A U.S. official told the Associated Press that U.S. intelligence shows Russian forces continue to shell Ukrainian positions from inside Russian territory and send heavy weaponry – including artillery, armoured vehicles and air defence equipment – from a separatist training facility in southwest Russia. The official was speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to discuss intelligence matters publicly.
Globe and Mail:
Nobody knows what is going on into Putin’s head. Maybe it is hiding an order to start a war, but it is not visible from the outside. The West is waiting to see what will happen. And in case of war its response should be as firm as possible.
Ukraine is not a member of Nato, and has no Article V protection. The West has already stated that it will not deploy forces if it is invaded. Novorossiya is his for the taking. It is his last lethal card.
The world faces a moment of maximum danger in Ukraine. Vladimir Putin has perhaps 72 hours to decide whether to launch a full invasion of the Donbass, or accept defeat and let the Ukrainian military crush his proxy forces. “Mr Putin has misjudged everything. He has decisive force only on the east Europe’s battlefield” – writes the author.
Whether to intervene may be one of Vladimir Putin’s most important decisions since first becoming Russian prime minister 15 years ago this week.
The Financial Times:
According to Igor Sutyagin, a Russian military expert at the Royal United Services Institute, Moscow is not preparing to invade. With economic sanctions starting to hit ordinary Russians, Moscow would want to avoid coffins coming home from Ukraine. Indeed, Sergei Karaganov, a doyen of Russia’s foreign policy establishment, has evoked comparisons with the disastrous 1980s Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. He warned in an article in Russia’s Vedomosti newspaper last week that Moscow should not “snatch defeat from the jaws of victory” after its domestically popular annexation of Crimea by getting bogged down in a conflict in eastern Ukraine. A massive invasion, he said, was “so dangerous that accepting it is inadmissible”. Coming days may show whether the Kremlin is heeding such advice.
Eastern Europe and Ukraine should become more important for Germany than Middle East. Russians are preparing to invade Ukraine. This is where the European Union’s “Middle East”.
While maintaining pressure on Mr. Putin, the West also needs to get serious about strengthening Ukraine, says former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul in an article for The New York Times.
The New York Times:
“Mr. Putin could end this war now. In a speech on national television, he could praise the so-called rebels for securing greater autonomy for eastern Ukraine and then ask them to stop fighting, and for the Russian citizens to come home”, says McFaul. Though he thinks that this path to peace is quick, but unlikely. “In its absence, the West’s best option is to redouble its support for a sovereign, prosperous and democratic Ukraine”, concludes McFaul.
Western media continue to write that “without Putin it will get worse”. OSCE and UN should guide an international peacekeeping operation to prevent the worst scenario of Russian invasion to Ukraine.
If the West is serious about stopping naked Russian aggression against a sovereign state, but nonetheless recognizes Moscow’s own interests in this conflict, it should put its money where its mouth is by reconfiguring its sanctions to be a deterrent rather than a punishment, and look to the U.N. or OSCE to seek a real international peacekeeping or monitoring force that gives Putin a face-saving way out. Otherwise Western policymakers will be left with two unsavory options, should Russia intervene further in eastern Ukraine: either effectively to accept a fait accompli, as in Crimea, or react with half measures that only further provoke a Russian president who feels he can only fight his way out of the corner he’s been boxed into.
“Geopolitics and the economy are Putin’s two sources of strength, and both are failing him now. In eastern Ukraine, he is increasingly boxed-in, and the economy has been sputtering for about a year, thanks to corruption, inefficiency, and the Sochi Olympics”, says Julia Ioffe, a senior editor of The New Republic.
“Why not propose a United Nations peacekeeping force for eastern Ukraine to alleviate the humanitarian suffering?”
The Washington Post:
Daniel W. Drezner, a professor of international politics at Tufts University and a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, proposes a 5-staged plan to solve the crisis in Eastern Ukraine. The first step is to end the violence in eastern Ukraine and provide humanitarian corridors for residents in Donetsk and Luhansk to leave. “Second, the moment UN peacekeepers get on the ground, Russia’s ability to use force to change the facts on the ground would be severely restricted. It would be hard-pressed to send in force when there are baby blue helmets all over the place. Third, this buys everyone — but especially the Ukrainian government — some time. The longer Ukraine doesn’t have to fight a war with Russia, the more Kiev can do the necessary state-building and military consolidation to ensure that it’s ready should a future conflict arise. Fourth, this gives Putin a face-saving exit from a lousy bargaining position. If he can prevent a total separatist collapse, then Putin’s propaganda machine can spin this into a great diplomatic victory at home. Which lessens the pressure on him to forcefully intervene. Fifth, this gives Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko a face-saving exit from a bloody urban assault. He could legitimately claim that government forces have reclaimed an awful lot of Ukrainian territory prior to any cease-fire”, proposes the author.