An Honorable Way Out

How to help Russia not to invade Ukraine
How to help NATO prevent a futile confrontation with Russia, and
How to help Ukraine preserve its nascent democracy along with its territorial integrity

Putin holds a video call with U.S. President Joe Biden on 7 December 2021.

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One essential rule of diplomacy is to understand the motives of your adversaries. Another important rule is to always open a door for the adversary, to take an honorable exit, if you want to avoid an open conflict; because if you keep pushing his back to the wall, he might as well explode and risk everything to avoid insult and injury. The third rule is that sometimes you have to speak to your adversaries with a language that they understand – i.e. the same language they use.

The current escalation in Eastern Europe is a perfect case to apply these rules. The West has to understand Russia’s motives behind the deployment of massive troops along the border with Ukraine. According to Russia’s official statements they do not want war. They want assurances that NATO would not expand to the East. They want NATO to lighten its military presence in its Eastern European members. These declared objectives reflect a double sided insecurity. First, Russia probably fears that the expansion of NATO around its border might lead to some “spring” or “colored” revolution in Russia similar to what happened in Eastern Europe in the 1980s/90s, or in Ukraine in 2014. This by the way explains the heavy handed support Russia provided to the government of Belarus recently. Second, and more important, the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, wants to secure his reelection with no serious challenges for as long as he wants. He does not want the West to encourage or support liberal opposition to his government. To further stay in power with minimal problems Putin needs a stable economy with at least a stable flow of cash from oil and gas exports.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg

NATO is not looking for war as well – otherwise they would have speeded up Ukraine’s application for membership. They also do not want Russia to expand westward. They do not want Russia to militarily threaten NATO members in Europe. They of course want to preserve their political and military advantage there. They want to preserve their credibility and prevent a repetition of the Russian 2014 invasion/annexation of Crimea. European members of NATO want to have a stable and reliable energy supply from Russia. The U.S., and more specifically the Biden administration, does not want to look weak in an election year where the composition of the Congress is expected to be reshaped.

Ukraine does not want war either. It wants to protect its independence and territorial integrity. They want as well to preserve the fragile democracy that was born out of the 2014 revolution. They definitely do not want to go back to a regime similar to the one that preceded the revolution. They do not want to return to a state of dependency on Russia.

The US President Joe Biden.

Can all these apparently contradicting motives be reconciled? My answer is yes and no. Some can, but some others can not. Fortunately enough, the leading motive for the three parties is identical. No one wants war.

The military build up and the saber rattling are aimed at achieving political results more than military ones. On the other hand, NATO can not accept to limit its options about who would or would not join in the future. Yet they can slow down their alleged expansion eastward. They can provide security assurances and verification measures to Russia and the world, to make sure that the military presence in the Eastern European members of NATO does not constitute an imminent threat to Russia. The US and Western Europe can not officially forego the promotion of democracy and human rights in Russia and across the world. Yet they can pursue these important values in different ways: they have always maintained more than friendly relations with undemocratic regimes across the globe – economic and military assistance all included – while applying political pressure to promote democracy and human rights.

Russia can easily redeploy or withdraw its own troops from the Ukraine Russia border. But it can not do this without achieving any goals. It can not stop supporting the Russian speaking minority in Ukraine. But it does not have to exclusively support it militarily and incite separation from Ukraine. They have to understand that Ukraine is an independent country now and that the clock can not be turned back.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky signing the UK-Ukraine Political, Free Trade and Strategic Partnership, in Londom on October 8, 2020.

Ukraine has to assess wether its membership application to NATO helps to protect its territorial integrity and independence and preserve its nascent democracy, or that it rather helps provoking Russia in dangerous ways. They have to understand as well that NATO is not ready to accept Ukraine membership for now, because NATO is not wiling to go to war against Russia for Ukraine.

French President Emmanuel Macron hosts the meeting between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Paris, France, December 9, 2019.

Now that the U.S. and the West have used a language similar to the one used by Russia, and taken escalation measures that match what they consider the initial escalation by Russia, including deploying troops in Eastern Europe and exploring/securing alternative sources of energy supply to Western Europe; it is time for all parties to take real steps towards de- escalation.

Federal Chancellor Scholz with US Secretary of State Blinken. photo: Federal Government/Bergmann

The current crisis started around Ukraine. The one party that stands to lose more from a potential military confrontation is Ukraine. The solution might start there as well. Ukraine may consider to take the initiative and freeze its application to join NATO. In this case NATO would avoid the embarrassment of having to commit not to admit Ukraine, and Russia’s initial demand would be met. Ukraine should also consider reaching reasonable security arrangements with Russia in exchange for real verifiable security guarantees by Russia to respect the independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine. We have to remember that Russia invaded Crimea when Russia felt it will lose important strategic advantages in Ukraine after the toppling of a regime that was dependent on Russia in 2014. The government of Ukraine may also consider providing incentives for its Ukrainian Russian minority to stop asking for secession/annexation to Russia. This should definitely include respecting their cultural ties to Russia including the use of the Russian language, and may be some autonomy measures for these areas in exchange for a firm commitment on their part to stop subversive activities and respect the territorial integrity of the country. NATO and Russia should consider negotiating mutual security arrangements that rely more on advanced verification technologies instead of troop deployments on both sides.

I know that all this is easier said than done. But at the end, carving an honorable way out for everyone is always worth the try.

H.E. Mootaz Ahmadein Khalil
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The America Times was re-born on September 11, 2021, with the goal to better inform our leaders and policymakers of nuances, beyond conventional wisdom, to successfully address present day “Gordion Knots,” sometimes as Alexander the Great did by cutting it and other times by tediously unraveling it. During January 2022, diplomacy is at a fever pitch in Washington D.C., Moscow, Kyiv, Vienna, Geneva and Brussels, as a 100,000 Russian troops are keeping Ukraine’s borders “warm” in the Russian Winter. And, starting January 1st, five days before our one-year anniversary of our January 6th, Kazakhstan experienced peaceful protects, taken over by organized violent, radical, terrorist insurrection, and President Tokayev sought CSTO Peacekeepers to come and leave, restored law & order, and is now causing major reforms to secular democratic Kazakhstan. Given the CSTO success in Kazakhstan, we can hope - updating James A. Baker's Dec 5, 1993 Op-Ed in LA Times - that NATO & CSTO can merge to achieve President Biden’s goal of a united, free and stable Europe.

We are honored and privileged to have H. E. Mootaz Ahmadein Khalil – a geopolitical and diplomatic star of Egypt, including, having served as Permanent Representative to the United Nations from 2012 to 2014, when both Ambassador Susan Rice and Samantha Power represented the United States, his intimate knowledge of Climate Crisis and critical need for SDGs as a security threat – join the Honorary Board of Advisors & Columnists of The America Times in recognition of his excellence and record of contributions. Ambassador Mootaz Ahmadein Khalil’s life experiences and diplomatic helps him to better decipher the unshared motives of geopolitical leaders and unspoken goals of geopolitical events, which he will share from time to time on our pages. This will serve to form a more perfect nation, and world, and thereby enhance both regional and global peace and security.

Benjamin Franklin famously said in 1787: “It’s a republic madam, if you can keep it.” Ambassador Mootaz Ahmadein Khalil’s contributions in The America Times will help us keep our Republic. Please enjoy his accomplishments, along with a few pictures – with SG Ban Ki- moon and in UNSC with Palestine’s P.R. Riyad Mansour.

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H.E. Mootaz Ahmadein Khalil

He was the Permanent Representative of Egypt to the United Nations in New York from June 2012 to September 2014. During this time he chaired the Coordinating Bureau of the Non Aligned Movement at the Non Aligned Summit in Teheran in August 2012. He also chaired the Working Group on the Reform of the General Assembly at the 67th session.

Mr. Khalil held different positions at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Cairo including Acting Assistant Foreign Minister for Multilateral Economic Affairs and International Cooperation, Deputy Chief of Cabinet of the Foreign Minister, Deputy Assistant Foreign Minister for the Strategic and Security Organizations, Deputy Assistant Foreign Minister for Environment and Sustainable Development, Director of Environment and Sustainable Development Affairs, and Acting Director of UN Affairs.

He was the senior Egyptian negotiator at the Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen in 2009, Rio + 10 in Johannesburg in 2002, Rio + 20 in Rio de Janeiro in 2012, the Sustainable Developments Goals in New York, and the Group of 77 summit in Santa Cruz, Bolivia in 2014.

He served as the Deputy Chief of Mission and Deputy Permanent Representative to the IAEA  and other International Organizations in Vienna, Austria. He served as well in the embassy of Egypt in Rabat, Morocco.

He obtained his Masters Degree on the Politics of the Middle East from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London in 1988. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science from the Faculty of Economics and Political Science at Cairo University.»

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