In an ongoing blame game between Vladimir Putin and Ukraine for the escalating conflict between them, the Russian President has found a new target in the West. On Monday, he told an Egyptian newspaper that Western countries have been pushing for Ukraine to decide between them and Russia.
Putin has recently resumed talks with European leaders seeking to enact last year’s Minsk agreement. The agreement, effective September of last year, was never respected and violence has been escalating since the beginning of this year. The fighting has resulted in the deaths of more than 5,000 people since last April.
The agreement made in Minsk last September outlined a 12 point plan to end the conflict in Ukraine. Representatives from Ukraine and the European Union remain hopeful that it can form the basis for a new plan to be discussed this week.
The original agreement called for an immediate cease fire, but the fighting quickly intensified again. Where the plan called for monitoring of the cease fire, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has been unable to check for compliance. The Ukrainian government has made efforts to provide humanitarian aid according to the agreement, but only to areas that it controls. There is evidence that Russia has violated the terms of the agreement by supplying arms to the separatists.
Since the conflict began, Ukraine, many European nations, and the United States have laid the blame for its escalation on Russia. They say that Russia has been supplying weapons to separatists in the eastern region of Ukraine. Russian officials deny these accusations. Until this point, they have claimed that the crisis in Ukraine is an internal affair that must be resolved from within.
On Monday, however, Vladimir Putin told reporters in Egypt that he believes that blame for the Ukraine conflict belongs with Western nations, specifically NATO countries. He claims that NATO has broken a promise that it would not try to expand eastward and has begun putting pressure on former Soviet nations to choose between it and Russia.
In addition to the accusation that NATO is forcing an “artificial choice” between East and West, Putin said that NATO was behind the ousting of Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych last year. Yanukovych lost power after he withdrew his support for a deal cementing closer ties with the European Union. Based on his comments, Putin seems to be in no mood to come to an agreement with representatives from Germany, France and Ukraine this Wednesday in Belarus.
Vladimir Putin’s assertion that blame for the Ukrainian conflict belongs with the West has brought into question the efficacy of negotiations this week. The accusations flying back and forth will likely make talks difficult. Top U.S. lawmakers are pushing to supply arms to Ukraine, while European leaders worry over the consequences. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said over the weekend that she is having a difficult time envisioning a “situation in which improved equipment for the Ukrainian army leads to President Putin being so impressed that he believes he will lose militarily.” Putin’s comments seem to support Merkel’s concerns. Policy makers are planning to do their best to come to a solution this week and avoid a situation that would, according to French President Francois Hollande, certainly mean war for the people of the Ukraine.
By Kirstin Pinto