Is the Ukraine conflict reigniting?

The German Foreign Minister Steinmeier and his Russian counterpart Lavrov are discussing today Monday the renewed tensions between Moscow and Kiev. Russia has accused Ukraine of acts of sabotage in Crimea. Kiev for its part is accusing Moscow of building up troops there. Putin is keen to take action before the US elections, some commentators fear. Others think he is only trying to secure more diplomatic leeway for himself.

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Politiken (DK) /

Steinmeier must be on the alert

The West regularly lets Putin take it by surprise, Politiken observes:

“The German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who in Berlin belongs to the Gazprom fraction of wimps, is meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov today. One can only hope that Steinmeier doesn't get hoodwinked into making promises to the Kremlin. Putin's adventures should not be rewarded. As the Bulgarian political scientist Ivan Krastev noted, we in the West are fascinated by Putin. Not because he is right or the stronger party, but because he seizes the initiative while Western leaders are capable only of summoning meetings. Putin is proactive and impulsive. The West must prepare itself for this, on a psychological, diplomatic, economic and military level. We need to respond to Putin with clear and quick answers.”

Die Welt (DE) /

Putin has his eye on the US election

Vladimir Putin has dismissed his long-term confidante, Sergei Ivanov, as head of the Russian presidential administration. He now intends to pursue his plans without the help of his old pals from the KGB, die Welt concludes:

“In July a number of provincial governors and heads of central administration offices disappeared, especially in those areas close to the border with Ukraine and Nato states. In some cases their disappearance came amidst allegations of corruption from their former friend Putin and they were replaced by young people from his circle of trust or former personal bodyguards. And Putin has also created his own new National Guard. In other words: Vladimir Putin is on his way to becoming an autocrat. … Time is running out if Putin's goal is to make Russia great again by the 100th anniversary of the October Revolution in November 2017. And the window of opportunity for settling the situation in Donbass may have closed again by the time of the US election in November.”

Le Monde (FR) /

Putin's strength is his enemies' weaknesses

Le Monde also believes that Putin wants to take action before the US elections:

“Putin's true strength has always been the weakness of his enemies. He has paraded abo the reconciliation with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan all the more since Erdoğan turned his back on the Americans and Europeans after the attempted coup on 15 July. Just as the powerlessness of the West in Syria encouraged Putin in 2015 to intervene in the conflict to prop up Assad and position himself so that there could be no solution to the war without him. The Russian president is convinced that he now holds the trump cards in his hand. And he's in a hurry to act, given the prospect of a likely win by presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who is likely to be less accommodating than her predecessor. So he has decided to revive the duel with Kiev. With the risk of losing everything again.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

Moscow wants Kiev to look like the aggressor

The daily paper De Volkskrant, on the other hand, sees a new military escalation in Ukraine as unlikely:

“Whether Putin is really planning to go to war again is highly questionable. Russia would pay a high diplomatic price for a new invasion - and it has already achieved its goals there. Crimea is firmly in Russian hands and the rebel areas are a constant source of instability for Ukraine. It seems far more likely that Moscow wants to cast Ukraine as the aggressor who wants war and is blocking a solution in the east of the country. … We must hope that the countries of the West won't be fooled by the Russian accusations and don't lift the sanctions against Moscow. … If they give in to Moscow it will be tantamount to the West giving Russia its blessing for the annexation of Crimea after the fact.”

Deutschlandfunk (DE) /

Moscow not letting Ukraine settle down

The news that Moscow is once again moving towards escalating the conflict over Crimea doesn't surprise Deutschlandfunk:

“As suspected Russia is exploiting the conflict, keeping it cooking on low and then on high, depending on the economic situation at home. Ukraine is to be a frozen conflict that is heated up whenever it suits. The Ukrainian president has his army poised for combat. So the country can't settle down, which is the whole point of the occupation for Moscow. … Moscow was never worried about the people in Crimea but about its strategic position. Crimea is interesting first and foremost as a military base because the peninsula extends far into the Black Sea and therefore shortens the route to the Mediterranean region and the Middle East.”

Tages-Anzeiger (CH) /

Escalation just a diversion

Russian President Putin is trying to divert attention from his own failures on the Crimean peninsula with his claims that the Ukrainian government is planning terrorist attacks on the peninsula, Tages-Anzeiger believes:

“Why is Putin now sharpening his tone and rattling the sabre? Russia is in the process of rejoining the international community. The isolation that followed the annexation of Crimea at the start of 2014 seemed to be overcome. In such a situation Putin has no interest in an open war with Ukraine. So this is really a diversionary tactic: the Crimean population expected a new golden age, but today they're worse off than ever. Putin is fanning fears of terror and anger at Ukraine in an effort to conceal this. The provocative leader is playing a dangerous game, especially with people dying in eastern Ukraine on a daily basis because of the conflict between Kiev and Moscow.”

Il Sole 24 Ore (IT) /

The best course: dialogue or deterrence?

Nato needs to decide whether it wants to use dialogue or deterrence in its relations with Russia, Il Sole 24 Ore comments:

“Because of its weakness and its lack of a clear direction Ukraine cannot be left to deal with the Russian giant on its own. … As the last Nato summit in Warsaw in July demonstrated, for the Poles, the Baltic countries and a consistent section of the US government military deterrence counts more than dialogue, while for the French, Germans and Italians political tradition and economic interests dictate that dialogue takes precedence. The next few months will be decisive. These will be months of great uncertainty because in the United States a change of government is imminent, accompanied by a crass election campaign that threatens to undermine the credibility of American politics. Will Putin take advantage or have the patience to wait for the next dialogue partner?”