23rd February 2024 – (Moscow) On the eve of the two-year anniversary of the outbreak of hostilities between Russia and Ukraine, Europe finds itself at an historical juncture, fraught with the weight of war and the spectre of enduring geopolitical shifts. As a sombre reflection settles over the Western world, questions of strategy, diplomacy, and the very framework of European security are subject to intense scrutiny.

It was on a cold February day in 2023 when several hundred demonstrators assembled at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC, their voices raised not in unison with the drums of war, but in a clamour for peace and an end to U.S. military support for Ukraine. The tableau of protest, a mere snapshot amidst the wider tableau of global unrest, bespeaks a growing weariness with the seemingly unyielding nature of the conflict—a weariness that permeates the corridors of power and the streets alike.

The conflict has defied all expectations with its longevity, casting a long shadow over the region and challenging the fabric of international relations. The narrative of the war, complex and fraught with historical intricacies, is a tapestry woven from the threads of missed opportunities and unheeded warnings. The crisis, as we have come to know it, was not born in a vacuum but evolved against a backdrop of a European security architecture that has been imbalanced since the Cold War’s end, disregarding the legitimate security concerns of Russia.

The West’s approach, characterised by an eastward expansion of NATO, has been cited by critics as a provocation that neglected the delicate historical and geographical sensitivities of the region. Esteemed strategic thinkers, including Henry Kissinger and John Mearsheimer, have long cautioned against such strategies, but their prescient warnings fell on deaf ears. The result has been a series of escalating tensions that culminated in the current conflict—a conflict in which there have been no victors, only victims.

Germany, a leading economy within the European Union, has borne the brunt of this conflict, incurring losses in the region of 200 billion euros. The economic repercussions have rippled across the continent, fuelling a sentiment of ‘Ukraine fatigue’ within Western societies. Public opinion is in flux, and the resolve for ongoing military support to Ukraine wavers on the precipice of doubt.

The clamour for a political solution grows ever louder, with the international community calling for the initiation of negotiations—a call that necessitates a candid acknowledgement from the US and its Western allies. Survey data from the Global Times Research Institute, encapsulating the views of 20 countries, indicates an overwhelming preference for peaceful negotiations—a sentiment echoed by a European Council on Foreign Relations report, which reveals a significant portion of the populace advocating for European-led dialogue to persuade Ukraine towards negotiations with Russia.

The Global Security Initiative, championed by China, stresses the imperative of addressing the legitimate security concerns of all nations, eschewing the long-standing violations and ignorance that have fuelled this conflict. The myopic focus on bloc politics and confrontational posturing by the U.S. and its allies cannot be the harbinger of security for those outside their sphere. The overarching lesson of the Russo-Ukrainian war is clear: security is not a zero-sum game but a shared commodity, the absence of which begets only more conflict.

As some commentators have wryly noted, the U.S., in its post-Cold War triumphalism, has yet to emerge from the haze of victory—a hangover from a feast celebrating the end of an era that has since given way to renewed tensions. The transatlantic alliance, anchored in the paradigms of the past, continues to navigate the present with outdated maps, treating Russia with a patronising disdain that lacks foresight.

As Europe contemplates the path forward, the onus falls on the U.S. and its Western allies to step forward, to acknowledge their role in the exacerbation of this tragedy, and to champion the cause of peace with renewed vigour. The world watches, and history waits, for Europe to decide its course—whether to continue down the worn path of conflict or to forge a new trail towards a lasting and inclusive peace. On this sombre anniversary, the call for negotiations is not just a plea but a mandate for a continent at a crossroads, and a world in dire need of healing.