After toeing the line with Washington, which insisted on more sanctions against Russia and more arms for Ukraine, some countries have begun to question the wisdom of such policies. Here and there, voices in Europe have begun to call for a halt to the military escalation and attempts to promote a diplomatic solution, pointing out that Ukraine is no closer to victory and Russia no closer to defeat. The most outspoken on this so far is Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. His remarks are all the more significant given that Hungary is a NATO member.
In a speech in Romania last week, he urged a new strategy for the Russian-Ukrainian conflict based on peace talks and drafting a good peace proposal instead of winning the war. He said that the current Western strategy on Ukraine has been built on four mistaken assumptions: that Ukraine would win against Russia using NATO weapons, that sanctions would weaken Russia and destabilise its leadership, that sanctions would hurt Russia more than Europe, and that the world would side with Europe’s position. This strategy has failed, he said. Western power was waning and a new multipolar order was emerging. Meanwhile, European governments were collapsing “like dominoes” due to the fallout from this war. Summing up the failure, he said: “We are sitting in a car that has a puncture in all four tyres.”
The alternative strategy he proposed was for Europe to act as an impartial intermediary between Ukraine and Russia in the interest of promoting a peace settlement. He warned that giving Ukraine more arms would endlessly protract the war which was essentially triggered by ignoring Russia’s security needs. “As Russia wants security guarantees, this war can be ended only with peace talks between Russia and America,” he said.
Orban’s reasoning is consistent with analyses and proposals by figures such as Henry Kissinger and Emmanuel Macron. Maybe peace in Europe will stand a chance if others rally to this new trend, departing from America’s hardline position.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 4 August, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.