It seems unlikely that a decision on a UN peacekeeping mission to Donbas will happen before the 2019 Ukrainian presidential elections, says former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Steven Pifer.
“Hopefully [Russia] will decide they’re trying to get out [of Donbas], because it seems to me that, really, the resolution of the conflict depends on a decision by Moscow whether or not to end that conflict,” Pifer told Hromadske during the annual Yalta European Strategy forum, which took place on September 14-15 in Kyiv.
And it’s not just Russia’s behavior in Ukraine that is of concern to the West at the moment. According to Pifer, the recent poisoning of a former Russian agent in the U.K. town of Salisbury was ‘“unacceptable” and warranted the new sanctions imposed on Russia.
“I think the western world has to make clear that there are certain rules, and if Russia violates those rules, there will be penalties,” Pifer says.
As Pifer points out, although the sanctions have not persuaded Russia to leave Crimea, they are having an effect on Russia economically, given the country’s slow GDP growth.
“I still think sanctions have a role to play. Now, at the same time also, if the Russians correct that misbehavior, the West also has to show that its prepared to lift those sanctions,” Pifer adds.
Possibly the greater concern for the U.S. right now, however, is the progress of the Mueller investigation into Russian collusion during the 2016 US elections.
“Certainly, we know that there was, on the part of the President’s son, a readiness to collude when he got the email from the Russian lawyers saying: I have some dirt on Hillary Clinton,” Pifer comments, adding that “if there is something there, then Mr. Mueller will dig it out.”