The Ukrainian Government, the Rise of the Extreme Right, the Minsk Agreements, and the Persistence of Conflict
In September 2014, Putin presented a plan to resolve the conflict through direct talks between the parties within the framework of the Trilateral Contact Group. The parties agreed to a cease-fire and the decentralization of Ukraine. But when NATO decided to perform exercises in Poland and the Baltics, tensions reached Cold War levels, and the cease-fire failed. NATO, meanwhile, continued to provide support to the Kiev forces, both openly and in secret. But in February 2015, the militias of the Donbass dealt a hard blow to the Kiev troops in the Battle of Debaltseve, killing anything between 3000 and 3500 government troops. The United States and Europe accused Putin of aiding the rebels militarily—a hypocritical attitude since they themselves were sustaining Kiev—and imposed new sanctions. Angela Merkel then took the lead in the talks and managed to reach the Minsk II Agreement with Putin, Poroshenko, and François Hollande. Once again, decentralization was acknowledged as a key principle. But this cease-fire was never fully respected. The contradictions created by the United States in Ukraine proved difficult to manage. Poroshenko could only govern with the support of the extreme right—the neo-Nazis—and this led to the enactment of a series of anti-Russian and anti-communist measures that further inflamed the population of the Donbass. Although the United States was sending support to Ukraine, the country was financially exhausted and incapable of maintaining the campaign against the insurgents for much longer.