Ukraine – finding an endgame

Ukraine – the separatists are gathering strength, and Russian troops directly involved, Putin talking of statehood for SE Ukraine.

It’s a confrontation that could intensify further. Support for Russia in the eastern Ukraine is historically and linguistically strong, so we kid ourselves if we see it simply in terms of Kiev government asserting its natural right to govern its territory. The history of ancient Kiev is rather more complicated than that. I see the Economist used the word ‘nihilist’ as something that might describe Putin. Anything but. We should always remember how different the world looks if you’re on different sides of a border.

We have, more locally, the current Scottish debate to remind us of that: it’s as if there’s a border within Scotland. Not so much a territorial border, it’s mapped out in people’s minds. They are one side or the other. There are I know don’t knows – but it’s hard to be a don’t know when so much is at stake.

Back to Russia.

We need  to focus on the endgame, and what that might be. This is one conflict where there has to be be a rational solution, where sabres need to be rattled less, and solutions worked out across tables. Shouting and sanctions are and will be counter-productive. Making Senator John McCain (thank God he lost to Obama) feel good is not the object of the exercise.

I’m not arguing for a moment that NATO shouldn’t be building up its forces or the Ukrainian army not given the material as well as political support to match what’s coming in on the separatist side from Russia. We must build and bolster our negotiating position. Putin would expect nothing less…

I was struck by Putin’s comment: ‘The West should have seen this coming.’ Indeed they/we should. What did we expect of Russia when a pro-Russian government was overthrown in Kiev? That Russia would simply smile and say ‘Fair cop, well done. We lost out.’

Putin holds the stronger cards in this conflict and short of all-out war that isn’t going to change. Finding behind the scenes (avoid public grandstanding) a formula that will satisfy both sides is the only way forward.

It will take wisdom to get us to a solution.  There is no substitute.

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