WASHINGTON – Putin’s latest “peace plan” for Ukraine, now accepted by Kiev, is in fact the prelude to the secession of Eastern Ukraine. Putin wanted and obtained a cease-fire that would freeze the situation on the ground. And we know what that is, and how we got there.
Moscow-funded ethnic Russian rebels control this territory. When they started losing because of a stronger than expected Ukrainian military response, Moscow sent in its own artillery, tanks and troops.
Note that this open Russian invasion has not changed the Western ultra soft response to this conflict taking place right at Europe’s door step: verbal condemnations followed by mostly symbolic and in the end insignificant responses. So here is the implicit US and European message to Moscow: “Russian covert aggression is ok; open aggression also ok.”
Poroshenko is alone
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko can see all of this. Now he knows that Ukraine is alone. And so he decided to accept Putin’s offer. The only reason for continuing this fight against vastly superior Russian forces would be the hope of getting real help from the US and its NATO Allies. But this not going to happen. And it is also clear that economic sanctions alone will not force Putin to withdraw.
Therefore, here is the unpleasant reality: Kiev is alone in this most unequal fight. Without any real help from the West, Ukraine cannot prevail against a much stronger Russia.
In the meantime, this unwinnable war in the East is costing a fortune. Ukraine is wasting billions of dollars that should be instead devoted to economic reconstruction.
Defeat is never pleasant. But it is wise for Poroshenko to recognize that Putin has won. Whatever the exact terms of any final settlement, it is clear that Moscow will agree only to an arrangement in which Eastern Ukraine will be granted a degree of “autonomy” that amounts to de facto independence.
Losing yet another piece of the country, after having accepted the secession of Crimea, is not a wonderful prospect. But I do not see a better one, unless Poroshenko and the Ukrainian people really believe that it is a good idea to fight for ever against Russia, so that Ukraine can keep its honor.
This might look good; but it would be crazy and suicidal.