Russia’s war in Ukraine: how South Africa blew its chance as a credible mediator

Author: Jessica Ashman

Pulte Institute faculty fellow Laurie Nathan recently published an article for The ConversationThe article comments on South African President Cyril Ramaphosa's decision to abstain from voting on three UN General Assembly resolutions that condemn Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Nathan argues that South Africa's stance is counter-productive to the pursuit of peaceful resolutions in the Ukraine crisis. 

"Ukraine and Russia have not reached the point of serious negotiations. They remain locked in a military struggle, with Russia believing it can still make gains through the use of force. It is far-fetched to imagine that President Vladimir Putin will respond positively to mere exhortations to settle the conflict peacefully. Only a combination of Ukrainian resistance and intense international pressure will change his cost-benefit calculation away from fighting and towards negotiations."

Nathan asserts that South Africa has neglected the lessons from its own negotiated settlements and history of peacemaking. Rather, they hold a position that serves to appease Russia's aggression. 

Nathan is professor of the practice of mediation in the Keough School of Global Affairs and director of the Mediation Program in the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame.

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Originally published at on April 13, 2022.