Over two months after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began, the UN Security Council finally managed to issue a statement calling for ‘a peaceful solution’ and backing the efforts of Secretary-General António Guterres in this direction. While the carefully drafted statement avoided any reference to ‘war’, ‘invasion’ or ‘conflict’, the fact that the 15 members of the Council, including Russia which has veto power, unanimously agreed to the call for peace shows that all sides are feeling the heat of the conflict. Going by the votes in the UN General Assembly, international public opinion is heavily against the war and the UNSC is expected to do more to bring the violence to an end. The statement was issued a week after Mr. Guterres held talks with Presidents Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelensky, in Moscow and Kyiv, respectively. But his mission would be successful only if the parties concerned showed seriousness in ending the war. As of now, neither exists beyond statements. For example, Russia stepped up attacks in Ukraine after the UNSC statement was issued. On Sunday, 60 people were killed in Luhansk. On Monday, Mr. Putin, in his Victory Day address marking the Soviet triumph over German Nazis, claimed that the Russian troops were “defending the motherland”, indicating that the war will grind on.
When he ordered the ‘special military operation’ for what he called the “demilitarisation and denazification’ of Ukraine, Mr. Putin must have expected a quick victory. But Ukraine’s resistance did not only deny the Russians this but also galvanised western support. When western financial and military aid hardened the Ukrainian resistance, the Russian troops, despite their incremental territorial gains in eastern and southern Ukraine, appeared to have got stuck in the battlefield. The stalemate has increased the risks of a wider conflict. The U.S. now seems determined to “weaken Russia”, as Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin has said. Russia, with its back against the wall, is warning of a third world war with nuclear weapons. The possibility of a direct Russia-West confrontation makes it the most dangerous moment in global politics since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. If both sides still believe in rational policymaking, they should immediately look for an offramp. Russia cannot ask for dialogue and peace when continuing to pound Ukrainian cities. Its war machine has slowed down and it is already facing economic and political isolation in Europe. Escalating this conflict, bringing the whole world into danger, does not serve anybody’s interest. Instead, Moscow should immediately end the attacks and support the UN Secretary General’s mission of finding a peaceful solution that could address the security concerns of both Ukraine and Russia.