The leaders of Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine agreed on Sunday, 8 February, to press ahead with the diplomatic initiative by Ms Merkel to ease the tension in Eastern Ukraine. Following on last week’s meeting of President Hollande and Chancellor Merkel with the Russian President Vladimir Putin they decided to meet on 11 February in the Belarusian capital of Minsk.
The agreement was reached at a telephone conversation among the leaders, who also decided to bring into the Minsk talks representatives of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). The organisation has been a mediator in the crisis and is to sit at the table along with representatives of the Russian-backed separatists fighting in Eastern Ukraine.
Ms Merkel has faced opposition to her ceasefire plan primarily from the US. The calls for arming Ukraine have intensified in the last few weeks. They have once again been articulated by Republican hawkish senators Lynsey Graham and John McCain. In the meantime, Ms Merkel, who flew to Washington on 8 February for a pre-arranged trip to the US and Canada, is due to meet US President Barack Obama.
Germany is convinced that even discussions of supplying weapons could escalate the fighting and encourage Ukraine in a war it could never win against a much stronger Russia. The German Chancellor defended her decision to maintain economic sanctions and avoid the use of force by referring to her own experience of waiting patiently for the Cold War to end. “I am surprised at how faint-hearted we are, and how quickly we lose courage,” she remarked.