by John E. Fordcapin
August 31, 2015
Last edit September 2, 2015
If one thinks in broad political terms about the situation in Ukraine, the Kiev riot is an important event. It exposes Minsk as an impossible agreement. What is really going on? From a broader perspective, what is Minsk now?
Poroshenko’s signature on the document was not enough to ensure Ukraine’s compliance. Members of the Verkhovna Rada do not believe their elected “President” had the right to sign away Kiev’s control of Donbass without parliamentary approval. They contend he did not have the right to sign an agreement with foreign leaders that mandates reform of Ukraine’s constitution. They perceive that that the Minsk agreements violate Ukraine’s sovereignty, if such sovereignty can be argued in view of US manipulation.
The ultra-nationalists are right on this technical point. But now it has come to a head. Poroshenko can’t fulfill the Minsk agreements. He lacks the power within his own country. By some accounts, he is soon to be impeached, and his two likely successors, Valentin Nalivaichenko, former head of the Ukrainian Security Service, and Sergei Levochkin, former chief of staff for Viktor Yanukovych, are both Ukrainian nationalists who would not have signed Minsk in the first place.
Minsk can be viewed as a symbolic gesture, an act of faith. Bertrand Russell defines faith as the belief in something for which there is no evidence. Minsk was an act of faith in this sense. As long as everyone involved — the Heads of State, Foreign Ministers and envoys of the OSCE, Germany, France, Russia, and the Donetsk and Lugansk Peoples Republics — acted as if they believed, it was possible for many civilian lives to be saved, while circumventing escalation into a full-scale European war. During the summer of 2014, when the Minsk peace agreements were being developed largely by the efforts of the OSCE, the foremost purpose was to save civilian lives.
Many analysts do not understand the meaning of Minsk. They are looking for political motives, and none make rational sense. Minsk evolved out of a humanitarian appeal. And it served that purpose, as long as the appearance of faith could be maintained. Alexander Zakharchenko, Angela Merkel, Vladimir Putin, Sergei Lavrov, Denis Pushilin, and Vladislav Deinego have been the standard bearers of this faith, while Poroshenko has played the rogue, the Devil’s advocate. After today’s riots in Kiev, it is clear why he had to do this. If he upheld Minsk in the true sense, he would have been impeached or even assassinated, so profound is the opposition to the agreement among nationalist political sectors in Ukraine.
But Poroshenko has been relatively low key in his opposition to Minsk. When in the presence of the Norman Four, he pretends to be in compliance. Only when it comes to action, such as consulting DPR and LPR leaders in regard to constitutional reform, or halting attacks on Donbass civilians, does his true opposition emerge. He is playing an impossible game. Not that there is reason to have sympathy for this man who ordered continuation of mass artillery strikes that began on June 5, 2014 against civilians of Slavyansk. Yet he cannot do what he is being told to do by either side of the political debate: the Minsk side or the Verkhovna Rada side. He is stretched between political factions that are too far apart.
The leadership required to bridge that gap is beyond Porshenko’s capacity, and perhaps beyond that of any leader today. Even Vladimir Putin cannot bridge the gap between the interests of the Ukrainian nationalists and the ancestral Russians of Donbass.
Minsk is like a chain. Each link spans a part of the political spectrum. Zakharchenko, Pushilin, Plotnitsky, and Deinego, reach to Putin, who reaches to Merkel and Hollande, who reach to Poroshenko, who tries to reach to the Vekhovna Rada and to the radical “Nazi” factions and their sympathizers in the US Government. Poroshenko is the link that must stretch the furthest. Perhaps no politician alive today could reach that far across the political and cultural spectrum.
Minsk is not a sham, nor a fig leaf, nor a farce. It is an act of faith. The riots today may have shattered that faith. Minsk ulitmately cannot be fulfulled, not because Poroshenko is stubborn, but because the country he is trying to lead has powerful factions that will not accept Minsk, and have shown they will resort to militant tactics if Minsk is forced upon them. There may be no limit, short of all-out war in Kiev, to the violence they are willing to employ, were Minsk actually forced upon them in full measure.
What is the path from here? Can anyone pretend to have faith that Minsk will be fulfilled after the riot today? Will things calm down, and the act of faith resume? Or has the emperor been permanently divested of his clothing?
And if he has, if Minsk is completely abandoned, then the militant nationalists of Ukraine will get their wish: killing, killing and more killing, the only pastime that satisfies their appetite for revenge. Some say they are still fighting World War II. Whatever the origin of their bloodlust, they will no doubt rise up until that urge is satisfied.
If Minsk breaks down, the DPR and LPR front lines must be pushed back from Donetsk, Gorlovka and Lugansk to protect civilian lives. The contact line passes dangerously close to Donetsk and Gorlovka in particular. This is the main cause of casualties among the population. The front line must be pushed back, north and west, to at least 50 km, so the militias have room to position their defenses. But this means an offensive. And that has dangers of its own.
As tattered as Minsk may be, it seems the only hope. Minsk is needed not just to save civilian lives. It also guarantees amnesty for DPR and LPR combatants, and forbids the introduction of foreign peacekeepers, who would no doubt take sides and intensify the conflict. The shattering of Minsk could draw in NATO forces, and not just a few concealed mercenaries and trainers, but entire Western armies. NATO would continue to escalate to counteract any gains by the NAF [Novorossiya Armed Forces, or the DPR/LPR militias]. Ukraine, unfortunately, is not fighting in isolation.
Is there a way out of this impasse? Russia, which now has no regular troops in Donbass, would have to send in official ground forces. But this would not be enough. The US would find an excuse to start aereal bombing, not on Russian territory, but in Donbass itself, as the US so arrogantly did in Bosnia, and of course historically in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They bomb civilians to make their point, to get the attention of enemy leaders.
The failure of Minsk could mean uncontrolled escalation, unless another ingenious diplomatic solution can be found. But the Ukraine ultra-nationalists want nothing less than the ground under the feet of the Donbass people, even if every last civilian were killed or driven out of their homeland. In fact, the nationalists would prefer that all those of Russian heritage be gone, so the nationalists themselves could populate the region. Meanwhile, the ancestral Russians in Donbass have lived there for many generations. They have deep connections to the land. They cannot give up.
If the rest of the world were not involved, Ukraine and Donbass could just fight it out: a violent, yet simple and contained solution. But the Western world will not leave it alone. NATO forces will be drawn in as long as Donbass is winning, and especially if Donbass is winning. Because as it now stands, nearly all major foreign governments oppose sovereignty for the Donbass Republics.
Ultimately, the villain is the United States. The US has the power to stop all this violence. It has control of Kiev. It is the US that will not comply with Minsk, that refuses to see reason, that views killing people as a game.
In a deep psychological sense, the US cannot face what it did in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It keeps frantically trying to repeat the mistake to somehow make it right, to convince itself that massive killing is necessary to create peace, that slaughter in one place saves lives in another, to find any moral basis that enables self-forgiveness. Hiroshima and Nagasaki represent suffering that is incomprehensible. The United States has gone insane trying to reconcile its actions, attempting to alleviate the unbearable guilt.
The ruling regime in America needs to be restrained as well as pitied. It has gone mad with guilt over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the subsequent slaughter in Vietnam and more recently in the Middle East. The US must be treated as a mental patient no longer in control of its behavior. A straitjacket of some kind must be imposed. Foreign powers need to draw the line somewhere.
September 1, 2015 Update
Merkel Upholds Minsk Despite August 31 Riot in Kiev:
Separatists Must Approve Electoral Law
Russia Insider TV
September 1, 2015
Angela Merkel remains dedicated in her support of the Minsk Agreements as they are written, specifically in regard to the requirement for approval by the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics of Ukraine’s electoral laws. She says this, of course, in a cautious and diplomatic way.
The video is available here.
A transcript of the video subtitles is as follows:
Merkel: “We want to manage the implementation of the electoral laws, which is also being worked on by the Ukrainian Rada, in a way that the separatists also approve of it. It is written in the Minsk agreement that elections must be held according to Ukrainian law as well as the principles of ODIHR. That is the OSCE organization. There are consultations taking place today in Ukraine. We are still discussing the question about whether the constitutional debate is properly balanced; we worked on that — there were reports about that. Then the Rada should – and then did – write down the special status of Donetsk and Lugansk in the constitutional drafts. There is now a debate about that between Russia and Ukraine: about whether that is happening in the right place and the right form. There have been legal consultations concerning that in the German Foreign Ministry with the corresponding experts, including the Venice Commitee. We are trying in – lets say – very subtle detailed work to bring things forward. Unfortunately it is going slower than you’d think, but we feel a great deal of reponsibility toward this process.”
TUESDAY SEP 1 2015 HEADLINE STORIES:
Ukrainian Prosecutors Qualify Riots Near Parliament as Terrorist Attack
at NEWS FROM NOVOROSSIYA
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