War in Ukraine: What can be done by Western governments between appeasing Russia and preparing a military red line?

The so-called Minsk 2 accord, signed recently by the Ukrainan government and the separatists (but not the mediators), appears to collapse. Hostilities are continuing. The Russian president appears to be unimpressed by Western appeals to stop (or at least not support) the separatists. The only move not tested so far is a credible Western attitude of applying counter-force if required. Alas, difficult questions of escalation dominance are attached here.

  1. Andrey Makarychev 6 days ago

    Perhaps it’s time for Western governments to explore asymmetric responses. This hypothetical strategy can consist of, first, a drastically enhanced level of cooperation with Kazakhstan and Belarus, two alleged Russian allies who are, nevertheless, unhappy with what Russia does in Ukraine. The governments in Astana and Minsk are undemocratic, true, but these autocracies at least don’t bother their neighbors and can be encouraged to take a more Russia-sceptic stand. Second, anything that diverts Moscow’s diplomatic attention and material resources from Ukraine to other possible problematic areas (for example, in South Caucasus) will also be beneficial for asymmetric response. And finally, the West should seriously use all possible tactics and channels of communication with China to encourage Beijing to take a tougher position vis-a-vis Russia, mainly in economic terms – from energy contracts to Chinese migrant’s rights. It is only the understanding of growing isolation and deteriorating international attitudes to Russia from non-Western partners that can make the Kremlin reconsider its opportunistic policy in Ukraine.

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  2. Dorothea Schäfer 6 days ago

    Western governments need to stick to the Minsk 2 accord. If it is severely broken then they should put further sanctions on Russia. Ukraine is divided by now and will be for some time in the future. Hopefully, the two hostile parties are able to keep peace in the future. The Western part of the Ukraine needs to concentrate its forces on rebuilding the Ukrainian economy. This is essential for the future. Rebuilding an economy needs peace.

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  3. Theodoros Tsakiris 6 days ago

    If the pro-Russian separatists break the 2nd Minsk truce by advancing and more importantly attacking the vital harbor city of Mariupol that would offer them a direct land link to Crimea, the EU would be faced with a major strategic dilemma. Given the fact that harder economic sanctions on the part of the EU that would have a “blanket” effect to the entire structure of the Russian economy are excluded, the possibility of offering military assistance to Ukraine on behalf of individual member-states may be entertained.

    If there is a general collapse of the Minsk truce the US may indeed decide to arm the government forces supporting Mr. Poroshenko and this decision may be followed by several EU member-states but on an individual basis and without the support of Union institutions and major countries such as Germany and France.

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  4. Alexei Voskressenski 6 days ago

    The Minsk-2 accord must not only separate fighters but also provide guarantors: EU and Russia. The fighters must be separated by neutral and trustworthy peacekeepers, for example BRICS, or BRICS, Shanghai Cooperation Organisation plus Kazakhstan and Belarus.

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  1. Jongkor 6 days ago

    Indeed, I agree with above commentators who reminded us about Minsk 2-Summit that should be respected by two parties to keep ceasefire and give a chance for political solution.
    The four ways call between France, Germany Ukraine and Russia in regard ceasefire should be a breakthrough between the two parties toward the peace. However, that initiative should have started before withdrawal of Ukrainian troops from Debaltseve to show the involvement of EU.
    The UN must work effectively to engage members of the UN to focus on Ukraine, and find effective prevention of violence that can escalate to major war crimes in the region.
    Economic Sanctions are not going to work because they have been enforced on Iran, Cuba and others many countries as example.
    I think there is no simple solution to the problem of Ukraine because the political will of the two parties has a long way to go, but international community must keep eye on Ukraine.

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    1. AW 6 days ago

      Do you think, that the current crises should be handled by the UN or by the OSCE?

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  2. AW 6 days ago

    I very much like the idea suggested by Mr. Makarychev. Even though the Russian army has shown its limited ability to fight and Putin understands only harsh actions, I am a very big opponent of a military reply of any kind by the West. As long as the “separatists” do not have aviation, the conflict remains at a low level in terms of arms involved and it better would.
    There is obviously a demand for more involvement of Belarus and Kazakhstan and I think that showing Putin, that he has lost his last allies is a very good tool. Ilham Aliev, the president of anything but democratic Azerbaijan, has claimed recently, that his country adheres to European values. This statement came very unexpectedly and shows, how much afraid small neighbours of Russia are and how ready they are to approach anybody who would protect them.
    However, I do not see, how China can be persuaded to distance itself from Russia. Currently it benefits from the clash between the West and Russia and will benefit even more. Neither Europe, nor the USA have a really leverage (or willingness to use it) to make China enforce the sanctions.
    Yet on the other hand, this current crises can be seen as a good opportunity to bring the cooperation between the USA/EU and the BICSA countries to a new qualitative level,

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