Sunday, September 14, 2014

Not a Figurative Cold War

The shooting war in Ukraine is apparently over. War by other means will commence.

The ceasefire seems like it is fairly firm despite repeated small violations, cementing at least limited Russian gains in eastern Ukraine:

1. An immediate bilateral ceasefire

2. Monitoring and verification of the ceasefire

3. Decentralisation of power

4. OSCE monitoring of a "buffer zone" on the Russia-Ukraine border

5. Prisoner release

6. Amnesty for those involved in unrest in eastern Ukraine

7. Inclusive national dialogue

8. Humanitarian aid

9. Early local elections

10. Withdrawal of 'illegal militant groups' from Ukraine

11. A programme for the economic reconstruction of eastern Ukraine

12. Security guarantees for participants in the crisis talks

The OSCE presence seems way too small to keep Russia from mucking about more in eastern Ukraine.

And no mention of the Budapest Memorandum, under which Ukraine de-nuclearized in exchange for security guarantees from Russia, America, and Britain.

This situation in eastern Ukraine is hardly a full win for Russia, but on top of their control of Crimea, represents at least a partial victory in restoring the empire:

Russian troops are still inside eastern Ukraine. And Ukrainian troops must still defend themselves.

Fighting isn't over, just at a low level and so far just initiated by the Russian side, it seems. The Ukrainians have few delusions about their Russian "peace" partners:

"We are still in a stage of war and the key aggressor is the Russian Federation ... Putin wants another frozen conflict (in eastern Ukraine)," said [Ukrainian Prime Minister] Yatseniuk, a longtime fierce critic of Moscow and a supporter of Ukraine's eventual NATO membership.

Perhaps more immediate a problem for Ukraine is that Russia will dispatch General Winter to the front:

Ukraine warned on Friday that it will have to adopt deeply unpopular energy savings measures this winter should Russia fail to lift its suspension of natural gas sales to the West-leaning ex-Soviet neighbour.

Russia in June halted gas exports to Ukraine after Kiev balked at paying higher prices that Moscow demanded in the wake of the February ouster of a Kremlin-backed president.

And if you still believe Russia isn't calling the shots with the astro-turf rebellion in eastern Ukraine:

“Eastern Ukraine, or most of it, as far as I’m aware, doesn’t want to be part of NATO,” said Lukin, who represented Russia at February talks in Kiev between then-President Viktor Yanukovych and opposition leaders who later ousted him. “Russia is also against this, but the main thing is that eastern Ukraine is opposed and has made it abundantly clear,” he said, stressing that he was speaking in a personal capacity.

The biggest issue for the "rebels" is Ukraine's membership in NATO? Right.

And even if true, that minority should have a veto over an entire country's future?

Oh, and membership in the EU:

The European Union and Ukraine agreed on Friday to delay the implementation of their free-trade pact until the end of next year in a concession to Russia, which had complained its industry would be hurt by the deal.

The EU blinked. On the bright side, at least Russia isn't pretending that this is a core interest of the rebels (though it surely is important given economic links to Russia).

As Ukraine goes forward, if Russia presses Ukraine to hold a referendum in eastern Ukraine on whether to separate from Ukraine, I suggest that Ukraine counter with a proposal that every province in both countries--such as Crimea and those in the Far East of Russia--be allowed to hold such referenda every 5 years for the next 20 years--just to be sure that the vitally important Russian objective of local self-determination is truly upheld.

UPDATE: I may have been hasty in assuming the fighting is mostly over:
Civilian casualties were reported in heavy shelling around the rebel stronghold of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine on Sunday, with Kiev accusing the separatists of jeopardising the truce by intensifying attacks against government positions.

At what point does Ukraine risk taking the initiative in this fighting despite risk of Russian escalation?