JEFFREY SACHS

US should negotiate end of Ukraine war now

US should negotiate end of Ukraine war now

Jeffrey Sachs is urging the United States to negotiate with Russia and find a decisive resolution to the war in Ukraine.

The eminent Columbia University professor of economics heads the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network Leadership Council (SDSN). All members of the SDSN who actively work for the promotion of UN Sustainable Development Goals signed a letter urging all UN member-states to seek to negotiate for peace in Ukraine.

It is suggested that President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s proposal for his country to abandon NATO membership in exchange for Russian troops leaving the country should be accepted. However, President Vladimir Putin has not accepted this offer because he obviously aims to keep Eastern Ukraine’s Donbas area and Crimea under Russian control. That’s why Russia is intensifying its attacks. Many doubt whether Moscow would ever change course. Sachs thinks otherwise.

“Russia’s main objective is to forestall Ukraine falling into the US alliance. The US, on the other hand, seems intent on ‘winning’ Ukraine and ‘defeating’ Putin. The US has refused to negotiate over Ukraine’s NATO membership. Zelenskyy put neutrality on the table, but the US was silent, and indeed publicly disparaged the negotiating process. It is time for the major parties to engage in negotiations,” Sachs says. “Russia and Ukraine must agree on a negotiated settlement based on Ukrainian neutrality and territorial integrity secured by international agreement. Diplomacy under the UN Charter is the only path forward.”

Do you think Moscow would again reject such a proposed peace deal and instead double down by threatening nuclear escalation? Do you trust Russian democracy and the Russian leader?

The way to negotiate is to negotiate, rather than merely guessing what the other side will do at the negotiating table. If negotiations are impossible, we will find out. That would of course be tragic. But the failure of the US to try to negotiate is a terrible mistake, and is an awful misuse of Ukraine for US foreign policy gains (to weaken Russia).

‘Great powers should show prudence. Unfortunately, prudence is in short supply these days’

Despite the talk of China observing the war with unease, the pre-war Xi-Putin statement that their collaboration “sees no limits” remains intact. Do you rule out that China would also challenge the West and make bold moves against Taiwan? Ηas fierce nationalism again become a more potent force in big power competition than rationality and economic interests?

If the US were to invite Taiwan into NATO, of course China would invade. My point is that China’s actions depend on the actions of the US and Taiwan. If the US shows prudence and clearly supports the One China policy, and if Taiwan doesn’t try to secede, then war is absolutely avoidable, as it is in nobody’s interests. If the US overplays its hand – as it did in Ukraine – or if Taiwanese politicians were to declare unilateral independence, then all bets would be off. Great powers should show prudence. Unfortunately, prudence is in short supply these days.

If the war continues, are we in danger of global recession, austerity and rising public debts? Could we see the widening of the already gaping inequalities fueling the flames of unrest and nationalism in many countries? Printed money carried us through the Covid crisis. Can we try this trick again in times of climbing debts, flattened growth and 30-year-high inflation?

We have a massive financial overhang from the Covid pandemic: a huge rise of debt and liquidity. Supply chains are also deeply disrupted. The US is also engaging in an ongoing technology war with China. All of this is destabilizing. Now comes the war and the US sanctions regime, pushing up food, energy and other prices. This is already causing massive disruption in many countries, and that disruption will be worse if the war continues. A global hard landing becomes more and more likely.

Democracy is in serious crisis in the US as well. It is highly likely that reactionary, isolationist, anti-China, anti-liberal, conspiratorial and racist forces aligned with former president Donald Trump will win the day in the midterm elections. Congress might come back under the control of the Republicans. If that happens, would it be another factor that would exacerbate the forces of discord and conflict?

Yes, the US remains unstable and deeply divided. The continuing US instability is one reason why the world as a whole is very unsafe. We need urgently to reduce the number of crises, mainly by stopping the war, ending the sanctions regime, and restoring global collaboration on common problems, including climate change, the pandemic, financial stability, and helping the poorer nations to meet their needs. The US needs to cooperate with China, not fight it for dominance. We should move to multipolarity, with the US no longer aiming for global primacy.

With all the gathering dark clouds, how can the world be coordinated to achieve net zero by 2030?

If we redirected our impulses from war to problem solving, we’d actually make headway. If we redirected war expenditures towards renewable energy, we’d speed decarbonization. Instead of spending hundreds of billions of dollars to rebuild Ukraine, we should end the war now and spend the hundreds of billions of dollars on climate safety.

‘Threat to world survival’

On April 20, members of the Leadership Council of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) sent a statement to UN member-states and leaders of the United Nations calling for a resolution by the General Assembly and an emergency meeting of the Security Council to negotiate an end to the war in Ukraine through diplomatic means.

Members of the Leadership Council said in their statement, “We call on all nations of the UN General Assembly, unanimously and without exception, to adopt a resolution calling for an urgent negotiated peace that meets the needs and security of Ukraine, Russia, and all other nations.”

It was also added that the war in Ukraine threatens the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement. In addition, the conflict is causing profound suffering in Ukraine and threatens worldwide survival by an escalation to nuclear catastrophe.