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Enhancing Prospects for Peace in Ukraine
Enhancing Prospects for Peace in Ukraine
Members of self-defence battalions take part in a rally to commemorate demonstrators who were killed during the 2014 Maidan protests in Kiev, Ukraine, 20 February 2016. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
Briefing 85 / Europe & Central Asia

乌克兰:军事僵局,政治危机

在历经长达三年的冲突以及一万人死亡之后,俄罗斯证明了它能动摇并掌控乌克兰。基辅当局或许仍可以胜利,但前提是它必须根除腐败,并且美国和欧盟坚持制裁手段——直至俄罗斯从乌克兰东部全面撤军为止。

概述

俄罗斯对乌克兰的军事干预已持续近三年,造成了一万人死亡,并且仍继续全面影响着乌克兰的政治生活。冲突及明斯克和平进程虽均陷入僵局,但分割线两边却几乎每天都有伤亡。僵局中,乌克兰则受害最深。事实上,俄罗斯已经接近其主要目标,即破坏乌克兰稳定,影响其政策选择。不过,俄罗斯胜利所产生的影响远不止于乌克兰当地。俄罗斯在顿巴斯小试牛刀,其也是在试探美国和欧盟的底线。该军事胜利会强化俄罗斯的信号——即,它将不惜一切手段地维护其所认为的国家利益。从长远角度而言,乌克兰仍有机会取得胜利,但前提是它要能铲除腐败现象,使其不再吞噬民众对波罗申科政府的支持。美国和欧盟必须从两方面加以协助:一方面,对乌克兰施加更大的压力,敦促其加快改革;另一方面,对俄罗斯展开——包括制裁在内的——强硬外交,使普京总统彻底意识到,除非从东乌克兰全面撤军,否则其将受到坚决抵制。

乌克兰与俄罗斯对抗的主要策略是拖延战术:面对在俄罗斯武力逼迫下乌克兰签署的不平等条约——2015年《明斯克协议》,波罗申科总统顽固抵制,并将此辩解为国内民众在政治上难以接受协议中的关键条款。该拖延战术虽在处理与俄罗斯的危机部分上有效,但波罗申科却将同样的战术应用于处理另一关键问题——国内的反腐斗争。政府的不作为使民众寒心,也警醒了乌克兰的国际支持者们。自唐纳德•特朗普当选美国总统以来,俄罗斯的风格日渐强硬。乌克兰的盟友们也越来越担心放任腐败所将导致的严重后果,波罗申科政权内某资深政治人物近日则警告了预防危机组织——“普京已占得先机”。

乌克兰方面日益倍感受孤立。加入欧盟的希望一再落空。乌克兰高级官员对欧盟颇有微词,并批评美国的军事援助欠缺诚意。同时,更具潜在危害力的则是,随着军队腐败的指控逐一浮出水面,其体现了乌克兰官员对贯彻改革和反腐倡廉上的无能或无心,而这也消耗了美国和欧洲的耐心和国内的支持率。波罗申科政府的无能殆尽了他与社运分子的关系,尽管当初是独立广场运动将他推到了政权上。乌克兰公共舆论和政府部门日益意识到,本国高层领导人的腐败已然不可救药。

乌克兰日益加剧的对执政的失望和民怨或很快会造成严重后果。一直以来,俄罗斯在乌克兰实行双轨政策,其最终目标是肃清西方势力在乌克兰——该国被俄罗斯认为是其拥有“优先权益”的典型——的影响力。若两个顿巴斯政治体能得以成功巩固,那俄便能够说服自己的民众——北约自苏联解体以来对俄罗斯边界势不可挡的侵略终于结束。俄罗斯还鼓励并协助亲俄派在乌克兰各级立法机关内大幅扩张影响力。这一努力虽尚未成功,但随着物价上涨、丑闻不断、总统及其盟友的支持率在民调中日渐下滑,俄罗斯的目标如今至少有了一些实现的可能性。

各派政治家都相信,大概在2017年上半年,波罗申科在拉达(议会)中拥有的多数派优势将会崩溃,而新的选举会随之到来。在议会中不断取得胜利的党派对俄罗斯的世界观表示认同,并在很大程度上热衷于恢复独立广场运动之前的政治局势。其中一位至少在私下里强调了其与俄罗斯的紧密联系。议会中存在的一大批亲俄政客则将进一步削弱改革派,并可能激发民众运动,正如2004年和2014年一样。

为了维持局面,乌克兰的美国、欧盟和其他支持者需要持续对俄罗斯的压力,并加大对乌克兰当局的压力。它们应该提醒俄方,若要西方停止制裁、并且重新认可其国际大国地位,俄罗斯应从东乌克兰全面撤军。在就乌克兰或欧洲相关事务、与俄罗斯展开对话时,美国和欧盟应将主权问题列入首要议题。其还应提醒俄罗斯的是,俄必须毫不含糊地、全力以赴地解散顿巴斯分裂势力,并尊重该地区所有独立政体的主权,如此则可开辟俄罗斯与西方以及乌克兰之间的互利合作的新时代。然而这个主张却难以推销:俄罗斯不打算在顿巴斯问题上屈服,且似乎相信欧洲和美国的局势正朝着有利于俄罗斯的方向转变。

盟友们也必须对乌克兰领导层采取更强硬的路线。它们可以着手向总统有效指控其亲密伙伴和商业伙伴的腐败行为、坚持要求他在一些案件中采取更及时的态度、罢免涉案人员、杜绝他们侵占国家财政的渠道、加大彻查力度,并在证据确凿的前提下,加快审判进程。为了维护其在国内外的声望,乌克兰领导层应坚决根除腐败。

基辅/布鲁塞尔,2016年12月19日

Enhancing Prospects for Peace in Ukraine

EU-Russia ties are frostier than ever. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2021 – Spring Update, Crisis Group urges the EU and its member states to forge consensus with the U.S. and UK on responses to any threats, or evidence, of Russian attacks on Ukraine, and to work with the U.S. on breaking the impasse in talks.

Relations between Russia and the European Union (EU) are frostier than ever. Reasons include disagreements old and new, with Europeans concerned about issues from Moscow’s treatment of opposition activist Alexei Navalny and other dissidents, to its alleged meddling in their elections, to newly surfaced reports of Russian involvement in a 2014 explosion at a Czech munitions depot. Those reports formed the backdrop for a rash of diplomatic expulsions by Prague and other European capitals, on one hand, and Moscow on the other. But it is the continuing war between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian state forces in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region that remains the sorest point of friction.

Russia raised worries of a substantial escalation in Kyiv and among Ukraine’s Western partners when it massed forces near Ukraine’s borders in March and April. While these anxieties were largely assuaged when Russia started to pull back its forces in late April, the situation as a whole remains fraught. A ceasefire Kyiv and Moscow agreed to in July 2020 has broken down. Negotiations between Kyiv and Moscow are deadlocked. Neither side is taking steps prescribed by the 2014-2015 Minsk agreements that ended the worst of the fighting and were intended to bring peace. The Normandy Format peace process that includes France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine is largely dormant, with no new summit on the horizon. Absent changes, the coming year could bring new problems and new dangers of further outbreaks of violence. The EU, for all its difficulties with Moscow, can and should work with member states and allies to mitigate the risks and seek ways to break the impasse.

To deter future threats to Ukraine and reduce tensions with Moscow, the EU and its member states should:

  • Forge consensus with the U.S. and UK about how they would respond to evidence of Russian threats to attack or actual attacks on Ukraine, focusing on what additional sanctions they would apply and under what circumstances. Options for increasing military pressure should be viewed cautiously, given that they could bring further risks of escalation.
  • For purposes of deterrence, quietly communicate agreed-upon red lines and repercussions to the Kremlin, being careful not to rely on bluffs that Moscow would be likely to call.
  • Encourage Kyiv, on one side, and Moscow and its proxies, on the other, to return to observing the July 2020 ceasefire as a prelude to renewed talks among the Normandy Format countries and the U.S.
  • Work with the Biden administration to create incentives for breaking the long-running impasse in talks, including by delineating, and communicating, a clear plan for gradual, reversible sanctions relief for Russia in response to measurable progress.
  • Develop and propose economic incentives to aid and support Kyiv’s planning for Donbas’s eventual reintegration, to include proposals for restoring social, economic and transport links between government-controlled and separatist-held Donbas.

Political Stalemates

In December 2019, as French, German, Ukrainian and Russian leaders met in Paris to hold their first Normandy Format meeting to advance the Ukrainian peace process in three years, there seemed to be cause for hope. With a new Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who had averred his commitment to peace both on the campaign trail and upon taking office, the summit might have been a first step on a new path after years of stalemate and disappointment.

A year and a half later, those hopes are foundering. The conflict parties have taken only two of the seven joint steps promised in Paris: Kyiv and the Russian-backed leadership of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics in Donbas exchanged detainees in December 2019 and April 2020, and Kyiv and Moscow agreed to a ceasefire starting 27 July 2020. But other important steps – including, crucially, disengagement of forces from front lines, demining, particularly around key infrastructure facilities located on the line of separation between Ukrainian and separatist forces, and full access for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) monitoring mission – remain outstanding.

Moreover, even the slim progress made in 2019 and 2020 has begun to unravel. By March 2021, the ceasefire, the most successful of the many reached since the war began, had collapsed. As shelling and sniper fire resumed across the line of separation, a new crisis emerged. Russian troop build-ups near Ukraine in late March and early April sparked fears of a return to large-scale combat. The Kremlin said the soldiers were conducting routine training, but the deployment of paratroopers to Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014, and establishment of a base camp at Voronezh (a few hours’ drive from the Ukrainian border) were nonetheless unusual and, understandably, alarming for Kyiv and its Western allies. When Ukraine asked for help, European countries, the EU, U.S. and UK spoke supportively but took no overt action in response.

At the end of April, ten days after Presidents Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden discussed a possible summit in a call, Moscow announced that the troops had completed their training and would be coming home. The announcement helped assuage concerns (although leaving unclear what precisely Moscow’s motives had been), but by then relations between Russia and the West were taking new twists and turns. In mid-April, the Czech Republic made public its findings of Russian involvement in a 2014 explosion at a Czech munitions depot and announced the expulsion of eighteen Russians affiliated with Moscow’s mission in Prague. Further expulsions by both sides ensued, with other European countries also expelling dozens of Russian diplomats. At around the same time, Washington announced its own expulsions of Russian diplomats along with new sanctions in retaliation for Russia’s alleged hack of U.S. government infrastructure through software provided by the SolarWinds company. In response, on 14 May, Russia said it deemed the Czech Republic and the U.S. “unfriendly” countries, curtailing the staff of their diplomatic missions. Then on 19 May, Washington imposed sanctions on a total of thirteen Russian vessels involved in laying the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which will bypass traditional routes for which Russia pays lucrative gas transit fees to Ukraine and pump Russian gas directly to Germany.

Yet amid the rancour there are positive signs. Even as the new U.S. sanctions were announced, when Putin and Biden’s top diplomats met in Iceland in preparation for their possible summit in June, they noted their differences but struck an optimistic tone. Moreover, the Kremlin and Kyiv were exchanging invitations for summits of their own: Zelenskyy invited his Russian counterpart to meet in Donbas and Putin countered with an invitation to Moscow – although only to discuss issues unrelated to the war. Ukraine and Russia confirmed in late May that preparations for a meeting between Putin and Zelenskyy were under way.

But for there to be any chance of progress toward resolving the Donbas conflict, itself necessary for improving relations between Moscow and the West, the parties will need to address certain core areas of disagreement relating to implementation of the Minsk agreements. Among the most contentious is a Minsk requirement that Kyiv grant local autonomy (“special status”) to the separatist-held areas and hold local elections there in exchange for Ukraine regaining control of its eastern border. Ukraine says it cannot run credible polls in these regions until it has reassumed territorial control, and indeed its parliament has prohibited elections without first regaining such control. Russia says Minsk is clear: elections and special status come first, control only afterward. Moving past this fundamental impasse will be hard, but in theory, a deal is possible. The parties might agree, for example, that the OSCE and UN will monitor the border and region as a whole while elections are held, in order to assuage Kyiv’s concerns about their integrity.

The longer the war continues, the more positions harden, and the more difficult concessions seem.

In practice, however, the longer the war continues, the more positions harden, and the more difficult concessions seem. Complicating things further, Moscow sees Donbas-related sanctions as part and parcel of a broader Western pressure campaign, with Ukraine only one component. Russia is particularly rankled by what it perceives as the EU’s interference in its domestic politics. Russian parliamentary elections scheduled for September are likely to be a source of friction alongside the dispute over Navalny, particularly if, as appears likely, the Kremlin escalates its crackdowns on independent media and opposition. European positions may also harden due to forthcoming polls in European countries – notably Germany in September – in which European leaders will likely fear Russian meddling given Moscow’s previous alleged interference. Broader tensions make it all the harder to find mutually acceptable ways forward on Donbas.

Recommendations for the EU and Its Member States

Still, with Russia reversing its troop build-up and Washington interested in a June summit with Moscow, the EU and its member states may have an opportunity to work with the U.S. and UK to develop a joint deterrence strategy and revive the peace process.

Brussels, Washington and London should coordinate a common approach to deterrence in the face of future threats or aggression in Donbas. The first step would be to reach agreement on both red lines and consequences if Russia crosses them. For these purposes, sanctions, for all their limits, remain the primary non-military tool at the West’s disposal. Existing sanctions could be augmented through steps that would curtail lending to certain Russian enterprises, cut off Russian access to the SWIFT banking network or block Russian purchases of sovereign debt on the secondary market. Moscow is likely to be particularly concerned about the possibility of U.S. secondary sanctions, through which the U.S. could block access to the U.S. financial system for third parties that engage in prohibited transactions. The secondary sanctions could have a negative impact on EU member states, however, and risk adding to transatlantic tensions over the cost to European companies of U.S. sanctions on Nord Stream 2. (On the latter front, in a nod to ties with Berlin, the Biden administration waived sanctions on the company behind the pipeline and its chief executive.) Brussels and Washington should reach as good an understanding as possible about when Europe would back U.S. sanctions of this nature.

As for whether military pressure could be useful for purposes of deterrence, the West’s somewhat muffled response to the Russian troop build-up only reinforced awareness on all sides that neither the U.S. nor European countries want to get drawn into conflict in Ukraine. The Western powers should not make bluffs that Russia could well call. They should be extremely cautious about taking or threatening measures that would increase the likelihood of confrontation – such as putting Western advisers on the front line in Ukraine. While ramping up the provision of weapons to Kyiv might be less risky, doing so is not likely to yield the kind of battlefield advantage that would change Moscow’s calculations.

Whatever combination of economic and other measures the EU, U.S. and UK agree upon, they should communicate clearly to Moscow what their red lines are and what the consequences will be for crossing them.

Whatever combination of economic and other measures the EU, U.S. and UK agree upon, they should communicate clearly to Moscow what their red lines are and what the consequences will be for crossing them. Sending the message through quiet rather than public channels may give Moscow more political room to absorb it without reacting counterproductively. To maximise the usefulness of sanctions as leverage, the Western powers should not threaten measures that they would be unwilling or unable to rescind in the event that Russia reverses course.

As the EU and its partners are developing their approach to deterrence, they should also be focusing on easing tensions on the ground and encouraging dialogue. This means getting the parties back to the table, ideally for a near-term summit among the Normandy Four and possibly the U.S. Either before or at the summit, France and Germany could press for a suite of de-escalatory measures: for example, returning to the July 2020 ceasefire; broader and freer access for OSCE ceasefire monitors; a roadmap to restoring civilian freedom of movement across the line of separation; and broader military deconfliction and resumption of prisoner exchanges.

Ideally, over the course of the summit and ensuing negotiations, the EU, U.S. and UK would also present Moscow with incentives for charting a path out of the current standoff. They could, for example – as Crisis Group has argued before – offer the Kremlin a concrete plan to exchange the lifting of specific Minsk-related sanctions (eg, against banks and companies) for specific Russian military and political concessions in Donbas (eg, compromises on the Ukrainian border, disarmament of combatants or flexibility on special status). The proposal would make clear that should Russia or its proxies renege, the sanctions will be reimposed. There is some risk in this course of action: should Russia pocket the concessions and then backslide, Brussels may find it difficult to cobble back together the consensus required for the reimposition of sanctions. But if the U.S. and its European partners are not ready to use sanctions relief to motivate incremental progress by Moscow, the combination of high demands and inflexible tools offers little hope of breaking the deadlock.

Brussels should also work with Kyiv to encourage flexible thinking along the lines suggested above about how to work through the impasse over “special status” and begin planning for the near-term reintegration of Donetsk and Luhansk. The latter point is controversial: on one hand, Zelenskyy’s team has rallied to produce a roadmap for reintegration, but on the other, they appear to increasingly favour relegating the task to a distant and speculative future. If Brussels wants to help reverse this tide, it should keep up its promises of an EU economic support package to help rehabilitate the war-torn region, as well as offer plentiful guidance on overhauling Donbas’s fossil fuel-dependent economy. As further preparation for reintegration, Brussels should also maintain pressure on Kyiv to build an independent judiciary and adopt transitional justice legislation that encourages combatants to disarm and provides a framework for the fair trial of accused war criminals on both sides.