(Bloomberg) -- Any peace initiative imposed on Ukraine without Kyiv’s acceptance would backfire for the West by failing to draw a line under “Russian imperialism,” the Czech Republic’s top envoy said.
As Ukraine’s grinding counteroffensive makes halting progress and winter approaches, Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky urged Ukraine’s allies to maintain their resolve even if Kyiv doesn’t make a quick breakthrough. The “real enemy” is Russia’s expansionary ambitions, he said.
“If Ukraine is forced into a solution it doesn’t accept, the West will lose it — and we’ll have a nation of 40 million at our borders feeling betrayed,” Lipavsky said in an interview in Prague. “We don’t want to just defer the war. We want to end Russia’s ability to expand in eastern Europe by force.”
The US and its allies have repeatedly said that any political resolution to the 18-month war would have to have Ukraine’s consent. A 10-point peace formula for which Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy is seeking support in the Global South includes the full withdrawal of Russian troops as the main condition, a demand the Kremlin has dismissed. Zelenskiy has ruled out talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In the meantime, a counteroffensive that’s stretched for more than three months has been slowed by Russian forces dug in along a vast frontline. Despite reports of a breakthrough, notably in Ukraine’s southeast, the prospect of a prolonged conflict has worried Ukraine’s allies, raising the potential of political difficulties in sustaining aid and worries that some allies may be tempted to nudge Kyiv into negotiations.
Lipavsky insisted that support among NATO and European Union allies is stronger than ever. The Czech Republic has been one of the staunchest backers of Kyiv, supplying it with tanks, ammunition and other military equipment, as well as having sheltered more than 500,000 Ukrainian fleeing the war — the No. 3 destination for refugees in the EU after Poland and Germany.
The Czech diplomat said Zelenskiy’s formula has “managed to survive” an initial stage, with China, Saudi Arabia, Brazil and South Africa now willing to take part in the debate, which excludes Russia.
“I’m not saying that they are leaning toward our positions, but at least we are engaging in a dialogue,” he said.
Lipavsky insisted that some nations that were hesitant in early stages are now moving closer to the position of the West. Many, for “pragmatic reasons,” don’t want to be aligned with an increasingly isolated Russia. Others are becoming antagonized by Moscow’s aggression in the Black Sea and cutting off an agreement that guaranteed grain shipments, he said.
The Czech diplomat is also looking at the upcoming United Nations General Assembly as an opportunity for the nations worldwide to demonstrate their commitment to democratic principles.
“At the time of the largest military conflict on the European continent since the end of the World War II, for the Czech Republic, for Europe and for the entire western world it will be a crucial display of the level of support for ideas of multilateralism and international law,” Lipavsky said.
(Updates with comments about UNGA in 11th paragraph. A previous version of this story corrected the wording on expansionary ambitions in third paragraph.)
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