Good News From Ukraine, Ctd

The ceasefire that went into effect on Friday appears to be holding – apart from sporadic fighting outside Mariupol – but few expect it to last very long:

Most argue there Ukraine had little alternative to calling a temporary halt to hostilities in order to regroup its shattered forces. “Under the conditions we have, any possibility for a ceasefire had to be accepted,” says Ukrainian political expert Viktor Zamyatin. “We have too many serious challenges piling up, which can’t be dealt with under fire.” But without a workable political agenda, the shooting is liable to resume at any moment. “Both sides have totally different visions of the way forward,” says [military expert Nikolai] Sungurovsky. “They should have focused on a cease-fire, exchange of prisoners and humanitarian issues… instead they tried to identify a political path forward.”

The most controversial measures include a requirement that the Ukrainian parliament pass a law granting “special status” to the rebel-held regions, who would then hold snap local elections. Analysts say there is zero chance Kiev would allow this, since such steps would freeze the conflict in place and allow rebel chiefs to legitimize their rule.

Linda Kinstler declares its failure a foregone conclusion:

It’s almost certain that this ceasefire will fall through; fractures between rebel groups mean that not all separatist fighters are receiving the same orders at once, and there is no evidence that Russia has stopped the flow of its armed forces into Ukraine. The border remains unsecured, and Russia’s next humanitarian convoy is due to enter Ukraine on Saturday. The ceasefire negotiations have already lent a much-needed air of legitimacy to the separatist leadership, which will now be able to strengthen its calls for independence. The result: Ukraine may very well turn into one of the Kremlin’s frozen conflicts, ensuring continued fighting and de-facto Russian control of the region. In the meantime, the people of Ukraine can only hope that this ceasefire means there will actually be a cessation of fire in eastern Ukraine.

But Daniel Berman argues that it’s in Putin’s interests to ensure it holds:

That Putin’s moves against Estonia over the last week were so clearly premeditated and logical goes a long way to explaining why the cease-fire he agreed to with the new Ukrainian government two days ago showed so many signs of lasting in a way its predecessors had not. Putin had by and large achieved his objectives; Crimea was off the table, Kiev was losing the military battle, and it was clear that the West would do nothing to change the trajectory of events. If Putin genuinely wanted more territory he might have wanted to push onward; if what he sought was a further political victory over the West he needed to force a battle else-ware in a place from which they could not so easily retreat.

It is also why I am willing to credit the idea that the breakdown in the cease-fire over the last hour was the one of the few things happening in Eastern Ukraine that was not orchestrated by Moscow.

Walter Russell Mead’s take is characteristically admiring of Putin’s strategy:

Putin keeps running circles around the West. The cease-fire deal is identical in its terms to the plan proposed by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in late June, but Putin has set up a narrative for himself in which he appears as an irreplaceable peace broker—even as he still denies his soldiers are a part of the uprising. Furthermore, just as in June, there are indications that the ceasefire is being used to consolidate gains until the next act of aggression: Ukrainian intelligence is reporting that the flow of arms from Russia into eastern Ukraine continues unabated. Putin appears to be distinctly unimpressed by Western efforts to scare him into ceasing to do whatever he pleases. It’s far past time that Western leaders figure out that Putin is going to keep being Putin until and unless someone puts more than a symbolic obstacle in his way.