Donbas: war and peace balance act

16.01.2015 | By Stepan Kruhlykov

Making forecasts related to the eastern regions is a very ungrateful business. But there is still light at the end of the tunnel

There is something in common in the actions of all parties involved in the conflict in eastern Ukraine in the past year they tried to cut the Donbas knot in one fell swoop.

As a result, by the end of the year it became clear that neither the Blitzkrieg, nor rapid establishment of a lasting peace in the region were possible at the moment. The second obvious conclusion: the Eastern Ukrainian problem should be resolved at the international level. The Ukrainian government would prefer its discussion in Geneva or Norman formats, but so far, the most promising is the Minsk type of negotiations. The reason is that in the Minsk format OSCE acts as a mediator, in all other representatives of individual countries. In case of diplomatic failure it will be more advantageous for Western leaders to shift responsibility to the international organization, rather than accepting responsibility themselves.

However, negotiations in other formats are possible, but the defining moment is that Minsk Agreements are considered to be the basic model for achievement of mutual understanding. At least, the parties to the conflict appeal to them especially when opponents are accused of violation of the reached agreements.

The majority of military experts believes that escalation of the conflict in the Donbas in winter is unlikely exactly for military reasons. Accordingly, the possible deterioration of the situation is expected in spring. On the other hand, it gives an opportunity to take a number of steps consolidating the progress towards achievement of truth during the remaining winter months. By the way, even if the opponents use cold time of year to upgrade and build forces, in such a manner they will protect themselves from attempts to solve the problem by force just because of the possibility of high casualties on both sides.

For Ukrainian authorities 2015 should become a year of review and development of a new position regarding the uncontrolled territories. Judging by the approved Program of Actions for the Cabinet of Ministers, this issue has been postponed by the government for the future, or rather made partially attributable to the foreign ministry, which, in the end of the day, is the responsibility of the head of state.

There is a possibility that in the near future the parties to the conflict will be so obsessed with solving their own social and economic problems that they will have no strength, time and resources for confrontation. This, on the other hand, does not mean that peace and order will automatically come to the Donbas. After all, the armed confrontation involves too many ordinary participants pursuing a variety of goals, from household revenge to personal accumulation of wealth, many of them ignore both Kyiv and the leadership of the self-proclaimed republics. And here there will be no escape the only condition for their return to civilian life will primarily be the economic situation both in the region, and in Ukraine in general.

Adoption of the decision on termination of funding for social benefits in the region by the fall per se is a tactical and a painful decision. In 2015 it will be the subject for bargaining and negotiation the question is what kind of concessions would be deemed acceptable, and how effective will the international community (primarily Europe) be to resolve the conflict.

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