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Ukraine: Sequencing Crisis Defusion

Over the past few weeks Ukraine crisis has engaged the World at large given the significance of European security not only to countries in the Continent including Russia but in a globalised universe having a wider impact.

Intense diplomacy may have paved the way for defusion if not resolution of the larger issue of guarantees that Russia wants over expansion of NATO.

Russian objective of a pro Moscow stance by Kyiv may not be forthcoming.

However an understanding of the bottom line so to say may pave the way for defusion.

Another important facet is acceptance that use of force may not lead to Russian objectives and thus the threat of the same may have sufficed to bring the main issues on the table for Moscow.

In short each side may have achieved the temporary objectives and the situation may be ripe for taking back the first steps at disengagement.

This will sequentially involve the following:-

(a) Immediate cessation of firing in the Donbas region which has seen escalation in the past with many rounds of artillery fire and each side blaming the other. Monitoring needs to be intensified. Any escalation is being perceived by the United States as a precursor or a false flag so to say by Russia to start a war, words that have come from President Joe Biden himself several times. However, it is unlikely that this is going to be easy. OSCE monitoring mission has noted that “since the beginning of 2022, the Mission has recorded, on average, twice as many daily ceasefire violations as it did during the same period in 2021, as well as a rise in civilian casualties as a result of shelling and small arms fire”.

(b) Pull back of Russian troops from the exercises in Belarus, this is expected to commence on February 20 and would be the first indication of crisis defusion.

(c) Withdrawal of Russia troops from the Ukrainian frontier. The process may take time and is not likely to happen in a few days but could extend over weeks and in the interim period peace will have to hold.

Further steps mainly related to diplomacy and dialogue to resolve the issue of the Minsk II agreements and secondly the Russian demands for agreements by NATO countries.

In this context the UN Security Council has stated that the, “Package of Measures for the Implementation of the 2015 Minsk Agreements remains the only Council-endorsed framework for a negotiated, peaceful settlement”.

There does not appear to be any realistic scope for the implementation of Minsk II Agreements as Ukraine is not willing to accept a higher level of representation for the people in the Donbass region.

Yet the Normandy format talks for the same are the only option that needs to be pursued vigorously.

Secondly a discussion on the draft treaties proposed by Russia in December last year needs to be undertaken in earnest.

The Russian demand for treaties includes a call for NATO, “to remove troops or weapons from countries that joined the alliance after 1997, meaning most of Eastern Europe, including Poland, the Baltic states and Balkan countries”.

Restraint on U.S. and Russia to deploy troops in areas, “where they could be perceived as a threat to each countries' national security, and ban on sending their aircraft and warships into areas where they could strike each other's territory”.

A treaty between US and Russia to, “ban the deployment of intermediate-range missiles in Europe,” is also envisaged.

While the Russian demand appear to be a bargaining position, negotiations on the same need to be held intensely and within a laid down time frame to avoid scope for escalation in the years ahead.

These are in the realm of possibilities as both sides may declare that they have won this round. Russia as it had no intention of an offensive in Ukraine only proposals to discuss for Minsk II and the two draft agreements may feel vindicated while the US and the West may perceive that they have succeeded in evading a war in Europe at least for the time being.

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