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Former Diplomat: U.S. Should Step Back From Ukrainian Crisis

Vladimir Yaitskiy
Creative Commons

The U.S. should allow others to take the lead in the Ukrainian crisis, according to former state department diplomat and foreign policy analyst E.Wayne Merry

After months of violence in Ukraine that has so far left more than 3,000 dead, the country is still in an uneasy state of standoff with its giant neighbor, Russia. President Petro Poroshenko called a cease-fire between government and Russian backed rebel groups at the beginning of September, and Kiev has temporarily granted more autonomy to the rebel held regions in the east of the country.

So far, Washington has ruled out military aid to Ukraine. “It may sound heretical to say so, but I really think the United States has a relatively small role to play in Ukraine,” said E.Wayne Merry, now a senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council. He said the really difficult phase of the conflict is still to come. "It’s now in the hands that it should be in," he said, "which is between the government in Kiev, the government in Moscow, the various groups in Ukraine both east and west, and the European Union."

Credit American Foreign Policy Council
E.Wayne Merry

Merry visited Connecticut recently to give a talk on the Ukrainian crisis. He said the ceding of autonomy to the Donbass region in the east is undoubtedly an infringement of Ukrainian sovereignty, but it’s also a smart move on the part of Kiev, which needs a period of peace to begin rebuilding its economy.

“I think what we’re going to see is a political settlement of a kind that will really be unacceptable to most people in Ukraine, but to which they have no practical alternative,” said Merry.

Merry was a U.S. diplomat in Moscow at the time of the breakup of the Soviet Union. He said many of the problems currently surfacing in Ukraine have their origins at the time of the country’s independence in the early 1990s, when the fate of eastern Ukraine was also hotly debated. However the current crisis is resolved, he said, it’s very unlikely to be the last conflict we see in the region. "I think that, in many ways," he said, "the 21st century is going to be marked by a lot of national and regional conflicts in the former Soviet space, in the same way that the 20th century was by the results of the break up of other empires."

Ukraine expects to hold parliamentary elections next month.

Harriet Jones is Managing Editor for Connecticut Public Radio, overseeing the coverage of daily stories from our busy newsroom.

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