Can China Broker Ukraine Ceasefire?
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 30 Apr , 2023

The first ever telephone conversation between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky on April 26, 2023, was weeks after Zelensky sought their meeting and even sent a personal communication to Xi. This confirms once again that the Chinese are never in a hurry and their every move is well calculated.

In February 2023, Beijing unveiled a 12-point roadmap for peace between Moscow and Kiev, expressing willingness to take part in mediating for end to the hostilities. This was not received with any enthusiasm by the US. In fact, French President Emmanuel Macron’s support to China brokering a ceasefire in Ukraine was snubbed by the EU. In March 2023, Xi met Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow where both vowed to work to increase trade and cooperation in other areas. China has said that ties between the two countries have acquired critical importance for the global landscape and the future of humanity.

During his telephonic conversation with Zelensky, Xi said that dialogue and negotiations are the only viable way out, and that China will “neither watch the fire from the other side nor add fuel to the fire, let alone take advantage of the opportunity to make profit” (dig at the US?). Chinese media says, “Xi urged all sides to remain calm and restrained when dealing with the possibility of the conflict spiraling into a larger confrontation, and that no one wants a nuclear war. Notably, Xi has promised to dispatch a special envoy to Ukraine and other countries to conduct in-depth communication for resolution of the Ukraine conflict.

Zelensky said that he had “a long and meaningful phone call” with the Chinese leader that lasted for an hour. “We discussed a full range of topical issues of bilateral relations. Particular attention was paid to the ways of possible cooperation to establish a just and sustainable peace for Ukraine,” Zelensky said in a statement, adding, “There can be no peace at the expense of territorial compromises.”

Xi had said earlier that no country should provide arms to Ukraine and Russia to aggravate the conflict. However, since launch of Russian special operations, the West has already supplied Ukraine with over 6200 units of heavy weapons, including 39 fighter aircraft, 44 helicopters, 575 tanks, 4,697 armoured vehicles, 675 towed guns and self-propelled guns, 125 multiple rocket launchers, thousands of soft-skinned vehicles and millions of rounds of ammunition, artillery shells and rockets. The tank and artillery ammunition includes Depleted Uranium (DU) shells.It is illegal to use DU projectiles as per IJC but in March 2023 the British government blatantly boasted they sent DU ammunition to Ukraine with Challenger 2 tanks. America would do similarly when sending Abrams tanks to Ukraine.

American columnist Andrew Napolitano, in his recent article in Washington Times, says US President Joe Biden is copying in Ukraine the policy of George W Bush, which he pursued in Afghanistan, and which is a “moral deformity.” He further wrote that the Afghan government never attacked the US but Bush attacked Afghanistan, and that “this moral ugliness was committed in the name of retribution, containment and liberation, but in fact the reason was American arrogance”, which is being repeated in Ukraine by challenging the most powerful army on Earth.

The POTUS Joe Bien, publicly showing signs of dementia, is apparently captive to America’s deep state which is manipulating him. After having announced he would run for President in 2024, he recently said, “As for my age, I can’t even say, probably, how old I am. I can’t even name a number. She doesn’t stick with me. But one thing I can say is that people will have to find out, they will see the election race and make a decision whether I win or not.” The joke is that Biden now has a new challenge – not winning the election, but remembering his exact date of birth.

White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre recently said during a press briefing that the United States supports NATO’s ‘open door’ policy and believes that the decision to admit new members, including Ukraine should be made by the organization itself, and that the US House of Representatives will consider a resolution demanding that Ukraine return to the 1991 borders. The proposed resolution also calls for Ukraine’s accession to NATO and for Russia to pay reparations.

Concurrently, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba wrote in  the Foreign Policy magazine,”What we need is a clear, written statement from allies (NATO) outlining the path to (Ukraine’s) joining the alliance. Kuleba wants NATO to present the timing of Ukraine’s entry into the alliance during the upcoming NATO summit in Vilnius in July or later in 2023. At the same time he wrote that Ukraine does not need an action plan with certain indicators of compliance with the requirements of the alliance.

Zelensky’s next move would probably be launching the Spring Offensive after receiving the Abrams tanks, or even earlier depending on the signal from Washington. The success or otherwise of the spring offensive cannot be predicted but there would unlikely be any clear winners.  However, supply of DU ammunition to Ukraine has already opened the “dirty” chapter in the war and it will likely get dirtier (bio, EMP, tactical nukes) depending on the criticalities that may occur.  Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has already warned that the conflict in Ukraine risked escalating into a third world war.

Russia says Moscow has taken notice of China’s willingness to facilitate negotiations with Ukraine following the phone call between Xi and Zelensky but under current conditions negotiations are unlikely, for which Ukraine is to blame for rejecting Moscow’s initiatives. But the question is what the chances are of China brokering a peace deal in Ukraine? In this context, the following need to be taken into consideration:

    • This is not a war between Ukraine with Russia but a US-led NATO war against Russia.
    • Russia and China are anathema to the US. The US is behind the fighting in Sudan to stop the establishment of a Russian naval base on the Red Sea as agreed to by Sudan.
    • The above mentioned deliberations by the US House of Representatives gives clear indication that Ukraine would be admitted to NATO. The article by the Ukrainian foreign minister indicates that Ukraine is desperate to join the alliance. All this will increase tensions with Russia.
    • Peace in Ukraine implies reduction in the bonanza of billions of dollars being earned by the US arms and oil industry. The Joe Biden Administration cannot afford that with presidential elections next year.
    • The US is already shocked with the Saudi Arabia-Iran handshake engineered by China. It would be dead against China earning a second feather in its cap by bringing peace to Ukraine.

Why Zelensky has been so keen to engage with Xi is not difficult to understand. The US continues to do anything and everything possible to ‘distract’ Xi away from Taiwan and Zelensky is a willing facilitator. Zelensky benefits in the eyes of his vote-bank by sending an ambassador to Beijing and in turn get a special envoy or ambassador from China. Beyond this, the chances of China brokering a ceasefire in Ukraine are negligible unless the West stops arming Ukraine. At the same time, for the US to think that Xi does not understand these mind games would be the height of stupidity.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Lt Gen Prakash Katoch

is Former Director General of Information Systems and A Special Forces Veteran, Indian Army.

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