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Opinion: Minsk, War, and Panic-Mongers

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Opinion: Minsk, War, and Panic-Mongers

Opinion: Minsk, War, and Panic-Mongers

By Rostislav Ishchenko

Translated from Russian by J.Hawk

I once named the pack (yes, a pack, because the internal struggle over budget share is waged with greater intensity than the struggle with political adversaries) of certain comrades “militarists” (yes, in quotes).  It’s well known that quotations give the term the opposite meaning. These comrades pretended they did not understand and are still telling everyone they’d have taken Washington a long time ago, but the “peacemakers” won’t let them. And along the way they are inventing all manner of “exclusive” stories with all the hallmarks of conspiracy theories.

In actuality these comrades are neither militarists nor patriots. They are ordinary, poorly informed, panic-mongers. If they don’t understand something it means they were betrayed. The Commander-in-Chief should not merely ask their advice, but rather report and explain his every move. They can guide the actions of any government minister as well as the entire government. They know the Kremlin’s secrets better than the NSA and the White House’s secrets better than the FSB and SVR put together.

In general, in 1941 such people also yelled that Stalin, government, all the bolsheviks, and the gold reserve all fled to Siberia, that we were “betrayed,” and “what are we dying for?” Those who were caught were shot. Those who weren’t caught welcomed the Germans with bread and salt and joined the polizei. Because they were “betrayed,” “Stalin let them down,”, “they let the Germans in,” etc. Of course there was no internet, but there was a martial law which allowed such panic-mongers to be quickly and effectively relieved of their worldly sufferings.

The panic-mongers’ main effigy, their main proof of the betrayal theory became Minsk. Blog field marshals and comment generalissimos are using the name of the capital of Belarus as a universal proof of the Kremlin’s treacherous intent, which for some reason cannot be implemented by the Kremlin. They want to surrender to Obama, yet they are strengthening Novorossia’s army. Obviously in order to put the panic-mongers’ vigilance to sleep.


So let’s have a look at this terrible “treasonous” Minsk, if not by points than at least by its content. Maybe then we’ll understand why it’s so feared not only by Russian panic-mongers but also by the Ukrainian Nazis whose fears have a genuine political foundation.

Let’s start with two quotes:
1. Russian MFA statement from 17 July 2015

“The Russian side is worried about the continuing Ukrainian crisis, and problems experienced in attempts to resolve it. Kiev is very selective in its interpretation of the Minsk Agreement from 12 February 2015 and its implementation.

The recently introduced draft amendments to Ukraine’s Constitution before the Verkhovna Rada, specifically the aspects concerning decentralization, were prepared not only without the participation of actual representatives of Donetsk and Lugansk, but without taking into consideration the interests of the South-East of Ukraine. This document is in no way relevant to the Minsk Agreement, which clearly specify actions necessary to ensure the permanent special status of the Donbass, decentralization of authority in accordance with the list that was laid out in detail in Point 11 of the Minsk “Set of Measures”.

We are calling on the Ukrainian side to stop creating the illusion of a political resolution process and to closely adhere both to the letter and spirit of Minsk-2.

We also count on our Western partners that they will not encourage such irresponsible Kiev policies but rather convince the government of Ukraine to start a genuine and nation-wide political dialogue.

2. The interview of RF Government Chairman Dmitriy Medvedev to RTV Slovenia from 24 July 2015.

“You know, history is both harsh and swift. I’ll refer to those events which are more relevant to you. Let’s ask, say, Russia’s youth: who remembers Yugoslavia?

I mentioned Yugoslavia only because, I hope, we won’t have to try to recall in the near future the fact there used to be a country called Ukraine. Because Ukraine’s existence currently depends on the wisdom, patience, tact, willingness to compromise, and desire to reach an agreement on the part of all those who makes decisions on Ukraine’s territory. I’m referring to the authorities in Kiev and the political forces in the South-East.”

What can we draw from these two documents, given that every word in MFA statements or Prime Minister’s interview (especially those concerning foreign policy) was chosen with microscopic precision?

First of all, Russia’s MFA is letting its European partners know that Moscow is concerned by Kiev’s failure to fulfill Minsk Agreements. Russia’s concern is related specifically to the failure to implement Point 11 which talks of ensuring a special status for the Donbass and the “decentralization of authority.” Kiev’s de-facto sabotage of all remaining points is described by only one word–escalation–without indicating which points were violated and what their content is. MFA statement concludes with calling upon Kiev to fulfill the obligations it undertook, and upon the European intermediaries and guarantors to influence their Ukrainian wards.

Naturally, as far as our “panic-mongers” are concerned, the MFA’s encouragement is yet another “convincing proof” of Russia’s “cowardice” which, instead of launching nuclear missiles at anyone who looks at it askance, is limiting itself to some meaningless statements. “You know what the Americans would have done,” the panic-mongers will say and will be wrong. Before even trying to bomb Assad (which they still haven’t dared to do), the US, being at the peak of its international power, spent an entire year issuing statements and trying to legalize their intent through international organizations. Even overthrowing the luckless Yanukovych who feared his own shadow and was ready to capitulate after the first howl by the US ambassador, took three months of statements and agreements.

In general, it is not acceptable to launch bombers, and especially tank assaults, out of the blue and without warning. There are always lengthy explanations first. They are especially lengthy when each of the parties to the conflict is backed by a superpower, in order to avoid accidentally starting a nuclear Apokalypse. The all-knowing panic-mongers, naturally, seem to believe that nobody would start a nuclear war, but politicians are perfectly aware how many times the world came to within two minutes of a catastrophe and how easily the conflict spiral can be launched–two or three public exchanges of threats, and next thing you know each superpower has a choice of shameful capitulation or a suicidal nuclear launch.

When the MFA says “we expect,” “we call on”, “we are concerned,” in translation to a language understood by the panic-mongers they sound approximately “you’ll have to answer for those words,” and “I’m gonna punch you in the mouth.”

Secondly, a week after the MFA statement Medvedev gives his RTV Slovenia interview. If one were to strictly observe the division of responsibility among Russia’s top officials, the Prime Minister should have been talking about bilateral trade: projects, prospects, trade volume, economic cooperation, etc. Such questions are not asked spontaneously. The head of government’s apparatus works very attentively on them. They reject the questions which are undesirable or which are outside his competence. Nevertheless, Dmitriy Anatolyevich is paying close attention to the Ukraine issue and continues to decipher the thought which was started by the MFA statement.

One wouldn’t want Ukraine to suffer the fate of former Yugoslavia, but everything depends on Kiev’s ability to reach an agreement with the South-East. Everyone knows that Yugoslavia fell apart into six parts in the course of a bloody civil war complicated in its final stages by an foreign intervention. Medvedev says “one wouldn’t want”, but he doesn’t rule out this (Yugoslav) scenario for Ukraine. If he wanted to simply mention the possibility of collapse, he would have used a different example. Czechoslovakia fell apart too.

The reference to the need to reach an agreement with the South East is a signal to our “friends and partners” that Russia is washing its hands of the matter and Kiev will have to talk directly to Donetsk and Lugansk or else prepare to share Yugoslavia’s fate.

So what do we have, overall? Kiev is not fulfilling Minsk Agreements, specifically Point 11. Therefore Russia is concerned that Ukraine’s situation will grow much worse (just as Yugoslavia’s). If someone wants to prevent things from getting this bad, someone should force Kiev to negotiate directly with the South East. Incidentally, the term South-East is broader than DPR and LPR.

Moreover, the entire set of Minsk measures is not being implemented, specifically:
1. “the full and immediate cease-fire”–pt.1

2. “withdrawal of all heavy armaments by both sides by the same distance”, from 50km to 140km–pt.2

3.  beginning dialogue “on the modalities of local elections” and about the status of the Donbass–pt.4.

4. pardons and amnesties–pt.5

5. exchange of “all for all”–pt. 6

6. ensuring safe humanitarian aid delivery–pt. 7

7. full restoration of socio-economic contacts–pt. 8

8. disarming illegal formations–pt. 10

9. consultations on matters concerning local elections–pt. 12

From that list, one may consider pt. 3 as partially implemented, as it assumes the ceasefire monitoring by OSCE. Point 9 is also ignored (Ukraine assuming border control) because its implementation is delayed until the final political resolution of the conflict.

Nevertheless, the Russian side, noting Kiev’s sabotage of Minsk Agreements in general, focused on Point 11. The remainder is not being referenced at all. But Pt. 11 is so important that the European “friends and partners” are being told en clair that Ukraine either fulfills it or it suffers the fate of former Yugoslavia. Moreover, that thought was expressed at a level so high that only the President outranks it. In fact this is the final warning.

Characteristically, Ukraine behaves in a similar manner. As long as the Kiev press writes about “Russian-terrorist forces” once again “fired upon themselves,” the official Kiev is conducting stubborn positional battles around pt. 11, even though it would appear its implementation would give Kiev control over the border. That’s what the panic-mongers are drawing attention to. Kiev will implement Point 11, get control over the border, and crush the Donbass. But Kiev is not listening to the good advice of its Russian fans who for already a year and a half can’t find confirmation for their theories. And it’s not implementing Point 11.

What is more, on 16 September 2014 Verkhovna Rada adopted Law No. 5081 “On the special local government system in the separated parts of Donetsk and Lugansk regions” in a rather decent manner. Sufficiently decent that it’s even referred to in the Minsk Agreement text, and the rights and freedoms it guarantees the inhabitants of the Donbass were just in case duplicated by the vigilant Russian diplomacy and included in the attachments to the agreement text. As it turned out, it wasn’t for nothing.

Right after Minsk, as soon as it became clear that the law might have to be put in practice, it was amended. On 16 March 2015 Poroshenko signed Law No. 256-VIII. Now the provisions for Donbass special status enter into force not before but after special elections to the local government. Which upends the whole logic of Minsk, and of the law itself because now it turns out that Kiev demands the disarmament of those organizations (the people’s militia) which were supposed to become one of the main guarantors of Donbass security and of the irreversibility of the special status.

What is more, Point 11 demands that the special status be permanent in nature, in other words enshrined in the Constitution. First Kiev resisted for a long time, and then it added a reference to the self-government law to the transitional provisions of the Constitution, at the same time noting that the special status will last only for three years.

So it turns out that the “treasonous Minsk” is hated by Kiev, and especially by the Nazi militants, to the same extent as it is hated by the Russian panic-mongers. Except that in Kiev they are blaming Poroshenko of betraying them. But they are closer to the truth. In any event, in contrast to Russia where the panic-mongers represent a minority, in Ukraine there exists a negative consensus about Minsk that unites all the main political forces: status-quo politicians, Nazis, soldiers, volunteers, Maidan activists, and simply the concerned public. What is more, the US shares that attitude, supports Kiev in its attempts to undermine Minsk, and is trying to insert itself into the process to destroy it from within.

Where is the problem?

The problem is that after fulfilling Points 11-12 of Minsk Agreements, and their attachments, Kiev would officially acknowledge the legitimacy of the Donbass authorities which are not under its control. They would receive a broad autonomy, their military shield would be legalized, and the prohibition on international contacts would be lifted.

Can you imagine a Nazi dictatorship which coexists with an independent anti-fascist enclave. Me neither. Kiev can’t allow that to happen, because then a sizable proportion of Ukraine’s citizens will either desire to fall under the Donetsk jurisdiction, or to spread its effect on other parts of the country. Moreover, Western banderite regions of the country which are the base of the regime’s support will demand the broadest possible autonomy bordering on confederation. Kiev will lose the last remnants of its control not only over regional authorities and territories (regime leaders would survive that), but also over their resources. Kiev offices don’t simply generate money. In order to be able to steal and distribute, one has to command the remnants of the economy, collect taxes, and control the budget. If everything is transferred to the regions, nobody will want to control the central authority in Kiev, and the city will not only stop feeding its inhabitants but will become a burden to them.

Furthermore, the nazified army, the Nazi volunteer battalions, and Maidan activists simply can’t agree to implement Minsk. What were they fighting for, then? Any government which tries to start implementing Point 11 will be seen as traitors and be removed.

Finally, the US does not need peace. It does not need peace of any sort. But it especially does not wish to see a peace established by joint Russian and European efforts, with a studied ignorance of Washington’s attempts to involve itself in the Minsk process.

Russia is not against reaching its objectives through peace, without unnecessary losses and destruction. Minsk points create a sufficient basis for a rapid annihilation of the Kiev regime using intra-Ukrainian resources. That’s why Minsk includes (though they are not called that) the same demands that Moscow listed in February-March 2014: federalization, protection of Russian-speakers, and a legitimizing constitutional reform. But a regime which came to power through the force of arms and which is resting on bayonets will never leave of its own free will (too many crimes have been committed, and a loss of power would mean being held to account for them).

Therefore both sides are preparing for war and the Kremlin understands perfectly well that it will have to fight. The question being, when and how? In other words, how much time can be won to minimize the problems that will fall upon Russia due to the inevitable collapse of the Ukrainian state? Can the Ukrainian question be resolved using militia forces (which could be strengthened by the regions being liberated)? How effective will be the measures to split the unified anti-Russian front? How many of the measures to minimize Western economic pressure will be implemented? And most importantly: Will Russia and Europe be able to formally remain uninvolved in the shooting part of the conflict?

If the answer to the last question is an affirmative one, it means that Russia will win not only the direct military clash but also the diplomatic phase of the war. Or, as Liddell Hart taught, we’ll get a peace “better than the pre-war one.”

As long as we have the ability to strangle our enemy with diplomatic hugs within the framework of Minsk, we will march toward victory. When diplomacy is spent, then it will be time for more coarse measures. It’s just that, unlike the panic-mongers, we have strong nerves and we fight for victory “with little blood and on foreign territory.” And we have practically won already. I’m only afraid that even when Lvov is flying the Russian flag, the panic-mongers will still not be satisfied and will continue to argue that if only they got their way, they’d have conquered the whole world in half an hour, and their main argument will be: “We had to fight anyway!”

The funniest thing is that they will be absolutely convinced that if it weren’t for their vigilance on the Internet, the government would have capitulated before Obama and doomed Russia. But they didn’t dare. Because when the panic-mongers are panicking, they are so fearsome.

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