Ukraine: A moment of truth approaches
While it’s difficult to separate truth from deception when it comes to ascertaining the real positions on the Ukraine crisis that have been adopted by the leaders of Ukraine, EU, and the US, we’ll soon have an opportunity to observe their real preferences, and the relative balance of power in that complicated relationship.
Ukraine is about to experience two events (or two non-events, depending on how things shake out). One of them is an IMF credit of up to $17 billion (and change). The other is the resumption of fighting on the Donbass. Given these two binary events, we have the following four combinations, and associated implications:
1. Ukraine does not get an IMF credit (or it gets a minimalistic one, sufficient to stave off a default but not much else), and Ukraine does not go to war. That would be a sign that US and EU have written off the “Ukraine project” as both unprofitable and risky, and that Kiev has acquiesced in that decision. It would also mean that an improvement in the Russia-Ukraine relationship is just around the corner, including the final settlement of the status of the Crimea and the Donbass. In my view, it is not a likely scenario.
2. Ukraine gets an IMF credit and does not go to war. This variant would indicate that the doves, both in the EU, US, and Ukraine, have prevailed. The “Ukraine project” is still on the agenda, but the interested parties are taking pains not to escalate the situation for fear of losing everything. In my view, this is the most likely scenario.
3. Ukraine gets no IMF credit and goes to war. If we see this outcome, it would imply a rather major breach between the US and the EU or an attempt by the Anglo-Saxon EU/NATO members to establish their dominance over their respective institutions. EU leaders don’t want to see Ukraine go to war. US leaders want to see EU pay for Ukraine. If the EU is unwilling to pay, the US/British/Kiev hawks might be tempted to use war to escalate the situation to such an extent that the more dovish French and German leaders have no choice but to jump on the bandwagon. If we see weapons and trainers go to Ukraine, it will mean a definite weakening of Merkel’s and Hollande’s position within both EU and NATO, as it does not seem likely the two will dare chart a policy independent of Washington and London. An alternative explanation of this scenario is that it’s a variation on scenario number 1, except that Kiev does not want to acquiesce to it, and tries to escalate the situation in order to force the West to assist it.
4. Ukraine gets an IMF credit and goes to war. This could either mean that Kiev broke faith with the EU (rather unlikely, considering how important that support is). It could also mean that the hardliners in the West have prevailed and have decided to finance and arm Ukraine for the sole purpose of weakening Russia. This would make it the advanced version of scenario 3, in that the Anglo-Saxon powers are now calling the shots and the influence of France, Germany, and pretty much every other EU/NATO member has been nullified. I view this scenario as relatively unlikely.
Got alternative explanations? Anything I missed? Feel free to post in the comments.