Article by: Leonid Chumak
The day and a half that has passed since the moment when the ceasefire for Donbas was announced has been a clear demonstration that in truth no such ceasefire exists: it is very difficult to consider something to be a ceasefire when there has been a cessation of fire only at select points along the front.
Apart from the obvious fact that there is no peace, until now no one has made the effort to acknowledge officially that that formal peace plan for Donbas has failed.
Further, it is no secret that the blame for the failure of a peaceful settlement rests squarely with the Russian government. By now, the multiple decrees on the part of the president of the Federation, Vladimir Putin and his press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, denying the fact that Russia is a belligerent in the conflict, and correspondingly, that they owe nothing to no one in this matter, are no longer believed by anyone. The problem is that there have been no statements by Merkel, or Hollande, or from Obama condemning Putin’s actions, perhaps for the fact that they simply have not decided what to do next.
If seems as if Vladimir Putin has been purposely hypnotizing the “western partners” through a tactic of “piecemeal ceasefire”. No one doubts any longer that the terrorist leaders take their orders from the Russian leader, and even they are not hiding the fact that they support the details of the ceasefire agreement only for those places where it benefits them. Debaltseve, for example, is understood to be “their territory”, and according to this logic, they have a right to fight for it. Paradoxically, it is the terrorists who have been aggressively accusing the Ukrainian side of violating the terms of the cessation of hostilities, and to make matters worse, have been creating provocations by shelling residential areas.
These actions have given Putin the pretext to make an official declaration that it is Ukraine that has broken the ceasefire, The fact that he hasn’t yet done so means that it is not yet convenient for the Russian president to make such an announcement. That would be the final death knell for “Minsk-2”, which would then force the West both to impose new sanctions and to make good on the resolution to provide Ukraine with lethal weapons. Consequently, Putin remains silent, assessing whether the West has enough courage to abandon a ceasefire that is functioning merely on a piecemeal basis, and to embrace instead more effective measures.
As for Petro Poroshenko, he remains silent because he needs to consolidate the support of the EU and the USA; but in the meantime they themselves do not know what to do. On the other hand, in the event that the collapse of the ceasefire is admitted, Poroshenko will then be forced to keep his promise to establish a state of war throughout the entire country, a step that he obviously does not want to enact.
It is becoming clear that the ceasefire does in fact exist, but is not being honored everywhere. In other words it does not exist, but no one wants to admit its failure. Therefore, the ceasefire nonetheless is holding. This situation is exactly what Putin wants.
The only action Poroshenko is able to take at the present time is to coordinate his own actions with those of the EU and the USA. First, they must decide how much longer they can endure the current state of affairs and then present Putin with a deadline. If the deadline passes, whether it be a month from now or in two weeks, and Putin’s terrorists refuse to stop shooting, then Ukraine, the EU, and the USA will act in unison and move to Plan B, which they have been formulating as a plan of action during the grace period extended to Putin in the hopes that he come to his senses.
The contents of such a plan must include serious sanctions against Russia, coming from both the West and from Ukraine. For example, Ukraine should declare a state of war and make all necessary preparations for a military offensive at one designated place along the front. Simultaneously, Russia will be excluded from SWIFT, and the United States will make good on its resolution to deliver lethal weapons.
Unfortunately, to state the obvious about the ceasefire and abandon it immediately would be a premature move on the part of Ukraine. Nonetheless, it is essential to be vigorously preparing the country and its western allies for this eventuality.