The Minsk Agreements Are Without Alternative and Unrealisable

I have never concealed that I do not consider it possible to implement the Minsk Agreements, but I have always argued that there is no alternative to them. Some see this as a contradiction. Moreover, there has been a tough discussion on social media for many years between “non-alternativers” and “unrealisers”…

In my view, both statements are quite compatible and their arguments complement each other. I think that in the run-up to the summit in the Normandy format (which Ukraine still has a chance to disrupt, but it is likely to take place) it would be good to clarify the duality of the Minsk Agreements and to return once again to their goals and meaning.

Precisely towards its goals, because, like in any good strategic decision, Minsk has not one, but several goals. And I don’t think it happened by chance, because such “coincidences” accompany Putin all the time in his reign.

In military academies future generals are taught that when planning an offensive, you have to have two, three, four (the more, the better) likely targets. Then the opponent will not know what specific point they should defend. If you can also change the chosen direction of the offensive (to make a manoeuvre on the battlefield), having found that the enemy guessed the direction of your main blow, then you will win the battle anyway. These laws also apply to politics. Only because on the margins of political battles bullets do not whistle and shells do not explode, but merely the quills of diplomats rustle, information strikes are dealt, the beauty of prepared political operations (in addition, unlike fleeting military operations, often stretched for years or even decades) is not so visible, and their meaning tends to elude an observer recording a static state of conflict at a particular moment, instead of viewing it in dynamics.

The implementation of the Minsk Agreements from the Russian side is therefore carried out by several different departments headed by experienced and talented politicians, whose efforts are coordinated personally by the President so that at any moment it is possible to immediately change the direction of the main strike. It is enough simply to give priority to one department today, and tomorrow the whole political and diplomatic army of Russia will deploy itself at the march in the right direction. By the way, such regularity of the work of the top of the state apparatus is one of Putin’s main (if not most important) achievements, which allowed him to lead Russia out of the most dangerous traps for 20 and, ultimately, to the summit of world power. The manoeuvres carried out by the top of the Russian bureaucracy in accordance with the signals received from the President, in terms of beauty and coherence of execution, are comparable only to the evolution of the battlefield under the flute and drum of the grenadiers of Frederick the Great, and the power of the final blow resembles the famous “oblique order”, which for 30 years swept off the battlefield any army of Europe (except, of course, the Russian one).

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But let’s go back to the Minsk Agreements. Firstly, the masterpiece is the very fact of their signing (and twice in a row: in September 2014 and in February 2015). Both times it was Russia that needed peace at all costs. The Ukrainian army was broken and scattered, the Kiev government was on the verge of collapse, and there was no alternative to it (not to consider the hypothetical return of Yanukovych as such). If the agreements had not been concluded, Russia would have had to take responsibility for Ukraine, to the joy of the Americans. Sanctions would be imposed even in larger volume; huge resources would be literally buried in the swamp of Ukrainian anarchy and corruption (there would be nowhere to find other managers besides local ones, and what local people can bring decent people to is shown by “Ukrainegate” in the US – it has only begun, and dozens of brilliant careers have already been destroyed); there would be no forces, no funds, no Syria, no active politics in the Far East, much less the Arctic, Africa, and Latin America; Russia’s financial-economic condition would be much worse than the current one, and political stability would be undermined. Most likely, there would not even be “Nord Stream-2.” And there certainly would be no “Turkish Stream“. And for all this, Russia would not even have to send an army to Ukraine. With the fall of the Kiev regime (albeit as a result of the civil war), it would be necessary in any case to take control of the territory and the population, with all the resulting consequences.

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Thus, Moscow needed peace, at least as much as Kiev and much more than Berlin and Paris. At the same time, Putin managed to force his negotiating partners to beg Russia for peace and in fact dictated their terms of peace.

Secondly, Kiev almost immediately realised what it had signed and were so frightened about the possible consequences of the implementation of Minsk that it openly declared its unwillingness to implement the measures provided for in the agreement, and it was since then that Ukrainian propaganda has become increasingly persistent in trying to convince the population that it is better to abandon the DPR/LPR (so as not to interfere in the “construction of European Ukraine”). Moreover, Ukrainian politicians speaking about abandoning the rebellious regions did not use the term “Separate districts of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions” and certainly not the DPR/LPR. They speak about Donbass, and this allows to assume confidently that Kiev didn’t exclude and doesn’t exclude the option of fully abandoning Donbass (within the borders of the two regions). And it would have already abandoned Donbass, but the Kiev authorities do not want to assume such a responsibility, and Russia still does not “occupy” the necessary territories.

At the same time, if Minsk had been implemented by Kiev, Ukraine would have been turned into a rickety confederation in which the informal (legitimised as a “people’s militia”) Donbass army would be the most capable and organised structure, which would fundamentally change the balance of power in the country and lead to the displacement of Galician/pro-West politicians to the marginal spectrum, if not to emigration, as well as to the further confederalisation of Ukraine and the actual disintegration of it into regions under the formal rule of Kiev, but in fact oriented towards neighbouring capitals. That is why Kiev is in opposition to the Minsk process, regardless of who leads Ukraine.

Thirdly, Ukraine’s predicted refusal to implement the Minsk Agreements allowed Russia sooner or later to engage in direct cooperation with France and Germany, which, too, could not indefinitely go berserk in support of the useless Kiev regime and contrary to their own interests. Ukraine would be driven out of active international politics (which is what is happening at the moment), remaining a problem for both the EU and Russia (which would contribute to the Russian-Franco-German rapprochement). Hardly anyone back then assumed that Ukraine would become a problem for the United States, but today it is and never again will either the Republicans or Democrats (whoever wins the traditional domestic political confrontation) behave towards it in the same way).

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Fourthly, Ukraine is becoming a joint zone of responsibility between Russia and the EU. At the same time, Russia, unlike Europe, is able to establish military-political control over most of Ukraine, and to do so mostly with the hands of the alternative elite of the DPR/LPR prepared in recent years. But financial participation in Ukraine’s renovation would have to be taken by the EU, and its share would clearly be greater than Russia’s. Roughly speaking, Russia will rebuild Ukraine not so much at its own expense as it will at the EU’s. And it is not yet a fact that it will have to be paid for with some Ukrainian territories (although Putin’s phrase about the “Polish city of Lvov” that he dropped back in 2015 shows that there may be options here).

Thus, in any turn of events, the Minsk Agreements allowed Russia to maintain the freedom of its hands and to not spend unnecessary resources on displacing the West from Ukraine. That’s why there is no alternative to them. Another equally as good document is difficult to sign, almost impossible. Unless Zelensky in Paris (where he is going to disavow the Minsk Agreements) will sign something even more stunning. It was impossible to implement them because neither Kiev nor the DPR/LPR were ultimately willing to live in the same state (even formally). However, their fundamental unrealisability was envisaged. As a result of the signing of the Minsk Agreements, Russia got its own way in any case (regardless or whether or not they would have been implemented). It was a matter of time, not principle. Moreover, Moscow, in most cases, could even choose a convenient time itself.

And the Paris Summit here will no longer change anything. Partners have long realised that Russia outplayed them diplomatically, even Kiev understood it under Poroshenko. All they have to do is accept it.

Rostislav Ishchenko

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