The Chinese Foreign Ministry’s unveiling of a “peace plan” supposedly supposed to help end the war in Ukraine has elicited mostly skeptical comments. US presidential aide Jake Sullivan said that China could generally limit itself to one point of its peace plan (out of 12 proposed), that is, respect for sovereignty.
“Ukraine did not attack Russia, NATO did not attack Russia, the United States did not attack Russia. Putin started this war,” Jake Sullivan said. The head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, also spoke rather sharply, noting that China’s “boundless friendship” with Russia casts doubt on the seriousness of the Chinese proposals, writes Vitaly Portnikov for Radio.Svoboda.
And President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky, at his press conference dedicated to the anniversary of the start of the “big war”, noted that the document published in Beijing does not look like a peace plan, but resembles a demonstration of reflection. And this despite the fact that Zelensky is still counting on the possibility of negotiations with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Beijing does not even try to assess the actions of Russia
Yet why is the Chinese peace plan not a starting point for negotiations at all? But because this plan equalizes the aggressor and the victim. Beijing does not even try to assess Russia’s actions on Ukrainian territory and explain how the negotiation process can lead to an end to the war and the restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity.
The plan contains points that can help not to stop, but to continue the war. This is, first of all, the idea of the need to lift the so-called “unilateral sanctions”. The PRC believes that sanctions can only be imposed by decision of the UN Security Council. But this proposal makes the permanent members of the Security Council, including Russia and China itself, effectively beyond the jurisdiction and invulnerable to any economic influence.
And here is a very simple question: if we imagine that this Chinese proposal will be agreed and all sanctions against Russia will be lifted, does this mean that the war will be stopped? No, most likely, it will last with renewed vigor.
Another important proposal of China – the proposal not for peace, but for a truce, for a ceasefire without preconditions, also meets the interests of Russia rather than Ukraine. After all, these are Russian troops on Ukrainian soil, and not Ukrainian troops on Russian soil. A ceasefire without preconditions gives Russia an obvious opportunity to secure its territorial assets, strengthen its defense lines, and prepare for a new mobilization and equipping of troops with equipment. A truce is not peace, but the possibility of continuing the war in the near future.
Does this mean that there is nothing in the Chinese proposals to look at? Of course, as in any document, one should look for what Beijing is really interested in in the Chinese proposals.
I have already mentioned the desire to create guarantees that exclude sanctions pressure. But no less important point is the call for the non-use of nuclear weapons and ensuring the safety of nuclear power plants. If this position is sincere, then, perhaps, this is the point that can bring China, the West and Ukraine closer together. Yes, this is not a position that can help achieve the end of the war. But, perhaps, this is a position that will help to avoid the outbreak of a nuclear war – if, of course, Vladimir Putin is ready to listen to Xi Jinping on this issue.
Rationale for supporting Moscow?
Now the most important question is how China is going to use its “peace plan” politically.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbing said after the release of the document that China, which “is on the right side of history,” is ready to “work with the rest of the world and contribute to the political settlement of the Ukrainian crisis.” But what will happen when Ukraine and the West do not consider it possible to agree with the main points of the Chinese plan?
Won’t this help the Chinese leadership to declare that the desire for peace exists precisely in Russia, where Foreign Ministry Speaker Maria Zakharova has already supported the Chinese plan, and not in Ukraine and the West, and thereby justify economic and even military support for Moscow?
Copyright © 2021 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with permission from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
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