The withdrawal of weapons from the frontline by the Ukrainian Army in the East has boosted the outlook for a lasting truce. US Secretary of State John Kerry said that the US aims for a full withdrawal although he highlighted “further consequences” to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov if circumstances change. The removal of weapons in some areas might be indicative of the growing willingness by both sides for a truce.
The situation in Eastern Ukraine began in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in April 2014 following the annexation of the Crimean peninsula a month beforehand. Throughout the recent events between the Ukrainian military and the rebels, the role of Russia in supporting the rebels with arms and possibly personnel has been questioned with western countries aiming to initiate a peace process. The view of Russia as partially responsible has led to economic sanctions and the discussion of increased support of Ukrainian forces. The reason behind the current situation appears to have originated during the ‘Maidan’ demonstrations in Ukraine which aimed for a closer relationship with the European Union as opposed to Russia.
The requirement of a ceasefire for a truce to be successful may be seen as a prerequisite. Whilst the ceasefire has led to a reduction in the confrontation the withdrawal of weapons from the frontline appears to show an attempt to deescalate the situation. There is also expected to be a demilitarised buffer zone and potentially self-rule for parts of the Eastern Ukraine in a permanent agreement. However, the chances of a longer term agreement might be reliant on a successful ceasefire to create a stable environment for further negotiations.
The sanctions approved by the United States and the European Union have been aimed at numerous Russian companies and their executives, President Putin and his inner circle as well as members of the Russian government and military. Combined with a reduction in the price of oil, the sanctions have led to a challenging economic environment which may go some way in pushing Russia to be more open to an agreement. The relationship between the United States and Russia has been challenged by the recent developments with some in the US government advocating greater levels of support for Ukrainian forces, financial aid or more sanctions directed upon Russia. The possibility of a peace agreement may improve the relationship of the United States and Russia and equally might provide economic relief to Russia as it may allow it access to its important markets its businesses rely on.
The role of the European Union and the United Nations regarding Eastern Ukraine highlights the way that these organisations may contribute to international events. There have been calls for a firmer response towards Russia, though the use of economic sanctions directed at Russian officials and business by the EU and US has been the main response so far. Organisations such as the European Union, United Nations and NATO have attempted to support Ukraine and lead to a lasting peace agreement with an emphasis on stability.
The possibility of a truce may begin to instigate a dialogue regarding the future of the Ukraine both regarding the Eastern region and the country as a whole. It appears that the country might be aiming to become a member of the European Union however, this may be reliant on judicial reforms, changes to state-owned enterprises and greater transparency within the government. EU membership may be seen as an important step towards protection from Russia for Ukraine and might also lead to a much strengthened border as EU/non-EU borders tend to be. Equally, further financial support may be needed from groups like the European Union and the International Monetary Fund to help provide Ukraine with the foundations with which it may begin to build the type of country that its people need.
How might the situation in Eastern Ukraine change the relationship between the United States and Russia?