Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Roundup of Editorials & Columns about Russo-Ukraine War
For more than a year, at least since Maidan 2, the national revolution that ousted Russia’s minions in Ukraine led by Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine has been in the forefront of global news coverage. International interest in Ukraine further increased thanks to the Russian invasion of Ukraine by way of Crimea and shortly afterward the Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts.
Traditional and new media have been filled round the clock with stories of Ukrainian heroism and death in the face of Russian crimes and brutality.
Despite the Kremlin’s denials, most everyone, except for the Russian media which has come to be ridiculed and disbelieved for disseminating bald-faced falsehoods, has accepted that Russia and President Putin launched the invasion and war with dual goals of keeping Ukraine from acceding to the European Union and, God forbid, NATO, and ultimately re-subjugating Ukraine.
Beyond the supportive Ukrainian news media, coverage of the Russo-Ukraine War of 2014-15 has tended to present Ukraine’s case as a former captive nation that is again feeling the imperial wrath of Russia. However, there have been examples of an abuse of the newsroom principle of balanced reporting. With the absence of stories from enemy’s perspective during World War II, does that mean that the news media of the day presented Nazi Germany in an unfavorable, prejudiced light?
There were disturbing examples of war correspondents writing articles from the standpoint of Russian soldiers and mercenaries. There were also stories that seemed to present equal culpability in today’s degeneration of peace and stability in the region. Fortunately, these incidents were not nearly the majority.
Editorials and pundits’ columns showed sympathy for Ukraine even while opposing arming Ukraine with lethal weapons and pointing out that Vladimir Putin was the victor of Minsk 2. Other publications came out strongly in support of a Ukrainian victory over Russia, arming Ukraine with lethal weapons, intensifying sanctions against Russia and Russians, and opposing Vladimir Putin and Sergei Lavrov.
In this vein, a column’s headline in the New York Post painfully summarized Ukraine’s situation: “The Rape of Ukraine; America Stands By.”
Some editorials and columnists painted Putin as a latter-day Stalin though that pejorative description has more meaning in the free world than it does in Russia, where he is still revered; and they warned against Russian expansion beyond Ukraine, into the Baltics or Poland. Editorialists returned to the war in Ukraine a few times even in the course of a week, occasionally adjusting their positions.
The following are excerpts from an assortment of editorials and columns in American periodicals and news agencies.

Putin's Ukraine War Is Back
The fighting in Ukraine has returned to an intensity not seen since last summer, and the government claims Russian weapons are once again streaming across the border to support the rebels. So it is a curious moment for the European Union's top foreign policy official to bring up the prospect of normalizing relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Instead, the EU should be bracing to make sure that every member supports sanctions, because unanimity will be needed to extend them in March when they begin to expire…
… Everybody wants to see the sanctions removed someday. Yet to do so before Putin withdraws Russian troops from Ukraine and its border, and before that border is put under the control of international monitors, would be to waste the pressure already applied. It would also put significant trust in Russia's good faith -- even though there's been little evidence lately that such trust is warranted.
Russia continues to support the separatists militarily while lying about it. Putin says he wants peace and even sent a letter to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko proposing that both sides withdraw heavy artillery from the front lines. Yet this offer came only after a rebel assault had driven Ukrainian forces from the fiercely contested Donetsk airport and Ukrainian tanks were smashing their way back in. A withdrawal at that point would have consolidated the gains of pro-Russia fighters, so Poroshenko refused, as Putin knew he must…
… Putin seems always to assume the EU will be too weak and disunited to say no to him. By imposing economic sanctions, Europe's leaders surprised him. Until Putin puts a full Russian withdrawal from Ukraine on the table, the EU has to maintain its unanimous resolve. 
Bloomberg, January 20, 2015

Why Arming Ukraine Will Backfire
… Ukraine is already buying weapons from other countries in the region, but if anything can stir the Russian people to accept an open war with fellow Slavs in Ukraine (so far they don't), it is the idea that they would be fighting not Ukrainians but NATO, the military alliance they have grown up believing was bent on their destruction. A U.S. intention to provide only "defensive" weapons may be an important distinction in the U.S., but it's meaningless in Russia. Anti-tank weapons and even radar that allows Ukraine's military to locate and strike enemy artillery positions will still kill Russian soldiers. They would be perceived by ordinary Russians as offensive weapons, even without help from Russia's inflammatory propaganda machine.
These are large risks that can't be waved away. If the goal of military assistance is not to defeat Russia and its proxies, but to pressure Putin, then the weapons would have to be accompanied by a plausible diplomatic track. Yet the law that President Petro Poroshenko signed in December to end Ukraine's neutral status and set a course for membership in NATO has removed the minimum requirement for diplomacy leading to peace.
The U.S. and its allies should make clear to Ukraine that its NATO ambitions are unrealistic. Right or wrong, the alliance doesn’t want Ukraine, and Russia sees its membership in NATO as a red line. So long as that’s the case, the U.S. should stay out of eastern Ukraine.
Bloomberg, February 3

Putin Can't Have the Last Laugh in Ukraine
Say this much for Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov: His comments Saturday on his country’s role in Ukraine were so absurd that they united Europe. Now the challenge is to turn that laughter and derision into something more constructive…
… In the U.S., meanwhile, and in several ex-Soviet-bloc states in Europe, there is growing sentiment to supply Ukraine with defensive weapons in order to counter advances by Russian-supported separatists. Lavrov's delusions effectively undermine the logic of this position. If Russian President Vladimir Putin sees everything that has happened in Ukraine in the last year as part of a U.S. and NATO plot against Russia, then a U.S. or NATO arms program is unlikely to cause him to rethink either his position or his strategy.
That might happen if Putin believed the U.S. and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization were ready to do whatever it takes to defeat him in Ukraine. But he knows they aren’t.
Part of the problem is that the West is deluding itself, too -- about the level of commitment necessary to drive Russia out of Ukraine. A failure to recognize this could result in the worst of all worlds: a Russian invasion that leaves Ukraine dismembered and deep fissures both within the EU and between the EU and the U.S…
… A stronger commitment to spend whatever it takes to keep Ukraine financially solvent while defending itself is just as important, accompanied by a promise from Ukraine that it will not join NATO. In return, Putin should be required to withdraw Russian troops, allow an international force to seal the border and accept that Ukraine gets to choose its own government and trading partners.
These are the kinds of issues that should be on the table as representatives from Russia, Germany, France and Ukraine meet later this week in Minsk, Belarus. If the U.S. and Europe instead split over whether to give Ukraine anti-tank weapons, or insist on continuing an unproductive debate about just how warped Lavrov's worldview is, then Putin will get the last laugh.
Bloomberg, February 8, 2015

Chicago Tribune
Stop Stalling. Arm Ukraine.
… Putin likely won't be satisfied with last year's conquest of Crimea, one vital component of Ukraine. He wants a larger chunk of Ukraine if not other lands as well. He seeks to recapture Soviet glory. Stoking the conflict in eastern Ukraine keeps the pressure on the West-leaning Ukrainian government. It undercuts the democratically elected leaders there and sends a shiver through other Russian neighbors.
Putin isn't deterred by the tough economic sanctions that the European Union and the U.S. have imposed. Nor is he slowed by the tumbling price of oil and his country's crumbling economy. German Chancellor Angela Merkel's scolding hasn't stopped him. His domestic approval rating is stratospherically high. (Then again, what would you say to a Russian pollster about the ruthless Putin?)
Putin dares the West to deliver on its threats of deeper sanctions. So far, it hasn't. In its last meeting, the EU extended current sanctions but showed little appetite to ratchet up the pressure.
So Putin leans in. He'll stop meddling in Ukraine only when the cost exceeds his ability to pay.
Strength is a currency Putin respects. The West has to arm Ukraine to punch back.
Chicago Tribune, February 4, 2015

Los Angeles Times
U.S. Giving Ukraine a Defensive Military Boost
… Fearful of provoking a new Cold War with Russia, the Obama administration has for months resisted pleas that it provide weapons to the government of Ukraine. This page has supported that cautious policy, worrying that military assistance to the government in Kiev would seem to create a proxy war between the U.S. and Russia.
But the collapse of a cease-fire and recent gains by Russian-supported separatists are causing U.S. officials to question their policy of relying on economic sanctions to alter Russian behavior. There are good reasons for such a reconsideration…
… There is no guarantee that arming Ukraine will succeed in persuading Putin to change course, but we believe the administration should make the effort. In doing so, however, the administration must strive to preserve a united front on economic sanctions with European nations such as Germany that choose not to provide military aid. It also should continue to encourage negotiations on the political future of Ukraine.
Finally, the U.S. must emphasize why it is acting: not to move a pawn on what Obama once called a "Cold War chessboard" but to support the independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine and every other nation in Europe. If Russia wants a respectful hearing for its views about the future of Russian-speaking Ukrainians, it will commit itself to the same principles.
Los Angeles Times, February 2, 2015

Ukraine Agreement could Vindicate Use of Sanctions
Assuming it doesn’t unravel — a big assumption — the agreement on the future of Ukraine announced last week is preferable to the continuation of a conflict in which 5,000 people have died and nearly a million have been displaced. The deal, negotiated by Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany, calls for a “comprehensive” cease-fire and envisions a political settlement that would preserve Ukraine’s territorial integrity while granting some autonomy to pro-Russian regions of the country…
It’s crucial that all parties to this agreement abide by its provisions, which also include the withdrawal of heavy weapons, amnesty for separatists and new political arrangements, beginning with interim self-rule for areas in Donetsk and Luhansk. From the standpoint of Ukraine’s sovereignty, the most important provision is the requirement that foreign troops be withdrawn. Bizarrely, Russia agreed to this provision even as it continued to maintain that its forces never crossed into Ukraine…
If Russia is now willing to cease its military subversion in Ukraine in exchange for autonomy for pro-Russian regions, that’s a positive development. It is also, arguably, a vindication of economic sanctions. But, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, the agreement offers a “glimmer of hope,” not a guarantee, that this conflict will be resolved peacefully.
Los Angeles Times, February 13

New York Post
The Rape of Ukraine; America Stands By
By Rich Lowry, Editor of National Review
In his State of the Union Address, President Obama touted his Ukraine strategy as a demonstration of “the power of American strength and diplomacy.” Word of this stirring success has yet to reach the Kremlin.
While President Obama praised his mastery, Russia’s troops and associated thugs were pressing ahead with the on-and-off invasion of Eastern Ukraine that has seized roughly another 200 square miles of territory the last few months…
… Russian President Vladimir Putin believes in the power of lies and brute force and implicitly asks, in the spirit of Joseph Stalin, “How many divisions do international norms have?” …
… To lend a symbolic poignancy to the end of the Minsk agreement, pro-Russian forces shelled the city hall in the Ukrainian town of Debaltseve that had served as the cease-fire control center under the Minsk agreement.
Give them credit, Putin’s minions leaven their murderous disregard for civilian life with a perverse sense of humor…
… The Ukrainian government wants to defend its territory and had some success at it last August, before regular Russian military units entered the fight.
It is a democratically elected government that is determined to make itself part of the West and is getting dismembered for the offense of replacing a Putin-style kleptocrat…
… There is no appeasing Putin. Frankly, there is no directly stopping him, either. It is only possible to raise the costs to him of his war, including the military costs.
If we won’t provide military materiel to Ukraine now, we deserve the contempt with which Putin regards us.
New York Post & Columbia Tribune, February 2, 2015

The New York Times
Making the Ukraine Cease-Fire Stick
The last cease-fire negotiated in Minsk, in September, quickly unraveled, and the new one is very limited, leaving hard problems to be settled in coming weeks and months. And in the end, it is still for Mr. Putin to decide whether this is to be a real step toward peace or just another cynical feint in his campaign to dismember Ukraine.
Mr. Putin won a lot in Minsk. The fact that the cease-fire is to start on Sunday — and not immediately, as the Ukrainians wanted — gives the Ukrainian separatists a couple more days to press their siege on Debaltseve, a key rail hub where thousands of Ukrainian troops are surrounded, and in their attack on the Black Sea port of Mariupol. If the cease-fire does take hold, which is far from certain, both sides are to pull their heavy weapons out of range of each other. Then the deal requires both sides to withdraw “foreign” fighters and equipment, though Mr. Putin has never acknowledged the obvious presence of Russian forces and weapons in eastern Ukraine.
On the political side, the agreement says Ukraine can recover full control over its border with Russia by the end of 2015, after local elections in rebel-held areas and constitutional changes that would give these areas considerable autonomy. The degree of self-rule for pro-Russian regions of eastern Ukraine is at the core of any sustainable settlement, but the negotiations will take place while Russia remains free to move men and equipment over the border.
In short, the deal is a bitter pill for Mr. Poroshenko. But he was right to accept it, and Ms. Merkel and Mr. Hollande were right to press it…
What remains incontrovertible is that Ukraine is Mr. Putin’s war. Mr. Putin has been offered a far better deal than he deserves. Now it is imperative for the West to keep his feet to the fire; there should be no easing of sanctions until he demonstrates a willingness to live by the agreements reached in Minsk. And if he does not, there should be no doubt of more sanctions.
The New York Times, February 13, 2015

Western Illusions over Ukraine
By Roger Cohen
The most difficult thing for a communist, it has been observed, is to predict the past. I was reminded of this as I listened to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, in full Soviet mode at the Munich Security Conference, suggesting that after World War II it was “the Soviet Union that was against splitting Germany.”
People laughed; they guffawed. Germans recall the Soviet clamp on the east of the country and the Berlin Wall. But in a way Lavrov was right: The Soviet Union would have been quite happy to swallow all of Germany, given the chance.
Today, in similar fashion, President Vladimir Putin’s Russia would be quite happy to absorb all of Ukraine, which it views as an extension of the motherland, an upstart deluded by the West into imagining independent statehood…
… In fact, the Russian annexation of Crimea tore up by forceful means “the territorial integrity” and “political independence” of Ukraine, in direct violation of Article 2 of the United Nations Charter. It also shredded Russia’s formal commitment under the Budapest Memorandum of 1994 to respect Ukraine’s international borders. The “nationalistic violence” that has again raised issues of war and peace in Europe stems not from Kiev but from Moscow, where Putin has cultivated a preposterous fable of encirclement, humiliation and Western depredation to generate hysteria and buttress Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine…
… The Russian leader has invoked history the better to turn it into farce. He has persevered in the nonsense that all the Russian forces and matériel in eastern Ukraine are figments of the world’s imagination.
The New York Times, February 9, 2015

Crisis in Ukraine
The spinning wheel of foreign crises these last few weeks has landed mostly on the Islamic State group and the Middle East. But Vladimir Putin’s continuing attempts to conquer Ukraine are back on top after German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande made an emergency trip on Friday to meet with the Russian president.
The two leaders have failed to persuade Putin to stop his aggressive moves to annex several regions of the former Soviet satellite. And heavy fighting has caused more than 1.5 million people to flee their homes….
… As Ukraine fights to survive, there are likely to be more economic sanctions imposed on Russia, as well as demands in Washington that more weaponry be sent to the beleaguered Ukrainian army.
Escalation is likely, peace is not.
Newsday, February 6, 2015

West Dithers while Ukraine Struggles
… In the meantime, while the West is assessing and considering, the government and the rebels, with covert help from Moscow, are waging a bloody battle over the city of Debaltseve, a rail and road hub, control of which would unify the two rebel-held areas.
That would make eastern Ukraine effectively a semiautonomous region subservient to Moscow, joining the other cowed ministates — Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Moldova, Crimea — with which Moscow is padding its border.
Chancellor Merkel is in Washington this week and Secretary of State John Kerry is in Kiev. This may be the week that decides whether Ukraine remains whole and democratic — unless, of course, the leaders of the West decide more "assessments" are needed.
San Angelo Standard-Times, February 5, 2015

Star Tribune
Send Ukraine Defensive Arms
The United States and other NATO nations should send lethal defensive weapons to Ukraine to help that country better protect itself against Russian-backed rebels, as well as to convince Russian President Vladimir Putin that his illegal, immoral aggression will not go unchecked by the West.
To be sure, Western nations have taken Putin’s moves seriously and have responded with relatively effective economic sanctions. Combined with the collapse of the price of oil, the sanctions have sent the Russian economy reeling.
But clearly this is not enough. The separatists, aided by Russian troops that NATO estimates at up to 1,000 and Ukraine estimates at up to 9,000, are on the march. The results are tragic…
… This isn’t only about Ukraine. Putin has menaced neighboring nations with his revanchist policies, and the West’s current timid course may embolden him to make a military miscalculation that could spark a broader war, especially if he moved on Baltic members of NATO…
… Russia is counting on the West to hesitate. The West cannot afford to. It should consider levying even stricter sanctions. And just as the United States and the European Union tried to deter Russia and the Ukrainian separatists economically, it should do so militarily by sending lethal defensive aid, giving the preferred method of crisis resolution, diplomacy, a fighting chance.
Minneapolis Star Tribune, February 2, 2015

Peace Talks in Ukraine are the Best Way Forward
There’s no “winning” strategy for dealing with Russia’s unrelenting incursions into the Ukraine — just a choice between greater and lesser evils.
Armed escalation, with Western powers providing modern weapons to Ukraine, seems particularly fraught with peril. Yet the status quo won’t do…
… But given the Ukrainian government’s weakness and the limited alternatives available to the West, an agreed upon end to the fighting — even with disappointing conditions — remains the best way forward…
… Nothing else has worked so far. Economic sanctions imposed almost a year ago, as Putin seized the Crimea, have sapped Russia’s economic growth, set the ruble on a downward slide and slammed its entrepreneurial class. An unexpected plunge in oil prices escalated this damage, and Russia has been repeatedly snubbed on the global diplomatic stage. But none of that has changed Putin’s behavior or halted Russian-back attacks in Ukraine. And there’s no indication of when it might.
The threat of facing Ukrainian forces carrying sophisticated weapons supplied by the United States opens another channel for applying pressure on Putin. Whether such an escalation should be more than a threat — and actually carried out — requires further evaluation, especially in light of opposition from Merkel and other Western powers. For now, it’s at least a useful bargaining chip toward obtaining a less-miserable outcome for Ukraine.
Minneapolis Star Tribune, February 10, 2015

Tampa Tribune
Obama's Ukraine Choice
If President Barack Obama follows the advice of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, he'll do so knowing that prominent Republicans strongly disagree with Merkel's no-arms approach to the crisis in Ukraine.
Sens. John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Bob Corker (chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee) have all supported sending lethal weapons to help Ukrainians thwart the separatists seeking to oust the government from the eastern part of the country.,,
… In short, political and military objectives aside, many Ukrainians are seriously suffering the consequences of conflict.
Should Obama accept Merkel's advice to stick with sanctions and other nonlethal tactics, he'll face criticism in the Senate. His tendency to want to avoid conflict may be supported by a war-weary public but has not proved particularly successful, particularly in Iraq, which the president was too eager to abandon…
… The president must be mindful of these domestic divisions as he decides what would be the best U.S. contribution to the international effort to aid the Ukrainian government. There's urgency involved. More than 5,000 civilians, Ukrainian soldiers and pro-separatist fighters have been killed since the separatist campaign began in earnest.
The Western nations need to persuade Putin to belatedly honor the September agreement that called for a cease-fire and the removal of Russian troops and weapons from eastern Ukraine.
He, more than anyone, holds the fate of Ukraine in his hands.
Whatever Obama's decision, it will be difficult and eventful. But his decision won't be as crucial as Putin's.
Tampa Tribune, February 10, 2015

USA Today
Arm Ukraine to Deter Putin: Our View
For most of the past year, Russian President Vladimir Putin's stealth invasion of Ukraine has been out of the spotlight, overshadowed by the sudden rise of the terrorist group Islamic State. But Russia, with nuclear arms and Putin's czarist ambitions, has always posed the greater threat, and it is becoming glaringly obvious that the West's strategy of deterring Putin with economic sanctions is failing…
… Left undeterred, there is no reason to believe Putin will stop there. He has already menaced Latvia and Estonia, both Baltic nations are members of NATO, obligating the U.S. to defend them if they're attacked.
The purpose of arming Ukraine is to pre-empt that threat and to preserve the post-Cold War security order Putin seems bent on destroying…
… As the cost of war rises, and as Russia's economy continues to sink under the weight of sanctions and falling oil prices, the more likely it is that Putin's popularity, built on stoking nationalist passions, will dissipate — a prospect he cannot easily ignore.
To further counter Putin's ambitions, the U.S. should beef up NATO and put at least a tripwire force into the Baltics. But sending arms to Ukraine is something that can be done quickly if Obama chooses to do so, as he should.
Sanctions were the right first step, but they have failed. The choices now are to increase the costs for Putin or to appease him. That should not be a hard choice to make.
USA Today, February 4, 2015

The Wall Street Journal
Putin’s Latest Victory
The Minsk accord ratifies a Russian satrapy in Ukraine
The last time the Kremlin signed an agreement to end the war in Ukraine—as recently as September—it promised to withdraw “military equipment as well as fighters and mercenaries” from the war zone, ban offensive operations and abide by an immediate cease-fire. In exchange the Ukrainian government granted unprecedented political autonomy to its rebellious eastern regions.
Moscow and its proxy militias in Ukraine have been violating the so-called Minsk Protocol ever since. Russian troops and equipment have poured across the Ukrainian border to support the separatists. Together they have seized an additional 200 square miles of territory, rained deadly rocket fire on the port city of Mariupol and encircled thousands of Ukrainian troops defending a strategic railway link in the village of Debaltseve…
… Then again, nobody should be surprised if this cease-fire collapses as quickly as the last one did. The eagerness with which France and Germany proved willing to renegotiate a cease-fire that Mr. Putin had already broken only shows that future violations will carry no real price. So he will continue to alternate between brute force and fake diplomacy, as his political needs require.
Having ratified a rump Russia in Ukraine, Europe and the U.S. should be planning to deter Mr. Putin’s next move. That would mean broader sanctions to exacerbate his economic troubles at home, as well as arming Ukraine to raise the cost to Mr. Putin when he next breaks the cease-fire.
This would include forward NATO deployments in the Baltic states that would complicate an attempt to stir ethnic Russian populations in those former Soviet satellites. And it would include more efforts to export U.S. natural gas to Europe to reduce Mr. Putin’s energy leverage over neighboring states.
Instead the West is likely to use the cease-fire as an excuse to do little or nothing. Mr. Putin will consolidate his latest victory, survey the European landscape for weak spots, and make another move before America gets a new President who might do more to resist his conquests.
The Wall Street Journal, February 12, 2015

The Washington Post
Ukraine needs Strong Western Support to Fend off Russia’s Aggression
Though President Obama has yet to agree, proposals that the United States supply Ukraine with defensive weapons have already had a tangible impact. On Friday, they prompted German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande to rush to Moscow in what looked like a long-shot attempt to broker a peace deal with Vladi­mir Putin…
… Other than the talk in Washington about arms supplies, the West has given Mr. Putin no incentive to drop his new offensive, which appears aimed at expanding the territory held by Russian proxies to the point where it can become a de facto statelet, like those Moscow has set up in occupied areas of Georgia and Moldova. European Union leaders and the Obama administration have discussed new sanctions, but so far those have been limited to individuals. Steps that might inflict significant further damage to the battered Russian economy, such as the exclusion of its banks from an international payment system, remain off the table…
… Yet to push Mr. Poroshenko toward such an accord while denying him the means to resist an invasion gives him few alternatives other than to capitulate to the Kremlin.
There’s nothing wrong in talking with Mr. Putin, provided that the West’s message is clear. Russia should be required to withdraw all its forces and equipment from Ukraine, reestablish the border under international monitoring and cease its support for a separatist statelet — or face a significant escalation of economic sanctions and a Ukrainian army with better weapons.
The Washington Post, February 6, 2015

The Ukraine Cease-fire Does Little to Restrain Mr. Putin
It was far from clear Thursday if a new accord on Ukraine would last long enough for the implementation of its first and most tangible provision, a cease-fire set to begin Sunday. If it does, Ukrainians may be spared, at least temporarily, the deaths of more soldiers and civilians and the loss of more territory to Russian aggression. However, the deal brokered by German and French leaders with Russia’s Vladi­mir Putin does little to restrain his ambition to create a puppet state in eastern Ukraine that could be used to sabotage the rest of the country. In fact, in the unlikely event that its terms are fully carried out, the pact would enable his project…
… In exchange for the promise of a “deescalation” that was their overriding goal, the European leaders induced Mr. Poroshenko to accept terms that give Mr. Putin a veto over any final political settlement in eastern Ukraine — and permission to continue violating the country’s sovereignty in the meantime…
Mr. Obama was content to stand back while Germany and France struck the deal, and the State Department quickly endorsed it. The administration rightly said that it would consider easing existing sanctions on Russia only when the agreement is “fully implemented,” including “the withdrawal of all foreign troops and equipment from Ukraine [and] the full restoration of Ukrainian control of the international border.” But without additional economic and military pressure, Mr. Putin will never meet those terms.
The Washington Post, February 12, 2015

Ukraine Sold down the River, Again
By Jennifer Rubin, Right Turn blog for The Post
It is not often Europe gets to throw a country to the wolves twice. But that’s precisely what the European Union — quickly applauded by the Obama administration — has done with regard to Ukraine. To call it a “truce” is a farce…
… It is not hard to see why our allies are so unnerved and aggressors are so emboldened. Congress can vote sanctions on Iran. It can vote for aid to Ukraine or to Syria, but ultimately it is the commander in chief who must follow through and present a believable threat to rogue regimes. The president has not the will nor the ability to do so. We’ll see aggressors grab whatever they can get (nukes, territory) in the next two years while there is a U.S. president who lacks the will to stop them.
The Washington Post, February 12, 2015

Russia should be Prosecuted for Its Crimes against Humanity
By Paul Dobriansky, undersecretary of state for global affairs from 2001 to 2009, is a senior fellow at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.
…There is also consensus that Russian activities in Ukraine are destabilizing European security and have violated numerous international legal norms.
Unfortunately, a robust, punitive Western response, deterring Moscow from future misconduct, has been lacking. Even worse is that the West has proven unable to distinguish different types of Russian misconduct, much less to deal with them in a differentiated fashion.
Russia’s grave violations of international humanitarian norms, especially the law of armed conflict, should be a main target of Western criticism, drawing a decisive response. That response should come not only in the form of diplomatic and economic sanctions but also include investigations and prosecutions at the International Criminal Court at The Hague...
Hence, the court’s failure to take action against Moscow’s war crimes casts doubt on its integrity. This is particularly poignant because the ICC was created to ensure that war criminals would not be accorded immunity and that purely legal imperatives, rather than politics, would drive prosecutorial actions. As such, the ICC’s inaction should be of grave concern to European states and nongovernmental humanitarian organizations, particularly the International Committee of the Red Cross, which have been the primary movers in the Rome Statute negotiations.
Failure to call Russia to account will only embolden Moscow to continue on its course of action. Pragmatic and legal imperatives call for a course correction. This is a rare circumstance in international affairs, and it’s one not to be forfeited. As European leaders continue to consider how to deal with Russia’s aggression, the ICC investigation of Russian war crimes should be at the top of the agenda.
The Washington Post, February 12, 2015

A Cynical Ukraine Cease-fire is better than none
Friday morning's cease-fire agreement for Ukraine is horribly flawed, yet far better than the alternative: Without it, the country would continue losing lives, territory and hope for a more stable and prosperous future — whether or not the U.S. sends arms…
… Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko was negotiating from a far weaker position. But this agreement at least creates a framework for his country to regain control of the Russian frontier, ensuring that Ukraine can remain whole and free…
… Unfortunately, though, in a clear concession to Putin, the agreement turns re-establishing the border into a process that will take at least until the end of the year, after the separatists have consented, the two regions have held elections, and Ukraine has adopted a new constitution. Until then, Russia may continue to supply the rebels with weapons and troops as needed, until it gets what it wants from the government in Kiev…
… The U.S. and the European Union will need to add their support by supplying more money, more technical support for reform-minded ministers in Kiev, and continued pressure on Putin to abide by the cease-fire and get the border sealed.
After last September's agreement was reached, Western leaders let down their guard, even proposing to end economic sanctions against Russia. They cannot afford to make the same mistake this time. The new cease-fire is welcome, but it is at best the beginning of a process to achieve peace in Ukraine.

The Washington Post, February 15, 2015