Minsk vs. Novorossiya: A Moral Question
The Political Divide
by Kennedy Applebaum
November 6, 2015
[November 7 update: Addendum on Alexander Dugin]
Some supporters of the early vision of an independent Novorossiya, notable figures such as Alexey Mozgovoy and Igor Strelkov, and analysts including Vladimir Suchan, Gleb Bazov, Russian philosopher Alexander Dugin (not explicitly, but by implication; see end of post) and even myself on occasion, have held as traitors those in Donbass who advocate peace through the Minsk process. Conversely, advocates of the Minsk process, such as DPR Parliament Speaker Denis Pushilin, view Novorossiya independence supporters as traitors to the Republic. This conflict has caused a deep divide in DPR/LPR politics.
Alexander Zakharchenko, now entering his second year as Head of the DPR, bravely transcends his personal ideals to embrace both factions, a noble aspiration that is certainly sincere.
Below are the words of Zakharchenko, offered during a press conference held on November 5, 2015. Following that is my own analysis of the moral and practical dilemmas of MInsk.
Alexander Zakharchenko on the Future of the Occupied Territories
and Those Who Express Defeatism
Zakharchenko official website
Edited autotranslation by Quemado Institute
November 5, 2015
DONETSK / At a press conference, the Head of the Donetsk People’s Republic told reporters about his vision of the prospects for development of the situation in Donbass. Speaking about the future of Slavyansk, Kramatorsk, and Mariupol, the Head of the Republic said: “I have said many times that I think the Donetsk People’s Republic includes the whole territory of the former Donetsk Oblast. And my words are not refuted. Today you mentioned, I think the occupied cities.”
He expressed confidence that in the future, there are two possible scenarios.
“First, if Kiev breaks the Minsk agreements and resumes fighting, then we will match its strength. Second, if the Minsk process continues and we solve the issue of the return of the occupied territories through political negotiations, then there is no other way,” said Alexander Zakharchenko.
According to the Head of the DPR, it is now more likely that Slavyansk, Mariupol and Kramatorsk will return home peacefully. “The fact that I think as a soldier and as a man, without saying anything, I would have already been in Lviv! But as the Head of State, I do not want the loss of new friends, friends meaning everyone in Donbass. Therefore, we will make every effort to return these in a peaceful way. But that our cities will return – this is definite!” he concluded.
Alexander Zakharchenko expressed his point of view to those who today prophesy an unfortunate fate for an independent Donbass.
“I was annoyed by these conversations. Those who say they do not see their own will in Donbass, do not see the possibility of Donetsk to make its own decisions. They think that the fate of Donbass will be resolved somewhere outside it – in Moscow, Washington, Berlin and Paris. Do you yourself agree with that? We, in the referendum, expressed our will. And this will was confirmed by the election a year ago. We are up in arms to defend our right to decide our own destiny.
I personally am not going to be a puppet in someone else’s hands. I hope that my fellow countrymen and comrades-in-arms do not want to be puppets whose strings are worked by others …”
That is my answer to all those who whine about the deterioration of Donbass. Do not wait! All of these ‘slivschiki’ and ‘vsёpropalschiki’ [sic] are not only the defeatists and traitors of all the big Russian World. They have already given up and surrendered. And, while sitting in a spiritual captivity, they whine. And we do have to do a great deal of work!” said the Head of the Republic.
Quemado Institute Comments:
The Moral and Practical Dilemmas of Minsk
by Kennedy Applebaum
November 6, 2015
According to some observers, the conflict between the Minsk process and the Novorossiya ideal has not only caused a political divide, it has also given rise to an abuse of power by both DPR and LPR authorities, manifest in such ill-fated events as possibly the assassinations in the Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR) of NAF commanders Alexey Mozgovoy and Alexander Bednov, the secret detention and dismissal of former DPR Parliament Speaker Andrey Purgin, the abduction and secret detention of pro-Novorossiya humanitarian worker Valentina Kornienko in the DPR, and other cases of abuse aimed at squelching so-called dissent. Several analysts, including those at Quemado Institute, attribute these abusive practices to subversive pressure from Moscow, largely carried out by Kremlin agent Vladislav Surkov, at the apparent behest of Vladimir Putin, who claims to support Kiev leader Petro Poroshenko, and who demands compliance with the Minsk Accords despite the cost in human terms.
Those who advocate Minsk, of course, are defending the rights of civilians, many of whom are unwilling to risk their lives for the independence of Donbass. Minsk has arguably saved thousands of civilian lives. In this context, supporting Minsk seems the right moral choice.
However, there is a downside. First, Minsk sets a dangerous precedent. This notion needs some explaining. To wit: Killing civilians has become a tool in the diplomatic arsenal of Petro Poroshenko. Kiev, with its inferior armed forces, adopted as a technique of war the deliberate shelling of civilians. It was Ukraine’s slaughter of Donbass civilians that motivated foreign leaders to develop the Minsk peace plan in the first place. Thus, Poroshenko’s fiendish tactics earned him leverage with the outside world, especially in Berlin, Paris and Moscow. The result was the Minsk Agreements, and Minsk was his reward.
How did it reward him? Without the Minsk Agreements, Novorossiya’s Armed Forces might have marched all the way to Kharkov, shattering the territorial integrity of Poroshenko’s Ukraine. Minsk, on the other hand, protects Ukraine’s integrity. Poroshenko has thus reaped benefit from his slaughter of the people of Donbass, a horrific precedent for Europe. Angela Merkel, Vladimir Putin, Francois Hollande and the OSCE helped to set this precedent. Yet, it seemed the easiest way to stop Poroshenko’s murderous campaign. They might instead have imposed sanctions on Ukraine and threatened prosecution of Poroshenko in the Hague. But they did not, and that’s another story.
A further downside of Minsk is the constraints it imposes on the DPR. Were Minsk to succeed, a very unlikely outcome, the Donetsk People’s Republic would lose its independence. It would not be able to join the Russian Federation nor align itself with other economic blocs. It would also lose the Kiev-held parts of the Donetsk Oblast, which are not to be granted special status under Minsk, unless further leverage were gained toward a new agreement. The DPR would also give up control of its Russian border, placing it at the mercy of the Ukraine government.
Regardless of the terms Zakharchenko places on the implementation of the Minsk Package of Measures — and the terms could be very severe regarding local elections and constitutional reform — the above losses cannot be avoided. As Vladimir Suchan has said, the Ukraine flag would be flying over Donetsk. Is this acceptable?
And that’s if Minsk succeeds. What if Minsk niether succeeds nor fails, but instead suffers endless delays throughout 2016 and beyond, which is a very likely scenario? The “peace process” might outlast Angela Merkel’s tenure, and a new German chancellor could be much more hostile to Donbass.
Delay brings other dangers too. The world at large will soon forget the military achievements of the DPR/LPR militias, which were the source of their leverage in Minsk. That leverage peaked right after the Debaltsevo victory. But it can only fade over time. A drawn-out Minsk process could grind the DPR down, until it the Republic is forced to sacrifice every shred of its present autonomy.
This process of grinding down is unfortunately already evident: the delay of elections, the unilateral arms withdrawal, the extension of Minsk into 2016, and the DPR/LPR’s brutal treatment of “dissenters” who support Novorossiya’s independence. All of these setbacks can of course be corrected, and Zakharchenko’s strong leadership makes this possible.
Yet what is the right moral course? War would dispel the limitations of Minsk and lead Novorossiya to victory. But this would be gained at the cost of the lives of unwilling civilians.
And that is the crux of the moral dilemma. Man, in his finite wisdom, cannot evaluate human life as compared with a future ideal, no matter how grand that ideal may seem. Only God can make that choice.
And Zakharchenko rightly sees that he can’t make that choice, especially as a Head of State who is directly responsible for the welfare of the people. The way must come through an act of God.
Were Zakharchenko not a conscientious man, he could declare war and to hell with the victims! Most Heads of State take that approach, believing it to be their duty, including the neocons who rule the United States. But this is not the kind of man Alexander Zakharchenko is, and not the kind of man we would want him to be. We should therefore extend our faith to him for the time being.
My only questions for Zakharchenko: Can the DPR security services be brought under control, so that they do not “disappear” patriotic citizens like Valentina Kornienko, nor secretly detain protestors, as was the case at the time of Purgin’s dismissal, nor arrest and detain without charges good citizens such as Andrey Purgin himself? And can Andrey Purgin be given the opportunity to regain his post as Speaker of Parliament, or can Zakharchenko at least make a statement about Purgin’s status? And can dissent be legalized, as a pillar of strength in a true democracy?
All in all, Zakharchenko’s powerful statement of November 5, 2015 lends hope to the vision of a free, independent, and democratic People’s Republic of Donetsk.
Excerpts from: “War in Donbass will be imposed on us by
Washington and Kiev”
Interview with Alexander Dugin
After nearly a year of silence, Alexander Dugin discussed the current results of the Russian Spring, the war in Syria, and the inevitability of a final battle in Donbass in an exclusive interview with “Novorossiya.”
Alexander Gelyevich, here’s a question for you as the acknowledged ideologist of the Russian Spring: How do you assess the current situation in Novorossiya? What was conceived in the beginning and what has actually come about?
Alexander Dugin (excerpts): I’ve long refrained from any commentating on what’s happening in Donbass, and there were serious reasons for this. Now, a few cycles of reflection on these dramatic events, which are known as the “Russian Spring”, have passed, and we now have the possibility to have a more balanced, calm, and analytical attitude towards the subject, which for me personally was a colossal, heartfelt, spiritual wound. …
The topic of the “Russian Spring” is my direct and living pain. I can not speak about it calmly. It’s not just about the loss of loved ones – it is the deepest strike at the very center of those expectations which I had in regards to Novorossiya and the revival of Russia, its spirit, and its identity. The matter at hand is the reawakening of Russia. …
Russia is not the Russian Federation. Russia is the Russian World, a civilization, one of the poles of a multipolar world which we ought to be and which we are obliged to become. …
Novorossiya logically followed Crimea, and I don’t see any difference between them. I am absolutely sure that, if we lose Donbass, then we will lose Crimea, and then all of Russia,… Therefore, I fought hard for the Russian Spring and against the betrayal of Novorossiya. …
And I’m not against the existence of a sovereign Ukraine, if only it would be our ally or partner or, in the least, a neutral, intermediate space. We would like to be together in one state, but on this the citizens of Ukraine must decide. But what exactly shouldn’t be allowed is an Atlanticist occupation of Ukraine. This is a geopolitical axiom. …
Ukraine can be an autonomous and independent state exclusively among our allies. If it were to come under occupation, then we are obliged to liberate it or, as a minimum, guarantee the historical existence of the half of its population which is linked with us by faith. Doing this is our duty, our unconditional historical imperative. If we do not fulfill this, then we betray our own people, ourselves, and our history. …
But those at the top insisted that Crimea is ours, but not Donbass – certainly not ours, but it’s unknown whose it is and it has an uncertain future. … The unacceptable price for retarded diplomacy with questionable success. There was nothing particularly “tricky” in this. …
Despite this, I believe that criticism of the leadership of the country, which for its conduct in Donbass it fully deserves, is inappropriate now. Although criticism arises (albeit from the patriotic pole), it is immediately picked up by the West in the fight with Russia itself. Criticizing the government, one unwittingly becomes part of the enemy’s ranks. And this is unacceptable and contrary to allegiance to the homeland, which, in fact, is in a state of direct conflict with the main enemy – the US and NATO bloc. …
What is left to do? Thank the government for the suppression of the Russian Spring? Stand among the ranks of Russia’s enemy in criticizing the government? Anyway this government is still continuing the same patriotic rhetoric, albeit a bit empty and sometimes even like a simulation. It’s suppressing not only the best, but also the worst. …
The second point is that, no matter what, our border with the republics is controlled by our friends from the LPR and DPR.
Thank God that over this period of time we haven’t given anything up. We didn’t save anything, but we didn’t lose anything. … The absence of control over the border by the Kiev side is an indicator by which to judge everything. Yes, there is a nightmare there. Yes, we are losing this battle, but we haven’t lost yet so far as the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics control the border. Not everything is lost yet. Much is lost, but not all. …
Another point. The fact of our military support for Assad in Syria, although real and effective, is still without a guaranteed result (the immediate results are generally very impressive and positive). Therefore, the Americans are vitally interested in an escalation of hostilities in Donbass in order to make the whole situation more difficult for us. And anyway, Poroshenko, who received little support in recent elections in Ukraine, is interested in the same. For him, the war is now the only way to maintain power.
The war in Donbass will be imposed on us by Washington and Kiev. Not we, but they, despite the Minsk agreements and our attempts to get out of direct confrontation by any means, will launch hostilities. …
As I predicted, the situation cannot have another solution other than the defense of Novorossiya from the pro-American, neo-Nazi junta, which was a junta and remains a junta, and whose neck it is time to snap. Sooner or later, we will return to Novorossiya. Of course, it’s already late, but not critically late. He who controls the border of the DPR and LPR with Russia controls everything. …
Alexander Gelyevich, what do you think of the Minsk Agreements? Is this really a path to peace? After all, there is a number of fundamental contradictions which they have not resolved.
We wanted to demonstrate to Europe that Crimea is ours, but that we were ready to discuss everything else. This was rather immoral, and I’m not sure if it really yielded any result. Nevertheless, we broadcasted this message, and those at the top were tasked with demonstrating our peaceful intentions. The shelling of Donbass cities, the murdered people, the mockery of the people of Novorossiya (not to mention the militia) – to me this price seems excessive for such a demonstration, so I have always been an opponent of the Minsk Agreements. They cannot be a solution to the situation, and this is obvious. No one on any side believes in them.
We tried to wink at Europe, to show that “we are wonderful” and say “throw out the Americans.” They [the Americans] were the ones who brought the situation to such a critical point. This wasn’t successful and couldn’t be. The influence of the Atlanticist elites in Europe is quite strong, but we still tried to do this.
As regards Ukraine, Poroshenko demonstrated the same thing. This was not a game with America, but with Europe. Poroshenko says: “I’m sitting down with the Russians at the negotiating table. Look how democratic and decent enough we are to be ready even to discuss peaceful agreements with “terrorists,” because we so want to be in Europe.” That is, Poroshenko didn’t want to report before America, but before Europe. We and the Ukrainians competed in a certain diplomatic battle to attract Europe to our side. But this wasn’t successful – they didn’t believe us up to the end, and they didn’t believe us after Crimea, but after Syria this already became clear. …
Poroshenko didn’t convince them, and he couldn’t convince them because Europe, from the very beginning, did not really engage in the Kiev Maidan. The Americans promised that everything in Ukraine will be really fast, and the Europeans won’t incur any responsibility for what’s happening. Moreover, the Americans forced European leaders (especially Hollande and Merkel) to participate in the Maidan. The “young partners,” or, more precisely, the vassals of Washington naturally don’t have greater freedom of action.
When Europe turned out to be an accomplice of the US and started to impose sanctions, then it realized that deliveries of gas were being put into question. Then Europe shrunk back in horror from the Russians and Ukrainians, preferring that everything be turned back to how it always was. The Normandy Format and the Minsk talks essentially revolved around whether or not it would be possible to turn back, or at least extend the status quo. Now, as long as the Minsk Agreements are recognized by everyone, there is already simply no other exit for Poroshenko and Washington except by breaking them unilaterally and beginning the final battle for Donbass. …
We will shy away from this war and cling to the Minsk Agreements for the same reasons. We don’t need a second front and need a falling, not strong, Poroshenko so that Ukraine will collapse before Donbass will be once again annexed by the Nazi state. We will shy away from direct conflict, and I can even assume that comments like mine will be censored by major media outlets. …
Our bet is not to allow the Ukrainians to impose war on us and not give them the opportunity to take control of the border. This is the main indicator: as long as the republics of Novorossiya control the border, the situation can more or less be characterized as normal, but if it’s given up, then this will be a fully fundamental failure.
Much is being decided now and history is again open. We haven’t resolved the issue of Novorossiya, and have merely postponed its resolution. It reminds us of ourselves. Accordingly, the Minsk Agreements, which we will try to hold on to, will be gradually destroyed and abolished in different ways. We will see soon.
Is an Ossetian scenario possible? In the case of a violation of all agreements the Ukrainian side will attack the young republics, then will Russia, as it was with Abkhazia and South Ossetia, bring in troops and recognize their independence in order to force the aggressor to make peace?
This would be correct. This scenario was highly relevant at the very beginning of the Russian Spring. In fact, in this scenario it was assumed that there will be not only geopolitical control, but that these regions would return to the space of Great Russia, bringing with them a new spirit and awakening a Russian light. This idealistic dimension, extraordinarily important, is now completely lost because of the subsequent trade off of Russian interests. Maybe this trade off was justified, in part, from a diplomatic point of view as a preparation for the final battle. I think not, but I’m ready to allow for such.
But there is another side. Having started haggling, we struck a huge blow at the spiritual dimension of the Russian Spring and at Novorossiya as an idea. This is irreversible. From a tough, tactical and technical point of view, this might be explained with some kind of reasons, but from a spiritual point of view this was a moral crime when we didn’t go for the Ossetian-Abkhazian scenario at the moment when Ukrainian punitive forces started to bomb the cities of Novorossiya, massively destroying the peaceful population – we’ve all seen the footage. Our response was morally obvious, but we took a different decision. That is, regarding national interests, we still haven’t failed, but we are much worse in terms of values.
In this respect, the Minsk Agreements are an immoral tool, peculiarity of understood interests, but there are no values for any of the sides. …
Consequently, the Minsk Agreements are a morally questionable pause. But we are going to keep them since we started playing the game. …
[The complete text of this extensive essay on Ukraine and Syria may be found at source.]
Quemado Institute Commentary
by Kennedy Applebaum
Alexander Dugin has elucidated the sentiments of many Russian and pro-Russian analysts, who see Putin’s inaction in Donbass as a betrayal of the Russian people. While Dugin does not explicitly say those who support Minsk are traitors, he certainly sympathizes with this way of thinking.
Dugin stresses the importance of control of the Russian border. The DPR/LPR, according to Minsk, are to relinquish this control to Kiev following local elections. Perhaps that was the reason Zakharchenko postponed those elections, even though technically, Kiev violated Minsk by failing to enact Donbass-approved election laws and thus rendered the border provision moot.
To me it seems unlikely Vladimir Putin will ever send the Russian military into Donbass. Were he willing to do that, he would have done it in the first place. Loving life as Putin does, I imagine he fears starting World War III by placing Russia in direct combat with NATO. Crimea, however, was quite distinct from Donbass, not morally, but pragmatically. The small peninsula was easy to take, with its short well-defined border, pre-existing autonomy, and Russian military presence. Novorossiya must cut the strings with Mother Russia and take its fate into its own hands.
The dilemma of speaking out against government is well-described in Dugin’s essay. However, if we do not speak out against our leadership — be it Putin, Zakharchenko, Obama, Merkel or any other official — then the enemy propagandists have won by silencing us. And the transnational powers that be have won by silencing us.
Our leaders need guidance. And they need it not from their enemies, but from patriotic critics who have their nation’s best interests at heart. Alexander Dugin and other thoughtful analysts of every region must speak for the sake of their countries, and for the sake of the world as a whole. It is important that they make their helpful intentions known, and to speak gently and without anger, like a kind and guiding parent. Lacking such reflective guidance, leaders become influenced only by chosen advisers and yes-people, until they lose their bearing and go off the beam, much the way Adolf Hitler did.
Quemado Institute, comprised of concerned Americans, can play this role for the DPR because we are not inside the Republic, where “dissent” is discouraged for the very reasons Dugin explains. Yet, we ultimately hope for the DPR’s success, and thus constitute a friendly if occasionally critical voice.
We are ultimately for the success of the whole world as well, under the model of a cooperative balance among the three superpowers, allowing freedom, sovereignty and self-determination for all countries. (See our Foreign Policy page.)