This page contains a blog about the Negotiation of Political Order, i.e. the negotiation through a Track 2 mediated process, of constitutional principles and an institutional framework for political survival and independent co-existence of the ‘stakeholders’ in a geo-political conflict, with the ambition of jointly developing a road-map for peace (i.e. a ‘Peace Process’), which results in the agreement and practical implementation of a coherent, comprehensive and sustainable ‘political’ solution to the underlying ‘root’ and ‘dynamic’ causes of the conflict (i.e. a ‘Peace Treaty’), thereby ensuring peace underwritten by security guarantees and International Law.
List of Blogs
Scroll down to find the full text of each blog listed below.
– ‘The “5 Points” in the Mediation of a Peace Process.’
– ’12th Principle of Negotiating Political Order’ – Common interest in entering into mediation early.
– ’11th Principle of Negotiating Political Order’ – See the world as it is and not as you want it to be.
– ‘The Power Paradox in Mediation.’
– ‘Universal principles of International Humanitarian Law (‘IHL’) as a Mediator tool in agreeing common ground in mediating how a new political order could be constructed to end a conflict?’
– ‘Black Swans – Looking out for the unknown unknowns in mediation.’
– ‘Empedocles’ Sphere.’
– ‘Coalitions of the weak.’
– ‘Analysing the causes of armed conflict.’
– ’10th Principle of Negotiating Political Order ‘– Share a vision of co-existence.’ Explore and find common ground by engaging in a mediated diplomatic conversation about the existence and relevance of Fiduciary principles of international relations which transcend regional balance of power politics, e.g. rules and norms of International Humanitarian Law.
– ‘9th Principle of Negotiating Political Order – Calculate the political price of doing a deal.’
– ‘Time to mediate?’
– ‘8th Principle of Negotiating Political Order – Analyse the underlying dynamics.’
– ‘7th Principle of Negotiating Political Order – Legitimacy.’
– ‘6th Principle of Negotiating Political Order – Analyse the existence of pillars to support a political and strategic framework for managing the relationship between the states who are in direct conflict with each other.’
– ‘5th Principle of Negotiating Political Order – Do not make things worse.’
– ‘4th Principle of Negotiating Political Order – Realism.’
– ‘3nd Principle of Negotiating Political Order – Exploratory talks to discover elements of a bespoke process.’
– ‘2nd Principle of Negotiating Political Order – Choice of Mediator.’
– ‘1st Principle of Negotiating Political Order – Diplomats must have room to manoeuvre.’
– ‘Engineering convergence through Mediation – Can we put the Genie back into the bottle?’
– ‘Ukraine – Who can Mediate?’
‘The “5 Points” in the Mediation of a Peace Process’
5 points make up the tips of a star, and 5 points make up the vertices of the inner pentagon i.e. the ‘Hub’.
The ‘5 Points’ in the mediation of a peace process are:
· ‘Dynamic Drivers’ – i.e. each participant’s [‘P’s] wants, needs, priorities & reasons.
· ‘Political risk’ – political costs incurred/could be incurred in going to war.
· ‘The political price of doing a deal that is enough’ i.e. the Deal-Making risk/benefit calculus.
· ‘Acknowledgement of common ground.’
· ‘Exploration of the hub to discover hidden common ground in order to close the gap & do a deal.’
The diplomatic settlement of a political dispute invariably involves a trade-off between ten inter-connected variables along a spectrum of needs, resources, priorities, and ‘Red-line’ dealmaker/breaker imperatives, i.e. each P’s BATNA.
The political Deal Making Zone (‘DMZ’) exists in the space between two interacting parallel dynamics which may converge in the consciousness of each P:
– Relative Gains v. Relative Losses [‘P.1 – P.2’].
– Common Ground [‘CG’].
Relative Gains v. Relative Losses:
Common ground in eliminating litigation risk by doing a deal instead of proceeding to trial includes:
(v) Sovereignty/equal rights.
(vi) Law & order.
(vii) Rule of law – Human rights, justice & accountability.
(viii) Reconciliation/Integration/Peaceful co-existence.
(ix) Institutional stability, creation & maintenance of conditions for investment & development so that society can flourish and prosper.
(x) Safeguards, guarantees, & membership of international security & economic networks on a level playing field so that each P can survive in an inter-dependent world & peace can take root, grow and spread.
The author posits that the gap between P1. and P.2 is reduced by the convergence of CG with P.1 – P.2. In other words, the closer P.1 – P.2 is to the underlying CG, the smaller the gap is between P.1 and P.2. That is the DMZ. Visually this can be represented as follows:
In Mediation the possibilities are only limited by the imagination of the participants and their legal representatives. Whilst not infinite, ‘doable’ deals that ‘are enough’ are invariably possible.
’12th Principle of Negotiating Political Order’ – Common interest in entering into mediation early
In order to prevent a fire from spreading you must put it out. Parties – those who started the fire and those who are victims, are stakeholders. However, not all stakeholders are parties. A party and their proxy, may have started a fire with the intention that it spreads. That risk expands the class of Stakeholders to all affected if the fire does spread, i.e. if a ‘NIAC’ (non-international armed conflict) becomes an ‘IAC’ (international armed conflict). Therefore from the outset in a NIAC, wider interests are in play other than those of the parties and the proxies themselves, because the NIAC could trigger a regional conflict, and even political insurgencies elsewhere around the globe, which harm the interests of those wider stakeholders e.g. at critical economic and geopolitically strategic ‘choke-points’ such as the Straights of Hormuz. It is therefore in the interest of wider stakeholders to contain the fire so that it can be extinguished before it spreads. A Westphalian peace treaty can then emerge before all that is left are ashes. Common ground exists where interests converge. You cannot militarily kill an idea, but you can outflank and undermine it by creating conditions on the ground which marginalise it to the point of irrelevance. That involves: political reform; creation and protection of human rights; education; and the establishment of a healthy and prosperous society. Wealth creation depends upon investment, which requires political stability. The pillars of political stability in any society are its ‘institutions’. If those institutions are consumed by the flames, while new institutions can be created they will fail if parachuted in. Iraq is a prime example. Sustainable, resilient, and enduring political institutions have to take root and grow in the soil of their local environment. Stakeholders who are not parties can act as gardeners. If there is consensus between these stakeholders about what weeds need to be dug out, then that will have some legitimacy. If however, a party takes the law into their own hands, and breaches International Humanitarian Law on a historically unprecedented scale in modern times, then that should result in a War Crimes Tribunal. If stakeholders are seen to have stood by and allowed this to happen, they will appear to be complicit. If those stakeholders are liberal democracies, the consequences of passive or active acquiescence in such a war crime will undermine the rule of law. Geopolitically, in a multi-polar and politically bifurcated world, this will result in those state actors not only becoming even more deeply entrenched on one side of a regional conflict with no foreseeable exit strategy other than to leave, it will also weaken their diplomatic influence in the region, because their regional partners today will tomorrow, be looking elsewhere for political and military backing to protect their own backs. That is why in order to put the fire out, it is better to enter into mediation sooner rather than later, because stakeholders will be negotiating from weakness and not strength, if they allow the fire to burn and spread – possibly out of control.
’11th Principle of Negotiating Political Order ‘ – See the world as it is and not as you want it to be
Before a mediator can empathise with each participant in a mediation he/she must first know and understand each participant’s history.
‘Appreciate their point of view. Understand it. It is very important to appreciate the way they see it. Even if you don’t agree, say that it merits serious consideration. Don’t say that they are wrong. Appreciate their self-esteem. Acknowledge that the other person has been heard. Be prepared to argue their case better than they can before you answer it.’
The late Professor Roger Fisher in a two-hour conversation with the author at Harvard Law School during a research visit as a Scholar from King’s College London to Harvard University in April 2002.
‘The Power Paradox in Mediation’
The ‘Power Paradox’ is that the harder P.1 makes it for P.2 to say ‘no’, the harder P.1 makes it for P.2 to say ‘yes’.
‘The key mistake we make when we feel frustrated is to abandon the problem-solving game and turn to the power game instead. Overcoming the power paradox means making it easier for the other side to say yes at the same time that you make it harder for them to say no. Making it easy to say yes requires problem-solving negotiation; making it hard to say no requires exercising power. You don’t need to choose between the two. You can do both. Treat the exercise of power as an integral part of the problem-solving negotiation. Use power to bring the other side to the table. Instead of seeking victory, aim for mutual satisfaction. Use power to bring them to their senses, not to their knees. If the other side refuses to come to terms despite all your efforts, it is usually because they believe they can win. They believe that their best alternative to negotiation—their BATNA—is superior to your golden bridge. You need to convince them that they are wrong. Use your power to educate the other side that the only way for them to win is for both of you to win together. Assume the mind-set of a respectful counsellor. Act as if they have simply miscalculated how best to achieve their interests. Focus their attention on their interest in avoiding the negative consequences of no agreement. Don’t try to impose your terms on them. Seek instead to shape their choice so that they make a decision that is in their interest and yours. Using power to educate the other side works in tandem with building them a golden bridge. The first underscores the costs of no agreement, while the second highlights the benefits of agreement. The other side faces a choice between accepting the consequences of no agreement and crossing the bridge. Your job is to keep sharpening that choice until they recognize that the best way to satisfy their interests is to cross the bridge.’ William Ury | Getting Past No – Use Power to Educate
‘Universal principles of International Humanitarian Law (‘IHL’) as a Mediator tool in agreeing common ground in mediating how a new political order could be constructed to end a conflict?’
In my previous blog, ‘Structuring as a tool of mediating peace?’ (below), I argued that an instrument/tool for creating political order out of anarchy is ‘institution building’, and observed, ‘If a proxy war requires a proxy solution, then a challenge for mediators in a contemporary ‘Westphalian’ process, is to facilitate the design/structuring/engineering of a new political order that results in a sustainable peace, which is secured/guaranteed by the key stakeholders with the participation and consent of their proxies’. In other words, in their toolkit mediators need the ability to facilitate structural thinking about institution building – which like any form of structuring, requires imagination’. In my draft article – ‘Transforming Conflict Through Humanitarian Mediation & Cultural Heritage Diplomacy’ (below), I wrote, ‘Whether IHL can bring warring P‘s together in an ‘offensive realism’ paradigm depends upon the answer to the following questions:
– Do ‘universal ethical values’ exist under IHL, i.e. as ‘core fiduciary principles and norms’ [‘UV-IHL’].
– What are these values.
– In the real world, are UV-IHL’s potential building blocks, in the Mediation of a peace process, protocol, and agreement – i.e. are they a sufficient basis for starting a ‘difficult’ conversation that can eventually transform attitudes and each participant’s Political Doctrine [‘PD’], resulting in the negotiation of a sustainable and enduring Peace Treaty.
Where CG [i.e. common ground represented by a shared cultural heritage including, a set of ethical, philosophical and religious values/beliefs] exists, then the answer to the second question depends upon whether UV-IHL’s align with [a participant’s] political interest in the preservation of CG, as destruction of CG is ultimately an act on institutional self-destruction. So, in theory, because, by definition preservation of CG is common ground, the door is open to Mediation through Cultural Heritage Diplomacy.’ Today I have connected the idea of ‘Institution building’ with the existence of ‘Universal principles of IHL’, as building blocks in creating a foundation for a sustainable peace through mediation.
‘Black Swans – Looking out for the unknown unknowns in mediation’
Think of a series of interlinked circles labelled e.g.: ‘Law’; ‘Practical Ethics’; ‘International Relations’; and ‘Party Politics’. The alchemy in the mediation of a Cultural Heritage dispute is to discover what lies in the centre, i.e. in that small space where these circles all overlap with each other, because that is common ground. This is also the zone in which a ‘Black Swan’ may exist. ‘Black Swans are events or pieces of knowledge that sit outside our regular expectations and therefore cannot be predicted.. … There are those things we know … Those are known knowns. There are those things we are certain that exist that we don’t know. … Those are known unknowns and they are like poker wild cards; you know they’re out there but you don’t know who has them. The most important are those things we don’t know that we don’t know, pieces of information we’ve never imagined that would be game changing if uncovered.. … These unknown unknowns are Black Swans. … Finding and acting on Black Swans mandates a shift in your mindset. It takes negotiation from being a one-dimensional move counter move game of checkers to a three-dimensional game that is more emotional, adaptive, intuitive … and truly effective.’ (Never Split The Difference – Negotiating as if your life depended on it’ by Chris Voss (2016), rh Business Books, page 216).
A challenge for the Mediator [‘M’] in any dispute is to bring about a ‘paradigm shift’ in the attitude and behaviour of each participant [‘P’] to: (i) themselves; and (ii) the dispute/conflict, by enabling each P to:
- Discover and explore their true hidden motivation.
- Recognise and acknowledge, that they are ‘all in the same boat,’ in that they are all trapped in a reciprocal cycle of mutual destruction, from which neither can or will emerge as an overall victor/‘winner.’
- Accept that armed conflict and oppression cannot kill an ‘idea’ and ‘values’. Therefore, unless and until a modus vivendi has been agreed, there will be endless conflict. So what is the point of armed conflict/war?
‘One of the most important elements of the mediation process is the exploration of the covert reasons for the dispute, as well as the overt. The parties will have developed rigid values and belief systems as their overall strategy for survival in an uncertain world. These can emerge in the dispute as perhaps just a single particular belief. But this might simply be one aspect of an overall overt strategy for achieving a ‘winning position’. Beneath this may lie many other diverse motivations: pride, jealousy, anger, hurt, envy, kudos, arrogance, greed, vanity, the protection of identity, self-esteem and numerous other hidden driving forces. … Frequently, the parties may not even recognise that the real conflict is hidden and very different to what they express it to be. They may not understand or recognise their own true underlying motives: they may believe they are simply seeking proper redress or compensation, whereas in fact they are expressing anger and hurt, and a desire to see the other party punished and humiliated.’ (‘Mediation – A Psychological Insight into Conflict Resolution’, by Freddie Strasser and Paul Randolph (2004), continuum.
What can we learn from classical literature about the psychology of human conflict in an anarchic and uncertain world, e.g. ‘Empedocles Sphere’? See:
- Empedocles (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
- untitled (umich.edu) – EMPEDOCLES, ON NATURE I 233–364: A NEW RECONSTRUCTION OF P. STRASB. GR. INV. 1665–6
- Fragments of Empedocles – Wikisource, the free online library
- Empedocles | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (utm.edu)
This is a subject I will return to later in the year, after I have read the ‘Fragments’, as the poetry of Empedocles may contain profound truths which Mediators today can use/adapt as an ‘analytical framework’ for engaging in a difficult conversation with the P’s about the: nature; root causes; and underlying dynamics driving any conflict.
‘Coalitions of the Weak’
Earlier in the week, Victor Shih, Associate Professor, Ho Miu Lam Chair in China and Pacific Relations – School of Global Policy & Strategy UC San Diego (ucsd.edu), presented a Zoom talk to the Centre for Geopolitics at Cambridge University (https://lnkd.in/e9P8atem) about the subject of his new book, ‘Coalitions of the Weak’ (Cambridge University Press) (2022). As one of the reviewers on the Amazon page for his book observes, ‘At a time when scholarship and public opinion alike stress the seamless strength of the Chinese Communist state, Victor Shih paints a more complex picture in which insecure leaders from Mao to Xi assemble Coalitions of the Weak to perpetuate their personal rule. Based on a wealth of primary sources, Shih’s fascinating analysis reveals an inherent trade-off between autocratic power and policy success that points to a fundamental vulnerability at the heart of China’s political system.’ (Elizabeth J. Perry, Henry Rosovsky Professor of Government, Harvard University). What are the wider lessons to be drawn for Humanitarian Mediation where one participant is a one-party autocracy? Two thoughts occurred to me during the talk:
(i) Unless the other participants [‘P’s] and the mediator [‘M‘] are communicating directly with the leader of the one-party autocracy [‘L’], they cannot accurately evaluate the mind of L, or be certain that what they say to his/her representatives will be accurately conveyed to L.
(ii) In negotiating with L or his/her representatives, unless the other P’s understand: (a) the internal dynamics of the autocracy; and (b) L’s fears and personal insecurities, then what the P’s think is rational and propose may:
– be doomed to failure from the start, i.e. because in the psychology of L it weakens his/her position as leader;
– make things worse, i.e. because what they are proposing threatens the existence of L, or could undermine his/her authority and potential political longevity.
An expert granular analysis may reveal that popular assumptions and beliefs about an opponent or comptetitor are not only simplistic, but are based upon myth, and not reality. The moral is to study and attempt to understand your opponent/competitor before making a political judgement and deciding policy. In order to do this, you must first see the world through their eyes. Before you can do that, you need to study the history of their political universe and culture.
I was also reminded of what Sun Tzu said, ‘Know the enemy and know yourself in a hundred battles you will never be in peril. When you are ignorant of the enemy but know yourself, your chances of winning or losing are equal. If ignorant both of your enemy and of yourself, you are certain in every battle to be in peril.’
This leads to a third thought, that unless M is an expert on L and of the political world L inhabits, M‘s effectivenes can be enhanced by involving an expert co-mediator/’political advisor’.
‘Analysing the causes of armed conflict’
There is a methodological distinction between analysing the:
(i) ‘structural’ i.e. ‘deep’ causes of a conflict; and
(ii) ‘precipitating’ i.e. immediate causes of the conflict – by analogy, the moment when a ‘bolt’ of lightening set fire to the forest, e.g. in a geopolitical context, a dispute about a maritime border that results in a confrontation at sea. That is because the precipitating causes cannot tell you what has happened in the past. In order to mediate a geopolitical conflict, a mediator needs to understand the ‘historical roots’ of the conflict that have shaped each party’s competing narrative. The questions the mediator should ask each party to explain to him/her are:
(a) What brought the parties to where they are today?
(b) What kept them away from the negotiating table in the past?
(c) What has now brought them to the negotiating table?
A fundamental analytical tool for discussion in the mediated resolution of any dispute/conflict, is the drafting of a chronology of events based upon facts and evidence – in contrast to myth and belief. Without the benefit of historical perspective, a Mediator cannot begin to understand how and why each party feels and thinks the way they do, their behaviour, and the underlying:
(i) Competing interests that need to be reconciled.
(ii) Dynamics which have shaped and are driving the dispute.
In a proxy war, these interests include the competing strategic geopolitical ambitions and imperatives of hegemons, and the dynamics include domestic politics and elections. Therefore, in preparing for mediation, each party needs to be clear about the ‘real’ facts, circumstances, and events, that both preceded and resulted in armed conflict. Then, the Mediator can help to move the warring parties along from where they are now toward peace, by enabling them to transform conflict into co-existence by jointly developing a peace process and agreement. Looking back through the clear lens of historical facts is therefore the first step in developing a ‘road-map’ for peaceful co-existence. In my opinion, looking forwards, the potential ‘building blocks’ of a peace process and agreement, include shared/universal ‘fiduciary principles’ of international relations, e.g. preserving and protecting agricultural land and the wider environment. See:
– My essay a ‘Fiduciary Theory of Art’ on the ‘Mediation of Art & Cultural Heritage Disputes’ page at www.carlislam.co.uk.
–Conflict Analysis: Questions and Answers with the Author | United States Institute of Peace (usip.org)
‘10th Principle of Negotiating Political Order – Share a vision of co-existence.’ Explore and find common ground by engaging in a mediated diplomatic conversation about the existence and relevance of “Fiduciary Principles of International Relations” which transcend regional balance of power politics, e.g. rules and norms of International Humanitarian Law.
In order to share and develop a joint vision of co-existence which is not discordant in ‘realist’ theory with the survival of each ruling elite, the P’s can discover what they have in common by exploring the existence of hopes and ambitions which transcend regional balance of power politics. Instead of fighting each other they can work together to solve global problems which are an existential threat to their region, e.g. climate change. Beyond their region they can work together for the betterment of mankind by e.g. researching a cure for cancer, stabilising the global economy, and exploring space.
Hidden away in the Report to China’s 2022 Party Congress is the following passage:
‘We have grown stronger in basic research and original innovation, made breakthroughs in some core technologies in key fields, and boosted emerging strategic industries. We have witnessed major successes on multiple fronts, including manned spaceflight, lunar and Martian exploration, deep sea and deep earth probes, supercomputers, satellite navigation, quantum information, nuclear power technology, airliner manufacturing, and biomedicine. China has joined the ranks of the world’s innovators. … – We must maintain a global vision. The Communist Party of China is dedicated to pursuing happiness for the Chinese people and rejuvenation for the Chinese nation. It is also dedicated to human progress and world harmony. We should expand our global vision and develop keen insight into the trends of human development and progress, respond to the general concerns of people of all countries, and play our part in resolving the common issues facing humankind. With an open mind, we should draw inspiration from all of human civilization’s outstanding achievements and work to build an even better world.’
Report to China’s 2022 Party Congress Transcript: President Xi Jinping’s report to China’s 2022 party congress – Nikkei Asia
‘The head of the US Navy has warned that the American military must be prepared for the possibility of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan before 2024, as Washington grows increasingly alarmed about the threat to the island. Admiral Mike Gilday, chief of naval operations, said the US had to consider that China could take action against Taiwan much sooner than even the more pessimistic warnings. The debate in the US about when China might invade Taiwan has intensified since Admiral Philip Davidson, then-head of Indo-Pacific Command, told Congress last year that the Chinese military could take action against Taiwan before 2027. Davidson’s warning was partly downplayed at the time, but officials have intensified their warnings over the past year. “When we talk about the 2027 window, in my mind that has to be a 2022 window or potentially a 2023 window,” Gilday told the Atlantic Council on Wednesday. “I don’t mean at all to be alarmist . . . it’s just that we can’t wish that away.” Gilday’s comments came two days after US secretary of state Antony Blinken said China was “determined to pursue reunification on a much faster timeline” after deciding that the status quo was “no longer acceptable”. China claims sovereignty over Taiwan and has warned Washington not to encourage pro-independence forces in the country. At the opening of the Chinese Communist party’s 20th congress on Sunday, President Xi Jinping admonished the US for supporting Taiwan as he accused “external forces” of exacerbating tensions across the Taiwan Strait and suggested outside actors would shoulder the blame if China felt compelled to attack the country. Underscoring the mounting concern about Chinese military activity near Taiwan, which has increased in the wake of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei in August, Joe Biden has on four occasions as president warned China that the US would intervene to defend Taiwan from an unprovoked attack.’ US Navy chief warns China could invade Taiwan before 2024 | Financial Times (ft.com)
- Shirk, Susan L (2022) Overreach: How China Derailed Its Peaceful Rise, OUP USA.
- Rudd, Kevin (2022) The Avoidable War: The Dangers of a Catastrophic Conflict between the US and Xi Jinping’s China, Public Affairs.
- Allison, Graham (2018) Destined for War: can America and China escape Thucydides’ Trap?, Scribe UK.
‘9th Principle of Negotiating Political Order– Calculate the political price of doing a deal.’
Mediation is ‘about doing a deal.’ Therefore, you have to decide the ‘price’ of doing a deal.
Because of the inescapable logic of mutually assured destruction, there is no BATNA (‘Best Alternative To A negotiated Agreement’) where nuclear powers stumble into a war in which their full nuclear arsenals are launched. However, in order to agree a modus vivendi there must be sufficient equilibrium in the balance of power to allow for flexibility without jeopardising survival. It is therefore necessary for each participant in a geo-political mediation [‘P’] to calculate the political price of doing a deal. Deciding to pay the price requires vision, courage, and leadership.
‘To attempt to manage [the] inescapable risk of nuclear confrontation, Kennedy repeatedly overrode the urgings of his advisers, choosing instead to give Khrushchev more time to consider, adapt and adjust. … In doing so, he crafted a unique political cocktail that consisted of a public deal, a private ultimatum, and a secret sweetener – all in defiance of the advice from most of his National Security Council. … JFK knew that proactive steps to avert such stand-offs could come at a high price, including compromising on politically sensitive issues and postponing initiatives that, while not essential, were nonetheless important. But he concluded that the price was worth paying. In his words, the enduring lesson of the Cuban missile crisis was; “above all, while defending our vital national interests, nuclear powers must avert confrontations that force an adversary to choose between a humiliating retreat and nuclear war.” [‘Commencement address at American University, June 10, 1963’].
To make similar wise choices, US leaders will need to muster a combination of hard thinking and harder work. They can begin with four core ideas:
- Clarify vital interests.
- Understand what [an adversary] is trying to do.
- Do strategy.
- Make domestic challenges central.’
(‘Destined For War – Can America and China Escape Thucydides’s Trap‘ by Graham Allinson, 2017). President Joe Biden has described Graham Allinson as, ‘one of the keenest observers of international affairs around.’ See also my blog below, ‘Diplomacy and defence are not substitutes for one another – 1961 Address at University of Washington by John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 25th President of the United States of America’).
‘Time to mediate?’
At the King’s College London School of Security Studies Annual Conference, during a session held on the 9th June 2022, one of the delegates asked a speaker (who was a member of the US military), why Russia had not thrown all of its might into the fight, i.e. deployed all of its military force. The answer which came back was that ‘it had’.
On the 10th August 2022 the BBC reported, ‘There are indications the Kremlin is running out of troops for its war with Ukraine. Regional authorities in Russia are pursuing a campaign to recruit volunteer fighters, but it is not getting much traction, one report says. According to independent Russian website Mediazona, at least 25 Russian regions are now trying to form volunteer battalions. It has been reported that in the last 5 days Russia has lost the equivalent of one battalion (i.e. c.1000 soldiers including tanks and equipment) per day.
Mathematically, there will comes a point hen Russia can no longer sustain military operations in Ukraine.
Today, in the News Statesman, Ido Vock in his ‘World Review’ wrote, ‘The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, calculates that Ukrainian forces have recaptured more territory in five days than Russia had since April. … ‘Boris Nadezhdin, a former member of the Duma, Russia’s national parliament, said on TV: “It is absolutely impossible to defeat Ukraine” with Russia’s current strategy of refusing to declare a full-scale war, leaving Moscow with the choice of suing for peace or escalating the conflict (a decision Vladimir Putin has been loath to take, preferring a piecemeal “shadow mobilisation”). The significance of Nadezhdin’s appearance lies less in his words and more in the fact that a long-standing (and largely politically insignificant) pro-Western liberal was invited on state TV at all. The Kharkiv counteroffensive may finally be the signal that gets through to the Russian leadership. Putin may have believed that in time, Russia’s supposedly superior numbers would grind the Ukrainians down and allow Moscow victory. In fact, something like the opposite has happened, with exhausted Russian forces rapidly retreating when probed, their supply lines weakened by months of Ukrainian strikes using US-supplied Himars rocket systems. The Russian army can now choose only how to lose. The first option is to continue putting off the hard choices and carry on suffering military defeats, including further south now that Ukraine has the initiative. The second is for Putin to declare war and enact a full mobilisation. It would take months, however, to train men called up, while Russia is having difficulty equipping the troops it has currently deployed and Ukraine is making gains right now. The third is for Moscow to seek genuine peace negotiations, although Kyiv’s recent successes on the battlefield may make it more reluctant to settle for limited concessions. The final option would be some kind of drastic escalation, such as the use of nuclear weapons or an engineered radiation leak at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, although such a reckless gamble would signal Russia’s extreme weakness and further threaten the survival of the regime. It is a delightful irony that the Ukrainian offensive made so much progress in the days leading up to 11 September. It is that date, of course, which had long been mooted for when sham “referendums” on the annexations by Russia of the Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions would be held. The Armed Forces of Ukraine cast their vote early.’
‘The Russian armed force’s most prestigious and leading tank formation, designed to defend Moscow, has been “severely degraded”, according to British intelligence. The 1st Guards Tank Army, of the Western Military District, will require “years” to rebuild its capability as the main unit designed to defend Moscow and lead counter-attacks in the case of war with Nato, Britain’s Ministry of Defence said on Tuesday. … In its daily intelligence briefing, the MoD said: “Elements of the Russian forces withdrawn from Kharkiv Oblast over the last week were from the 1st Guards Tank Army (1 GTA), which are subordinate to the Western Military District (WEMD). “1 GTA suffered heavy casualties in the initial phase of the invasion and had not been fully reconstituted prior to the Ukrainian counter-offensive in Kharkiv.” British military officials added: “1 GTA had been one of the most prestigious of Russia’s armies, allocated for the defence of Moscow, and intended to lead counter-attacks in the case of a war with Nato.”’ (Ukraine war latest: Prestigious Russian tank army tasked with defending Moscow ‘severely degraded’ by Josh White, Grace Millimaci, and Joe Barnes – the Daily Telegraph 13.09.2022).
‘A Russian marines brigade has been almost completely wiped out by Ukraine’s Armed Forces, Kyiv said Monday. … The update … said that the Ukrainian military destroyed almost 85 percent of Russia’s 810 marine infantry brigade, which is based in the city of Sevastopol in the Russian-occupied Crimean Peninsula. “After the successful actions carried out by the Defense Forces in the Kherson direction, the enemy suffered significant losses in manpower.”
Ukraine said the rest of the servicemen have an extremely low morale and psychological state, and “massively refuse to return to the combat zone.”’ (Newsweek 12.09.2022).
‘Half of Russia’s Black Sea fleet’s combat jets out of operation, Western official says – Blasts at the Saky air base in the annexed Crimean peninsula earlier this month have put more than half of the Russian Black Sea fleet’s naval aviation combat jets out of use, a Western official said on Friday. … The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Ukraine was now consistently achieving “kinetic effects” deep behind Russia’s lines which was having a material impact on Russia’s logistics support and “a significant psychological effect on the Russian leadership”.’ (Reuters 19th August).
‘Shelling around the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has sparked grave concerns about the risk of radioactive catastrophe. The U.N. atomic watchdog has proposed the creation of a protection zone around the nuclear plant, Europe’s largest, and both sides are interested, IAEA chief said. “We are playing with fire,” Rafael Grossi told reporters.” We can not continue in a situation, where we are one step away from a nuclear accident. The safety of the Zaporizhzhia power plant is hanging by a thread.”‘ (Reuters 13.09.2022).
‘A senior Chinese official told the UN on Friday that just one incident might cause a serious nuclear accident “with irreversible consequences for the ecosystem and public health of Ukraine and its neighbouring countries”. Geng Shuang, China’s deputy permanent representative at the UN, pointedly called on all parties involved “to exercise maximum restraint strictly abide by international law and minimise the risk of accidents”, adding: ”We must not allow the tragedies of the Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear accidents to be repeated.”’ (i News updated 28.08.2022).
8th Principle of Negotiating Political Order – ‘Analyse the underlying dynamics.’
Each underlying dynamic [‘UD’] may be an opportunity/constraint. While in ‘realist’ IR theory*, a state will always place is own strategic imperatives above compliance with rules of international law, understanding the interplay of the UD’s may provide insights about common ground where the UD‘s intersect. A technique for mapping the UD’s is to categorize each one by reference to a series of overlapping circles, and to identify where they theoretically or actually interconnect. The categories may include, e.g.
- Domestic political drivers.
- National strategic imperatives.
- Geo-political ambitions.
- Resources. [This includes the 3 P‘s that drive future economic growth: (i) population (size i.e whether it is increasing or shrinking); (ii) participation in the workforce (i.e. age skills & education); and (iii) productivity, because the balance of power between ‘State 1’, and ‘State 2’, will remain relatively stable unless and until the economic growth of State 1 exceeds that of State 2. Therefore, if State 1 has a population that is both shrinking and ageing, it cannot overtake State 2 as a economic and military power/super-power. In which case its PD/PND is wishful thinking, because it will lose if its goes to war with State 2].
- Existential threats.
Where these categories interconnect, it may be possible to avoid ‘Thucydides Trap’ if a coherent framework of practical principles for ensuring co-existence emerges during a process of jointly plotting a critical path toward peace. This requires first seeing/recognising, and second reframing, ‘critical constraints’ as ‘opportunities’, e.g. for mutually beneficial, i.e. economically prosperous collaboration, based upon: geography; resources; mutual respect for sovereignty and culture (see the ‘7th Principle’ below); security; and commercial access. The transformation of a constraint into an opportunity where the UD‘s intersect, e.g. international trade, can result in the joint construction of new ‘Pillars’, see my post below about the ‘6th Principle.’
*The example cited by Professor John Mearsheimer being the ‘Monroe Doctrine’, see:https://www.archives.gov/milestone-documents/monroe-doctrine#:~:text=The%20Monroe%20Doctrine%20is%20the,further%20colonization%20or%20puppet%20monarchs).
[This in incomplete].
7th Principle of Negotiating Political Order– ‘Legitimacy.’
In my post below about the ‘6th Principle’, I wrote, ‘As preparation for mediation, the participants in an armed conflict may start to walk down a road that leads to ‘convergence’ by analysing resolution through the prism of:
(i) existing ‘pillars’, which can be reinforced (i.e. economic, geostrategic, and multilateral); and
(ii) new ‘pillars’ which can be jointly constructed, in order to agree in mediation upon a ‘political and strategic framework’ for managing their relationship.’
The 7th Principle is the 1st Pillar.
If each P can acknowledge the existence of the other (‘Legitimacy’), then axiomatically each P recognises that they can co-exist with each other. Legitimacy requires respect. Respect can engender trust. Once the foundation stones of ‘Respect’ and ‘Trust’ have been laid down, then a constructive problem solving dialogue can begin.
In order to co-exist in peace, a rules-based order needs to be developed and implemented.
Therefore, the starting point is a mediated dialogue about a ‘rules based order’ for peaceful co-existence, within which each P can compete with the other without sleep-walking into ‘Thucydides Trap’, see: https://lnkd.in/eEkWkbzp
In order to minimise the risk of accidental nuclear war occurring because of a decision made at the periphery e.g. by a submarine commander (which is what nearly happened during the Cuban missile crisis – see Max Hastings’ forthcoming book – ‘Abyss: The Cuban Missile Crisis 1962’), a protocol needs to be agreed about how to reduce and manage that risk. This requires co-operation and is a first step in developing trust based upon mutual survival. ‘Legitimacy’ and ‘Thucydides Trap’ are ideas that I will return to in future blogs about Humanitarian Mediation.
6th Principle of Negotiating Political Order – Analyse the existence of pillars to support a political and strategic framework for managing the relationship between the states who are in direct conflict with each other
As the former Prime Minister of Australia , The Honourable Kevin Rudd observes in the context of managing the relationship between the US and China, in his book, ‘The Avoidable War – The Dangers of a Catastrophic Conflict Between the US and Xi Jinping’s China’,
‘[O]ur best chance of avoiding war is to better understand the other side’s strategic thinking and to conceptualise a world where both the US and China are able to competitively coexist, even if in a state of continuing rivalry reinforced by mutual deterrence. A world where political leaders are empowered to preside over a competitive race rather than resorting to the lethality of actual armed conflict. Indeed, if we can preserve the peace of the decade ahead, political circumstances may eventually change: strategic thought may evolve in the face of new, much broader planetary changes; and it may then be possible for leaders to imagine a different way of thinking (the Chinese term is ‘siwei’) that prioritises collaboration over conflict in meeting the existential global challenges confronting us all.’ In my essay a ‘Fiduciary Theory of Art’ which appears on the ‘Mediation of Art and Cultural Heritage Disputes’ at www.carlislam.co.uk), under the sub-heading, ‘Fiduciary Principles of International Relations’ (reproduced below), I argue that ‘Fiduciary Principles of International Relations’ including the protection and preservation of Cultural Heritage are a ‘foundation stone in the negotiation of a sustainable and enduring peace process and agreement, based upon recognition of shared values, interests, realpolitik, and practical ethics.
Therefore, as preparation for mediation, the participants in an armed conflict may start to walk down a road that leads to ‘convergence’ by analysing resolution through the prism of:
(i) existing ‘pillars’, which can be reinforced (i.e. economic, geostrategic, and multilateral); and
(ii) new ‘pillars’ which can be jointly constructed,
in order to agree in mediation upon a ‘political and strategic framework’ for managing their relationship.
This requires recognition that ‘Fiduciary Principles of International Relations’, are a universal tool in humanitarian mediation, because of the existence of ‘GIEC’s’ (including climate change – which is a global existential threat) and global financial stability – see the ‘2nd Principle of Humanitarian Mediation’ below.
5th principle of Negotiating Political Order – Do not make things worse
See my blog below – ‘Engineering Convergence through Mediation – Can we put the Genie back into the bottle?’ in which I state,
‘At the King’s College London School of Security Studies Annual Conference on the 8th and 9th June 2022, I asked [the] question ‘Is understanding what lies underneath competing narratives [‘N’] the key to mediation of a peace process in a conflict?’
i.e. can analysis of N reveal:
(i) the philosophy and political doctrine driving a conflict on each side; and
(ii) psychological biases which are road-blocks in geo-political mediation?
… before undertaking a step in Mediation W needs to first see the world through P‘s eyes. If W views the world through a rose-tinted geo-political lens, it will be looking inwards and not outward, in which case the outcome is likely to be strategic miscalculation, i.e. if the result is a mischaracterization of N by W, because W either: (i) does not understand N; or (ii) does not believe that N is real, actually exists in the psychology of P, and therefore is deeply embedded in PND. This incongruence dooms Mediation from the start, because W cannot even see where the ‘rails’ of the underlying and causal political dispute actually are, let alone the direction in which the train is going. Therefore, what W does can only halt the train by accident and not by design. Far worse, W can derail the train – which could be catastrophic for all on board. That is why it is a cardinal principle of any Mediation that the Mediator must not make the situation worse. This principle applies to the Mediation of a geo-political conflict no less than it applies to a civil dispute.’
Avoiding making things worse by understanding N, connects with the need for development of ‘a new level of mutual strategic literacy’, and a norm known as ‘managed strategic competition’ [‘MSC‘] proposed by The Honourable Kevin Rudd, former Prime Minister of Australia and author of the ‘Avoidable War – The Dangers of a Catastrophic Conflict Between the U.S. and Xi Jinping’s China’ published earlier this year. The Avoidable War: The Dangers of a Catastrophic Conflict between the US and Xi Jinping’s China: Amazon.co.uk: Rudd, Kevin: 9781541701298: Books
‘There is both a moral and a practical obligation for friends of China and friends of the United States to think through what has become the single hardest question of international relations of our century: how to preserve the peace and prosperity we have secured over the last three-quarters of a century while recognizing the reality of changing power relativities between Washington and Beijing. We can allow the primordial dimensions of Thucydidean logic to simply take their natural course, ultimately culminating in crisis, conflict, or even war. Or we can identify potential strategic off-ramps, or at least guardrails, which may help preserve the peace among the great powers while also sustaining the integrity of the rules-based order that has underpinned the stability of the wider international relations system since 1945.
Therefore, to borrow a question from Lenin himself: “What is to be done?” As a first step, each side must be mindful of how their actions will be read by the other through the prism of their accumulated national perceptions — in other words, what buttons light up in the decision-making processes on one side when a particular action is taken by the other. At present, both sides are bad at this, often reflecting a combination of mutually assured non-comprehension and mirror imaging that has long characterized large parts of the U.S.-China relationship. If we are serious about the possibility of developing a joint strategic narrative that might be capable of governing the future of the relationship peacefully, we must, at a minimum, be mindful of how strategic language, actions, and diplomatic signaling will be interpreted within each side’s political culture, systems, and elites. It is this sort of awareness that can help us navigate the practical complexities of competing national interests, values, and perceptions within a stable, albeit still competitive, strategic framework.
Developing a new level of mutual strategic literacy, however, is only the beginning. What follows must be the hard work of constructing a joint strategic framework between Washington and Beijing that is capable of achieving the following three interrelated tasks:
- Agreeing on principles and procedures for navigating each other’s strategic redlines (for example, over Taiwan) that, if inadvertently crossed, would likely result in military escalation.
- Mutually identifying the areas of nonlethal national security policy—foreign policy, economic policy, technology development (for example, over semiconductors) —and ideology where full-blown strategic competition is accepted as the new normal.
- Defining those areas where continued strategic cooperation (for example, on climate change) is both recognized and encouraged.’
4th Principle of Negotiating Political Order– Realism
In my blog ‘Fiduciary Principles of International Relations’ (below), I wrote,
‘When the political strategy of H is to create a failed state [‘FS‘], where it has failed in its primary objective to turn the invaded state into a client state, … [this is] a threat to the national security of any other state in the region [S], because there is a risk of a failed state emerging within S‘s geo-political sphere of influence. If the destruction of CG has the potential to politically destabilise H, then it follows that S also has a national security interest in the survival of H. Therein, and counter-intuitively, lies the seed of a principle that can result in the mediation of terms of peace which ensure the survival of both H and the sovereign state invaded by H. If this geo-political interest is recognised by all parties to the conflict and their supporters, then this can open up a dialogue … to negotiate a ceasefire and peace agreement.’
If each P can view the conflict through the hard geopolitical lens of ‘realism’, then a settlement zone theoretically exists between:
- The minimum H will accept in order to achieve its practical, i.e. realizable, political objectives; and
- The maximum the invaded state will give in order to survive, i.e. to avoid becoming a FS.
Provided each P understands this, then a deal can be done, because continuation of armed conflict increases the existential threat to each state, and there is the constant peril of a nuclear war starting by accident. If the P’s agree that mutual survival is preferable to mutual destruction, which will have environmental consequences beyond the territory in which war is being waged, then pre-conditions to a ceasefire can be agreed to enable talks to take place in good faith. The table can then be set for a mediation. An agenda, and the scope, terms, and protocols for mediation can be discussed and agreed.
Therefore, whether and when a mediation will take place, ultimately depends upon the existence of political will on both sides.
See also my blog below – ‘Engineering Convergence through Mediation – Can we put the Genie back into the bottle?’
3rd Principle of Negotiating Political Order – Exploratory talks to identify elements of a bespoke process
‘Only when we can fully participate in a democratic process will armed struggle become obsolete, and only then will the conflict between us end.’
(Words attributed to Thabo Mbeki during secret talks held in England between the African National Congress (ANC), the political party spearheading the independence movement, and the South African Government. These took place in a series of clandestine meetings over several years in the late 1980’s which were set up by Michael Young an executive with Consolidated Goldfields, a British mining company which had a commercial stake in the future political stability of South Africa).
Potential elements of a bespoke process of mediation?:
- Transformative Mediation – To enable each Participant [‘P‘] to re-evaluate their Political Doctrine [‘PD‘], objectives and priorities (see my blogs below: (i) ‘Engineering Convergence through Mediation – Can we put the Genie back into the bottle?’ (where I use the acronym ‘PND’ to describe P’s nuclear doctine); and (ii) ‘Fiduciary Principles of International Relations’).
- Restorative Justice – As a long-term peace and reconciliation process that as it becomes culturally embedded over generations reduces the risk of another conflict.
[Please note that each armed conflict is unique, and requires the design of a bespoke mediation process. This blog is an unfinished and evolving work in progress and I welcome all comments and contributions].
2nd Principle of Negotiating Political Order – Choice of Mediator [‘M’]
To discover the existence of common ground, which may contain hidden value that has the potential to expand the political and economic pie for settlement, the M and Participants [‘P’s’] need to look beyond the conflict at:
- the impact/potential impact of the conflict upon the political and economic stability of globally inter-connected economic systems and institutions [‘GIECS’], and because climate change is a universal existential threat, this includes the ‘environment’; and
- the political stability of states and interested non-state actors, e.g. multi-national companies, whose prosperity and existence depends upon the stability and preservation of GIECS (including the environment) [‘IP’s’].
In a multi-polar world, the M and P’s, therefore, need to understand the wider impact of the conflict upon the stability of e.g. economic systems (in which hegemons are heavily invested i.e. the US and China). A political leader/state elite, who is either a P, ally of a P, or M, by viewing the conflict through a global, rather than a regional lens, may be able to identify strands of common ground which can cohere, to form a foundation for the negotiation of a peace protocol and agreement, i.e. because in a globalized and inter-connected world, the conflict is not only existential to the P’s at war with each other, but also to those who depend upon the stability of the GIECS, i.e. the IP’s – who all have a vested interest in peace. That is why M must be both a trained mediator, and an independent, educated, and experienced, geo-political thinker.
A political leader who views the conflict through a narrow/populist/partisan/ideological prism, i.e. because they do not have these qualities, risks throwing petrol onto the fire instead of finding a way to extinguish the flames. Rhetoric is no substitute for brains, knowledge, experience, clear thinking, realism, diplomatic skill, and economic/political nouse.
1st Principle of Negotiating Political Order – Diplomats must have room to manoeuvre
The 1st Principle of Humanitarian Mediation is that ‘Diplomats must have room to manoeuvre’ in order to exert an influence upon the course of events before the ‘creature’ of war takes on its own life, resulting in events outside the imagination and control of the states involved.
Professor John J. Mearsheimer, in the introduction to the 60th anniversary edition of ‘American Diplomacy’ by George F. Kennan [University of Chicago Press (2012)], states [between pages xl – xlii]:
‘[W]hen mass armies clash with each other, the result, as Carl von Clausewitz put it is, “primordial violence, hatred and enmity.” [Carl von Clausewitz on War, trans. and ed. Michael Howard and Peter Paret (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1976), 89.].
This kind of hostility almost guarantees that each side will be so enraged with the other that it will demand decisive victory and refuse a compromise settlement. This state of affairs is compounded by the fact that governments usually have to motivate their publics to make enormous sacrifices to win a great power war. Most importantly, some substantial number of citizens has to be convinced to serve in the military and possibly die for their country. One way that leaders inspire their people to fight modern wars is to portray the adversary as the epitome of evil and a mortal threat. This behaviour, it should be noted, is not limited to democracies as Kennan thought. Doing so, however, makes it almost impossible to negotiate an end to a war short of total victory. After all, how can one negotiate with an adversary that is thought to be the devil incarnate? It makes much more sense to pull out every punch to decisively defeat that opponent and get it to surrender unconditionally. Of course, both sides are invariably drawn to this conclusion, which rules out any hope of a negotiated compromise. … [Clausewitz’s] classic work, “On War”, is actually an attempt to grasp the concept of modern, absolute war in all its devastating power… The main purpose of Clausewitz’s famous dictum “war is an extension of politics by other means” is to convince civilian leaders that they should go to great lengths to limit wars when it makes good political sense, while recognising that war’s natural tendency in the age of nationalism is to escalate to its absolute or total form. These same forces were at play in World War I, which is why all of the great powers involved in that conflict – democracies as well as non-democracies – were committed to fighting until they collapsed or hopefully the other side collapsed first. In short, nationalism, not democracy, fuels the modern state’s desire for decisive victories and unconditional surrender, aspirations that make it difficult to limit wars between rival great powers.’
That is why Mediation is not possible where a participant [‘P’] requires the destruction of the other P, see my blog below – ‘Engineering convergence through Mediation – Can we put the Genie back into the bottle?’
Engineering Convergence through Mediation – Can we put the Genie back into the bottle?
At the King’s College London School of Security Studies Annual Conference on the 8th and 9th June 2022, I asked a question related to my evolving research interest in ‘Transforming Geo-Political Conflict Through Mediation’ – See the International Relations essay on the ‘Mediation of Art & Cultural Heritage Disputes’ page at www.carlislam.co.uk.
My Q. ‘Is understanding what lies underneath competing narratives [‘N’] the key to mediation of a peace process in a conflict?’
i.e. can analysis of N reveal:
(i) the philosophy and political doctrine driving a conflict on each side; and
(ii) psychological biases which are road-blocks in geo-political mediation?
Answer: I drew the following conclusions from the comments made by the speakers in reply:
(i) Mediation is not possible where a participant [‘P’] requires the destruction of the other P, i.e. when the values and interests underlying N collide [‘C’].
(ii) Mediation is possible where they potentially overlap and can cohere.
(iii) Where a P is a nuclear power [‘PN’], the use of nuclear weapons is a very real potential outcome in C – one speaker thought this was almost an ‘inevitability’ (which is what Professor John Mearsheimer has been warning since 2014 and as recently as May 2022).
(iv) However, since the use of nuclear weapons by PN could result in its own destruction, if PN’s doctrine is to change the hegemonic world order, i.e. to displace the West [‘PND]’, then mediation is possible.
(v) The military logic of PND is that when PN realises it is losing on the battlefield it will agree to a halt in lethal fighting. However, the conflict will not end until the aggressor has won in accordance with its PND. Therefore, unless a lasting peace is achieved in the interim, the fighting will at some future point in time resume, i.e. when PN, in its mind, is ready and prepared to win.
(vi) When the P’s are in the mood to talk Mediation is possible.
(vii) Because of the logic of PND, the war in Ukraine is likely to be the 1st of many conflicts to arise across the globe. In other words, things are going to get worse.
(viii) Because Russia [‘R‘] is a nuclear power, the West [‘W‘] cannot simply liberate it.
(ix) Because: (a) the claims made by R reveal value driven ‘choices made by the Russian State elite’; and (b) the elite is more than one man, PND will not change unless and until the elite alter their ‘collective’ thinking i.e. Political Doctrine [‘PD‘].
If analysis of R‘s narrative has exposed a ‘divergence based upon values’ then what can W do to avoid further divergence, i.e. through smart Diplomacy?
A concluding remark made by one speaker was that there is a lack of understanding amongst policy makers that ‘how politicians behave domestically can impact upon foreign relations’ – i.e. because other states are watching. Therefore, in order to have any effect upon the future direction and shape of R‘s PD, our senior political leaders need to be seen to be ‘whiter than white’ – not least because any divergence by a W government from strict adherence to international law reinforces R‘s narrative that W is hypocritical and duplicitous.
This lack of ‘credibility’ impacts upon the stability of an ‘antithetical’ model of ‘offensive realism’ (i.e. a counter-thesis) that is based upon the idea of ‘solidarity’ between states which is rooted in fiduciary principles and norms of behaviour under International Humanitarian Law. This idea lies at the heart of my research, i.e. whether ‘universal ethical values’:
(i) exist under International Humanitarian Law (‘IHL’) as ‘core fiduciary principles and norms’; and
(ii) are potential building blocks, in the Mediation of a peace process, protocol, and agreement,
where the primary causal factor in a geo-political conflict, is a clash between competing values and interests.
However logically, the concept is a grand ‘delusion’, unless every other state with whom W competes shares the same worldview as W. Therefore, before undertaking a step in Mediation W needs to first see the world through P‘s eyes. If W views the world through a rose-tinted geo-political lens, it will be looking inwards and not outward, in which case the outcome is likely to be strategic miscalculation, i.e. if the result is a mischaracterization of N by W, because W either: (i) does not understand N; or (ii) does not believe that N is real, actually exists in the psychology of P, and therefore is deeply embedded in PND. This incongruence dooms Mediation from the start, because W cannot even see where the ‘rails’ of the underlying and causal political dispute actually are, let alone the direction in which the train is going. Therefore, what W does can only halt the train by accident and not by design. Far worse, W can derail the train – which could be catastrophic for all on board. That is why it is a cardinal principle of any Mediation that the Mediator must not make the situation worse. This principle applies to the Mediation of a geo-political conflict no less than it applies to a civil dispute.
Can IHL bring warring P‘s together in an ‘offensive realism’ paradigm? Where institutionally, the destruction of Cultural Heritage by an invading P is an act of political self-destruction, i.e. because they share a common Cultural Heritage, then logically, that is a choice the aggressor is compelled to make, because political miscalculation risks making it weaker and not stronger as a result of the invasion.
Ukraine – Who can mediate?
As Jonathan Powell (who runs Inter Mediate in London) wrote in ‘Talking To Terrorists – How to end armed conflicts’ (2014), ‘Of course it is possible to mishandle a peace process just like any other political act, but that is no reason for not having a peace process. … President Kennedy captured the conundrum well: “A willingness to resist force, unaccompanied by a willingness to talk, could provoke belligerence – while a willingness to talk, unaccompanied by an willingness to resist force, could invite disaster.” … So the successful equation in dealing with serious terrorist groups is to combine military pressure down with the offer of a political way out through talks which can, over time, lead to an end to the armed conflict. …. That does not mean to say that it is sensible to plunge into a full-blown negotiation straightaway … Rather it means that we should try to learn from past experience how best to make contact with such groups, how to build trust, how to combine force and talking, how to use third parties, how and when to turn the contacts into negotiations, how to bring those negotiations to a successful conclusion, and how to ensure the resulting agreement is implemented, so that we don’t keep on making the same mistakes.’ If these principles apply to the invasion of a sovereign state by another state actor, then, Mediation is a tool for resolving armed conflict through politics and economics. Therefore, the question is when and how to talk to Russia.
‘Whether mediation is undertaken by an international organization, State, or an NGO, any peace process needs an individual to lead the effort. … However, a Head of state, Foreign Minister, or Secretary General is likely to be too busy with other things to be able to concentrate sufficiently on a mediation process that lasts more than a few days. They may also lack the willingness to get their hands dirty with detailed strategizing and planning, doing hands-on negotiations with non-state actors, listening to civil society, conducting shuttle diplomacy, and managing a mediation team. Often, they lack the expertise required for a professional mediation effort. They may also be too closely associated with one or more parties, particularly if the dispute is in a neighbouring state. … It is therefore important to select a dedicated and professional mediator to do the work, whether implicitly in the name of a Government or Secretary General, or explicitly as a special envoy, personal representative, or the like. The separation between the two hierarchical levels can also be used to advance the negotiations, for instance by calling on involvement of the highest level at crucial moments, to increase pressure on the parties.’ (Negotiating Peace – A Guide To The practice, Politics, And Law of International Mediation’, by Sven M.G.Koopmans, 2018) Oxford University Press, paragraph 3.4.1. Could Turkey (which is a NATO member state) mediate between Russia and Ukraine?