Diplomacy Watch: Could Lula be a force for peace in Ukraine?
Left-wing firebrand Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is ready to help with peace talks if he defeats President Jair Bolsonaro in Brazilian elections later this month, according to one of the former president’s top aides.
Celso Amorim, who serves as Lula’s main foreign policy advisor, told Reuters that his boss has the background and skills “to take part in a negotiating effort.” Amorim also noted that Brazil has a voice that “resonates in the developing world” and said that BRICS — a multinational forum made up of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa — could play a role in talks.
Lula helped found BRICS, whose members account for over 40 percent of the world’s population, during his previous tenure as president, and his commitment to non-alignment could make him a credible mediator.
But, as Amorim himself noted, the Brazilian leader can only exert limited influence over the conflict as long as other international power players continue to balk at calls for negotiations. For any efforts to succeed, they must “be led by the European Union and United States, but with the participation of China,” Amorim argued.
Unfortunately, contacts between the West and Russia have reached a nadir, according to Financial Times foreign policy columnist Gideon Rachman. “Although some might assume there is more secret diplomacy going on than meets the eye, those who should know suggest there are few channels open with the Kremlin,” Rachman wrote in a recent column.
Rachman argues that this is a serious mistake. As he notes, diplomacy need not come at the expense of strong military support for Ukraine. Rather, the two should go hand in hand as part of a broader strategy to end the war and roll back Russia’s gains.
“Some western military leaders are frustrated that their efforts in Ukraine are not being supported by simultaneous diplomacy. As one senior military source puts it: ‘Military action is ineffective on its own. It’s only truly effective when it’s combined with economic and diplomatic efforts. And we’re not seeing enough diplomacy.’”
And the dangers go far beyond extending the war. Without these conversations, the risk of miscalculation — and, by extension, nuclear escalation — rises. But, as Ishaan Tharoor wrote in the Washington Post, European leaders are privately saying that “their visibility into the Kremlin’s thinking is more limited now than it has ever been.”
“Putin may be bunkered and warmongering in isolation, but the sense of uncertainty and danger surrounding the war is only deepening,” Tharoor wrote.
In other diplomatic news related to the war in Ukraine:
— Russia continued to bombard cities and infrastructure across Ukraine, forcing Kyiv to restrict electricity supplies across the country, according to Reuters. As the wider Russian assault drags on, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky tweeted that there is “[n]o space left for negotiations with [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s regime.”
— A Kremlin spokesperson said Tuesday that Russia would consider the use of nuclear weapons to protect areas of eastern Ukraine that Moscow attempted to annex last month, according to Reuters. “All these territories are inalienable parts of the Russian Federation, and they are all protected,” the spokesperson said.
— As the midterms draw near, Biden and his allies have become increasingly concerned that a Republican-led Congress could block future efforts to send large amounts of aid to Ukraine, according to Politico. Though many Republicans support the aid, some prominent GOP leaders — including Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy — have suggested that the U.S. should cut back on support for Kyiv’s war effort. Meanwhile, Axios reported that Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), who chairs the right-wing House Freedom Caucus, wants to investigate Biden’s approach to diplomacy in Ukraine, with a focus on whether his conversations with Zelensky ever “included the proposition of an end to Russian occupation in exchange for Ukraine not joining NATO.”
— Former Italian President Silvio Berlusconi, who will play a central part in Italy’s incoming government, blamed Ukraine for Russia’s invasion and said he was still in contact with Putin in remarks that leaked on Wednesday, according to the New York Times. The comments have reignited fears that Rome’s new, far-right leadership will break with its EU allies on the war in Ukraine, potentially undermining the West’s united front against Moscow. Giorgia Meloni, who is set to lead Italy’s next government, tried to assuage those concerns by saying that Rome “will never be the weak link in the West” and that “anyone who does not agree with this cornerstone cannot be part of the government.”
— Israel rejected a Ukrainian request for missile defense systems to protect from Russia’s ongoing attacks on cities, according to The Hill. Tel Aviv has so far avoided going all-in on supporting Kyiv because of its sensitive relationship with Moscow, but pressure has mounted for Israel to send weapons following reports that the Kremlin is using Iranian drones in its attacks. In an apparent attempt to split the difference, Israel is now considering giving Ukraine access to non-weaponized “early-warning systems” to help detect incoming attacks, according to the Times of Israel.
U.S. State Department News:In a Wednesday press conference, State Department spokesperson Vidant Patel condemned Russia’s announcement that it will impose martial laws in areas of eastern Ukraine that it claims to have annexed. “No matter what the Kremlin says or does, no matter what they try to enact via decree, via paper or otherwise, Crimea, Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk, and Zaporizhzhia are Ukrainian sovereign territory,” Patel said. “Any claim that Russia makes over these territories is illegitimate.”