Ukraine’s Persistent Crisis

Presentación
Stratfor Global Intelligence, 15.10.2015

Indications of an improving relationship between Kiev and Moscow have given rise to speculation that a grand bargain may be taking shape to bring stability after a year of slow-burning conflict in eastern Ukraine. But despite the gains made in the past month, a broader settlement likely will not be reached before the end of the year for several reasons.

First and foremost, the path outlined by the Minsk protocols is open to interpretation. There is no clear definition of what the "special status" the protocols give to the separatist territories actually is. Second, the issue of amnesty for separatist fighters has not been settled. Militants are calling for a blanket amnesty, while the Ukrainian government insists amnesty should only be granted on an individual and selective basis.

Third, even if the Ukrainian government and the separatists are able to agree on a way forward, Kiev's domestic situation will cause problems. While Russia and the separatists increase the pressure to grant greater political concessions in eastern Ukraine, ultranationalist groups, particularly Right Sector and Svoboda, have pushed in the opposite direction. These groups oppose any compromise with separatists and, as a violent September rally in Kiev against constitutional amendments showed, they are able to destabilize the political system. This leaves Kiev in a difficult position — favorable moves toward either side could lead to blowback by the other.

Finally, the United States could pose another obstacle to resolution. Certain European countries, including Germany and France, are interested in de-escalating the conflict, but the United States has maintained an aggressive posture toward Russia. Washington has increased financial assistance, held more frequent military trainings and mulled an increase in defensive weapon supplies to Ukraine. The United States has less to lose by maintaining sanctions against Russia and has less of an interest in easing them than does the European Union. A grand bargain would need to include the United States, but Washington is uninterested in a deal that does not include a complete pullout of Russian troops from eastern Ukraine.

These obstacles do not preclude progress in negotiations between Russia, Ukraine and the West, and all of them are subject to change. But though talks may well create more room for compromise over certain military, political and economic issues, a comprehensive settlement will be elusive for the near future.

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