Are the EU and NATO serious about bringing peace to Ukraine? You wouldnt know it from their language

Are the EU and NATO serious about bringing peace to Ukraine? You wouldnt know it from their language

Atlantic Council

Two events that took place in Brussels this monththe NATO summit and the EU-Ukraine summithave once again brought attention to the Western position on Russias unlawful war on Ukraine. Although very supportive of Ukraine, the final declarations of both summits fail to use clear language recognizing Russias responsibility for its ongoing multi-vector war on Ukraine.

Instead, the EU-Ukraine summitsstatementspeaks of external challenges that Ukraine is facing, acts of aggression by the Russian armed forces since February 2014, illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol, and violence in certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. The language of NATOs Brusselssummit declarationis more direct, mentioning Russias illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea and ongoing destabilization of eastern Ukraine, and Russias political, financial, and military support to militant groups, military interventions in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, and troops, equipment, and mercenaries [stationed on] the territory of Ukraine.

Both make two crucial mistakes. They treat Russias actions in Crimea and the Donbas as separate matters, not part of a coordinated, unitary war effort; and they do not unequivocally recognize Russia as the aggressor state that is directly responsible for waging an unlawful inter-state war against Ukraine, albeit an undeclared one.

Despite overwhelming evidence that Russia is waging war against Ukrainein which the military invasion is just one component among manythe language of NATO and EU documents lends credence to Moscows plausible deniability strategy, which denies Russias role as the aggressor. This has serious implications for Ukraine, and for the international order.

When the West plays along with the Kremlin to describe Russia's war on Ukraine, it is a win for Moscow and a loss for truth. A loss for truth is a loss for peace, stability, and order. As long as Russias undeclared war is not recognized as the unlawful war that it iswith Crimea and the Donbas forming part of a larger, single war effortno peace solution can be crafted.

Moscow has shrouded the truth of its war on Ukraine through propaganda and subversive means by carefully constructing the appearance of an indigenous uprising.

In the Kremlin-crafted picture, Russias role is limited to protecting the Russian speaking population from Ukrainian Nazi extremists in Crimea, and supporting rebels in [the] Donbas who oppose the Euromaidan coup detat in Kyiv.

The Kremlin devised this strategy to protect Russia and its leadership from the legal consequences of invasion, and to prevent the international community from providing Ukraine with adequate assistance against an external aggressor.

Kremlin-sponsored unreality has permeated Western media and institutions, and polluted the thinking of many political actors. By echoing Russias lies, the international community has allowed Moscow to continue its war in the comfortable shadows of distorted reality without incurring the true cost of its war and destruction. Putins calculated strategy of disguising Moscows invasion has left Ukraine defending itself against an enemy largely invisible to the world.

The implications of NATO and the EUs soft approach to Russia are manifold.

It affects Western reporting on the war, still allowing the media to embrace Kremlin propaganda narratives of a civil war in Ukraine. Such coverage undermines Kyivs calls for international support and solidarity.

The soft approach also has significant consequences for Ukraines legal action in international courts, where Kyiv is pursuing cases to hold Moscow liable for its illegal acts in Ukraine. The rights of millions of Ukrainians affected by Russias invasion depend on the accurate definition of Russias role in the armed conflict. International recognition of Russia as an aggressor is directly related to the matter of Russias liability for losses and damages sustained by Ukraine, Ukrainian citizens, and businesses as a result of Putins illegal invasion and occupation.

The use of accurate language about Russias war is of great significance for Russias standing in international organizations, and for its relationships with foreign nations. In particular, it has clear ramifications for the Western sanctions regime against Russia, which is divided into two separate blocks: sanctions for the occupation of Crimea, and sanctions in connection with the implementation of the Minsk accords. If Russia were recognized as the perpetrator of an inter-state war, there would be no choice but to drop this unreasonable distinction and apply the entire complement of sanctions until Russias aggression ends.

Truthful language is also of critical importance for decision making at the United Nations. So far, the UN, and the Security Council, has failed to execute its core responsibilities under the UN Charter for the maintenance of international peace and security.

If NATO and the EU officially recognized Russias direct responsibility for its unlawful inter-state war on Ukraine, there would be immense pressure on the UN to take firmer action on Russia, including a full international economic embargo and more effective international aid to Ukraine for its defense. The UN can put effective measures in place to demand that Russia unconditionally cease all forms of aggression, immediately withdraw all of its forces from Ukraine's territory, end its occupation, and rescind the annexation of Crimea.

It is often argued that less confrontational language about Russias invasion of Ukraine is essential to leave space for diplomacy and to offer Putin a face-saving compromise he would be more inclined to accept. But Russia has only taken advantage of this naive position, and has made no steps toward ending the war. On the contrary, as Western diplomats wait for compromise and concessions from Moscow, Russia takes advantage of the passage of time to erase everything and anything Ukrainian in the occupied regions.

If the EU and NATO are serious about bringing peace to Ukraine and preventing the world order from being upended, they must they must get honest about Russias war against Ukraine and dispense with Moscows lies.

Russia should rightfully be called the aggressor for its unprovoked and unlawful use of force against Ukraine, and tools commensurate to Russias violations of international law should be employed to help restore the countrys sovereignty and territorial integrity, and to bring a just peace to Ukraine.
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