So now two places in Eastern Ukraine have voted for independence.  Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that Russia will not use this vote to annex these two places to Russia as was done for the Crimea.  He urges the competing parties in Ukraine to engage in negotiations for a unity government.  The OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) has offered to sponsor such discussions.

This turn of events should answer two questions.  First, Putin is not the cause of the demonstrations in Eastern Ukraine but is using them to gain influence in Ukraine.  Second, Putin is not looking to annex Eastern Ukraine but to engage it in his new economic bloc.

As I said before, Putin will be a partner in any effort to solve the Ukraine dispute by negotiations.  These negotiations will likely lead to greater regional autonomy at least for regions in Eastern Ukraine.  This greater regional autonomy will not lead to political realignment but to the spread of the Russian led economic bloc into Eastern Ukraine.  Not a major change since that area is already linked by strong economic ties to Russia.

Let’s hope the EU and the USA will see this as the only way out of a difficult situation in Ukraine that could still lead to a split of the country along the Dnieper River.