Ukraine cease fire holding, but for how long?
The cease fire between Russian- supported separatists and the Ukraine government appeared to be holding today, but many observers in and outside of the conflict zone believe that it won't hold.
NATO leaders meeting in Wales welcomed the cease fire, but the rebels appeared to be firm in their demands for secession from Ukraine and the Kiev government is bitterly divided over the deal.
Offering a glimpse of divisions within the Ukrainian government, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said Friday that any peace plan dictated by Putin would be unacceptable. What Ukraine needs, he said, is for all foreign troops to leave Ukrainian soil and for strong border defenses to be erected, Interfax reported.
Russian analysts have said that the Kremlin wants eastern Ukraine to have enough political power that regional leaders would be able to veto any move by Ukraine to join NATO, which the Kremlin says is a major threat to Russian security.
In a news conference at the close of the NATO summit, Obama said the 28-member alliance was “fully united in support of Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity and right to defend itself.” H1e said all 28 have agreed to provide security assistance to Ukraine, including nonlethal support as well as help to modernize the Ukrainian armed forces.
In an indication of how little faith the West places in the cease-fire, Obama said the United States and the European Union would move ahead with an escalation of sanctions against the Russian energy, defense and finance sectors — a position echoed by European leaders, including British Prime Minister David Cameron.
Obama said the sanctions could be rolled back if the cease-fire holds. But he suggested that it was more likely that Russia would continue its intervention and that the West’s efforts to isolate Russia would intensify.
As expected, NATO leaders meeting in Wales formally approved the creation of a joint rapid-reaction force that could respond to military crises within two to six days — far faster than under current NATO arrangements. The alliance’s outgoing secretary general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said most details about the makeup of the force and its home base would be determined later.
NATO has said that several thousand Russian soldiers are on Ukrainian territory, a charge the Kremlin denies.
But amid growing worry among military families in Russia that many soldiers have suddenly cut off contact and stopped answering cellphone calls in recent weeks, Russian state television this week for the first time broadcast footage of the funerals of Russian servicemen killed in Ukraine. The soldiers had gone on vacation immediately before going to Ukraine as volunteers, the report said, and had not informed their superiors.
Do the Russian people really believe that nonsense about "vacationing" soldiers joining the fight? If they don't, they're not making much of a stink about it. The anti-war movement in Russia has been effectively sidelined by arrests and the threat of arrests. In that respect, it's hard to see what has changed since the days of Soviet communism.
While Kiev may not have had much of a choice in trying to stop the fighting, Vladimir Putin's gambit has apparently paid off big time. He has cowed NATO, punished Kiev, flummoxed the Americans, and sent an ominous message all across Eastern Europe; your turn is coming.