The battle in Ukraine will quickly be heading into its third yr with no signal of a ceasefire. But it’s changing into more and more clear that many within the West are growing impatient with the emerged stalemate and reluctant to provide continued military support to Ukraine.

Nonetheless, wars do come to an finish, usually with one aspect making concessions in exchange for peace. And over the course of the Ukraine conflict, influential voices within the West – be it these of the late Henry Kissinger, former President Donald Trump or high-ranking NATO official Stian Jenssen, to call just a few – have raised the prospect of Ukraine having to cede land to Russia in change for peace.

As an expert on Western military interventions in transnational ethnic conflicts, I’ve seen how well-intentioned peace agreements provided to the perceived aggressor can inadvertently plant the seeds for renewed battle. It is because such agreements can ship in peace what the aggressor pursues in conflict: territory.

Moderately than resolve the foundation reason behind conflicts, this may reward revanchism – that’s, a state’s coverage to reclaim territory it as soon as dominated – and embolden an aggressor to make use of conflict to realize its purpose. That is very true when the West rewards aggression with beneficiant peace agreements.

Take the previous Yugoslavia.

It has been greater than 20 years for the reason that finish of the Yugoslav wars, a sequence of conflicts that adopted the breakup of Yugoslavia. Throughout these wars, Serbia sought to unify giant swaths of territories populated by Serbs and non-Serbs right into a “Better Serbia.”

The wars ended with military victories for Slovenia and Croatia over Serbia, and NATO intervention in Bosnia and Kosovo. Within the circumstances of the latter nations, NATO intervention was adopted by quite a few Western-imposed peace plans.

However 20 years on, the area borders on renewed conflict as Serbia insists that its survival depends on it capacity to solely represent and protect all Serbs, wherever they dwell.

A group of men and women hold candles.
Candles for 3 killed Serbs within the northern Serb-dominated a part of the ethnically divided city of Mitrovica, Kosovo, Sept. 26, 2023.
AP Photo/Bojan Slavkovic

In fact, every conflict is totally different, and the circumstances surrounding the invasion of Ukraine are distinctive.

However I consider the examples of Bosnia and Kosovo present that Western-sponsored treaties, once they sacrifice land for peace, can retailer up hassle for later – particularly with regards to revanchist nations.

Russia and Serbia revanchism

Russian and Serbian revanchism has been evident ever for the reason that nations they as soon as dominated – the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, respectively – broke up within the early Nineteen Nineties.

In 1992, Russia seized Transnistria, the Moscow-backed breakaway a part of Moldova that borders southwestern Ukraine, beneath the pretext of securing peace. The identical yr, Russia intervened in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, autonomous areas inside Georgia populated by pro-Russia however non-Georgian peoples, to “finish the ethnic preventing.” In 2008, Russia expanded additional into Georgia. The identical situation recurred in 2014 when Russia despatched forces to Crimea and the Donbas to “defend” ethnic Russians from “Nazi” hordes.

Because the breakup of Yugoslavia, Serbia has equally sought to reclaim its dominance of that area. It has performed this beneath varied pretexts. Serbia’s decadelong wars started in 1991 and included preventing in Slovenia purportedly to “keep Yugoslavia together”; in Croatia, it was to guard ethnic Serbs from the “fascist” regime; in Bosnia, Serbia claimed to be stopping the founding of an “Islamic state”; and in Kosovo, the acknowledged purpose was to struggle “terrorists.”

But, 1 / 4 of a century on – and regardless of hopes that the fall of former Serbian and Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in 2000 may usher in a extra peaceable period – political elites in Serbia proceed to pursue the unification of all Serb-populated lands, or at minimal achieve the West’s acceptance of a “Serb world” – that’s, a sphere of Serbian affect in Bosnia, Kosovo and Montenegro the place Serbia dominates.

A man in uniform gestures.
A Kosovo police officer guards a street close to the village of Banjska in northern Kosovo.
AP Photo/Bojan Slavkovic

Strolling the Balkan path

The various peace treaties meant to stabilize and convey lasting peace to Bosnia and Kosovo have, to varied levels, failed, due in no small half, I might argue, to the very phrases of settlement.

In Bosnia, the U.S.-brokered Dayton Accords of 1995 introduced the Bosnian Struggle to an finish. But it surely additionally reorganized the state into two subnational items: the majority-ethnic Serbian Republic of Srpska and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The accords awarded 49% of the lately impartial Bosnia’s territory to the Republic of Srpska regardless of Serbs constituting 31% of the final inhabitants and having committed genocide and ethnic cleansing in pursuit of crafting a Serb state inside Bosnia.

Now, the Republic of Srpska seeks to secede and contravene the Dayton Accords by way of the institution of parallel institutions and the withdrawal of its members from Western-brokered establishments.

In Kosovo, with every European Union-sponsored peace settlement to normalize relations between Serbia and Kosovo, safety threats from Serbia escalate, as evidenced by a current armed attack led by Milan Radoičiċ, an affiliate of Serbia’s president.

In the meantime, what critics see as Western appeasement of Serbia’s revanchism has led to additional concessions in regard to Kosovo. In distinction to Bosnia, the Kosovo mannequin entails incremental appeasement by way of varied peace agreements – the Ahtisaari Plan, Brussels 1 and 2 Agreement, Ohrid Agreement, and the Draft-Statute proposal. These plans provide political concessions to Serbia in change for the popularity of Kosovo’s independence.

The identical destiny for Ukraine?

To counsel {that a} comparable destiny to Bosnia or Kosovo may await Ukraine just isn’t past the realms of actuality.

Any such answer may very well be an off-ramp to conflict, however it might hand Vladimir Putin what he desires: management over Russian-speaking folks and key strategic territory in Ukraine.

If the West follows both the Bosnia or Kosovo mannequin for peace for Ukraine, the outcome would seemingly be the identical: First, it might outcome within the reorganization of Ukraine into two political-administrative items, one beneath management of a pro-Western authorities in Kyiv, the opposite beneath the affect or direct management of Moscow. Second, it might see the promotion of advanced political preparations, similar to ethnic veto powers, twin sovereignty and worldwide illustration, that yield institutional dysfunction and political instability. And third, there can be no strong safety deployments or ensures from the U.S. or NATO to discourage future Russian aggression.

From Kosovo to Kyiv

The present Western support for Ukraine’s protection will seemingly result in its heavy involvement in any peace negotiations.

However finally, the implications of a Western-imposed peace in Ukraine might, if the previous is any indicator, do little to appease Russian revanchism and will, the truth is, encourage Russian elites to pursue an identical coverage in Estonia and Latvia – states the place Russians make up 1 / 4 of the inhabitants.

The West might hope {that a} plan primarily based on land for peace helps Ukraine by stopping the bloodshed, whereas on the similar time appeases Russia and solves a geopolitical drawback for the EU and the U.S.

But when the circumstances of Bosnia and Kosovo are something to go by, it may quite the opposite solely whet Russia’s urge for food for extra territorial claims, and go away Ukraine feeling betrayed.

Drita Perezic, a safety sector skilled with the Balkans Policy Research Group, contributed to this text


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