Peace Talks Are In The Air At The NATO Summit, But Will Things Ever Change?

The NATO summit in Wales has begun and crisis in Ukraine is the main topic of conversation.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has said that he is seeking a “bilateral cease-fire” between Ukraine’s army and the pro-Russian separtists who have taken control of large parts of Eastern Ukraine. The cease-fire is intended to lay the foundation for a multi-stage peace plan that will bring to a close the nearly year-long crisis that has torn the nation apart.

According to reports, Poroshenko has said that any cease-fire would be conditional on a planned meeting going ahead in Minsk tomorrow between envoys from Ukraine, Russia and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. If the meeting takes place, he said, he will “call on the general staff to set up a bilateral cease-fire, and we hope that the implementation of the peace plan will begin tomorrow.”

True to form, Russian President Putin has continued to deny any involvement in the Ukrainian crisis, arguing that the negotiations are not his problem because Russia is “not a party” to the conflict.

46th Munich Security Conference 2010: Petro Po...

Western leaders aren’t buying it.

In written comments made to the morning meeting on Ukraine, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi of Italy said, “We have to be united in condemning Russia’s behavior.” Renzi also supported the EU increasing sanctions on Russia targeting finance, defense and sensitive technologies.

Further sanctions against Russia should be the top priority for Western leaders. The US and EU sanctions have been the only thing that has blunted Putin’s control of the situation, albeit only slightly.

The truth is that Putin appears no less in control than he did a month ago or six months ago.

To this end, at the same time that NATO leaders were discussing potential peace plans, Russia announced that their strategic nuclear forces would be conducting major exercises in September.

Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported that the forces responsible for Russia’s strategic nuclear arsenal will involve more than 4,000 soldiers, 400 SUVs modified for military use and substantial use of air power.

Troops will practice countering irregular units and high-precision weapons as well as “conduct combat missions in conditions of active radio-electronic jamming and intensive enemy actions in areas of troop deployment,” according to Dimitry Andreyev, a major in the strategic rocket forces.

There was also news from a Kremlin advisor that Russia is planning to update its military doctrine this year as a result of flagging relations with NATO. Indeed, NATO forces are discussing putting troops behind the former Iron Curtain. Troops inside these bases in Poland, Romania, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia would act as a “tripwire for Russia. If Putin considers any military action in these countries, they will know that they will be involving U.S. forces too,” according to a US official.

President Obama has argued that these bases would not be permanent, but no matter what he wants to call them or argue, it’s most certainly a good thing that NATO is putting troops back in Eastern Europe. Especially after Putin’s comment that he could “take Kiev in two weeks” if he wanted to, Western powers need to be on high alert.

It’s difficult to say what tomorrow will bring. Considering the speed at which the geopolitical scene is changing in Ukraine – and in other parts of the world like Iraq – you can never be sure what is going to happen.

But what I can say for sure is that I’m relieved to see the NATO powers taking the threat Putin poses more seriously and increased sanctions and troops in Eastern Europe are both great places to start.