Ishchenko: The West Isn’t Interested in War in Ukraine Anymore, All Push Kiev to the Minsk Agreements

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard


The Vice President of the United States Michael Pence received the head of the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Pavel Klimkin in the White House. Details of the conversation aren’t reported, however it is known that Pence called the Minsk Agreements “the main path to peace in Ukraine”. At first glance it can seem that “Trump flushes” Ukraine, and adding that Russia in the framework of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (CMCE) raises the question of human rights violations in Ukraine, there can be the impression that the US along with Europe will soon strongly pressure the Kiev regime into implementing Minsk-2. However, it is necessary to remember that America interprets the implementation of agreements differently, and it means that behind the words of the Vice President of the United States could be another sense. So what did Michael Pence mean and will Europe pay due attention to the Ukrainian lawlessness? The political scientist Rostislav Ishchenko shared his expert opinion with

“In reality the position of Pence isn’t new. One and a half years ago Biden came to Ukraine, addressed parliament and said that the Minsk Agreements should be implemented, and not sabotaged. And, he absolutely clearly pointed that it is precisely Ukraine who should implement the agreements.

Of course, the West tries to play with Russia a game on the principle ‘let’s concede here, let’s understand here’, and ‘Russia also must implement it’, but over the last year the West (not only the United States, it is also Germany and France) rather clearly signals to Ukraine that it must implement their part of the Minsk Agreements. And Biden in general directly said – if you want to safeguard the State, then you must fulfil the obligations undertaken in Minsk.

I.e., as far as I can judge, the Ukrainian elite has plans to destroy the State, and it successfully does this. And the United States and Europe already proceed from the real situation of things. But to create a problem for themselves by destroying a State with 40 million citizens is senseless. Yes, Ukraine is far from the US, and for them it is a smaller problem, but Ukraine is near the European borders, and if it is destroyed, then it is a problem not only for Russia, but also for Europe, and even bigger than for Russia. And Europe is an ally of the United States, and its problems for sure will concern America. Another thing is that the US and the EU aren’t going to invest resources in Ukraine to correct the errors of the Ukrainian leaders.

But concerning the Minsk Agreements, they always had a rather clear position – it is the best compromise that Ukraine could count on, and they should be implemented. They can’t impose sanctions against Ukraine – it would be inconsistent and silly – but they clearly signaled that nothing better will be offered to them.

The West had the illusion that it will be able to break Russia via the regime of sanctions. These illusions vanished long ago – not this year, and not even the last one. It is very simple to enter a regime of sanctions, but it is difficult to exit it, because any western politician who pushed forward the introduction of the regime of sanctions by this gave to their voters and political elite certain promises. And now they have to come to them and say: ‘Dear friends, as a result of our sanctions Russia not only didn’t suffer, but also became stronger, we suffered very strongly, that’s why we will stop sanctions – sorry’. It will be immediately explained to them what they have done and how much money was spent on it, and then they will simply be booted out.

That’s why western politicians constantly come to Moscow and suggest to concede something in exchange for the removal of sanctions. After all, it is necessary for them to show that they these restrictions achieved something. And in Moscow they openly ask: why do we have to concede, things are good for us like this, with your sanctions it is even better for us than without them, therefore if you want to – lift them, if you don’t want to – then don’t lift them.

The situation with the Minsk Agreements is approximately the same. It is objectively the only option of a compromise that can suit everyone. Because if you want to come to an agreement, then all sides must make some concessions. And as Europe, as well as us, isn’t interested in the war in Ukraine (and the American administration was only partially interested in it, and this one has already left), naturally, all already frankly say to Kiev that it can’t escape out of these limits. There won’t be anything better – therefore it is necessary to implement it.

However, of course, everyone also plays their own game. And the ball is constantly thrown from one player to another – who does implement it, and who doesn’t implement it. But these are already tactical games for the sake of improvement of their position. While strategically everyone already understands that Minsk-2 will disappear in two cases: if Ukraine officially declares that it doesn’t intend to observe the Minsk Agreements, but in that case it will completely lose any international support, even from the West; or Ukraine will collapse, and that subject with which the agreements were concluded will disappear.

In all other options nobody will destroy the agreements. Even if they aren’t implemented, even if this compromise is very shaky, but this is at least a negotiation platform, there aren’t any others.

At the same time, taking into account all positions, now nevertheless nothing can change from Kiev’s side concerning the Minsk Agreements. If the country doesn’t fulfil its obligation in three years, openly declares that when the documents were signed it wasn’t going to implement them, you shouldn’t wait for changes. And during three years the situation there has only worsened: power has weakened, control over the country, as a matter of fact, is lost. Poroshenko literally just several months prior, at the beginning of 2017, was externally forced to lead the blockade of Donbass, which is a sidestep not only of the Minsk Agreements, but also of the interests of the Ukrainian economy. And he recognized it, he was obliged anyway to authorize and lead this blockade all the same. This is confirmation of the fact that in Ukraine the possibility of centralized management is simply lost. But once again, it doesn’t mean that tomorrow Russia, France, and Germany will gather at a table as guarantors of some agreements and will reject Ukraine – anyway all will pretend that there still something exists, and it is possible to talk to someone.

Because otherwise there will be a question – what to do next? I.e., if there is no State there, tens of millions of people live there, and all of this is in the center of Europe, so there is a need to do something. And as nobody has the opportunity to undertake it, accordingly, all try to further push away this ‘bright’ Ukrainian future, in the future.

And in this regard the actions, nevertheless, of Russia on the attraction of Europe’s attention to the actions of Ukraine are important. All of this somehow is influential, all these actions aren’t senseless. In general, in three years the attitude of Europe towards the Ukrainian leaders has changed. They saw both corruption and human rights violations, and a set of other problems. Each drop erodes the stone, and every new statement leads to certain advances on the way of understanding by Europe of the situation in Ukraine. Diplomacy is very long, step-by-step, often calculated not in years, but generally in decades, actions. Very often the results of work of foreign policy become visible and clear in 10-15 years. The same occurs also here.

If we look at how Europe behaved towards Ukraine in 2014, and how it does it now – there are two big differences. The changes happened in many respects due to the competent position and competent actions of the Russian Foreign Ministry. But if you look at every new speech Lavrov, or every new meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs, then there is the impression that seemingly nothing happens.”

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