No peace without Moscow

Petro Poroshenko’s peace plan is bound to fail, as neither the separatists in eastern Ukraine nor Russia are interested in a political solution, says DW’s Bernd Johann
Deutsche Welle | 21.06.2014

Sometimes, all it takes to bring about peace is a first step. One of the warring parties has to approach the other to start a dialogue. But for that to work, all parties must be interested in a political solution. In eastern Ukraine, that’s simply not the case.

Only the country’s new president, Petro Poroshenko, is prepared to take that first step at the moment. He has ruled out talking to armed separatists, but he has called a unilateral ceasefire in an attempt to stop the bloodshed in the east.

But who can he negotiate with if none of the militant elements responsible for plunging the region into war are prepared for dialogue? Spokesmen for those groups have announced that they’re not going to lay down their arms and that they are not interested in dialogue.

Russia, which has for weeks acted as an advocate of those illegal formations in eastern Ukraine, has also criticized the peace plan.

Poroshenko’s initiative, then, is pretty much doomed – despite containing important elements that could foster peace.

If the illegal troops in the east agreed to give up their arms, they could withdraw quietly and without repercussions for those fighters that did not commit serious crimes. This would also apply to mercenaries and guerrilla fighters involved in the conflict.

Separatists aim for destabilization

Above all, Poroshenko’s plan offers a political concept for eastern Ukraine. The government in Kyiv is willing to decentralize power and strengthen regional competencies.

The plan aims for democratic elections in all parts of Ukraine as well as parliamentary elections. Poroshenko wants to create jobs, especially in the east. He wants to start that process by rebuilding infrastructure in Donetsk and Luhansk.

But what use is the plan if illegal forces aren’t interested in stability? At this point, thousands of fighters have crossed the border from Russia into Ukraine.

Granted, the Kremlin has never confirmed that fact, but footage from international TV cameras of foreign mercenaries has gone around the world. Those involved are not homemade Ukrainian rebels concerned with improving their rights. They have come to Ukraine to fight and destabilize the country.

Moscow’s cynical Ukraine policies

Peace plans from Kyiv won’t persuade such forces. Only the Kremlin, which has allied itself to such forces, can exercise any influence over them. Moscow could, through its military, help to secure the Russian-Ukrainian border and stop the infiltration of fighters and heavy weapons. But it’s not doing so.

Instead, thousands of Russian troops stand at the ready on the Ukraine border. Should Moscow give the order, they could march on Ukraine at any time. Putin, just one day after Poroshko announced a unilateral ceasefire, placed central Russian troops on full combat alert.

It’s too cynical of Putin and other leading Russian politicians to accuse Ukraine’s leaders of being unwilling to make peace. In fact, they themselves are doing nothing for peace. Putin has spoken on the phone with Poroshenko, and he’s also spoken with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande about political solutions. But that is all he’s done.

Poroshenko’s peace plan is a step in the right direction. But it won’t succeed without Russian support. The war can only end when each side is ready for a political solution. At the moment, however, that doesn’t seem likely.



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