Despite a lull in the fighting in eastern Ukraine, sporadic fighting continued in and around the area of Debaltseve, where pro-Russian separatists claimed a victory and were near completing an occupation of the city. The ongoing skirmishes prompted Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to appeal for the United Nations to dispatch a peacekeeping force to administer last week’s cease-fire agreement. Both Russia and Russian pro-separatist forces have stated no peacekeeping force is necessary, and Russia has asserted the introduction of a peacekeeping force would be viewed as a violation of the Minsk agreement brokered last week.
In the face of NATO’s and the European Union’s (EU) eastward expansion, neither Russia nor pro-Russian separatists are likely to be hospitable to an armed, Western-dominated peacekeeping force introduced into the region. Russia’s refusal can be interpreted as a Russian and pro-Russian-separatist’s desire to prevent public confirmation of their violations, or it may signal their inclination to have the West stop interfering in the conflict. Russia wields veto power in the United Nations; it is imaginable an attempt by the West to countermand a Security Council measure could inspire a disproportionate response from the Kremlin.
In related events, Russia has quietly moved to strengthen relations with Greece; they have sent overtures to Cyprus to obtain a military base on the Mediterranean island; and they have increasingly sent aircraft on flights which have come perilously close to violating the United Kingdom’s airspace. This frenetic activity illustrates Moscow has grown tired of the West’s reckless policies, which the Kremlin views as a full-court press against the Kremlin.
At this moment, engaging Russia is neither an easy nor natural venture. Any further intervention will pierce the skin of Russia and lead to continued immiseration of both the situation in and people in eastern Ukraine.
[Washington Post] [New York Times] [Business Insider] [AP Photo/Peter Leonard]