Waiting for a Reaction

Why Western politicians and the media are not commenting on the terror attack in Crimea.

We cannot understand the West’s reaction to the announcement of the skirmish on the Crimean-Ukrainian border without official comments from Germany and France, or at least the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. Even if the OSCE does not have authorized observers on the Crimean-Ukrainian border, it is still responsible for peace and peacekeeping in Ukraine. There need to be statements from a third party close to the issue in order to deal with the situation. However, so far we see only complete silence.

The lack of commentary from Western politicians is surprising. Nevertheless, what happened could hardly be made up. Members of the Russian FSB [Federal Security Service] were killed; there was a deadly firefight. If there really was a border conflict, then Russia should publish the details of the slain servicemen as well as the Ukrainian saboteurs under arrest. The facts must be laid out in order to, among other things, attract the attention of the Western media. They slept through the events in Crimea, largely due to the Olympics as well as (of course) the uncomfortable nature of the news.

Ukraine completely denies Russia’s version [of events]. The appeals of its official representatives to the U.N. Security Council certainly sound strange. After all, if nothing happened, then that means that there were a few internal firefights close to the Crimean border. Why bring that onto the international stage? The skirmish itself is reminiscent of the Russo-Georgian conflict of 2008. That fight began during the start of the Olympics in Beijing. There is a certain parallelism there. It’s summer, and the global community is distracted by the Olympic games. One could gain time in order to start some provocations. Of course, in order to understand what really happened, we need more details. Russia’s version, in which a terror attack occurred in Crimea, cannot be discounted. For example, we already know that there has been a Ukrainian blockade of Crimea publicly supported by the authorities. Now Ukraine sees two things: There is an unpredictable presidential election going on in the U.S., and the current president, Barack Obama, is focused on Syria, not Ukraine. That means the situation can be taken advantage of to gain ground somewhere.

Vladimir Putin’s refusal to have another Normandy-style meeting is understandable. The West forgives Ukraine. The pressure has eased on Ukraine to implement the Minsk peace deal. In the West’s view, Russia must fulfill all parts of the bargain. Aside from the fact of what happened in Crimea, the issue of what to do with the Minsk agreements has long ago come to a head. What’s the point of them if they only place demands on Russia? The agreements should be reformulated. Responsibilities must be more clearly outlined and the path forward must be affirmed. Earlier, all sides signed on to a deal in which Donbass was granted autonomy within the Ukrainian state. This course of action should be renewed. [Russia] needs to find levers to influence Ukraine, and Europe for that matter, while the United States is too busy with other things to pay attention to Ukraine. They must look for another form of dialogue with Germany. The Germans continue to claim that there are no alternatives to the Minsk agreements, although, again, those agreements cannot work as long as only one side is upholding them. I think that’s what Putin meant when he said there was no point in another Normandy-style meeting.

I believe that the OSCE’s mandate in eastern Ukraine should be strengthened. They could invite representatives from the EU or possibly Asian countries for objectivity and in order to put an end to the ongoing fighting. Then there should be discussions about elections and transition of control of the territory to new authorities.

This long process needs to start with laying out all cards on the table. It would be more honest if Germany and France, as guarantors of the Minsk agreements, publicly stated, “We will not and do not want to put pressure on Ukraine for moral reasons, since we consider it a ‘victim of Russian aggression.’”

In effect, the West’s position is this: It’s inclined to take Kiev’s side over Moscow’s and it’s not prepared to harshly criticize or pressure Ukraine, even when it has every reason to. The honest and open acknowledgement of this fact will lay the groundwork for a new phase of negotiations with Russia and the search for a solution to the Donbass problem.

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