February 7 – 5 Ukrainian military were killed and 26 injured in the conflict area in Donbas in the last 24 hours, – informedVolodymyr Polevyi, deputy head of the Information Center of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine.
February 7 – President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko met with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg during Munich Security Conference. NATO Secretary General has said that the alliance is strengthening collective security system as well as spoke about providing political and practical support to Ukraine on behalf of NATO.
February 7 – The West should not rule out military resolution of the conflict in Ukraine, – said on Saturday in MunichSupreme Allied Commander Europe of NATO Allied Command Operations, Gen. Philip Breedlove, writes Spiegel Online. “We are not talking about sending troops to Ukraine,” – said Breedlove. In addition, he called Vladimir Putin’s proposals on the resolution of the conflict in eastern Ukraine “totally unacceptable”.
February 7 – President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko has held tripartite talks with Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and US Vice President Joe Biden – “The parties have coordinated further steps and stressed the need for an immediate ceasefire as well as continued dialogue on the implementation of all provisions of the Minsk agreements”.
February 7 – Security Service of Ukraine (SSU) has publicized intercepted conversations, which suggest that Russian military are provoking clashes between the ATO forces and militants of “People’s Republic of Donetsk”. They must be getting new “arguments” ready for Putin’s negotiations.
February 7 – Armed Forces and the National Guards of Ukraine have received new military equipment – a modernized armored vehicle “Spartan”, equipped with heavy machine gun and “Stugna” missiles.
February 7 – Ukraine is ready to support ceasefire at any time, – stated the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko in his comments to journalists at Munich Security Conference. Whereas the issues of state’s federal structure or the autonomy of certain regions (Putin’s wishes), may only be decided at a national referendum, not in Moscow or Berlin. All is needed for peace in Donbas is closed borders with Russian Federation and withdrawal of Russian troops, not peacekeeping forces. In his speech at Munich Security Conference, President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko presented the passports and military service cards of Russian soldiers who “must have gotten lost in Ukraine” and were detained by Ukrainian military.
By Taras Kuzio
Russia, despite its repeated denials, is sending large quantities of military equipment to the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine along with 9,000 of its troops. Movement of Russian forces, including the Pantsir-S1 missile system, are being tracked by think tanks and western intelligence agencies. Only Russian professional (not conscript) troops and intelligence officers can operate highly sophisticated Russian military equipment – not irregular separatist forces.
Respected Russian military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer has concluded that the aim of Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, is to destroy Ukraine’s independence by installing a satrap in Kiev similar to Chechen warlord Razman Kadyrov, thereby ending Kiev’s goal of integration into Europe.
Putin reportedly told German Chancellor Angela Merkel that Kiev should deal with the separatists by buying them off with autonomy and money as he had in Chechnya, which to her was unacceptable.
Russia and its separatist proxies have never abided by the September Minsk peace accords and last month tore them up and demand a new agreement that would lend legitimacy to their territorial gains. Military assaults have claimed a growing number of civilian lives, including 40 in rocket attacks on the port city of Mariupol and a Luhansk hospital, with the total number of civilians killed rising to 5, 500, according to the UN. Growing numbers of combatants continue to die on both sides, as illustrated by these gruesome photos of a column of 16 Russian and separatist tanks that was destroyed yesterday.
In the face of the new Russian-backed offensive, pressure on US President Barack Obama to send defensive military equipment to Ukraine is becoming ever more intense. The release of a report for the Atlantic Council of the US by eight US ambassadors calling for military assistance was published along with a crescendo of commentaries in The Times, The Guardian, The Financial Times (here, here andhere), The Wall Street Journal (here and here), The Washington Post, The New York Times, The American Interest, The Christian Science Monitor, The Atlantic, The New York Post, The Boston Globe, The Los Angeles Times and Spiegel Online.
This chorus of support was backed by influential former US National Security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. A bipartisan group led by Republican and Democratic Senators Rob Portman and Dick Durbin called for military assistance to Ukraine “to defend its sovereign borders against escalating Russian aggression”.
The New York Times reported that the US was considering supplying arms to Ukraine, something reportedly confirmed by Douglas Lute, the US Ambassador to Nato. Ashton Carter, President Obama’s choice to become his fourth Defence Secretary, said three days later he was “very much inclined” to provide arms to Ukraine to fight Russian-backed separatists.
Ukraine has been seeking western weapons since the summer of last year but so far has received only non-lethal equipment such as winter clothing, bullet proof vests and night vision goggles. The US did send 20 light counter-mortar radars late last year and, with two-decades of cooperation in Nato’s Partnership for Peace programme, is beginning to train four companies of Ukraine’s National Guard.
Arguments against the supply of weapons, the Wall Street Journal wrote, “look increasingly naïve”. Nevertheless, Canadian commentators have pointed to Ukrainian corruption (see here and here) and the presence of “UkrainianNazis” as a way perhaps to justify the Stephen Harper government’s decision not to providie military support. High levels of corruption never stopped the supply of Canadian military equipment and special force trainers to Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan. Although Putin and the Russian media have repeatedly raised accusations of”fascism” in Ukraine, it is the Russian (rather than the Ukrainian) regime that more closely resembles the political science definition of “fascism”.
Nato will not send weapons to Ukraine but the UK, Poland and Canada would follow the US lead. President Obama is fighting against his own Democratic party if he sticks with the position of Chancellor Merkel, who continues to put naïve faith in a peaceful solution.
Economic sanctions (helped by falling oil prices) have not discouraged Putin’s reckless and bloody intervention in eastern Ukraine. Some of those advocating military support to Ukraine believe – as in the 1980s through weapons supplied to the Afghan Mujahedeen – that only a growing number of casualties will force realignment in Russian policy to that of public opinion, two thirds of which is against intervention in eastern Ukraine.
The Donbas conflict, engineered and sustained by Moscow, is already Europe’s worst security challenge since World War II. There have been 40 close military encountersin the air between Russia and the west since the annexation of the Crimea in March last year. Putin believes he is fighting a “Nato legion” through alleged Ukrainian proxies and has always claimed the Euromaidan revolution was a western-backed coup. Russian soldiers dying at the hands of western weapons would return the world to the Cold War of the 1980s, although it remains unclear which US congressman would today step up as the new Charlie Wilson.
Putin will stop his destabilisation of Ukraine and return to negotiations only when western arms equalise both sides on the battlefield.
Taras Kuzio is a research associate at the Centre for Political and Regional Studies, Canadian Institute forUkrainian Studies, University of Alberta and non-resident fellow at the Center for Transatlantic Relations, School of Advanced International Relations, Johns Hopkins University.
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