To freeze or not to freeze – that is the question

September 1, 2014

To be, or not to be, that is the question—
Whether ’tis Nobler in the mind to suffer
The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? ”

Hamlet – William Shakespeare

“To be, or not to be” perhaps seems a little over dramatising of the situation for Ukraine – or indeed perhaps not.

All the above is indeed true.  Of that there is little doubt.

Having already had Crimea severed and illegally annexed, the regular Russian military now overtly occupies parts of eastern Ukraine, seemingly intent on carving out a de facto “Novorussiya”.

Thus, Ukraine is faced with a question – “To be, or not to be” the territorial sovereign nation it was only a few months ago, to accept further loss of territorial sovereignty and some form of subjugation to The Kremlin once more – or not.  At the very least freezing the conflict in eastern Ukraine and to suffer “The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune” – “Or to take up Arms against a Sea of troubles” via a general mobilisation and fully confront the Russian military in its east.

Nations such as Germany have already ruled out sending arms to Ukraine – but that is not a problem.  Germany has other quite specific roles it can play – and has played – to assist Ukraine.  Other nations such as Poland and Romania, have stated they are prepared to send arms to Ukraine if asked.  Specific requests to those nations may come at, or after, the NATO Summit on 3-4 September.  Thus whilst sanctions work far more effectively when imposed  en masse, requiring consensus – the foreign and defence policies of the EU nations are distinctly sovereign – therefore being bilateral issues with Ukraine.  Neither Germany, nor the EU, can any more stop Poland or Romania sending arms to Ukraine, than have successfully managed to stop France sending warships to Russia despite the current actions of The Kremlin.

The current informed political commentary leans towards Ukraine accepting some from of “frozen conflict”, despite President Poroshenko’s statement that such a state of affairs will never be tolerated on Ukrainian soil.  However, if any form of RADA and local elections are to take place on 26th October as planned, a cessation of fighting need occur as soon as possible.

Yet there is now some noise rumbling from within the higher echelons of most of the political parties, stating that perhaps it should be the elections that be frozen, whilst the war remain hot – and in fact the war should get much hotter – with a State of Emergency and mass mobilisation being called.  These noises are becoming distinctly louder.

It would appear a good idea for President Poroshenko to go into a room with the leaders of all political parties, lock the door, and emerge again when there is a unified – or at least super-super majority decision – to either press ahead with the elections and watch the eastern regions not only fall beyond Kyiv’s reach indefinitely, but also become so large an anchor that European integration may become glacial – or press ahead with the war far more vigorously.

Once such a decision is made – whatever that decision may be – those leaders need to consistently and unwaveringly explain that decision to the Ukrainian constituency, with each unambiguously taking their share of responsibility in that decision.

It may suit the Europeans and The Kremlin if a freeze occurs – it may seem logical and the only viable option.

However the Europeans managed to get the Ukrainian public mood entirely wrong when brokering their ill-fated February deal with former President Yanukovich.  The Europeans have seriously underestimated The Kremlin and its desire to control Ukraine whatever the cost.  It may be about to seriously misunderstand the Ukrainian desire to break with The Kremlin, whatever the cost.  Logic and diplomacy need not necessarily apply, as so far has been the case from a European perspective throughout.

Certainly it seems that there are those within Ukraine, some quite influential, that have very different ideas than those of appeasing The Kremlin.  As the current Ukrainian leadership still skates on thin ice with much of its public, whilst it may be able to officially bring an end to the fighting on paper, that does not necessarily mean it will translate into an end to the fighting.  What are currently legalised fighting units, may very quickly become extralegal, unless a convincing case is made that it is in Ukrainian interests to stop.

Thus –  “Whether ’tis Nobler in the mind to suffer the Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune, Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles, And by opposing end them? ” is perhaps still very much an open question within Ukraine itself – regardless of what the external actors may want to think.

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