The west leaves Ukraine to Putin

The next diplomatic “off ramp” touted by the Obama administration will be the negotiations involving Russia, Ukraine, the EU and the U.S. scheduled for later this week. Petro Poroshenko, the leading Ukrainian presidential candidate, tells me that these “talks for the sake of talks” send “a very wrong signal” about the West’s commitment to sanctions. It’s a case of the blind faith in “diplomacy” undermining diplomacy. See the Obama record on Syria for the past three years.

The West looks scared of Russia, which encourages Mr. Putin’s bullying. But on the Ukrainian side, the sense of abandonment brings unappreciated consequences. Ukraine’s political elites have taken into account that Russia could reimpose its will—perhaps that anticorruption law demanded by the EU isn’t so necessary after all?

While millions of Ukrainians have united against Russia, out in the east of the country many people are fence-sitters. The fight there, as in Crimea, won’t be over any genuine desire to rejoin Russia. Before last month, polls in Crimea and eastern Ukraine put support for separatists in single digits. But the locals’ historical memory teaches them to respect force and side with winners. Left to fend for itself by the West, Ukraine looks like a loser to them, notes Kiev academic Andreas Umland.

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