Delegations of Ukraine and Russia have begun talks in neighboring Belarus. At the same time the Russian assault continues deep into southern and eastern Ukrainian territories. While talks are good, clearly this round of talks is not serious. What Russia wants is an abject surrender by Ukraine, where they are forced to accept Russian terms.

Russia’s terms for peace are the same as their terms for war: Ukraine gives a legal guarantee they will not join NATO; they recognise the breakaway republics of Donetsk and Luhansk as well as Crimea and give a guarantee for their safety and security. President Zelensky of Ukraine has refused these terms. This means the war still goes on. The human tragedy like in any other war is immense and terrible. Civilians are feeling the brunt and human rights violated.

Meanwhile all of Europe is increasing its military capacities. Germany has changed its policy of not exporting weapons to war zones and is sending weapons to Ukraine and has increased its military budget to more than 2% of its GDP. Financial sanctions against Russia have been stepped up and the ruble has lost 30% of its international value. The West is doing its utmost to make Russia an international pariah.

Who then is responsible for this war and imbroglio? Several parties are involved and the timing shows it. Ofcourse, Russia is culpable for the immediate and ongoing aggression. Many, especially Western narrative and media do not want to mention NATO’s role and believe that Putin alone is driving this war with the aim of expanding Russia.

However, NATO’s triumphalism at Soviet collapse, their refusal to accommodate Russia in some kind of security partnership; expansion to include fourteen states of Central East Europe and continue to perceive Russia as a major threat in their discourse, has led to the creation of the beast, as Henry Kissenger and several American strategists warned years ago. Once Russia under Putin stabilized and built back its resources, it supported the secessionist movements earlier in Georgia and then in the Ukraine.

Besides the rogue role played by both NATO and Russia, Ukraine itself has behaved in a despotic way, vis a vis its ethnic Russian minorities. Policies of exclusion and phobia led to targeting these minorities, who felt they should have been part of Russia. Making Ukrainian the official language, increased their desperation. First Crimea seceded and then civil war broke out in the Donbas region that has these two republics of Luhansk and Donbas.There is no doubt that Russia supported these rebels’ drive for self determination. Clearly inclusive policies, federalism, citizenship rights would have averted this disaster.

The European Union is also guilty. They should have engaged more with Russia in the OSCE and other bodies of the Union, where Russia is an affiliate. They should have built a bridge between Russia and the US. Putin is autocratic and authoritarian, He has no respect for human rights or democratic institutions. Europe does. So when 14,000 people were killed ihe Ukrainian civil war did the OSCE or any European body look into this?

Of Course attempts have been made at talks. That's how the Minsk Protocols of 2014 and 2015 came into being. These asked for ceasefire, withdrawal of force and a Line of Contact- that is a neutral zone between the Russian and Ukrainian border where this Donbass region lies. None of the parties respected this. The civil war continued. Russia. NATO, Ukraine, all held on to their demands. So Putin’s major gamble of war.

So how can peace be reached? There should be an immediate cease fire. In this case the ideal situation would be if high representatives of Ukraine, Russia, the leaders of the breakaway republics, as well as representatives of the UN or the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) of which Russia is an affiliate should stand as guarantors for a peace accord. The Minsk Agreements should be revived.

The rest of the world must not stand silent. Countries like India, China and others who abstained in the Security Council vote, can and should play a greater role in asking for a strategic pause from Russia and a compromise from all parties concerned. The peace movement should back this stand. The world needs a sustainable peace but what is happening on the contrary is high militarism. This does not augur well for the health of the planet. Peace with dignity should be restored for all. A new non-militarist security architecture should be carved out for Europe.

Professor Anuradha Chenoy retired from Jawaharlal Nehru University is a well known scholar on Russia and the region.

Belarusian minister welcomes Ukrainian and Russian delegations for talks,  saying they should feel "completely safe"