstand them, but that in the long term it is not convenient for him. He recalls that, in the case of Crimea, they did not work and were removed after a short time.
This time, at least, there’s a chance he’ll come clean. Before, the negotiations were promoted by the West and in a territory that was also Western. Now they are discussing in Belarus, a country allied with Putin, so we could think that he feels more comfortable. The conflict is not going to be resolved overnight, necessarily, but this space has more possibilities for dialogue because it was promoted by Russia, which did not want to talk before.
—Russia could attack with more force. Why trade?
Russia has several objectives that are still not clear, and we already know that it is willing to achieve them in a military way. But you could also reach them through dialogue. Putin knows that the Ukrainians are not going to give up so easily, but now it is easier to pressure them or ask them to accept more than they could have demanded a few weeks ago. Currently, Russia has a position of greater advantage: before, it was Ukraine and its allies, who continue to send weapons, although not directly participating, because getting into a fight would mean World War III.
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