European Council on Foreign Relations

Ukraine’s fragile ceasefire

Welcome to the first of four posts in the run-up to the Ukrainian elections on 26 October.

The vote comes in the middle of a precarious cease-fire, with nothing less than the size, shape, strength and viability of the Ukrainian state itself at stake. While optimists are hoping that the elections will reboot the political system, and the long-delayed reforms to Ukraine’s dysfunctional post-Soviet society and economy that demonstrators were demanding and dying for in February will finally begin, pessimists are assuming that such hope has already been lost under the pressure of Russian intervention and an economy under threat of collapse.

Future posts will look at the participants, poll predictions and prospects for change after the elections. But the most pressing issue is whether the cease-fire agreed on 5 September can hold. My new book, Ukraine Crisis: What the West Needs to

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Andrew Wilson on the ongoing crisis in Ukraine

Andrew Wilson's latest book Ukraine Crisis: What it Means for the West (Yale University Press) will be in the shops in advance of official publication on 14 October, and and e-book version will be available soon. Readers/listeners can check out the following podcast, where the three main themes of the book are discussed.

The middle section is obviously about Ukraine and deconstructing the many myths about its politics, identity and history from the current swirl of propaganda. The crisis was not about Russia when it started; it began with the attempt by Ukrainians to have a more successful revolution than in 2004 (the so-called ‘Orange Revolution’). And initially, the prospects were good; which is precisely why Russia has intervened, not only to try and crush any hope of change but to put the very shape, strength and survival of the Ukrainian state in question. So the book is also

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Ukraine and Russia – the use of history in political dispute

FOREWORD

To understand what’s going on in Ukraine, you need to understand the Donbas. Though written almost 20 years ago, this paper tells you everything you need to know about the historical background to the current conflict and the reasons why both Ukraine and Russia claim the territory is “theirs”; Moscow justifies its seizure of Crimea as the protection of Russian speaking minorities as the ongoing war in Ukraine highlights ethnic and nationalist tensions that have existed there for generations.

In this paper written shortly after the breakup of the Soviet Union, Andrew Wilson focused on the Donbas region, historically poised between Ukraine and Russia, which had been part of the newly independent Ukraine since 1991 but was still the subject of bitter argument between the two states. He sets out the contradictory historiographical narratives used by both sides and explains

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Russia’s convoy to East Ukraine and the International Committee of the Red Cross

Considerable confusion has arisen over the role of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in the much-delayed humanitarian convoy from Russia to East Ukraine. The reasons that Russia has sent the convoy have also invited significant speculation.

The ICRC is being used as an intermediary because it has been working in Russia for over 20 years in sensitive places such as the North Caucasus. The ICRC will have made assessments and drawn up beneficiary lists, and it will have the capacity to operate through an established network of people on the ground, not least the Ukrainian Red Cross.

Any humanitarian operation of this size and sensitivity must have the agreement of all sides involved. Contrary to popular opinion, the ICRC cannot force any party to do anything it does not want to do. All it can do is remind all sides of their obligation under international law to

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What can the Cold War teach us about applying sanctions to Russia?

After the MH17 plane crash, the West once again has to wrestle with the question of what to do with the defiant regime in the Kremlin. Diplomacy is not at the moment effective, but military options are unthinkable. Only economic sanctions will send a strong signal both to Moscow and to the outraged Western electorate. It is no wonder that the last meeting of European foreign ministers went further than asset freezes and travel bans for Vladimir Putin’s “cronies”. The ministers also considered “sectoral sanctions” that would target individual segments of Russia’s economy. They left open the option of placing an embargo on exports of “dual use goods and sensitive technologies, including in the energy sector”.

However, economic sanctions are always controversial – and they are often not as effective as promised. The last time the West applied economic sanctions against the Kremlin was

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