Reports in the press over the past week or so have suggested that the US is pressing Ukraine to move towards peace talks with Russia. It is ironic when reports refer to the communications as private. What that means is that no politician is publicly calling for talks in public statements. However, when the world’s press know of such conversations, they are hardly private.
There may be reasons why it would be in Ukraine’s interests to sit down to talks with Russia at some point if there was a way to bring about peace in a just way. However, first, I do not believe that the call is for anyone other than the Ukrainian government to make. The responsibility of other countries is to ensure that Russia doesn’t use any talks that happen as an opportunity to manipulate things in their interest. It will also be important that others act as guarantors to ensure that Russia keeps the terms of any agreement.
The big concern is that motivation in the West for peace talks to happen is driven more by fear of how an ongoing conflict will affect other countries. Russia may have had a terrible hot war in terms of its botched invasion but it’s cold war with the West is proving more successful. We may have hit Putin with sanctions but he has caused significant economic damage both through the pushing up of gas prices and cutting off of vital supplies out of Ukraine, the bread basket of Europe.
Europe and America need a quick settlement to the conflict if they are to escape the energy crisis and the cost-of-living crisis. Yet, whilst this may explain any weakening of western resolve, it does not excuse it. To pressurise Ukraine into premature talks would be to give in to Putin’s bullying and scaremongering.
There is an important principle at stake here and this applies not just to geo-politics but to how we handle disputes and conflicts in families, communities, and churches. I think that there is a risk that those seeking to act as mediators can at times press the victims in such situations to find a way to settle disputes not because that is the just and right thing to do or what is best for the victim but because it makes life easier for us. We don’t like conflict and want to find quick, non-messy solutions so that we can return to our own lives. We find the situation awkward and uncomfortable. Of course we cover over the reality with ladles of language about showing grace and forgiveness but it is easy to talk about grace and forgiveness when we are not the ones being asked to show them.
Yes, grace, compassion and forgiveness are important but it is crucial for us to remember that when a victim responds with forgiveness then that is for the Holy Spirit to call them to and equip them for. Our responsibility is not to create a false peace but to defend the victim, to call those in sin to repentance and to seek true justice for the oppressed.