Fighting in eastern Ukraine likely to erupt again, as sanctions against Putin fail

Ukraine may not be in the headlines at the moment, as a lull in the fighting that claimed over 6,100 lives in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions appears to be largely holding, but both the U.S. State Department and experts on Russian foreign foreign policy strongly suggest that it’s merely a matter of time before the war is reignited. Russia recently strengthened its military presence along the border with Ukraine and with both oil prices increasing and the Russian ruble gaining some much needed stability after a dramatic fall in its value in 2014, President Vladimi Putin may no longer be feeling the squeeze of the sanctions as much as he did last year and in previous months.

“There’s a lot of volatility here that’s embedded in the crisis. So I’m thinking the current lull just doesn’t look sustainable. And it’s only a matter of time before something triggers a new escalatory spiral,” said Andrew Weiss of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace to reporters with the Associated Press.

That time may soon be upon us. Recently, US and Russian military jets almost collided over the Baltic. The Russians were flying an Su-27 and there was a near collision with an American RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft. According to the Pentagon, the Russian aircraft intercepted the RC-135 “in an unsafe and unprofessional manner,” in international airspace.

And then this weekend, the pro-Putin Russia Today (RT) claims that Ukraine has launched an artillery attack on the separatist town of Donetsk. Russia is now urging the OSCE chairperson to intervene and demanded that Ukrainian forces halt their alleged shelling around the Donetsk airport. RT claims that nine people have been injured in the Saturday attack. The RT report is based almost entirely on information obtained from the self-proclaimed Donetsk Peoples’ Republic. The International Business Times carried the report as well, noting that according to the DPR, Ukraine had launched 30 attacks on the region this weekend. But unlike RT, the paper added that two Ukrainian servicemen had been killed by pro-Russian rebels during the previous day.

Troops from the Donetsk People's Republic watch Vladimir Putin on TV. Photo: Reuters.

Troops from the Donetsk People’s Republic watch Vladimir Putin on TV. Photo: Reuters.

According to U.S. Gen. Philip Breedlove, who commands NATO in Europe, Mr. Putin’s approach to eastern Ukraine is characterized by “ambitious strategic intent.”

“We cannot be certain what Russia will do next and we cannot fully grasp Mr. Putin’s intent,” he added.

As the weather heats up, so may this deadly conflict on Europe’s eastern-most edges.

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