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By Howard Wheeldon, FRAeS, Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd.

In the strongest, loudest and clearest of words last evening US Secretary of State John Kerry exploded the myth that Russia has any intention of abiding by the Geneva agreement on Ukraine that it signed up to last weekend. Warning that “the window for Russia to change course was closing and that if it did not choose to de-escalate [the current situation] the US was ready to impose further sanctions” it is clear to me that US patience with Russia is close to exhaustion. But the real question is, assuming that the Russian government is not prepared to listen, is what apart from imposing more sanctions can the US or Europe do?

Few will disagree that given the tone of the Kerry language US/Russian diplomacy has taken a very severe turn for the worse over the past twenty-four hours. The prognosis for Ukraine does not look good and in terms of satisfactory resolution of the present conflict close to impossible. Indeed, I would go as far as to say that I sense the worsening situation in Ukraine could over the coming months have wider repercussions for how we may envisage future global stability and future defence.

Accusing Russia of distraction, deception and destabilisation over its real intentions in regard of Ukraine Mr. Kerry made one final plea to Moscow to get its bricks in a row to help settle the dangerous situation that exists in eastern Ukraine. “Not a single Russian official” he said “has gone on television in Ukraine and called on the [Russian] seperatists to support the Geneva agreement, to support the stand down, to give up their weapons and get out” of the various Ukraine government buildings. Mr. Kerry went on to accuse Russian media of promoting Vladimir Putin’s “fantasy” about events in Ukraine saying that Moscow continued to “fund, co-ordinate and fuel a heavily armed separatist movement in Donetsk” adding that “this is a full throated effort to actively sabotage the democratic process through gross external intimidation that has been brought inside Ukraine”.
As to what happens next I suspect that we need look no further than the statement made by Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, Vitally Churkin who has I believe said on Russian television that Moscow would have “international legal grounds” to deploy what he termed as “peacekeepers” to Ukraine just as it had in the much earlier conflict with Georgia. Such remarks if true are both untimely and unwarranted but they show Russia up for what it is.

If or should I say when Russia decides to go down that damaging road we may expect the western response to be limited to ‘threats’ combined with actions that would be restricted to the imposition of additional and far more deep ranging sanctions that would, from both a financial markets and diplomatic perspective, isolate Russia from the rest of the world.

Russia would no doubt respond by raising the price of the gas that it supplies to Ukraine and to other nations it supplies in Continental Europe raising the potential of further damage to the Euro economy. European industry would be damaged and trade and travel between Russia and Europe would grind to a halt. I suspect that within a few months this [sanctions] would become a vicious circle from which I suspect only Russia might eventually win.

With the ‘West’ perceived to be weak in both resource and resolve military involvement from the US or through NATO remains a very unlikely prospect however loud the calls for help from the ‘interim’ Ukraine government might be. Providing small scale additional military capability and support to the handful of small Baltic States that are now members of NATO is absolutely right on the part of the US and its allies but the plain fact is that Ukraine remains an international problem as opposed to being a NATO one.

Active and ongoing diplomacy should, as we all hope and believe, b

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