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Saturday, 14 February 2015
Russia’s Putin wins in Ukraine conflict
by MK Bhadrakumar, Indian Punchline, 12/2/2015
The 16-hour marathon talks through last night and this morning in Minsk regarding conflict resolution in Ukraine by the leaders of the countries involved in the so-called ‘Normandy format’ – Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine – ended in an agreement. The 13 main points of the new agreement have carried forward the twelve-point Minsk accord of last September. But there is ‘additionality’ too insofar as timeline has been given for compliance by the warring sides and other protagonists.
The terms of the latest agreement confirms that Russia negotiated from a strong position — contrary to what the blistering western propaganda all along wanted us to believe. The ‘additionality’ in regard of the future of the eastern regions to be decided by the end of the year doubtless is a major gain for Russia, as the induction of Ukraine into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization [NATO] is virtually ruled out if the constitutional reform goes through. This has been the core Russian demand.
However, this is also going to be the biggest sticking point, since the diehard nationalist lobby in Kiev, which is strongly represented in the current set-up, will deeply resent making any concessions as regards devolution of powers to the eastern regions. President Petro Poroshenko will find himself between the rock and a hard place on this issue, as he is already under fire from the nationalist camp ruling the roost in Kiev. Again, if Washington wants to derail the entire peace process, it won’t have to look far.
Unsurprisingly, therefore, Russia has made the sealing of Ukraine’s border with Russia conditional on the constitutional reform coming through. Which is to say, when the chips are down, Moscow has ensured that it’s ‘everything, or, nothing.’
Secondly, the ceasefire will come into force only on Sunday and between now and then, it is entirely conceivable that the warring parties will make attempts to gain tactical gains on the ground. Debaltseve, in particular, poses a problem, because Kiev does not even acknowledge that several thousands of its troops there have been surrounded by the separatist forces.
In fact, Russian President Vladmir Putin’s remarks, here, indirectly touched on the Debaltseve issue. Conceivably, the separatists may eventually allow – under Russian pressure – to evacuate the besieged Ukrainian troops to safety.
But on the whole, while there is no dearth of doomsday predictions about the latest agreement withering away (as had happened to last September’s accord), the probability is that this German-French-Russian deal will hold and the fighting will stop — at least in immediate terms. The separatists have the upper hand and they will want to consolidate their gains, while the forces deputed from Kiev have been battered out of shape and will also want to recoup.
As I said above, the catch lies in Kiev’s willingness to concede autonomy to the eastern regions. The kinetics of the Ukraine conflict will ultimately depend on the issue of constitutional reform.
Without doubt, Putin comes out on top, as Moscow’s consistent stance that it has no territorial ambitions over Ukraine has been vindicated. What emerges, on the other hand, is that Russia wants to preserve Ukraine’s territorial integrity and is willing to contribute to that end – provided, of course, Russia’s legitimate interest in a Ukraine that gets along well equally with both the West and Russia is ensured. The German and French leaders seem to get the point. But what about their trans-Atlantic partner in Washington? President Barack Obama is finding himself almost in the same boat as Poroshenko. Today’s accord will be torn to pieces by Obama’s neocon critics who will accuse him of having ‘appeased’ Russia. They want the US to go to war, if need be, to stop Russia’s ‘aggression’. Some harsh writings have already begun appearing in the north american media. The Ukrainian emigre community is very influential in Canadian politics, too.