Courtesy Steve Rotman/Flickr
This article was originally published by War is Boring on 31 October 2016.
On Sept. 10, 2016, the U.S.-brokered a ceasefire with Russia and Syria in the besieged city of Aleppo. Although low-intensity fighting never really stopped, the ceasefire didn’t begin to fall apart until a week later, when U.S. aircraft mistakenly killed about 80 Syrian troops.
The killings heightened tensions between the United States and Russia, who had agreed to the ceasefire with the aim of negotiating a combined effort against Islamic State and Al Qaeda-linked fighters. By Sept. 21, the ceasefire collapsed — and the following day, the Syrian government announced a new military offensive to retake Aleppo.
The offensive featured some of the most intensive ground combat and bombing of the entire war, costing hundreds of lives within the span of just a few days. The humanitarian cost on the ground was described by U.N. humanitarian chief Stephen O’Brien as “a level of savagery that no human should have to endure.”
Ahí va Colombia…Courtesy Lucho Molina/flickr
This article was originally published by IPI Global Observatory on 27 June 2016.
While a final peace accord is likely still a few weeks away, Colombia’s government and FARC guerrillas reached a momentous agreement on June 23. The consensus on the last of five substantive items in negotiations taking place in Havana, Cuba, since 2012 delineates conditions for a permanent ceasefire and the demobilization of the guerrilla movement, which had been by far the thorniest issue on the agenda. Though the parties have decided that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed,” the accompanying Havana ceremony had the feel of the end of a 50-year war that has killed over 200,000 people and displaced six million.
Attending the ceremony was Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos; FARC Commander Timoleón Jiménez; Cuban President Raúl Castro and Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende (representing the two guarantor countries); United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and other senior UN officials; Presidents Nicholas Maduro of Venezuela and Michelle Bachelet of Chile; and many other world leaders and envoys. The impressive lineup sent a clear political message: no one should harbor doubts about the possibility of a peace agreement being signed, and the international community will put its weight behind it to ensure its success.
On June 22, Ambassador John Herbst and David Kramer debated whether we should bury the Minsk agreement, the troubled ceasefire agreement in Ukraine, at an Atlantic Council event in Washington, DC. Their remarks have been adapted from the debate.
By David J. Kramer
The Minsk ceasefire agreement, signed February 15, 2015, by the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, Germany, and France, along with representatives from the OSCE and from Russian-occupied areas of Donetsk and Luhansk (DNR and LNR, respectively), is simply not working. It is time to scrap it and make clear to Russia, through a declaration from Western nations, that sanctions will remain in place—and will be increased over time—unless Russia meets several key conditions. These include withdrawal of its forces and weapons from Ukraine (including Crimea), respect of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, control of the border restored to Ukrainian authorities, and the return to Ukraine of those citizens it kidnapped from Ukrainian territory. Further negotiations with Moscow are pointless given that Russian officials won’t even acknowledge the presence of their forces on Ukrainian soil.
There have not been any new sanctions imposed on Russia despite its failure to live up to a single condition under the Minsk accord. Instead, a number of European leaders, led by German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, along with the French parliament and others, have irresponsibly called for an easing if not outright lifting of sanctions. Without German Chancellor Angela Merkel, renewal of EU sanctions would be in jeopardy.
Defenders of Minsk argue it has reduced the fighting. In fact, more than four thousand Ukrainians have been killed since the second Minsk deal was signed last year, almost half the number of total casualties since Russia invaded Ukraine in late February 2014. A serious uptick in fighting in the past two months further belies the claim that Minsk has preserved the peace.
Painted battle tanks at the World War II Memorial, Kiev, Ukraine, Courtesey of Wikimedia Commons, Loranchet
This article was originally published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) on 17 May 2016.
Western political leaders, the Ukrainian political authorities and Ukrainian society have very different perspectives on how to proceed. For European leaders, and for the United States, simulating a process appears preferable to seeking a new, more sustainable agreement based on an honest assessment of the role of Russia—perhaps the only party that finds the current agreement convenient.
Reports of pressure being put on the Ukrainian authorities to implement some elements of the Minsk II agreement that have little public support have perturbed parts of Ukrainian civil society. The process has also illustrated the challenge for Ukrainian politicians in a more open political culture if private diplomacy is needed to reach an agreement, but public diplomacy is needed to implement it.
Colombian Armed Forces. Photo: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff/flickr
In the early hours of New Year’s Day, the Colombian Armed Forces launched [es] an air strike on a Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) camp located near Chigorodó, northwestern Colombia. The air strike was called after Elda Ramírez (aka ‘Mayerly’), considered a senior member of the FARC hierarchy, called a man who she believed was a drug dealer interested in buying cocaine. Instead, the dealer turned out to be an undercover police officer, and the consequent air attack claimed the lives of fourteen guerrilla fighters belonging to the FARC’s fifth front.
The air strike also occurred against the backdrop of negotiations between the FARC and Colombian government that have been ongoing since September 2012. To support the peace talks, the FARC announced a ceasefire on November 20. However, Colombia’s armed forces have continued military operations against the organization. On January 20, FARC announced that it had suspended the ceasefire and instead proposed a bilateral truce. » More