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Michael Swartz / April 17, 2015

Ukraine in Need of a ‘Reset’ Button

With focus on the Middle East, a smoldering conflict remains.

While the world is focused on the Middle East and Iran, there’s still a smoldering conflict in Ukraine. But indications are the war in that nation between Vladimir Putin’s Russian proxies and NATO-backed Ukrainian troops will soon be back in the headlines.

European monitors report “a general increase in the number of ceasefire violations,” with the situation escalating both in the besieged city of Donetsk and the coastal town of Mariupol. Both locations have been in the crosshairs before, but Mariupol is particularly important as its fall to Russian-backed rebels could open a land route to Crimea, which was wrested away from Ukraine last year and became a Russian rump republic. Reportedly the Russians have 400 tanks and 700 pieces of artillery in the region despite an agreement in the February cease-fire to withdraw the munitions.

Ukraine isn’t the only place where the Russian bear is poking around, though. Last spring we noted Russian involvement in Moldova’s region of Transnistria, which borders Ukraine on the southwest. In what some perceived as an escalation, 400 Russian troops conducted a drill on Moldovan territory in Transnistria — an exercise The Wall Street Journal surmised was “intended to create the impression Mr. Putin might take more drastic action to subdue the defiant country.” Moldova has a pro-Western government, as does Ukraine.

Moscow, however, considers pro-Western governments to be the true threat to its sovereignty. Russian Gen. Valery Gerasimov asserted as much, saying, “It’s clear that measures taken by NATO to strengthen the bloc and increase its military capabilities are far from being defensive.” Pay no attention to the thousands of troops and hundreds of heavy weapons amassing behind the (iron) curtain.

Yet the biggest fear isn’t so much Russia’s expansive actions — which we’ve come to expect over the decades — but the lack of action from both an impotent Europe that relies on Russian natural gas and an irresolute America led by Barack Obama’s malfeasant foreign policy of rewarding enemies and abandoning friends. It’s easy to see that Obama’s “reset” with Russia, conducted through Hillary Clinton’s “smart power” at the State Department, is an utter, if predictable, failure.

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