If the Minsk II agreement reached between the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany can secure a ceasefire and save a few lives, then it is probably a good thing. But you would have to be fairly naive to believe that is the end of the matter.
Over the past year, President Putin has shown that he is a master of turning military pressure on and off to keep the Ukrainians and the west on the hop. And there are a couple of other reasons for suspecting that the fighting may soon restart.
First, the Russians have not yet achieved even the relatively limited goal of establishing a land corridor between Russia and Crimea. Until they do this, the economic situation in Crimea is likely to be very precarious. Second, while Russia’s denials that it is behind the fighting in eastern Ukraine are not credible (if so, why are they even negotiating a ceasefire?), it may well be true that Moscow is not in complete control of events. The Ukrainian side may also be unable to control some of the nationalist militias that are fighting in the east of the country. Read more
By Gideon Rachman
China’s education minister has just issued an edict to the country’s universities that sounds like something from the heyday of Maoism. “Never let textbooks promoting western values enter our classes,” thundered Yuan Guiren. “Any views that attack or defame the leadership of the party or socialism must never be allowed.”
Time to start arming the Ukraine government?
The upsurge in fighting between pro-Russian separatist rebels and Ukrainian government forces has shown how little diplomatic leverage the west now appears to have with the Kremlin. There is an increasingly lively debate about whether the west should provide Kiev with arms to help it face down the secessionist onslaught. Ben Hall discusses the crisis with Neil Buckley, Geoff Dyer and Stefan Wagstyl.
By Gideon Rachman
Is Vladimir Putin a wimp? The Russian president has a macho image and has shocked the west with his annexation of Crimea. But, in Moscow, there are hardliners who seem frustrated that he has not gone further.
The appointment of Donald Tusk as president of the European Council was greeted with a certain amount of bafflement in Brussels. The former prime minister of Poland does not speak much English or French – and they are the two main working languages of the EU. And while he is known as a strong and sometimes charismatic leader, he is not someone who is renowned for his interest in detail – or his patience with committee work. The main job of the council president is to broker complicated deals between national leaders – a job that requires patience, a command of detail, a degree of modesty and, preferably, an ability to converse without the need to go through translators. The outgoing council president, Herman van Rompuy, ticks all these boxes. Mr Tusk, arguably, ticks none of them. Read more
It is still called the Yalta European Strategy Meeting. But this year, the annual international forum on Ukraine and and the world is taking place in Kiev, not Yalta. That is because Yalta is now in Crimea, which has been annexed by Russia. To judge from the mood of the conference, nobody expects Crimea to return to Ukraine anytime soon. On the contrary, on Saturday morning Arseniy Yatseniuk, the Ukrainian prime minister, warned the conference that Vladimir Putin’s goal is “to take the entire Ukraine”. Read more
The announcement by Petro Poroshenko that Russia has withdrawn 70 per cent of its troops from Ukraine has prompted both hope and anguished debate in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev – where I am at the moment. The argument now is whether Ukraine should try to cut a peace deal with Moscow.
President Poroshenko is regarded as the chief partisan of the “peace party” in Ukraine. But he has to tread carefully because many Ukrainians would regard cutting a deal with Vladimir Putin’s Russia as folly or betrayal – or both. Read more
By Gideon Rachman
At the beginning of the year, I gave a talk about “geopolitical risk” to a big conference of investors. I trotted briskly around the course: Russia, the Middle East, the South China Sea, the eurozone. Afterwards, I was having coffee with one of the other speakers, a celebrated private-equity investor, and asked him how much he thought about geopolitical risk.