Among the peace plans proposed by various European and U.S. politicians, to be frank, I haven't read a single one which I would consider even remotely feasible. My impression is that such plans have been redacted more for a need to fool one's voters and present onself as a peace operator (whereas one factually supports sending of weapons and tightening of sanctions) than for a genuine peace effort, since every politician that had spent even just a few minutes to document oneself on the situation around Ukraine would perfectly know that these peace plans are not just unacceptable by the Russians, but plainly unpresentable.
A believable peace plan must first and foremost take into account the reasons that pushed Russia to invade Ukraine and, above all, those who push the Russian people to support the war. It's certainly legitimate, and even reasonable, to doubt the official reasons: on the contrary, it's very likely that the reasons who push Russia to continue this “special operation” are, at least in part, others, economical in nature and to the benefit of a few especially powerful individuals (arm producers above all). We can put our heart at rest, and accept the fact that we'll never get to know the real reasons; but, on the other hand, it's not even so important to know them, after all.
What we really need to know is the mood of the Russian population, and especially the reasons why president Putin's popularity has risen after the invasion of Ukraine. The mainstream information we get in the West is not helpful at all in this, because it's since 2014 that it omits reporting important facts about the war in Donbass. Well, nowadays the Russian people are constantly fed images of civilians dying in Donetsk and in other cities of the Donbass, right in the center of the cities, where there are no military targets. We can call it propaganda, sure, but the facts are real and are just an aggravated continuation of what has been happening for the past 8 years, all well documented by the OSCE mission and by the Office of the High Commissioner of the Human Rights of the United Nations1.
Besides, the massive transfer of weapons and the episodes of discrimination against Russian artists, athletes, personalities of the culture and entertainment, sometimes against the very Russian language, these are all widely publicized by local mass media and get the Russians convinced that their country is fighting an existential war against a horde of fascists, and, militarily, against the whole of NATO.
If the West had really the will to restore peace it should work to destroy this representation of itself and disarm the Russian propaganda by removing the facts on which it's built. Specifically, I'm persuaded that many of the following points would be well received by the Western population and would demotivate the Russian people (including many of the soldiers stationed at the front) in fighting this fratricidal war:
- Removal of every discrimination against Russian culture and its representatives and performers.
- Promise that Ukraine won't be let into NATO or in other military alliances that would go beyond the commitment to reciprocal defense (that is, no to joint military drills or foreign bases in the territory of Ukraine, yes to a promise of military intervention in case of attack).
- Pausing the shipment of weapons until Ukraine removes the title of hero of Ukraine to Stepan Bandera and other members of the nazist organisation UPA.
- Pausing the shipment of weapons until Ukraine stops bombing civilian settlements devoid of military installations.
It should be noted that none of these points require collaboration or agreements between states (even joining NATO can only happen after the unanymous vote of all current members, as Turkey reminds us), so they all could be immediately implemented by any willing state. The bigger the number of Western countries pushing forward these policies, the more uncertainty will grow among the Russian population, and will ultimately transform into incomprehension and dissatisfaction, since this would destroy the ideological reasons that make the Russians support the conflict.
If we are to speak of a peace plan, agreed among NATO, Ukraine and Russia, then it could be developed along these lines:
- Ukraine condemns the nazist ideology (therefore Bandera and friends), accepts to open an international commission of inquiry (including Russia as well) over the massacres of Maidan square and Odessa.
- Ukraine grants the status of second official language to the Russian language, similarly to how Swedish language is treated in Finland2.
- Ukraine enacts laws to guarantee a limited autonomy to the 5 regions currently under Russian control (including Crimea) and amnesty for all those rebels that are not found guilty of war crimes (in other words, a sort of Minsk accords extended to all the occupied regions).
- Ukraine promises not to host military forces or equipment from other countries in its territory, and to not participate in joint military drills, without the consent of the Russian federation. It can, however, join defensive military alliances.
- Ukraine promises to never enact sanctions against Russia, nor to require visa from Russian citizens in order to cross its borders.
- The Russian army withdraws and gets temporarily replaced by the army of a third country, not member of NATO, chosen by Ukraine.
- New referendums, under the supervision of international observers (including Ukrainians and Russians) in the 5 contested regions. Times will be established by Ukraine. Russia and Ukraine commit to recognize and implement their results.
- The peace mission introduced in point 5 gets wrapped up.
It's of fundamental importance understanding that territorial questions are only a secondary matter, and that what is most pressing for the Russian people is to have good relations with the neighbouring countries: not having to worry about coups, colour revolutions stirred up by the West or about other attempts to use Ukraine as a weapon against Russia. If, for example, there were a Russian region that desired to separate itself from the federation and join Belarus, I'm convinced that this could happen in a peaceful way without serious repercussions, since the relationships between the two countries are good and Belarus is not perceived as a threat. This was also the situation with Ukraine before 20143, and it's the situation to which we should strive to return to.
Note that Swedish in Finland is the native language for just 5% of the population, whereas in Ukraine Russian is the native language of about 30% of the population. ↩
Not exactly, since there had already been attempts at colour revolutions resulting in anti-Russian governments. But I hope you'll pass this oversimplification of mine here. ↩