Report from Moscow: Doomed Ukraine Plan

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By:Srdja Trifkovic | February 09, 2015

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande came to Moscow last Friday night to discuss the outline of what was heralded as their peace plan for Ukraine. They spent five hours talking to President Vladimir Putin, but left for the security conference in Munich early Saturday without making a breakthrough. Their effort will yield another meeting in Minsk in the next few days, with Poroshenko joining the troika, but it appears to be doomed for three main reasons.

First of all, the United States government will not allow the Europeans to make any deals of their own. In March 1992 the U.S. torpedoed the European Union’s peace plan for Bosnia-Herzegovina, brokered by Portugal’s foreign minister José Cutileiro, which provided for a loose federation of three self-governing ethnic units. U.S. Ambassador in Belgrade Warren Zimmermann flew post haste to Sarajevo to tell Alija Izetbegovic that America would support the Muslim side if he reneged on the deal and reverted to the demand for a centralized, unitary state in which the Muslims would dominate by virtue of their plurality. The old Islamist was only too happy to oblige and promptly withdrew his signature.

The result was a brutal, three-sided ethno-religious war. It ended, three and a half years later, with the Dayton agreement which provided for a loose union of two entities of equal size, the Serb Republic (Republika Srpska) and the Muslim-Croat Federation. That agreement was not different in substance from the Cutileiro framework, but it was brokered by the United States, not the EU. Its chief architect was the late Richard Holbrooke – every bit as nasty a piece of work as Victoria Nuland – who triumphantly announced that America is in charge because of Europe’s inability to solve its problems without Washington: “We are re-engaged in the world, and Bosnia was the test.” The price, to paraphrase Madeleine Albright, was well worth paying: one hundred thousand Serb, Croat and Muslim lives, utterly destroyed Bosnian economy and infrastructure, lasting inter-communal bad blood and hatred, rampant jihadism . . . the usual fruits of pax Americana.

Secondly, Merkel and Hollande are understood to have told Putin that they could still stop America from arming the Kiev regime if there was progress towards a political agreement. The problem is that they can do no such thing, and Putin knows that much (even if Merkel apparently does not). Back to the Balkans: During the Bosnian war the Clinton administration willfully and systematically violated the UN arms embargo on former Yugoslavia, starting as early as spring 1993. The U.S. Government surreptitiously supplied the Muslim side with all sorts of “lethal aid,” both directly (USAF C130 air drops to Tuzla) and courtesy of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (via Zagreb airport). Prime Minister John Major and President Francois Mitterand knew that the CIA/DoD joint operation was bound to prolong the war and undermine their efforts to end it, but they were powerless to change the mind of Clinton and his team. Likewise, the decision to escalate the conflict in Ukraine by arming the Kiev regime already has been made in Washington. The flow of arms is under way via Poland. Berlin and Paris cannot stop it, regardless of what happens at the forthcoming conference in Minsk.

Thirdly, Merkel and (especially) Hollande say that their plan includes “quite a strong autonomy” for the Russian speakers in the regions of Donetsk and Lugansk. They are vague about the extent and nature of that “autonomy” because they do not have Poroshenko’s (read: Washington’s) approval for any meaningful autonomy. The territorial extent of the autonomous area is also left undefined. These are no technicalities, but key issues. I gather from my Moscow sources that Putin repeatedly asked Merkel and Hollande for clarity before promising to pursue their initiative. In the end he agreed to come to Minsk not because he believes they can “deliver” Poroshenko but because he does not want to be blamed for the plan’s failure.

It is to be feared that the character and scope of the two eastern regions’ self-rule is one of those issues on which there can be no agreement without a fight. What Poroshenko is willing to concede, now that he hopes he can up the ante with American weapons, is nowhere near what the people in the east are ready to accept. After all that has come to pass over the past year they rightly loathe all things Ukrainian, but under Putin’s pressure they would probably settle for meaningful self-rule that falls just short of full independence – in other words the status of a self-governing federal unit in a thoroughly decentralized Ukraine.

In today’s Kiev, however, and (far more importantly) in Washington, there is no willingness to offer them more than a limited, hollow autonomy, mainly in matters linguistic and cultural, and even that only for a limited period of time. The expectation that some seven million denizens of the two self-proclaimed republics would go for it and duly accept the prospect of the Right Sector (aka Ukrainian National Guard) patrolling the streets of Lugansk is as absurd today as the demand that the Serbs accept unitary Bosnia was absurd in 1992. Unfortunately but predictably, Petro Poroshenko is acting now just like Alija Izetbegovic acted 23 years ago. In both cases the promise of American political and military support trumped rationality and common sense.

The result is likely to be the same. There will be more bloodshed, probably ending in a Daytonized (con)federal Ukraine a year or two from now. The only likely alternative is that hybrid country’s further disintegration which would not stop at current front lines. Most ordinary Ukrainians understand that much. Except for the fanatical Galician fringe, they do not want to die for a Banderist apocalyptic utopia. Thousands of draft dodgers are pouring into Russia, Belarus, Moldova even. Many others will lay down their arms – even the state-of-the-art, U.S.-made ones – rather than risk the fate of their comrades left behind at Donetsk airport.



2/9/2015 03:16 PM

  Putin won't go to the diplomatic solution. He trusts only in force of arms. It occupy part of Moldova, Georgia, Ukraine. Ukraine which has the third in the world after the US and Russia nuclear potential, voluntary gave 5000 warheads and cruise missiles, destroys launching silo, and 43 strategic Tu-160 and Tu-95?? superbombers went to scrap metal. The USA, United Kingdom and Russia default on the Budapest memorandum. Now none of them wants to give the weapon to Ukraine. I think in our civilization now all understand that only the weapons of mass destruction are capable to protect the nation. I think uranium business will start prospering and it is worth investing money in it.

Srdja Trifkovic
2/9/2015 05:03 PM

  Protect "the nation"? "Ukrainian nation"? This is surreal... "The Budapest Memorandum," after Kosovo and all that? Yes, whatever... Go on watching the CNN & reading the NYT. And, yes, Stalin was defending the USSR from Finland's aggression in 1940, and the Fuhrer was reacting to the Polish attack at Goerlitz in 1939.

Harry Colin
East Palestine, OH
2/9/2015 06:19 PM

  An incisive piece. The history of US diplomacy in Eastern Europe has been dreadful. However, as we've already seen on this post, many insist on continuing to indulge in large glasses of the Kool-Aid - Putin as the aggressor, puerile comparisons to Munich '38 and an insane belief that providing arms to a nation will not be viewed as provocative, however feebly we try to describe them as "defensive." As for Dr. T's clever riposte, I would only add Fox News and the WSJ to the list for their aggressive war mongering and demonization of Russia. Then of course we have a likely candidate for the GOP nomination making the case that we are obligated to help Ukraine "by treaty." Hello?

2/10/2015 06:46 AM

  90% of Nazi casualties in WWII were done by Russians, and we the Anglo/Americans did only 10%. But who get the glory and the movies made about their heroism? We were allies fighting a common enemy but now our friendship has been all twisted into hate by those few who profit from encouraging and financing wars. Those for who "the love of money" is greater than the love of peace are unfortunately running aspects of our government and deceiving the citizen by whipping up fear for their next wars. I am already against their next war. We were lied to by them regarding WMD in Iraq, and they sent thousands to early death. Be aware of the banker's war machine that kills children on both sides of their created conflicts. The only heroes for WWIII will be those strong courageous peacemakers who stopped WWIII from happening. JFK in refusing to sign off on the Joint Chiefs of Staff generals' plan to initiate a secret pre-emptive nuclear strike on Russia during the October Crisis became a hero of WWIII. Blessed are the peacemaker (i.e. us) for there shall be an Earth for our grandchildren to inherit. Don't fall for their next war, like the ones they wage on TV right now for our hearts and minds. There is no way to peace, peace is the way. War is a curse, peace is a blessing. Choose wisely my friends.

2/10/2015 02:12 PM

  How some folks don't see the hypocrisy of USA's actions, is incredible in itself. Two that instantly come to my mind are: Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990s. In those two cases, and even with Croatia, the USA did all it could, and it did much back then, to extract those republics from Yugoslavia. Now, USA is supposedly threatening war to keep Ukraine intact. Obvious hypocrisy, wanting to have it their way and only their way. It doesn't work that way. Do USA and its ignorant allies want nuclear war?


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