A Political Setback for Poroshenko, But Debaltseve Pullout Aids Ukraine Ceasefire

Hawks Are Spinning Pullout as Defeat

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is facing considerable political flak for the loss of the town of Debaltseve to rebel fighters earlier this week, with hawks spinning it as a calamitous military defeat.

They’re also criticizing Germany and France for their ceasefire push, saying it shows they’re weakening the position of Ukraine in the ongoing civil war. Why would they do that?

Some analysts are presenting it as EU weakness compared to Russia, but the move may actually be EU pragmatism, compared to the never-ending war appetite of the Ukrainian far-right.

Debaltseve was valuable, but Ukraine’s military was losing it to the rebels. By the time the ceasefire was reached, the town was practically surrounded. If the ceasefire hadn’t started Saturday night, Debaltseve would’ve almost certainly fallen by now at any rate.

While hawks are rejecting the claims of an “orderly withdrawal” and putting President Poroshenko in a tough political position, the government’s willingness to leave the town has shored up the ceasefire in a big way.

There’ve been intermittent artillery firing reports elsewhere on the front line, with Mariupol and the rebel capital of Donetsk the main sites, but with Debaltseve no longer contested, the ceasefire is dramatically more stable.

Debaltseve is a loss to Ukraine’s war effort, but it’s a loss that was going to happen either in a war or in a ceasefire. At least losing it to save the ceasefire gives Poroshenko a chance to finally resolve the grievances of the ethnic Russian easterners before the war escalates any further. Recognizing that he can’t win the war, he may as well try to win the peace.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of Antiwar.com.