With the reported fall of the Ukrainian town of Debaltseve, the Minsk II ceasefire looks like little more than a Russian maneuver, one that chips away at Western unity.
From the start, many observers saw Minsk II as only a stopgap measure. Even so, European leaders seemed to cling to hope that the ceasefire could provide a basis for a more comprehensive, permanent solution to the war in eastern Ukraine.
Perhaps it should not be so surprising that Minsk II was so brittle. In retrospect, it seems Moscow was never intent on bargaining in good faith. Ultimately, the ceasefire only handed Russian proxies in eastern Ukraine yet another tactical advantage.
The concept of a ceasefire as a tactical maneuver is hardly new for Russia. It has earlier precedents in Russia’s lengthy experience in the business of propping up separatists in its “near abroad.” In particular, the most recent Minsk II deal has similarities to another conflict in which Russia always denied direct involvement – the 1992-93 war in Abkhazia between local separatist forces and the Georgian army.
As has been the case in eastern Ukraine, the Abkhazia war saw minority separatist forces rescued by a massive influx of Russian “volunteers.” Reinforced by experienced Russian fighters and heavy arms, Abkhaz separatists managed to overpower what otherwise should have been a more capable Georgian military.
The sudden flow of volunteers into Abkhazia, it should be remembered, came on the heels of…