It certainly looked like it last week. The Minsk-2 agreements between Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France were signed on February 12, 2015 and almost immediately after, the terrorist forces intensified their offensive on Debaltseve in the Donbas region of Ukraine. During the Debaltseve siege, Western Europe remained effectively silent, only for the German Foreign Minister Steinmeier to have said on February 22 that in the Donbas “There are early signs … of at least some relaxation”.
What? I mean, what?! We could repeat this word as many times as it would take to fill this column and it would still be the best way to describe the situation. It could be gathered from the account of Herr Steinmeier’s words in the Bild (helped by Google translate) that he also said on February 22 that if the “rebels” captured a port city of Mariupol, they would cross the “red line”.
Again, what? Is the line in Mariupol redder than the one in Debaltseve? Europe had said before and during Minsk-2 that Debaltseve had to remain under Ukrainian control. Oh, maybe that line in Debaltseve is now not so discernible – it probably was erased when the terrorists were levelling the town with heavy artillery. That is the only explanation why some Western European diplomats are continuing to move the red line as they have moved it over the course of the past 12 months from Crimea to Sloviansk to Kramatorsk to Donetsk to Luhansk to Debaltseve, to…?
As bitter as it sounds, the inhabitants of Mariupol should now be extra worried as the German Foreign minister showed that he doesn’t care whether their city will become new Debaltseve. Or maybe he does? Then, what is he offering to do to stop the Russian aggression? General words about further sanctions mixed with the hopes on the withdrawal of heavy weapons according to Minsk-2. Somewhere along all this rhetoric from Europe, the terrorists may well strike – at Mariupol for instance. If they strike at Mariupol, quite likely, Chancellor Merkel and President Holland will again come to Kyiv and Moscow to broker a new ceasefire, and so on, and so forth. If the terrorists strike at a smaller town or village, Europe will not even notice.
Hopefully, we are just being extra pessimistic and cautious. But unfortunately, the events of the past two weeks have provided ground for this pessimism. Yes, Western Europe, along with the U.S. and Canada have imposed several waves of heavy sanctions on Russia. But those sanctions are not working. Or are not working fast enough. And yes, it is time to draw the real red line. The words by British Foreign Secretary Hammond and the U.S. State Secretary Kerry on Sunday, February 22, are providing some hope, namely the words about “Russia’s continued aggression”, the “U.S.-European alignment in response to breaches” of the Minsk-2 agreement, “land grabbing” by Russia in Ukraine and that the U.S. is not going to “play this game” at the expense of the sovereignty of Ukraine.
Because it has exactly looked like some kind of game so far. Two weeks ago almost everyone expected that the U.S. would lead the Western world in switching Russia off the global interbank payment system SWIFT and would provide defensive arms to Ukraine. Then after Chancellor Merkel’s visits to Washington DC and Moscow these hopes cooled down. The next several days will probably show what the U.S. and Britain mean this time. After scores of dead in Debaltseve, Shyrokine, Donetsk, and now in peaceful Kharkiv, killed by terrorists, will the West finally rise up to the challenge and really try to stop the aggression? Canada has its own place in all this – it should try and push the U.S. and Europe in the right direction. The recent indications from some Canadian politicians and officials that they are in favor of military assistance for Ukraine are reassuring. In particular, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Chris Alexander (with MP Ted Opitz at his side) used quite strong words at the Heavenly Hundred commemoration ceremony in Toronto last Sunday in favor of supplying Ukraine with arms. The West should not forget that all the red lines in the Donbas are drawn with the blood of Ukrainians.