The violence in the Ukraine is progressing just as Pres. Putin wants it to. His pro-Russian accomplices in eastern Ukraine are taking over Government buildings, including police stations. They are setting up defended areas, flying the Russian flag, surrounded by barbed wire and patrolled by men in army fatigues but without any insignia. The reporters suspect that they are mostly Russian paratroopers infiltrated into eastern Ukraine. Some may also be former Ukrainian army soldiers who have defected to the Russian side. The Ukrainian Government in Kiev has dispatched its newly expanded army including special forces units to retake the towns and villages that have been overtaken by the pro-Russian militias, but so far woithout success. There has been fighting and according to reports at least 5 of the pro-Russian defenders have been killed. This is precisely the excuse that Putin needs to send in his Russian army deployed around the border of Ukraine, in order to protect the lives of the Russians in eastern Ukraine who want to re-join Russia. It all seems very familiar.
Meanwhile NATO has upgraded its forces in eastern Europe to protect their interests and to let the other countries there know that if Putin decides to expand there too he will not go undeterred. Maybe he will be satisfied with taking another chunk out of Ukraine. Maybe, but probably not. Each side is accusing the other of being terrorists, Putin calls the regime in Kiev a terrorist regime, because they overthrew the pro-Russian Pres. Yanukovich, and the regime in Kiev calls the forces taking over their towns and villages, terrorists with Russian support. Where can it end?
US Pres. Obama is apparently displeased with PM Netanyahu for not taking a firm stand against Pres. Putin’s move to annex the Crimea and his continued support for separatists in eastern Ukraine. But, Obama seems not to realize that Israel is a small country facing a continuous and deadly war against it by implacable foes. It is appropriate for the US to take a firm stand on Ukraine as the leader of the western world, and for the EU, since they are threatened by Russia. But, Israel needs to keep good ties with Putin, especially since there are a million former Russians in Israel and many Jews in Russia. Let’s be realistic, Israel has enough on its plate, if the US focused on its major problems and left us alone a bit then things might not be so bad. This is precisely why Israel is interested in fostering ties with other allies aside from the US.
On Thursday, a meeting was held in Geneva between the US, EU, Ukraine and Russia. There was apparently agreement on a plan of operation to de-escalate the situation. The Ukrainian government agreed to pull back its forces and give time for the separatists to leave the government facilities. However, the pro-Russian separatists are not leaving since they claim they do not recognize the government in Kiev. Now we will see whether or not Pres. Putin has enough influence over them if he really wants them to retreat or if they are acting alone (unlikely). So its in the balance.