Diplomacy Watch: Is AMLO’s peace plan really that ridiculous?
It should come as no surprise that Russia’s war in Ukraine dominated conversation at the United Nations General Assembly this past week. Unfortunately, peace was not a central theme.
Despite repeated pronouncements about the need to end the war, few leaders proposed a way to actually make that happen. And those who did propose paths toward peace were largely laughed out of the room.
Take Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who recently proposed that “a commission for dialogue and peace be formed” that would seek an “immediate cessation of hostilities” in Ukraine. Mexico’s foreign minister shared more about the plan on Thursday, noting in a speech that Mexican officials have already begun outreach to the warring parties as well as potential mediators.
Shortly after the plan was announced, a top Ukrainian official slammed it as pro-Russian and accused the Mexican leader of trying to give Russian President Vladimir Putin a chance to “renew reserves before the next offensive.” Other world leaders have so far avoided weighing in publicly on the proposal.
It can be easy to shrug off AMLO’s plan given Mexico’s limited influence over the conflict. Moreover, the Mexican president’s unwillingness to condemn Putin has made him somewhat of a pariah among Ukraine’s supporters, and it’s hard to push a peace plan when one side has already rejected it outright.
But the proposal’s details are not as ridiculous as the icy response would imply. Among other things, the Mexican plan calls for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Pope Francis, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to lead the peace commission. While it may be hard to picture these three standing on a stage together, each leader does bring certain advantages to the table.
Few diplomats have done more to get Ukraine and Russia talking than Guterres. He played a major role in forging the July grain deal, helped negotiate the safe passage of civilians from the Azovstal plant in Mariupol, and managed to get a team from the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency into the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant. And Pope Francis has stayed fairly neutral in the war so far, consistently calling for a negotiated settlement while using the Catholic Church’s considerable resources to deliver humanitarian relief to affected areas.
For his part, Modi has maintained a neutral approach to the conflict, keeping close ties with the United States and the broader West while participating in military exercises with Russia. It also doesn’t hurt that he leads a massive country in the Global South, which has suffered greatly from the conflict’s repercussions. (Other leaders from the developing world joined the call for negotiations this week, including Senegalese President and African Union head Macky Sall.)
When peace finally arrives in Ukraine, it is likely that one or more of these leaders will have had a hand in making it happen.
Another point that AMLO gets right is the urgency of reaching a peace deal. In response to Ukrainian battlefield gains, Putin has made moves to significantly escalate the war, calling up 300,000 Russian reservists and endorsing planned referendums that could be a prelude to Moscow’s annexation of large swathes of Ukrainian territory.
As Anatol Lieven of the Quincy Institute recently argued, this escalation could create an open-ended conflict. If Russia annexes parts of Ukraine, Lieven contends that the “very best that we could then hope for would be a situation like that of Kashmir over the past 75 years: unstable ceasefires punctuated by armed clashes, terrorist attacks, and occasional full-scale war.”
And that’s the best case, at least by Lieven’s lights. The worst case is full-scale nuclear war, made more likely by Putin’s recent threat to use “all available means” if Russia’s “territorial integrity” is threatened. (Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev later clarified that Russia would consider using nukes if Ukraine tries to take back some regions that Moscow has taken in the war.)
Of course, there’s little chance that AMLO’s plan will actually bring an end to the brutal conflict. Setting aside the Mexican leader’s credibility issues, only Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelensky can really decide how all of this ends.
However, neither leader seems likely to push for a settlement all that soon. It’s up to the rest of the world to nudge them in that direction. AMLO is probably not the best person to do this, but others — including the United States and China — would have a much better chance at success.
In other diplomatic news related to the war in Ukraine:
— Ukraine and Russia exchanged several hundred prisoners of war Wednesday, including some from the United States and the UK, according to Al Jazeera. Saudi Arabia and Turkey sponsored the secret talks that led to the swap.
— On Wednesday, Zelensky laid out a broad “peace formula” for the war that would focus on punishing Russia for its illegal aggression and emphasizes the value of self-determination, according to UN News. Among other things, the Ukrainian leader called for a special tribunal to prosecute Russian crimes and rejected the idea that Ukraine would become a neutral state. The statements come about a week after Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Olga Stefanishyna disclosed that Russian officials have attempted to reach out for talks but said Ukraine is not ready to negotiate until the “massive deoccupation of our territory,” according to France 24.
— President Joe Biden condemned Putin’s war in Ukraine during his Wednesday speech at the UN General Assembly, according to NPR. “If nations can pursue their imperial ambitions without consequences then we put at risk everything this very institution stands for,” Biden said. He also criticized Russia’s extensive use of its veto power to shut down resolutions on Ukraine and called for Security Council reform.
— On Tuesday, British Prime Minister Liz Truss said Putin must pull troops back from Ukraine and give “proper recompense” to Kyiv if he wants to revive diplomatic ties with the UK, according to the Guardian.
— Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani called on Ukraine and Russia to reach a ceasefire in spite of the “complexities of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict and its international dimension,” according to Al Jazeera. “This is how the matter would eventually end anyway, no matter how long the war lasts,” Tamim said. “Its continuation would not change this result, but would rather increase the number of victims, and double its severe consequences for Europe, Russia and the global economy in general.”
— China also called for a ceasefire in Ukraine Wednesday following Putin’s announcement that he would mobilize significant numbers of Russian reservists, according to the Wall Street Journal. “We call on the parties concerned to achieve a cease-fire and an end to the war through dialogue and negotiation, and find a way to take into account the legitimate security concerns of all parties as soon as possible,” a foreign ministry spokesperson said.
U.S. State Department News:
The State Department did not hold a press briefing this week.