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Ukraine Ceasefire: Cui Bono?

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By:Srdja Trifkovic | February 17, 2015

There are two incompatible narratives on the meaning of last Saturday’s agreement in Minsk. There is also, as usual, the complex reality which the partisans of the warring sides refuse to recognize, and which escapes the attention of major Western media commentators.

The Ukrainian nationalists accused Petro Poroshenko of surrendering to Putin. Kiev’s New Times (Novoye Vremya, www.nv.ua – not to be confused with its Russian namesake) bewailed his acceptance of Ukraine’s de facto federalization, which allegedly gives the insurgents everything except formal independence. This view was summarized by the editor of the Kyiv Post who declared that “Putin’s side wants war and conquest [so] there are only two alternatives: wage war or surrender to Putin’s terms.” The U.S. hawks argue along similar lines, specifically accusing Merkel and Hollande of strong-arming Poroshenko into submission to Moscow’s dictate. While bewailing the lack of European fiber, they dismissed the Minsk agreement as another “Munich.” Predictably, John McCain declared that “Vladimir Putin must be very pleased with this deal” and insisted that the U.S. provides “defensive lethal assistance to Ukraine.” On the liberal-interventionist side Strobe Talbott, among others, made the same demand.

The Russian nationalists accused Putin of stabbing “Novorossiya” in the back. That accusation has been present in nationalist circles ever since the insurgents’ retreat from Slavyansk last summer and the subsequent replacement of Igor Strelkov as commander of the self-proclaimed Donetsk Republic’s armed forces. Editors at the nationalist site www.sputnikipogrom.com called Minsk II “a betrayal”. Far from heralding a meaningful self-rule for the two republics, it merely refers to “certain districts of the Donetsk and Lugansk Regions” which are promised “a clownish, semi-autonomous status… The agreement contradicts not only all the goals of the uprising but all the objectives of Russian policy in Ukraine.” “It is generally shocking, of course,” conservative commentator Dmitry Olshansky wrote of Minsk II. The Russian president “did not even get the status of official autonomy for the DNR and LNR… You’d have to be Putin to obtain such an impressive result. I take my hat off.”

Neither view is correct, as should be clear from the actual text of the Minsk agreement. The most important by far is

9. Restoration of full control over the state border of Ukraine by the government throughout the conflict zone, which should begin on the first day after the local elections and be completed after a comprehensive political settlement (local elections in some areas of Donetsk and Lugansk regions on the basis of the Law of Ukraine and constitutional reform) at the end of 2015, subject to paragraph 11 — in consultation and agreement with the representatives of individual areas of Donetsk and Lugansk regions in the framework of the Three-Party Contact Group. 

It does not promise federalization or even “autonomy” to the two eastern regions, but only refers to the Ukrainian law granting them temporary special status. Looks like a win for the Kiev government. But the purpose of Minsk was not to define the framework of Ukraine’s future constitution, it was to create the preconditions – i.e. the absence of shooting war – for future talks on that status. Crucially, however, control of the border with Russia is specifically made contingent on the agreement being reached first, and the elections conducted “in consultation and agreement with the representatives of individual areas of Donetsk and Lugansk regions” – which looks like a win for the insurgents. Poroshenko still refuses to talk to them directly, and the agreement was yet again signed by the former president, Leonid Kuchma, whose legal standing in the proceedings is at best moot – advantage Kiev. But the presence of both Donbass leaders in Minsk at least implies the recognition of their legitimacy by the two European leaders – deuce.

In reality, as I wrote here last week, the character and scope of the two eastern regions’ self-rule is one of those issues on which there can be no agreement without another 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.” Nothing has happened in Minsk to alter that verdict. This war probably will continue come spring because all of its structural causes are still present.

Comments

 

 
Leo H
Arnold
2/17/2015 09:35 PM
 

  And Russia keeps winning. Which I'm very fine with. Slow but steady and often ahead of Putin.

 
 
Leo Hylan
2/17/2015 09:41 PM
 

  Russia is winning. Slowly. Painfully. But rightly. Putin in Budapest today and most Hungarians welcome him.

 
 
Leo Hylan
2/17/2015 10:10 PM
 

  Does anyone think any of this territory recovered by Russia will ever be returned in our lifetime? More likely more to be taken by this angry Bear. I'm not arguing "morals" here, just reality. WE set up the Ukrainians for a fight they never win. WE should be ashamed.

 
 
Eric Van De Hey
Santa Clara
2/18/2015 12:48 AM
 

  Translation: Trifkovic is trying to make outrage at Putin's latest Taggu Truce (in which the Chinese government was forced to cede everything up to the Great Wall and defacto recognize the "autonomy" of several Japanese puppet governments) and a long and tried history of Putin using "loyal opposition" ultranationalists (who have a history of screeching about Putin being soft but not a lot of history in backing that up, which serves to make Putin look moderate) complaining. Likely on cue with Putin. And then tries to make them sound like they are equivalent. The problem is they are not, and never will be. Of course, this is largely moot. The Minsk truce (like the ones before it) has already been shot full of holes quite literally. At least the Taggu Truce took years to fall apart. This won't even last weeks. "It does not promise federalization or even “autonomy” to the two eastern regions, but only refers to the Ukrainian law granting them temporary special status. Looks like a win for the Kiev government. " ... if you are dedicated to ignoring all past precedent. The Russian government (even before Putin) has a long, bloody history of trying to prop up supposedly autonomous client governments in order to destabilize neighbors they want punished. Once it gains the first inch, it starts "reeling them in", trying to annex them more and more directly to Russia. The "Autonomous Republics" of the Russian Federation have their autonomy eroded and destroyed (the Muslim Republics of the RF for one). Convenient client states have any legitimately popular or independent status be supplanted as Kremlin state. And the sock puppet "states" get annexed to Russia. What happened in Crimea was just a good example of it on fast foreward. Why anybody would think Putin will act differently (even if it was meant to be different) is beyond me. "And Russia keeps winning. Which I'm very fine with. " And why are you?

 
 
Eric Van De Hey
Santa Clara
2/18/2015 12:54 AM
 

  "Russia is winning. Slowly. Painfully. But rightly. " Please tell me what is "rightful" about invasions and annexations that Putin doesn't even care about to make convincing? I still have the Skype records from talking to my friends when Putin declared the annexation of Crimea *BEFORE* the obligatory show vote he organized was supposed to end. Which- if you remove any moral consideration- is a very stupid move from him. "Putin in Budapest today and most Hungarians welcome him. " If that is the case, Kossuth and Nagy must be rolling in their graves. But I doub tit. "Does anyone think any of this territory recovered by Russia will ever be returned in our lifetime? More likely more to be taken by this angry Bear." Bingo. To grant "autonomy" status to Russian Army proxies is to sacrifice so much.Especially when there wasn't a legitimate demand for it (unlike in Crimea or even South Ossetia and Abkhazia, where i will admit there was popular support. Especially after the proxy armies finished ethnic cleaning against demographics likely to oppose it). "I'm not arguing "morals" here, just reality. WE set up the Ukrainians for a fight they never win. WE should be ashamed." How did WE set the Ukrainians up? Why should WE be ashamed about a fight that started because Putin tried to strongarm his puppet into a move so unpopular he lost his support base in the Donbas? For all the talk of Western money, sponsorship, intelligence, and all the rest of the evil things (and make no mistake, the West does do that on occasion, just look at Ajax) I don't see anybody dealing with the fundamental point. It wasn't necessary. Yanukovych committed political and popular suicide, and the Ukrainian public was happy to get rid of him without any help. You can even see that with the Russians and pro-Russian rebels. Where's the talk about restoring the "legitimate" POU? Gone. Because they don't care for him now either. Even when they hate those who did it.

 
 
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