A peace plan with no peace. What next for Ukraine?

Video transcript

Putin announced his ‘seven-step’ peace plan just before the Nato Summit 2014, yet fighting in eastern Ukraine has intensified. What was the rational behind Putin’s actions?

Professor Stefan Hedlund:

Well, I’m not sure there ever was that much of a rational. It’s been suggested that he might have written the seven points on the back of a napkin flying back from Mongolia. So it’s sort of his response to a fluid situation.

It’s also striking that the person who really did some grand-standing here was President Poroshenko in Ukraine, who first put out on his website that there was ‘eternal peace’, and then kept back-tracking the rest of the day. So, the two people here are grandstanding in front of an audience that isn’t clearly specified. And if we look at the two peace plans they are literally on different planets.

The basic problem is that Mr Putin keeps insisting that as Russia is not part of the conflict, so it cannot be part of the solution. Its just an ‘innocent bystander’. So he is intent to force Poroshenko to negotiate with the terrorists, as they’re known in Kiev. And that’s obviously politically impossible for Poroshenko, so the situation is totally gridlocked.

Where does Ukraine stand now, and is there hope for a peaceful resolution to the crisis?

Professor Stefan Hedlund:

I would say that Ukraine presently teeters on the brink of an even worse disaster than we’ve seen to date. It seems to me that the military action on the ground is presently confined to Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. The regular Ukrainian army is in rout, it’s in wild panic. And the Russians are letting the regular army soldiers go, but when they trap – and they trapped thousands of military from the Ukrainian side – when they trap people from the volunteer battalions, Putin seems to have given an order that they should be destroyed, i.e., killed, so that they don’t escape.

But this is still Donetsk and Luhansk, and the question now is, it seems they are bent on taking a deep breath before they continue. Because if they continue into Zaporizhia oblast or even into Kherson, going for a land bridge to Crimea, then that will be a really big invasion that will need air support and much heavier artillery support than we’ve seen to date.

That would likely force Nato to take a more active stance and at least supply weapons for the Ukrainian army if it decides to fight, and that would be a terrible escalation.

I think we’re teetering on the brink of that. It’s not really clear to me that it is clear even to the Kremlin what the next step should be.

What is the EU and Nato’s reaction to the crisis, and why are they refraining from being more forceful?

Professor Stefan Hedlund:

Their reaction is the usual one, huffing and puffing about threats of unbearable sanctions and consequences for Russia. We’ve heard that so many times before now that it’s not very impressive anymore.

And given that EU and Nato in particular keeps on stating that ‘we will not get involved militarily’, that means Russia has a free hand. And given also that the sanctions regime is about to collapse from within, we have at least four EU member states that have said publicly they feel sanctions are a bigger problem for Europe than for Russia. In the US the other day Senator Dianne Feinstein, who is chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said that sanctions do not work. And this she says while President Obama is talking about harsher sanctions.

It seems to me that the sanctions regime is eroded and maybe collapsing from within, unless Russia really takes the offensive further west. If Putin decides to go up the Dnieper River, i.e. to take all of Ukraine east of the Dnieper River, then that would be such a major escalation that Nato would have to step up its involvement and then we will be teetering on the brink of real conflict between Russia and Nato, and God forbid that should happen.

Putin proposed a seven-point peace plan on Wednesday, September 3.

  • The Ukrainian army and eastern rebels should stop "active offensive operations"
  • Ukrainian troops must pull back to a distance where they would be unable to shell population centres
  • International monitoring of the ceasefire
  • No use of military jets against civilians
  • 'All-for-all' prisoner exchange without preconditions
  • Humanitarian corridor for refugees and to deliver aid
  • Restoration of destroyed infrastructure.

Nato Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, at the Nato summit on Thursday, September 4, said the alliance called on Russia 'to step back from confrontation and take the path to peace'.

At least 2,593 people have been killed in Ukraine since mid-April - not including 298 passengers and crew of Malaysian Airlines MH17, shot down in the area. (UN, August 29).

Some 260,000 people have fled their homes in eastern Ukraine while at least 814,000 have gone to Russia.

Russia has denied accusations that it is sending troops and military equipment over the border to support the separatists.

(Photo credit:dpa)