It's Up To Putin To Make Ukraine Ceasefire Stick
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
As we just heard, leaders from Russia, Ukraine and France and Germany worked through the night last night to hammer out terms for a cease-fire in eastern Ukraine. But even as the parties were meeting, there were reports of Russia moving more heavy weaponry into Ukraine, and there are reasons to be skeptical that this will lead to a lasting peace. Joining me to discuss all this is Anne Applebaum. She's foreign affairs columnist for The Washington Post and Slate. She's in London. Welcome to the program.
ANNE APPLEBAUM: Thank you.
SIEGEL: This is the second cease-fire in this conflict - the second one negotiated in Minsk, Belarus. Is there any real prospect that you can see that this one will stick?
APPLEBAUM: It really depends on whether Vladimir Putin wants it to stick. This is really his war. He created the separatist movement. He's arming it. And it's going to be - it's really his gift. He can decide whether to pull back the weapons, pull back the troops and make the fighting stop.
SIEGEL: Well, from what you have heard and read of this Minsk agreement, does it appear that Putin has made any new concessions?
APPLEBAUM: There are those who think that he might have decided to stop fighting for the moment to preserve the borders of his little separatist enclave where they are, partly to avoid more sanctions, possibly to avoid the U.S. or others beginning to arm the Ukrainians and possibly because he wants to sort of pursue the war against Ukraine in different ways - using economics, using possibly terrorism. There have been terrorist attacks across several Ukrainian cities in the last few months. And he may have just decided that this form of the war isn't working for him, you know?
So yes, it could be an end to fighting in eastern Ukraine if that's what he's decided to do. But it does not necessarily mean an end to the war in Ukraine or an end to the Russian attempt to disrupt and undermine Ukraine.
SIEGEL: I want to ask you more about the idea of undermining Ukraine. The plan speaks of broad powers going to the eastern republics in the east of Ukraine. What Russia's doing here - does it want to see a weakened central government for Ukraine out of Kiev?
APPLEBAUM: Russia's aim is that Ukraine be seen by the Russians to fail. I mean - or is this Putin's aim? He wants to prove that a Ukrainian revolution was a disaster - that Ukraine's policy of trying to become closer to the West won't work. He needs to show his own public that it will fail. That's the main reason for his intervention in Ukraine.
On the surface of it, having an enclave which is treated slightly differently from the rest of the country doesn't necessarily mean catastrophe. There are other European countries that have - you know, have autonomous regions or that are treated slightly differently. What really matters is not the constitutional arrangement, but how it works on the ground. Are these separatists going to maintain, you know, Russian military presence? Will they try to move their borders? Will they try to disrupt other parts of Ukraine? You know, how will the border be controlled? And above all, of course, who will pay for it? So all of those things are not in the agreement, and much will depend on how it's carried out on the ground.
SIEGEL: Given Vladimir Putin's statements about Ukraine and Russia's interest in Ukraine and Russian ethnics in Ukraine, is that view compatible with an independent Ukraine or is it a zero-sum game?
APPLEBAUM: The trouble is that Putin right now doesn't recognize Ukraine as an independent country. As long as he holds that view, then no, his vision of Russia's relationship to Ukraine is not compatible with an independent, sovereign and even Western-oriented Ukraine. Were he to change, then yes, possibly. Russia could and should have a normal economic relationship with Ukraine. They should have a normal trading relationship. They do have a lot in common culturally. But unless he can acknowledge that Ukrainians have the right to decide things for themselves, then no, it's not going to be possible for them to work together.
SIEGEL: That's Anne Applebaum, foreign affairs columnist for The Washington Post and Slate speaking to us from London. Thanks a lot.
APPLEBAUM: Thank you.
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