The United Nations (U.N.) has announced the peace negotiations focused on implementing the 2014 Minsk Protocol and resolving the conflict in eastern Ukraine have stalled. U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Miroslav Jenca made the comment in a speech before the U.N. Security Council on February 12, at an event marking the fourth anniversary of the accords. Jenca said negotiations “appear to have lost momentum” and that neither Russia nor Ukraine appear to agree on key steps moving forward.

The conflict, which broke out in 2014 as a means to create a diversion permitting Russia to annex Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula, has led to the deaths of more than 10,000 people and displaced more than one million. The fighting has been between Ukrainian government forces and associated militias against Russian-backed insurgents—a moniker often applied to provide plausible deniability for Russian Army regulars fighting in the region.

Signed on the 5th of September, 2014 when the fighting initially broke out, the Minsk Accords established a game plan of political steps, elections, and the de-escalation of fighting, which would ideally resolve the conflict. This fell apart within 48 hours. Later, on 11th of February, 2015, the Minsk II accords were conceived. Although the second agreement was more closely adhered to, it has been far from a blueprint to end the war.

The U.N. declaring that the agreement is losing momentum should inform the world that a new direction to resolve this conflict is required. It’s only surprising that it took the U.N. so long to make this statement, considering the Minsk Accords were a lost cause from the beginning and should have been addressed in 2016/2017.

Every attempt at a ceasefire seems to be met with the same disregard from forces on both sides. Seldom does a ceasefire even temporarily diminish the number of small arms engagements and mortar strikes. With so much hostility in the Donbass region, it’s merely a pipe dream to resolve this conflict with talks alone. As Winston Churchill said, “You can‘t negotiate with a lion when your head is in its mouth.”

Russia is the lion and Ukraine has its head planted firmly inside its mouth. As long as the Russian Army occupies the Donbass region there can be no fair negotiations. How can there be any talk of de-escalation and drawing down of troops when a part of Ukraine is occupied by a foreign army? It’s time for the U.N. to get real on this conflict and get their hands dirty. The answer to ending this war is simple by nature but costly in execution: Secure Ukraine’s borders, enable the Ukrainian Army to retake the Donbass region, then secure their sovereign state by way of diplomatic talks backed by actionable force. From there, Ukraine can negotiate with Russia on steps forward.

We all need to remember that Russia started this war. For Ukraine, the conflict was unwelcome. Their military reaction was strictly defensive in nature, due to their sovereign state security being breached. One has to question if the U.N. would have this same meek reaction if the United Kingdom or the United States had been invaded by Russian-backed forces. Would the U.N. be so slow to react then? Let’s hope we never need to rely on the U.N. to stop a war elsewhere.

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