On eve of EU vote to extend Russian sanctions war returns to Ukraine


Kiev needs war to regain levels of western support.

Predictably and right on cue, as the date of the review of the EU's sanctions on Russia approaches, there is a major spike in the fighting in eastern Ukraine.

This will come as a surprise to no one.

As we have repeatedly said, the Ukrainians are not genuinely interested in implementing the terms of the Minsk Memorandum.

Those terms, if implemented, would spell the end of the Maidan project. Not surprisingly the Ukrainian government, which owes its entire existence to the Maidan project, will not willingly let it fail and will turn to war to prevent it doing so.

As we have also repeatedly said, recent indications Western support for Ukraine may be weakening simply give Ukraine more reason to turn to war in the hope this will rally Western support.

The continuing rapid decline of Ukraine's economy, and the growing unpopularity of Ukraine's leaders, also provides a further incentive to turn to war. For what is ultimately a mobilisation regime, war is always the most obvious way to rally domestic support.

The timing of the latest outbreak — close to an EU vote to renew the sanctions — is not intended to prevent the sanctions being lifted.

No one — certainly not the Russians — ever seriously expected the sanctions to be lifted this June. The sanctions would have continued whether there was fighting in eastern Ukraine or not.

The EU vote on the sanctions is however useful to Kiev. It enables Kiev to maximise its political support in the West and mutes criticism of its turn to war.

Kiev knows those Western countries (such as Germany) that oppose lifting sanctions will be forced to support Kiev if fighting now resumes — if only for the short term — so as to justify their opposition to lifting sanctions.

The diplomatic moves and counter-moves should not however obscure the larger picture. Given the nature of the government in Kiev, a resumption of the fighting was at some point inevitable. The late spring or summer was always the likeliest time. That is what is now happening.