The most likely scenario in Ukraine for the this week and half is halting progress in the “counter-terrorism operation” (CTO) to take back the less fortified districts of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions from protestors in order to ensure that polling stations are open for the May 25 elections.
The most likely scenario in Ukraine for the this week and half is halting progress in the “counter-terrorism operation” (CTO) to take back the less fortified districts of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions from protestors in order to ensure that polling stations are open for the May 25 elections. At the same time, another several hundred thousand people in the area will cast ballots on whether to secede from Ukraine in the face of mounting civilian casualties.
The start of meaningful negotiations is less likely. So far all we have seen is pretend talks for the cameras, done at the behest of Western powers. Obviously, neither side is ready for real dialogue, and this goes especially for Turchynov, Avakov and others who have not yet sworn allegiance to the likely winner of the presidential election Pyotr Poroshenko. They are not interested in solving the problem for the future president, since they are bound to lose their seats and may even stand trial for the CTO and the resulting hundreds of civilian deaths.
Meanwhile, Poroshenko, his team and all “timely” defectors have no use for talks either. The reason is simple. The ongoing CTO will depress turnout in the east of Ukraine, thereby helping Poroshenko win in the first round. It is no accident that Poroshenko wouldn’t even pose for a roundtable discussion. Nor are the protest leaders are eager to sit down with the people responsible for the military campaign. Apparently, real talks are only possible after a ceasefire is signed, most likely after May 25.
The Donbass regions are unlikely to join Russia, although accession can’t be ruled out entirely. A full-scale military operation by Kiev, involving massive use of heavy weapons like Grad multiple rocket launchers and hundreds of civilian casualties, would compel Russia to deploy troops in a peace enforcement operation. However, even in this case annexation would not be inevitable. Russian troops could leave as quickly as they came.
An independent existence for Donbass, like Transnistria, is even less likely because the costs are simply too high.
The most likely outcome is autonomy within Ukraine, with the precise distribution of power between Kiev and Donbass to be determined in negotiations that must include the leaders of armed groups. The current authorities have closed the door to such talks by saying they won’t negotiate with “terrorists.” That is why the Kiev authorities are generally reluctant to assume responsibility – that and the fact that they lack full legitimacy and are dependent on foreign powers (the United States and the European Union) and Maidan.
Moscow has limited but still considerable means to influence the rebellious regions and coax them into a dialogue. The problem is that Moscow has no leverage over Kiev or the backers of Turchynov and Yatsenyuk (primarily the US State Department). Under the circumstances, any attempts by Moscow to “facilitate” dialogue would only lead to unilateral concessions to Kiev. It’s hard to blame Moscow for refraining.