In the wake of Paris terrorist attacks, the voices of those concerned about Ukraine have again spoken up: while having compassion on the victims in Paris, they worried that the scattered public opinion would further drift from events in Ukraine. Indeed, nit just the attacks in Paris but the refugee crisis in Europe and the situation in Syria have taken Ukraine off the Western orbit. Meanwhile, support from the West is almost the only thing Ukraine may hope in right now. But the hearts of politicians are where the public focus is. And the heart has begun to beat to another rhythm.
That the interference in Syria and finding a common foe may have been an indirect motive in Moscow to a somewhat restored relation to the West is no news. In diplomacy, gestures and photos carry great weight. At meetings, Angela Merkel may still be avoiding the eye contact, but the pictures of Vladimir Putin gesticulating and capturing Barack Obama’s attention are worth gold for Kremlin right now.
To achieve that, Kremlin has systematically laboured. Meanwhile, the activities in Syria – whatever the motives – is not enough when Ukraine is hanging around the Kremlin neck like a stone. Not only has Moscow attempted to draw the Western attention away from Ukraine, but has launched fresh attacks under the cover of what is happening in Syria. Parallel to these, information attacks have transpired to create an atmosphere that the Western fatigue from the Ukrainian problem will soon lead to it distancing itself.
By annexing Crimea, Russia violated nearly all international agreements. This, Europe and USA may not forget. Not only for the sake of Ukraine – though this alone would be reason enough. But the issue is broader: if violation of international agreements is pardonable as a larger issue arises, there’s no guarantee that Russia will not do that again. Which means that the sense of security is not the same as before the annexation. The only way to restore the sense of security is rules that hold, and the related understanding of international safety.
For this reason, the West cannot afford to let its attention drift from Ukraine.