Russo-Ukraine Conflict: Case for ‘Concert of Medium Powers’(CMP) to Mediate?

Published on 28th February 2023

The fratricidal Russia-Ukraine Conflict has been raging for the last twelve months.  The conflict is between a permanent Member of the UN Security Council, the world body’s preeminent body mandated to maintain international peace and security and Ukraine, which used to be one of the constituent states of the former Soviet Union.  The end of the conflict is certainly not in sight.  What is certain is that there shall be higher levels of escalation.  The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is ramping up its military support for Ukraine, whilst Russia seems implacably determined to   pursue what Moscow considers its legitimate security interests.

In this polarized international environment, it seems difficult to envisage the UN Security Council performing its charter mandate of custodian of international peace and security.  The world is perilously divided over the conflict. In this volatile context, Multilateralism as embodied by the United Nations Charter is in deep jeopardy.

Division and Paralysis Among the Permanent Members of the UN Security Council

At the core of the UN Security Council is the P5, the permanent Members of the Security Council, namely the United States of America (USA), Russian Federation (RF), the Peoples Republic of China (PRC), United Kingdom (UK) and France.  The P5 are deeply divided by the escalating conflict. The United States vociferously backed by Great Britain and to a lesser extent France is arming Ukraine. The Peoples Republic of China has chosen to remain neutral whilst urging the parties to seek path of dialogue and negotiation.  The Peoples Republic of China has wisely urged restraint and steadfastly defended the values and norms of multilateralism in the quest to promote a pacific resolution of the crisis.

The wider international community has likewise been splintered by the conflict.  African countries have come under strong pressure from the United States and its allies to unequivocally condemn Moscow and throw their diplomatic weight behind Ukraine. 

The Case for an Ad-Hoc Concert pf Medium Powers

Whereas the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization(NATO) have made no secret of their desire to arm Ukraine to the teeth, other bodies such as the Non Aligned Movement (NAM) and regional blocs like the Organization of American States (OAS), the African Union (AU), South American Common Market (MERCOSUR), League of Arab States(LAS), Association of South East Asian Nations(ASEAN) etc have been rather subdued.  This author argues that it is time for a Concert of Medium Powers (CMP) representative of these blocs to emerge as a mediating force between Moscow and Kiev.  The CMP is a concept that was first introduced in the 1980s by former External Affairs Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (FRN), Professor Dr. Bolaji Akinyemi. Nigeria’s chief diplomat at the time advocated a bigger role for middle powers in international politics to counterbalance the preponderant influence of the Great Powers in the Bi-polar world of the Cold War era.

The CMP should have as its overriding objective, persuasion of both sides to come to the negotiation table to agree on a durable settlement.   The US and its allies have unfortunately forfeited the moral and diplomatic legitimacy to encourage the warring parties to negotiate a mutually dignified exit from the conflict.  Certainly, Russia under President Putin, will not agree to a settlement that humiliates and fatally tarnishes Russia’s credentials as a Great Power. Regrettably, the United States and its allies seem inflexibly determined to wear down Russia into submission through their relentless military support to Kiev.  

It should under no circumstances be forgotten that the Post-World War II strategic-political order was shaped by three Statesmen: namely President Franklin Roosevelt of the United States, Prime Minister Winston Churchill of Great Britain and Marshall Josef Stalin of the Soviet Union.  It is therefore totally unthinkable that the Russian Federation, successor of the ex-Soviet Union, a Founding member of the United Nations at the San Francisco Conference of 1945 will accept a humiliating ignominious defeat.  In a worst-case scenario, Russia’s embattled political class might choose to take inordinately extreme measures as an exit strategy, rather than yield to ignominious capitulation. 

It is against this scenario of peril and gloom that the author recommends that the CMP representing Africa, Asia, Europe, and South America should discreetly contact the warring parties and implore them to seek path of negotiation without any preconditions.  Members of such an entity would be states that have considerable diplomatic gravitas, economic clout   in the regions they belong to, in addition to demonstrated impartiality and neutrality in the conflict.  Simply put, these states ought to be regional heavy weights on their continents.

Africa could be represented by Egypt, Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa. South America could constitute a group consisting of Argentina, Brazil and Mexico.  Asia could be represented by India, Philippines, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia. Turkiye could represent Europe. Ankara’s credentials have been burnished by the constructive role Turkiye played in the deal that allowed grain to be shipped from the Black Sea to needy African countries.  The United Nations Secretary-General could serve as Secretary of  the emergent CMP .

Forward Look 

It is not too late for the Concept of Medium Powers proposed in this think-piece to launch an initiative to promote peaceful resolution of the Russia -Ukraine Conflict. Indeed, Africa is replete with examples of how long running and seemingly intractable conflicts have been resolved peacefully.

The world can learn valuable lessons from the African paradigm of ‘Ubuntu’ or; ‘Palaver’ in resolving intractable conflicts. In 1971, the Organization of African Unity (OAU), precursor to the African Union (AU), deployed an Ad-Hoc Committee of four (4) Heads of State/ ‘Wise Men’ (Presidents Mokhtar Ould Daddah-Maritania; Yakubu Gown -Nigeria; Leopold Sedar Senghor-Senegal; Mobutu Sese Seko-Zaire/DRC) to encourage Israel and the Arab Countries to return to negotiations after the 1967 Six Day War. Though the mission was not a magic wand that ended the conflict, it certainly had the salutary effect of persuading both protagonists to see the value of dialogue and diplomacy as opposed to confrontation and acrimony.

By Michael Njunga Mulikita (Dr)

Independent International Politics Scholar; formerly Dean of the School of Social Sciences, Mulungushi University (MU) (2017-2022), Zambia. 

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