Paris & Berlin: Prolonged Imitation of Peacemaking in Donbass

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard


Kiev continues to make all possible efforts in order to obtain a revision of the Minsk agreements and, possibly, in its own situation, while the tension around Russia in the world is growing, it will succeed or already has.

At least, something resembling this emerges from the statement on the website of the Ukrainian President about the telephone conversation that took place yesterday between Poroshenko and the French president Hollande.

“The Presidents of Ukraine and France agreed about the special importance of the security aspect, which until now hasn’t been fulfilled by Russia and must be the prime point of a road map on the implementation of the Minsk arrangements,” the official report states.

In these lines the position of the leadership of Ukraine is clearly and unambiguously expressed, which completely contradicts the order of measures for the settlement of the conflict in Donbass stated in the “Minsk-2” contract. Kiev already repeatedly directly declared that political decisions (elections, special status for Donbass, amnesty) are possible only after Russia withdraws its troops from Donbass and the border will be taken under control by the relevant power structures of Ukraine.

Officially guarantors of the fulfilment of the Minsk agreements – Germany and France – don’t support the revisionist efforts of Kiev. Moreover, during the recent visit to Ukraine, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of these countries, at a joint press conference, actually insisted on the implementation of the points of the agreement precisely in the order in which they appear in the official document. Just after these statements the demarche of Kiev followed, which by the lips of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine and Petro Poroshenko himself actually completely excluded the possibility to follow the instructions of European partners.

However, European partners aren’t deterred. The same Hollande, the day before the telephone conversation with his Ukrainian vis-a-vis, speaking at a session of the Parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe, again expressed the seditious idea of the need to hold elections as conditions of fulfilment of the Minsk agreements, which caused a stream of damnations in his address from the lips of the Ukrainian Minister of Internal Affairs Arsen Avakov. And last week the deputy of the Verkhovna Rada Mustafa Nayem complained in an interview with “Radio Svoboda” that Europe and America twist the hands of Kiev with the aim to compel him to agree with the unacceptable conditions of “Minsk-2”.

The conclusion from all of this made more than once, is that in this situation France and Germany stand on the side of Russia, and agree that Donbass at first needs to provide safety guarantees for elections, and also special status and amnesty, and only after it is possible to speak about control over the border. But, alas, not everything is so unequivocal.

Already a few months ago, Frau Merkel publicly reduced the Minsk process to the question of the border, and absolutely in the same spirit, the State Department spokesperson spoke in the same vein at an official briefing at the same time. This inexplicable criss-cross forces numerous commentators to chase their own tail – whether there is a speech about the full incompetence of European partners or they change their viewpoint depending on political circumstances.

It seems to me that affairs are much more simple. The logic of understanding in Europe and America of the armed standoff in Ukraine fully coincides with the logic of those revisions of the Minsk process, which the Ukrainian leadership insists on. Washington, Paris, and Berlin, constantly blaming Moscow for the breakdown of fulfilment of the agreements, shows that they consider Russia as a party to the conflict. And if Russia is a direct participant in military operations, in this case, the demands of Kiev about the withdrawal of troops are legitimate and justified.

However, the heads of France and Germany are not able to directly declare support for the demands of Ukraine, otherwise it would mean assuming full responsibility for the immediate failure of all peace talks. That’s why the leaders of both European countries adhere to a very ambivalent strategy – formally remaining adherents of the Minsk agreements, they don’t do anything to compel Ukraine to move forward according to the developed and signed scheme of the regulation of the conflict, while Europe has enough levers of pressure on the state, which is impoverished and dependent on credit.

In this schizophrenic disposition, Kiev behaves as it considers necessary, realising a long time ago that nobody intends to punish him for open disobedience and the continuation of shelling of Donbass. The current truce is already definitely broken by him: the disengagement of troops never actually took place, Ukrainian artillery again works with the same intensity, like before the truce was signed, and on 12.10.16 units of the Ukrainian Armed Forces made an attempt of break in the region of Kominternovo.

It’s unlikely Merkel and Hollande have illusions who in reality is the one who actually violates the regime of truce. Employees of the OSCE mission carefully record cases of attacks, pointing out the party that is the first to open fire. And this side, last time, for sure wasn’t either the DPR or the LPR. However nobody thinks to reproach Poroshenko for this, on the contrary, in telephone conversation with Hollande he accused separatists for the renewal of shelling.

What follows from all the aforementioned? It seems obvious to me that the West, formally supporting the guarantees formulated in “Minsk-2”, that Donbass won’t become a victim of reprisals, in reality washed their hands, having given to Kiev an opportunity to wage war as and when it feels like it. Thus, having stopped being the deterrent mechanism, providing at least an occasional decrease in intensity of shelling, the Minsk peace process completely loses its meaning. War, which Moscow tried to contain, insisting on the fulfilment of the agreement, comes on all fronts with tacit, but obvious support of European partners.

Respectively, military operations will continue, preserving on the border of Russia a center of instability and tension, and pulling considerable material means for Donbass from her. Does it means that Moscow has nothing to oppose the total and cynical compromising of peace talks? No, it doesn’t mean it at all. Russia has a strong ally in this standoff – Donbass isn’t at all helpless and is full able to defend itself. The conflict, which has continued for nearly two and a half years, has taught one obvious lesson – when Ukraine chooses war, she receives it in the form of cauldrons, in which also people and machinery burn down in large quantity.

There is no doubt that this time it will happen in the same way. How many repetitions of this history do the European partners require in order to understand that sooner or later the consequences of war, which are in close proximity to them, will affect also Europe, is something I don’t know. But sooner or later they are doomed to realize this, and it would better if it is sooner, because every new round the possible consequences for them multiplies and worsens.

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