Nearly six months after Russia agreed in Minsk to an immediate cease-fire in eastern Ukraine, its forces continue to shell and rocket Ukrainian positions on a daily basis while Ukraine’s national security council warned last month that Moscow had completed preparations for a new offensive in three different directions from the territory it currently controls, the Washington Post reports.
Instead of pulling back heavy weapons or withdrawing its troops as required by the agreement, Russia has built military bases and deployed 9,000 troops inside Ukraine and stationed another 50,000 just outside the border, according to Ukrainian and NATO officials.
How are Western governments responding to such behavior by the Kremlin? Last month the Obama administration slightly tightened existing sanctions on Russia, and the Pentagon announced that training of Ukrainian special forces would be extended to regular army units. Mostly, however, the United States has joined with France and Germany in applying heavy political pressure — on the government of Ukraine.
Authors fear that constitutional changes required by western powers from the Ukrainian officials might legitimize the so-called local authorities Russia installed in eastern Ukraine and grant the areas they occupy a special legal status. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko warned the country’s lawmakers Ukraine would have to face Russia without allies if it did not adopt the amendments.
“Germany, France and Ukraine agreed to the deal in a desperate effort to stop an escalating military conflict, but the shooting never completely stopped as Russia and its proxies have never respected the cease-fire,” the authors noted.
U.S. officials say Ukrainian steps toward compliance put pressure on Russia and deprive it of a pretext for launching another full-scale military offensive. But Moscow’s aggressive propaganda apparatus relentlessly portrays Ukraine as violating the deal; and Vladimir Putin hasn’t needed a legitimate pretext for his previous aggressions. Even if Russia respected the cease-fire, the terms it seeks for reincorporating the areas it holds into Ukraine would cripple the country’s democracy and independence — which is essentially Putin’s goal, according the article.
“The Obama administration, for its part, ought to be doing more to bolster Ukraine’s defenses, so that Russia will be deterred from the offensive it is threatening,” reads the article, questioning the effectiveness of a political solution