Calming Ukraine: All parties must work to defuse the tensions

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The foreign ministers of the European Union, Russia and the United States plus a representative of Ukraine’s crowd-installed government met in Geneva Thursday to devise an agreement that could make things better there.

Matters in eastern Ukraine continue to risk violent escalation that could draw foreign powers further into the fracas. The city of Donetsk has declared independence as a republic, seeking to join the Russian Federation. In the meantime, Russian President Vladimir V. Putin keeps 40,000 troops poised on the Ukraine border and NATO, including the United States, steps up military maneuvers in neighboring states and the Black Sea.

Secretary of State John Kerry called the Geneva agreement “a good day’s work,” but added that achieving its goals would now depend upon implementation. The goals include restored respect by Russia of Ukraine’s sovereignty and a de-escalation of military activities in the disputed area by Russia and the competing Ukrainian parties.

Their activities are the most difficult to control. The Kiev government, installed by demonstrators who forced an elected president into exile, is calling its drive to restore government control in eastern Ukraine “anti-terrorism,” thus seeking U.S. and other support for its military efforts. On the other side are the Russian-backed, anti-Kiev government, armed Ukrainian dissidents who have seized control of some government buildings and put up barricades.

The United States is weighing further economic and personal sanctions against Russia if it does not scale back its activities in Ukraine. It could also send “non-lethal” military aid to Kiev if things don’t improve. It is hard to imagine, however, that beefing up the Kiev government’s military capacities would help achieve America’s goals in this issue.

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