Why the Putin Peace Plan Is Working

October 22, 2014 Topic: Security Region: RussiaUkraine

Why the Putin Peace Plan Is Working

"If the current peace process has shown anything, it is that Russia remains Ukraine’s only indispensable partner for stability and prosperity."


Third, there is a very real danger that the rebels will prove unwilling to negotiate within the framework of Ukrainian sovereignty. Animosities toward Kiev are still very high. Contradictory statements from rebel leaders suggest that some of them have no intention of accepting anything short of independence from Ukraine for the entire Donbass region.

Finally, there is the obvious reluctance of many in the West to countenance a peace that “rewards Putin.” Influential media outlets such as The Economist, Maclean’s, Financial Times, Washington Post and the New York Times routinely highlight the danger of allowing Putin any semblance of “victory.” To paraphrase British journalist Angus Roxburgh, they see that Putin is part of the problem, but “refuse to concede that he might also be part of the solution.”


But just because some elements of the current peace plan are indeed Putin’s initiative, we should not make the mistake of failing to consider whether it is also in Ukraine’s best interests. If, in the final analysis, the Minsk accords lead to stronger and more respected government institutions, won’t this help to stabilize and unify Ukraine? Is such an outcome not as much in the interests of Ukraine and Europe as it is of Russia?

Given the fragility of the current peace, I believe it is all the more imperative that Europe, Russia and the United States acknowledge publicly that they share a common interest in encouraging Poroshenko’s commitment to peace, and in discouraging the many political actors interested in renewing hostilities.

A good way to manifest this common interest would be to coordinate a comprehensive package of economic support for Ukraine with Russia, so that after the parliamentary elections, the Ukrainian government does not fall prey to economic populism, or worse, collapse and get replaced by the extremist forces lurking in the wings.

Another unifying agenda should be to speak out with a common voice against the ever increasing restrictions on Russian culture in Ukraine (including access to television, books and movies). We would do well to remember president George H.W. Bush’s prescient citation of Lord Acton. Speaking to the Ukrainian Supreme Soviet in Kiev in 1991, he reminded his audience that "The most certain test by which we judge whether a country is really free is the amount of security enjoyed by minorities." It ought to be stated clearly and often, that a modern and democratic Ukraine cannot be built on Russophobia, especially when more than half the country routinely uses Russian in daily life.

Trade sanctions, the construction of a wall to separate the two peoples, and attempts to isolate Ukraine from the influence of Russian culture, which many of its citizens share, may make some political groups feel better, but they are no substitute for what Ukraine ultimately needs to survive—massive and sustained Russian business investments. Indeed, if the current peace process has shown anything, it is that Russia remains Ukraine’s only indispensable partner for stability and prosperity.

That was something that every leader of Ukraine, even Yulia Tymoshenko and Viktor Yushchenko, eventually came to realize. In sticking with the Minsk accords, Poroshenko has shown that he is beginning to realize it as well. Now it is time for the West to catch up.

Nicolai N. Petro is professor of politics at the University of Rhode Island. He has recently returned from a year-long Fulbright research scholarship in Ukraine.

Image: Kremlin photo