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Why Ukrainian neutrality may not be a pathway to peace

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As peace talks between Russia and Ukraine unfold, one possibility is that Ukraine becomes a neutral state. Negotiations have been taking place this week in Istanbul, Turkey, amid an apparent tentative stalemate between the two sides. Ukrainian neutrality is reportedly on the table. But a neutral Ukraine wouldn’t necessarily ensure peace in the region and, in fact, may only heighten tensions in the future, says Mai’a Cross, the Edward W. Brooke Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at Northeastern.

“Neutrality means Ukraine would effectively forfeit its ability to have a foreign policy of any meaning or significance,” Cross says. “It would mean Ukraine would not be able to join NATO or any other political alliances, or host foreign military bases. It may even mean demilitarization.” As a result, Cross says Ukraine would need security guarantees from other countries, as neutrality would mean effectively giving up its ability to ensure its own national security; but the specifics of that arrangement, in terms of its own government and its relationships with other countries, are contingent on the ongoing talks.

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