‘Kiev govt resists only solution to Ukraine crisis- full autonomy of Donbass’

Prime Minister of Ukraine Arseniy Yatsenyuk (RIA Novosti / Alexandr Maksimenko)
The Kiev leadership, at least PM Arseny Yatsenyuk, is resisting the only solution which can end the Ukraine conflict - full autonomy for the Donbass region, Anatol Lieven, of Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, told RT’s In the Now.

RT:Last year Western governments claimed they would be able to bring prosperity and democracy to Ukraine. Could Ukrainian leaders and their foreign supporters predict war and disorder after mass protest in the country a year ago?

Anatol Lieven: No, I don’t think they predicted it. Clearly the American government was trying to bring about the fall of [Viktor] Yanukovich but I don’t think that they predicted what would follow. One could say that they should have predicted it, but that is a different matter. One of the striking things is that there were so many so-called experts in the West who were completely reckless and irresponsible in this regard.

RT:What do you think was the initial plan or hopes for Ukraine?

AL: The thing is that different people had different plans. When it all started America was not really involved. This was something that the EU pushed, above all by Poland, and to some extent by the EU politicians like Carl Bildt, initiated this European association agreement which was intended to block possible Ukrainian membership of the Eurasian Union. This was a new thing. The US essentially got on board later, as the crisis developed. But as the crisis developed clearly the US, or at least the US diplomats on the ground, like Victoria Nuland followed their old playbook of trying to promote what they saw was freedom, trying to create an anti-Russian regime in Ukraine. Eventually the intention was clearly to take Ukraine into NATO.

A burnt out military vehicle on a street in Uglegorsk, Donetsk region, Ukraine (RIA Novosti / Sergey Averin)

RT:How do you evaluate the job that Petro Poroshenko and Arseny Yatsenyuk are doing considering how and what has evolved in the East of Ukraine?

AL: Of course not a brilliant job at all, but then they are in a very difficult position above all economically. The Ukrainian economy is collapsing; Western aid is only enough to keep it ticking along. Ukraine is still much more dependent on Russia and of course relations with Russia have deteriorated badly. From that point of view they are in a very difficult situation. There are also strong differences between Yatsenyuk and Poroshenko. It appears that Poroshenko is considerably more moderate and pragmatic.Yatsenyuk, possibly with the encouragement of the American hardliners, is a great deal more nationalistic. The problem is that they are strongly resisting the only kind of deal, at least Yatsenyuk is, which can actually bring an end to this conflict…the full autonomy for the Donbass. They’ve dragged the heels and tried to block that. One could say that the separatists’ leaders are doing the same thing. But clearly without an agreement on autonomy there can’t be even a halfway successful end to this war from the Ukrainian point of view. Yatsenyuk seems to be fantasizing about the possibility of a military victory.

RT:What about Wednesday’s retreat of Ukrainian forces from Debaltsevo? Does it mean that we’re looking at the end of the war?

AL: I think that is possible. What has now been established is a much more viable frontline. Clearly as long as the Ukrainians held Debaltsevo there was going to be endless trouble. Hopefully, the pro-Russian side now has what they could see as a defensible border. Therefore, perhaps, will be willing to accept the ceasefire and go forward along the lines of autonomy. But of course that also depends on the Ukrainian government being willing to accept the present situation.


The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.