Why ceasefire deals aren't working and should Zelensky talk with Putin

Oleksandr Donii
20:30, 08 August 2019
Politics
1371 1
Opinion

Yet another ceasefire agreement, the so-called "harvest truce" announced in Donbas on July 21, was thwarted by enemy shelling, which killed four Ukrainian troops on August 6. That is, the first ceasefire negotiated in Minsk after Volodymyr Zelensky was elected President of Ukraine, had the same result as all the previous ones, struck during Poroshenko's presidency.

Why aren't any ceasefire agreements working? See, the question is whom we are negotiating after all... The occupation regime in the "DPR" and the "LPR" is just like in Crimea, but it also has certain mob features. Of course, we can negotiate with mobsters, but we can never be sure that they will follow up on their promises. And it should be born in mind that all ceasefire arrangements, including the latest one, were concluded precisely with mobsters.

Why aren't any ceasefire agreements working? See, the question is whom we are negotiating after all... The occupation regime in the "DPR" and the "LPR" is just like in Crimea, but it also has certain mob features

Minsk agreements were signed including by Alexander Zakharchenko and Igor Plotnitsky. Well, Zakharchenko is dead and Plotnitsky is God knows where… The latest truce was signed by some other people, who will one day give way to someone else. Mob bosses will be changing all the time, so believing that those thugs will start to live up to their obligations and standards of dignity would be delusional.

Besides, these mobsters are not independent in their decision-making. Above them are superiors (Russian intelligence and the Kremlin) who may simply give orders that are opposite to what they promised.

In addition, any mob has an unofficial hierarchy, so you never really know who opened fire: whether it's the people who are directly subordinate to these commanders, or some Russian security operatives or foreign intelligence agents, of whom mob bosses might not be aware.

So, trying to subjugate Russia to the demands of the Western world, all these "ceasefire deals" just won't work. They will have no effect.

Only a peace agreement could be effective. But it's possible either on the condition of Ukraine's capitulation (which is absolutely unacceptable to us) or on the condition of Russia's retreat. In our understanding, peace is only possible if the Ukrainian territories occupied by Russia are returned. Until these territories are returned, ceasefire agreements will keep being broken. We cannot guarantee any kind of truce because we can only bear responsibility for our own actions, not for those of the other side.

All these long-term negotiations and periodic "ceasefire agreements" are just illusions and attempts to appease the public, giving people some bits of hope

All these long-term negotiations and periodic "ceasefire agreements" are just illusions and attempts to appease the public, giving people some bits of hope. I stand in favor of a more honest way of communicating with society because any illusion will one day be broken anyway. When the latest ceasefire deal was concluded, I warned that it would not be respected, just as all previous ones weren't. That's because no one can guarantee that the other side will fulfill the agreement.

The first reaction of the Ukrainian authorities to the breached truce and the deaths of four troops was actually fairly adequate. It is very good that Volodymyr Zelensky immediately addressed the Western powers and, in particular, called for a Normandy Four meeting to be held as soon as possible. This is very reasonable, because such a step shows that Ukraine is not just expressing concern but immediately making it clear to the West: we are not okay with the developments. Perhaps this appeal to the West should have been made in stricter terms, including clearly pointing to the Russian side. But this is a matter of diplomatic phrasing, and I believe such phrasing should be clearer.

However, addressing the West immediately following the deadly enemy shelling, rather than simply expressing concern, was the right step.

Zelensky sent a clear signal to the West: we are seeing murders – we urgently need to convene to address this. This is correct, because if we cannot conclude effective agreements and guarantee a truce by ourselves, let other countries act as guarantors of these agreements. At first, we ourselves tried to conclude a truce, but the enemy apparently doesn't want to fulfill the deal, so the West must intervene – we need his help in this regard. This is a very correct approach.

And the next day, Volodymyr Zelensky called Vladimir Putin. While I absolutely support the Ukrainian president's appeal to the Western states, I'd say that I'm critical of this conversation initiated by our head of state.

The problem is that Putin perceives this call as a manifestation of weakness of the new Ukrainian president

On the one hand, we perfectly understand who in fact is at the helm of the "DPR/LPR" and who is responsible for decision-making. It's Vladimir Putin who strategically controls the situation, not some "leaders" of the "republics". That is why many spoke of the need for direct negotiations between Zelensky and Putin.

But on the other hand, the problem is that Putin sees the call as a manifestation of weakness of the new Ukrainian president. This is why often different world powers turn down the very idea of negotiating with terrorists because they are rightly worried that it may lead to aggravated aggression. For example, there are no reports on ransom being paid over fears that this may promote even more kidnappings.

So, if Putin is all about remaining dominant, the killings of Ukrainian troops may continue, just for the sake of having Zelensky call Putin more often.

Of course, there may be different assessments of this step by Zelensky. But in my opinion, it would be more appropriate to continue appealing to the West, to ensure that Western leaders keep calling Putin and exerting pressure on him. And such an indirect way of communicating with Putin would be more effective and reliable and less dangerous for Ukrainians because there is a risk that this move will only lead to more casualties.

Undoubtedly, the mere fact of this conversation could theoretically create another argument for the West, as if to say that, see, Ukraine tried this option as well, but it does not work, so the West has to do something. As I said before, there may be different concepts that could prompt Western leaders to negotiate directly with Putin… But I think it would be more appropriate if we acted as regards Putin the way the West acts against terrorists.

In any case, this is an ambiguous step that can be used in counter-propaganda against Zelensky. I think he realizes the risks.

Moreover, I'm not at all certain that Putin's words can be trusted. Therefore, there are great doubts as to whether the Ukrainian president's talks with his Russian counterpart actually make sense...

Oleksandr Doniy is a political analyst, head of the Center for Political Values ​​Studies, former MP

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