The United States may attempt to seek permission from Moscow to place 20,000 peacekeepers in eastern Ukraine, where Russian-backed separatists have been battling government forces for two years.
The offer is said to be a test by the Trump administration to see how serious Russia is in ending the conflict there. It is also driven by the hope in a number of European capitals including Paris and Berlin that Russian President Vladimir Putin is actively seeking a way out of the conflict.
In addition, the effort is seen as part of a wider diplomatic push to force Russia back into compliance with arms-control treaties, such as a ban on intermediate missiles that Washington has accused Russia of violating.
Western officials aren’t confident that Putin will accept the proposal or fulfill its commitments under the Minsk Accords of 2015, obliging it to pull all troops and weapons out of Ukraine and allow Kiev to restore control.
In September, Russia put forth an initiative to station peacekeepers in eastern Ukraine. “Russia proposed that peacekeepers protect international observers in Ukraine along the so-called separation line that divides Kiev-controlled territory from rebel-held areas in the east. The conflict in eastern Ukraine erupted in 2014 after Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine. Fighting has left some 10,000 dead,” The Wall Street Journal noted.
At the time, Western leaders rejected the proposal because they believed it would perpetuate rebel control over a region that properly belongs to Ukraine.
The Canadians and Swiss are said to be pushing hard for a peacekeeping force in the Donbas region.
Analyst comment: One U.S. military official in Ukraine thinks this is a terrible idea. “That’s a trap. We need to avoid that. We don’t want to legitimize any situation that lets Russian troops legally enter Ukraine under any arrangement,” the military official told Defense One’s The D Brief.
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