(Co-author: Petro Burkovsky) Since the Minsk II negotiations of February 2015, Ukraine and the Euro-Atlantic community have leaned toward freezing the conflict in the Donbas as a possible “exit strategy” and way to avoid dangerous escalation. Moscow, however, pursues an endgame that includes devastating Ukraine’s economy, destabilizing the government, and, finally, effecting another regime change in Kyiv.
After the direct intervention of Russian troops in August 2014, Ukraine was forced to accept that there is no military solution to the conflict. At the same time, the government continues to rearm, reorganize, and deploy its military forces in the east. Kyiv also maintains an economic blockade of separatist controlled territories while refusing to recognize their leaders as equal parties in dialogue (thus trying to avoid the West’s “5+2” negotiation approach in Moldova’s breakaway region of Transnistria). While the Minsk accords appeared to promise a way out of this dead end, they have proved impossible to implement for political, economic, and geopolitical reasons.