NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg reiterated support for Ukraine, an UNIAN correspondent in Brussels reported from a press conference at the start of the meetings of NATO Defense Ministers Wednesday. He recalled that Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman had visited NATO last week where the two officials had a meeting. Stoltenberg added that he had regular meetings with President Poroshenko and other representatives of the Ukrainian leadership. “So we will continue to work, we will continue to provide support, and also many NATO Allies provide support on a bilateral level, so we will continue to support Ukraine” Jens Stoltenberg said.
EU extension of sanctions against Russia is only the last chapter of the Ukrainian crisis. As appeared in the latest months, the ceasefire between Kiev and sepatists looks like a band-aid.
The EU ambassadors from the 28 member states approved on June 21 to prolong the sanctions against Moscow until 31 January 2017. Main justifications are two: annexation of Crimea and presence in Ukraine.
Despite it’s approved unanimously, a part of Western public opinion, but also Italy, Hungary and Greece do not shared this choice. Indeed, Russia is a strategic partner in Syria against Islamic State; but also from economical viewpoint, because of several European partnerships with Moscow.
Putin trip in China on June 22, come on the heels of European sanctions, demonstrated the will to find new economical and financial partners after more than two years of sanctions. As noted by Mark McNamee, Central and Eastern Europe analyst at Frontier Strategy Group at CNBC, “Strengthening energy ties with China and India would serve Putin’s geopolitical interests further, while also stealing market share from the Saudis. In economic terms, other than energy, Russia is unable to offer much of anything to China. Of far more importance is the political support Russia offers, regarding foreign policy matters at the United Nations, Group of 20 and other venues … China, naturally, is happy to have a useful ally as it seeks to reform the existing U.S.-led order to attain its geopolitical goals. ”
“It’s clear that for the changes to be made to the constitution, preliminary conditions must be met. Russian forces must be withdrawn from Ukraine,” Poroshenko told French television. While Moscow continues to turn down every charges.
Meanwhile, the ceasefire in Ukraine is falsely going on, as demonstrated by 3 Ukrainian soldiers killed on June 18 or by the dreadful video, reported by Daily Mail, which shows Ukrainian soldiers burying alive a sepatist. And the large number of tanks in Donbass means that civil war has not already finished.
So, after Minsk II, new talks are very necessary. Islamic issue and an updated fair-trade between EU and Russia are the two main questions for International Community.
Relations between Ukraine and Russia have returned hot. Especially from diplomatically viewpoint. The gas issue, in which Kiev has the upper hand. The trade and food embargo and food against Ukraine by Moscow. The Kremlin, gripped by recession, in search of a rapprochement with Europe.
This diplomatic war is putting Minsk II at risk. Moreover, winter has allowed gas supplies to come back a geopolitical topic. Indeed, as reported by Bloomberg, situation has turned around, with Russia ready to lower the price to Ukraine (the agreement is in force until 2019), rather than lose Kiev as strategic point for distribution in Europe.
But the reduced dependence from Moscow, with the increase in supplies from Norway and Algeria, make Putin less decisive on the energy front. While Poroshenko is not in a hurry to find a compromise on gas supplies and to grant autonomy to Donbass. Even the statements of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on the opportunity to exploit the South Stream project, bypassing Ukraine because of its instability, is not worrying Kiev and is not persuading Brussels.
Another issue is food embargo and new custom tax for Ukraine, as already provided for all those EU countries that have introduced sanctions against Russia. A measure which have casted Kiev out CSI galaxy.
At last, the Russian economy which is in recession. GDP dropped by 3.7%, just as the ruble, forced the Prime Minister Dimitri Medvedev to announce a plan within the next week. Two causes that have contributed to this crash, also visible in the relations of exchange with the EU area:oil price drop and, secondary, economic sanctions imposed by West.
The Ukrainian stiffening and Russian difficulties are leading to a change in the attitude of the European countries and the United States against Kiev and Moscow. During the meeting in Russia with Lavrov, the French Foreign Minister Emmanuel Macron said that “”The objective we all share is to provide the lifting of sanctions by the summer, as far as the [peace] process [in southeastern Ukraine] is respected.” While Secretary of State John Kerry though that “I believe that with effort and with bona fide, legitimate intent to solve the problem on both sides, it is possible in these next months to get to a place where sanctions can be appropriately removed.”
Words which are clearly a warning to Kiev, invited to recede from his extremism, given the temporary ceasefire in Donbass. Also because of Syrian context, relations with Russia are back warme. France, which is also engaged in Syria against the Islamic State, as well as West, have every interest to close Ukrainian crisis, to focus on the Middle East and Libya, the other theater of a probable military intervention.
The next UN and European summits will be crucial for Ukrainian context and for relationship between Washington and Moscow.
It’s standby in Ukrainian civil war. In September, the ceasefire between army and pro-Russian fighters has stood. While Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg is visiting Kiev, where he has met President Petro Poroshenko, he has confirmed that “Russia is continuing to arm the separatists despite the truce”. However the mood looks relaxed because all are waiting the next summit of 2 October, when leaders of Germany, France, Ukraine and Russia will meet after Minsk2 of the last February.
And, with the General Assembly of United Nations on 24-30 September, one realizes the this autumn could be decisive for Ukrainian context, as well as other geopolitical contexts. Financial and systemic crisis have pushed the Ukrainian government to accelerate, in late August, the constitutional reforms which aim to give more autonomy to Donbass, in line with Minsk2, and to sign an agreement to the debt restructuring with creditors.
On the other hand, there is Russia, which has hardly been hit by oil prices collapse and, as a consequence, by more than 20% fall of Ruble value over the past four months. In this context, economic sanctions by United States and European Union are not the main cause of Russian financial crisis, but nevertheless important factors, especially in view of energy development.
Indeed, while the Kremlin is getting Europe number concerning gas supply, economical penalties are preventing oil and gas development projects in the Arctic. Proposal which the Russian economy needs to maintain its high level of current production.
Therefore, the Ukrainian crisis could be influenced by meetings of 24-30 September and 2 October. In the first one, it will be important the summit between the US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov, where they’ll talk about Russian military operation in Syria against Islamic State. In the second one, the summit with Vladimir Putin Angela Merkel and Francoise Hollande will be helpful to soften Germany and France. In both cases, the purpose is only one: the reduction of economic sanctions against Russia from the years 2016/17.
However, missteps on both sides are following. On the Ukrainian front, there is involvement increased of fighters in the far-right paramilitary brigades that fought alongside army. Besides National Security Council has drawn up a new blacklist where 34 foreign journalists, including 3 of the BBC, have been banned, over the former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, who has taken part in visit to Crimea together with Putin.
On the Russian front, the Kremlin has been denied by an article, accidentally published (later removed) by Delovaia Zhizn and immediately recall by Forbes, in which was revealed the number of Russian soldiers died in Ukraine: 2000. But Moscow has always repudiated direct involvement.
So, the next UN and European summits, and the accentuation of the geopolitical crises in Syria and Libya, may induce the parties to reach a solution that will bring not only the end of the civil war in Ukraine, but the “warming” of the cold relations between the US and Russia.