Is Ukraine at the finish line of the conflict? 



2014/08/21 • Analysis & Opinion

Maria Shchur and Daisy Sindelar

The visit of German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Kyiv this Saturday may not bring the war to an immediate end, however, according to some observers, it might move the process of finding a solution to the conflict towards the final stage. This is why.

  1. Germany is a heavyweight 

Throughout the conflict in Donbas, starting April, numerous western officials have visited Kyiv. Among them was Canadian Prime Minister Steven Harper, U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden, NATO General Secretary Anders Fogh Rasmussen. However, Angela Merkel, who represented the biggest European economy, the most powerful force in European foreign policy, and who understands Eastern European realities well, as well as those of Vladimir Putin, with whom she can speak in Russian, may bring much more into the solution of the conflict than the rest of her European partners.

Merkel’s visit to Kyiv is a sign of support for Kyiv, but she speaks the language of compromise. In Riga on August 18 Merkel promised that the NATO would give an adequate response to the challenges in the East, however she excluded the possibility of a constant NATO contingent in the Baltic. Based on this, some experts predict that Merkel will come to Kyiv with an offer which would demand compromise from both parties.

British newspaper Independent, owned by a Russian magnate, assumed that the offer might consist of exchanging Crimea for the Kremlin’s promise to stop destabilizing Donbas and a discount on gas prices, which would include the compensation for the loss of Crimea. However, the downing of the Malaysian airline put an end to these rumors, the article says. The authenticity of this message was never verified, and official Kyiv has stated numerous times that Crimea is not for sale.

2. History lessons or historical coincidences? 

Merkel’s visit coincides with two important historical dates. August 23 is the 75-year anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, which led to the division of Eastern Europe between two totalitarian regimes.

And on the next day, August 24, Ukraine celebrates its 23rd anniversary since the declaration of independence. The military parade on Independence Square, the place where Maidan fought, will be especially symbolic for the country at war.

Noting these historical coincidences, observers say that though they cannot guarantee good starting positions for Ukraine at the meeting, they are decreasing the possibility or at least a neutral attitude of the West towards the Kremlin’s pretensions.

3. The upcoming meeting between Poroshenko and Putin

After the short meeting between the Presidents of Ukraine and Russia, which took place during the 70th anniversary celebration of the Allies’ unification in Normandy, in June, before Petro Poroshenko’s inauguration, August 26 will mark the second opportunity for the two to exchange their opinions in Minsk.

Besides the Presidents of Ukraine and Russia, Eurasian leaders Nursultan Nazarbayev, President of Kazakhstan, host of the meeting, the leader of Belarus Alexandr Lukashenko, will also be in attendance, and the European Union will be represented by the High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton.

The agenda of this meeting is described with very broad terms: fuel, humanitarian issues and, as they put it, “broader political issues.” There is also no guarantee that a personal meeting between the Ukrainian and Russian President will happen, however one of the heads of the Administration of the Ukrainian President Valery Chaly stated that “a diplomatic roadmap is already being drawn.”

4. Military success is on Ukraine’s side

Official Kyiv is relying more on its military than its diplomatic success. The Ukrainian army managed to overcome initial lack of organization and lack of necessary financing and proved its ability to beat the pro-Russian separatists from a major part of the territory of Donbas. Currently, according to the leadership of the antiterrorist operation, they are preparing to liberate Donetsk and Luhansk.

However, information about Russian mercenaries receiving reinforcements from Russia with manpower and equipment keeps coming. The most painful thing for Kyiv is the growth of the numbers of the casualties of the conflict and their possible increase during battle for big cities.

5. Russia demonstrates signs of exhaustion

After initial euphoria from the almost bloodless acquisition of Crimea and watching the happy picture of numerous eastern citizens with “St. George’s Ribbons,” the Kremlin is now reaping the fruit of aggression in the shape of sanctions and decrease in international sympathies, especially after the crash of the Malaysian airliner, which was downed by the pro-Russian separatists.

The retreat of the Russians that led the separatists, and their replacement with local representatives of semi-criminal structures also testifies to the fact that Moscow is seeking a way out.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s trip to Crimea became the first speech made by the Russian President that was not aired live. In his speech, Putin confirmed his theses that Russia “has all the rights to Crimea,” however, he hinted that his imperial ambitions have been temporarily satisfied.

Observers say that if Putin manages to achieve a decision to legitimize the annex of Crimea, it will be enough for him to be considered a victor, even if he did lose Ukraine.


Source: Radio Liberty

Translated by Mariya Shcherbinina

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  • Phil Kammer

    Russian pride is involved so I would put a cork on that for a week or two

  • Dirk Smith

    If Putler has any sense of rational thought left, he should take his Crimea and call it a day. If he continues on, then his megalomania will have to be eventually dealt with by NATO.

  • Joni Pelkonen

    In my opinion, the only way to successfully fight fanatics is to beat them thoroughly so their pride and courage are destroyed.

  • Murf

    Putin has to have his face saving gesture so he can declare victory and run home.
    That way Europe and Russia get to lift the sanctions and have a love fest. Obama will go along with it because because he lacks a spine.
    And Ukraine? UA gets to make them PAY THROUGH THE NOSE.Putin and Europe need a ceasefire more than UA does so don’t make it cheep!
    Loosing Crimea may be a hard pill to swallow but frankly it was always a drag on the UA, both economically and politically. With out a million+ pro Russia voters the movement west will be easier.
    A cease fire now will give UA the breathing room to get it’s economy moving. It will also give them time to refurbish the military.
    And who knows, not all “little Green Men” have to be Russian.

    • Arctic_Slicer

      With parliamentary elections coming up, ceding Crimea will be politically impossible. It’s not going to happen. Furthermore the liberation of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts are inevitable; a month or two and Ukraine will have regained control over the entire region. At which point Ukraine will be in a much stronger to pressure Russia in ending it’s occupation of Crimea. Putin’s game at this point seems to be to try and bog down the Ukrainian military in Donetsk and Luhansk as long as he can and hope that winter comes before Ukraine declares victory

      Putin’s biggest fear at this point is for Ukraine to recapture Luhansk and Donetsk and then redeploy many of their forces, now skilled in the art of urban warfare, in a play to retake Crimea during December-March when the winter conditions make operating the Kerch ferry impossible and thus difficult for Russia to reinforce it’s presence there. If Ukarine can win in the large and heavily populated areas of Donetsk and Luhansk that directly border Russia, then Ukraine can win in Crimea. In Crimea, all roads lead back to Ukraine making it much more difficult for Russia to send aid and reinforcements to the peninsula especially during the winter months.

      • sandy miller

        I pray you’re right.

      • Murf

        Making a real attack as opposed to “Snap Exercises” will start an open war between Russia and UA.
        The Army has come a long way but it has a long way to go before it’s ready to fight Russia The T-64s need to to -be upgraded to BV DESPERATELY before they take on Russians T-90s. The Air Force needs to be upgraded or they will be sitting ducks (Look at the losses so far, that’s not against SA-400s either.)
        Also to secure Crimea the Navy is going to have to play a part. And they are a long way behind.
        Conservatively it will take a year of intensive work to get the army up to speed.
        Don’t thing for a second I like the idea of letting Putler have any form a a win But you can bet your sweet as$ Merkle will be putting the squeeze on Poro to agree to a cease fire. which as a practical matter means the territory the Rebs occupy is lost. The sanctions are hurting the EU and the situation has ceased to be amusing to them.
        And the war is taking a terrible toll in the Economy and the countries physiology
        In other posts I have said that the Army needs to use some creative tactics and bring this to a close.
        I hope they do.

        • Arctic_Slicer

          I actually don’t think Ukraine plans to fight for Crimea militarily in the short term but given the level of paranoia from Russia and their actions they certainly seem to be afraid that Ukraine might try that. It’s probably not lost on Russia that most of their servicemen are conscripts without actual combat experience and that Ukraine’s military is mostly volunteer with lots of combat experience over the last several months.

          I think a more likely military play from Ukraine post liberation of Donetsk and Luhansk would be to make co-operate with Moldova in helping them reassert their authority over Transdinistria, thus securing Ukraine’s Western border. Moldova is a landlocked country and it’s impossible for Russia to reinforce it’s occupation of Transdnistria without crossing either Ukrainian or NATO airspace gives Ukraine and Moldova a strong advantage to finally force Russia out of the area should they want to.

          • Murf

            Militarily it’s a good idea.
            Politically it’s dangerous.
            Economically,Why bother?
            From what understand Transdinistria is an arm pit full of nut case russophiles and criminals. UA has enough of them already. If they start shite With UA the Ukrainians will eat them for breakfast.
            concentrate on making UA a Eastern European Success Story and they will come knocking at your door.
            But then again there is reason that “Little Green Men” can only be Russian.

          • Arctic_Slicer

            Many prominent figures in Ukraine, such as Dmitry Tymchuk, argue for the necessity of helping Moldova restore the territorial integrity of it’s nation. Transdnistria is a region where Russia has soldiers and equipment(including aerial reconnaissance drones), which can be problematic for Ukraine. Allowing Russia to maintain a permanent illegal military occupation on Ukraine’s Western border is by definition a national security problem.

            It’s important to note that not a a single nation in the world, not even Russia, officially recognizes the independence of Transdinistria. If actions are taken with full support and cooperation of the government of Moldova there are no serious international political consequences that could result from such an action. If Ukraine and Moldova made an effort to fully restore Moldova’s territorial integrity; there is little Russia or any other nation could do to stop it.


          • Murf

            I agree with the need,I am just concerned with the consequences. It will need to be done carefully.
            Couple things off the top of my head:
            1) the UA economy must be strong enough to withstand the expense and repercussions. There will be backlash even if Putin just acts like a pouty boy and saber rattling. Also UA will loose standing internationally.(The media just LOVES blood in the streets. They don’t much care about justifications.)
            2 The UA military needs to be strong enough to deter a direct Russian attack and intervene in TD at the same time. This will take year at a minimum even if things end in East UA right now, which they are not.
            3) SBU will need to cultivate some form of local opposition in TD. Again more time. But important
            4) Moldova will provide the provocation (doesn’t matter what.) This the “Little Green Men ” phase. SBU destabilizes the area and conducts a vilification campaign like Russia has to UA.
            5) Moldova will intervene and have difficulty. They will ask for help.
            6) As an ally UA will “Reluctantly” agree and roll in HOT. We are talking special ops, air mobile, and a mech ground assault. They will have to avoid the Russian troops already there. And that’s there’s rub. Remember what happened to Georgia.
            That’s the easy part. Occupations are EXPENSIVE. You don’t want this to turn into UA’s Chechnya or Iraq.
            Again I agree with the need but this is not the 19th century. These things have to be handled carefully.
            If all this sounds familiar its because it’s right out of the Cold War and what Putin has done to the UA for the last six months.

            What I fear the most is UA will become that which it has abhorred.
            When you travel down this road something is gained but some thing is ALWAYS lost. Once lost it can never be regained.
            The US played this game for 50 years of the Cold War. It was necessary but we paid a price for it, Some times a terrible price.
            Be sure the goal is worth it.
            Best regards form the US.

          • Arctic_Slicer

            Very good points the only thing you over look though is that Transdinistria is a landlocked territory far away from Russia with a population of about 450,000. There is little that Russia could do to prevent Moldova from regaining authority over the territory should Ukraine support them in that matter. After retaking Donetsk and Luhansk; capturing Transdnistria would be easy by comparison. Also it doesn’t have to be a permanent Ukrainian occupation; after Ukraine has helped bring Tiraspol and the other cities under Moldavan authority; Ukraine could withdraw it’s forces as soon as Moldava has established sufficient police forces to prevent a reemergence of separatism in the future.

            But yes, I agree with you that Ukraine needs to do be careful with future military actions and not let victory in Donetsk and Luhansk go to their heads and make them overly cocky.

  • Robert Rocherry Czerniawski

    please, do not follow German’s advices; firstly, Russia is
    weak at the moment and the west is not so tranquillized as much as Putin has
    assumed; secondly, because of Germans ”certainty” of their knowledge and
    expertise about Russia ad Russians while this knowledge is just collection of
    myths and delusions; and thirdly Frau Merkel as loyal Kanzler ( loyal but to her country) wants to keep
    untouched secrets of Gasprom and Putin because they are auxiliary secrets of
    Germany… and Frau Kanzler will be looking for a dupe who would pay for
    german-russian-business; please do not accept annexation of Crimea; We
    Ukrainian the same as Polish know, that Muscovites will never stop looting
    after the even only one little confirming act.

    • sandy miller

      Unfortunately, you know that Putin wants crimea…I agree I wouldn’t give it up there’s oil in that water and Putin knows it that’s the reason he annexed it. Since he got away with it so easily he thought he’d take a try at eastern and southern ukraine that’s where all the research and war productions happens which should be moved to western Ukraine where it will forever be safe from Russia thugs,murderers and thieves..

    • sandy miller

      Unfortunately, you know that Putin wants crimea…I agree I wouldn’t give it up there’s oil in that water and Putin knows it that’s the reason he annexed it. Since he got away with it so easily he thought he’d take a try at eastern and southern ukraine that’s where all the research and war productions happens which should be moved to western Ukraine where it will forever be safe from Russia thugs,murderers and thieves..

  • evanlarkspur

    Buying peace at the expense of the rule of law has already been demonstrated NOT to bring “peace in our time.” Which part of that lesson has not already been learned? We must uphold the law first and foremost; peace will follow. The reverse is not true.

  • Zhukov9

    I’ve been to Crimea five times and it’s still shocking to think that it was annexed by Russia after a phony referendum. I can’t believe this can happen in the 21st century and that so many Russians justify it with bogus “Krushchev’s gift” and “self-determination” theories, and I hear almost nothing about the armed overthrow of the Crimean parliament by Aksyonov’s gang and their machine guns.

    • Arctic_Slicer

      “Khrushchev’s gift” is also a falsehood since anyone with any actual education on the issue knows that Crimea was transferred to the Ukrainian SSR since there was no land linking Crimea to the Russian SFSR making it more difficult to manage the infrastructure and construction needs of the peninsula. Putting Crimea under the jurisdiction of the Ukrainian SSR solved this problem as Crimea is connected to Ukraine via the Perokop Isthmus.

      With Crimea now under Russian control, these facts are having to be relearned the hard way.

      • Zhukov9

        The “gift” theory is nonsense and totally unsupported by any documents or quotes from anybody involved with it in the 1950s. But there are plenty of documents, such as the September 21, 1950 decree of the USSR Council of ministers, which called for construction of the Kakhovka dam, Southern Ukraine and Crimean canals, and supplying water from the Kakhovka reservoir.
        I just finished Karl D. Qual’s excellent book “From Ruins to Reconstruction”, about the Urban Identity of Sevastopol and detailed reconstruction after WW2. Centralized planning for all cities was done in Moscow. But the local architects, supported by Stalin’s 1937 decree requiring preservation of local culture and history should be reflected in city designs, were able to win the contracts to do the designing. The Moscow architects wanted to glorify the USSR and Stalin, and neglected the needs of normal people like housing, transportation, and sewers.
        However, about 1949, lack of labor (especially Tatars), shortages of materials, and other problems, caused such delays that the planning authority was transferred back to Moscow. Which was about the time the five-year plan for 1945-1960 was being developed. The massive red tape caused by centralized planning in Moscow was a major issue in the decision announced by the decree of 1954 to Transfer administration of Crimea to the USSR republic of Ukraine.
        They (Krushchev, Voroshilov, Molotov, Malenkov, Kirichenko, et al) didn’t transfer it to Turkey, or Romania. They only transferred government authority to another part of their own country.

  • sandy miller

    Yea…sure give up Crimea where Putin is already searching for oil with Exxon which should have been Ukraines and assured its independence.

  • Kruton

    There will be no peace,there will be war!