Europe's forgotten war
16/02/2017 10:58:57 GMT Written by SJ Morris
On 6 February, representatives of David Hathaway's Ministry in Ukraine travelled to the so-called Ukrainian 'Red Zone'. This area is often the epicentre of fighting and is not fully controlled by any side of the ongoing war. As they arrived, they could hear bullets fired in anger from hidden locations, but this only strengthened their resolve to assist the needy caught in this dangerous place. More than 50 substantial food packages and 300 loaves of bread were freely given to those trapped by the fighting: many have no place to flee, others have decided to commit their souls to God and die in their homes rather than escape. In temperatures of minus 20C and with no means of power for lighting and heating, David's staff gave generators to two villages. Two days after their visit, not all the people they prayed with were still alive: under severe circumstances, one woman, a mother of 3 children, died.
Amid the current political upheavals in Britain and USA, it is easy to forget that bordering Europe is an ongoing proxy war between Western influence and Russia: many claim that the EU has brought peace to Europe, yet they conveniently forget the ongoing three-year war which it is powerless to stop. Since the collapse of communism and the subsequent advance of NATO right up to the borders of Russian territory, Ukraine has been tossed between Western and Russian power blocs. Ukraine's friendship with the EU and an American proposal to make Crimea a NATO base lit the fuse. Crimea is historically Russia's prime naval base with assess to the Mediterranean; Russia swiftly seized Crimea, then invaded East Ukraine to maintain access routes to the naval base. Since the war started in 2014 over 100,000 people have been killed, with thousands more displaced and seeking refuge.
In recent weeks, the conflict has again escalated and taken a more dangerous and complicated turn: since Donald Trump took office as USA President, Ukraine has become a pawn in a very deceitful game played out between Trump, his critics, and increasing Russian posturing. Kostiatyn Yeliseieiv, Deputy Head of the Ukrainian Presidential Administration, said following Trump's inauguration, "[Russia is now testing] the reaction of the new American administration and unity inside the European Union".
During the Obama years, although often criticised for his refusal to openly confront Putin, Kiev could count on support from Washington and the EU. But with Trump's repeated focus on improving relations with Russia, there is a worry in Ukraine that the country could get thrown under the bus in the service of a grand deal with Putin; after all, Trump has repeatedly said he hopes he can work together with Putin to solve many of the world's pressing problems... "We do hope that the Ukrainian issue will not be settled behind the back of Ukraine," said Yeliseieiv. "We hope that sooner or later there will be a more proactive position expressed by the new American administration." This is not the first country that America has allowed to be 'invaded' by Putin; in 2008, following the election of a pro-Western government in Georgia, Putin engaged, unopposed by the West as a quid-pro-quo, in 'peace-enforcement' in its South Ossetia region.
Diplomats and analysts in Kiev currently say they believe Russia's current goal is not to take more territory from Ukraine but to push the territories already seized back into Ukraine on terms advantageous to Moscow, giving them a long-term foothold in the country.
Ukraine is not the old country closely watching these power games between the USA and Russia, many EU nations which border Russia, are nervously watching their fate in this complex game of chess.