The headlines this morning at major outlets are positively giddy over the prospect of peace in our times, at least along the Russian-Ukrainian border. Most of the stories, like the one at USA Today, mention “marathon talks” among key European players:
The leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany on Thursday announced a comprehensive peace deal for eastern Ukraine following marathon talks in the Belarusian capital of Minsk.
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin on Thursday said the agreement envisages a cease-fire starting Sunday, a special status for rebel regions, provisions on border controls and humanitarian issues.
But Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said the talks did not include any agreement on autonomy or federalization for eastern Ukraine, a longtime demand of Russia.
The deal requires the Ukrainian parliament to give wide powers to the eastern regions as a condition for restoring Ukraine’s full control over the border — a provision certain to trigger heated political debate in Ukraine.
So what could go wrong? Well, for one thing, none of the principals involved in the peace agreement are combatants. As Jazz Shaw points out at Hot Air, Vladimir Putin has repeatedly insisted that “the ‘separatists’ attacking the Ukrainians aren’t regular Russian forces” and are, hence, not subject to his orders.
Now it is true that Igor Plotnitskiy, the leader of the separatists in the Luhansk region, welcomed the agreement, but his reaction has an ominous ring. He told the BBC, “We hope that thanks to our efforts today Ukraine will change and stop firing at civilians, hospitals and socially important facilities.” Equally unsettling was the response of Donetsk rebel leader Alexander Zakharchenko, who is quoted as saying he will blame Kiev if the cease-fire collapses and that there “will be no meetings and no new agreements.”
Even Angela Merkel referred to the 16-hour confab as providing a “glimmer of hope,” adding:
[T]he concrete steps of course have to be taken, and we will still face major obstacles. But on balance I can say that we have achieved gives significantly more hope than if we had achieved nothing. So one can say that this initiative was worth it.