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Rough Draft
For Ukraine, Problems on All Fronts

It has been an inauspicious start for the new ceasefire in Ukraine. A tank battle was reported in Donetsk. The rebels in Debaltseve have encircled government forces and are explicitly disavowing the ceasefire. And Kiev says that at least five members of the Ukrainian security forces have been killed since the ceasefire took effect on February 15. But Ukraine’s troubles are not limited to the precarious ceasefire. Kiev, after all, was forced to accept the unattractive terms because it was hanging by an economic thread after the value of its currency, the hryvnia, plunged to record lows. Now the hryvnia is plumbing new depths, according to Deutsche Welle:

On Monday, one US dollar cost more than 26 hryvnia and one euro 29.6 hryvnia, according to the Ukrainian Central Bank’s website. Briefly, the currency hit all-time lows against both the euro and dollar. On February 1, around 16 hryvnia would have bought one euro. Most of the currency’s February free-fall was notched in trading on February 5.

At the weekend, the Ukrainian government raised its inflation prediction for this year from 17 to 26 percent. […]

Last week, the Fitch rating agency downgraded Ukraine from CCC to CC, which means a default is likely. According to the Ukrainian Central Bank’s figures, the country’s currency reserves dwindled from almost $15 billion in September 2014 to $5.4 billion in January.

Even if Kiev could afford to wage a war, it seems as though it could not meet recruitment needs. In Lviv, the heartland of nationalist feeling, draft-dodging runs rampant. The reports of mismanagement at the front—slow or nonexistent emergency medical services, limited arms and supplies, minimal central command—are deterring potential enlistees, and recruiters were already struggling to keep up with demand even before Kiev expanded the size of the draft by 100,000 more men.

This is a good time for Ukraine’s supporters in the West to start working on that long-delayed strategy they’ve been missing.

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  • Andrew Allison

    Or, perhaps it’s time for Ukraine’s supporters in the West to acknowledge that it’s a lost cause. The alternative is to make the price to Russia for continued support of the rebels unacceptably high, which obviously isn’t going to happen. I’ve suggested previously that the Ukrainian people, as opposed to their government, don’t appear to think that the latter is worth fighting for. If that’s the case, what’s the point of sending them more money? Ditto for weapons. The West should fish or cut bait, not prolong the agony.

    • Pete

      Cut bait

  • Alex K.

    Given that Ukraine has been attacked by a country with a larger population, a less dysfunctional economy and significant military power, it has held up pretty well so far. Of course Russia can afford a longer war than Ukraine but there are time limits to Russia’s ability to do so. Russia is teetering on the brink of a full-scale economic and social crisis. Ukraine needs to survive the hard times and will need all the help it can get. The IMF had pledged up to $40 bln in assistance, of which $11 bln will hopefully arrive this year.

    I would not read too much into the reports of Lviv residents unwilling to defend their country. Most volunteers fighting on the Ukrainian side come from the center, south, and east rather than from Lviv and other western Ukrainian cities. This must have come as an enormous surprise to the Kremlin, which expected Ukraine’s Russian speakers to rise up in support of the Russian invasion. Instead, just the opposite has happened.

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