Ukrainian interest. From Minsk to Munich, and cold shower from the West
The anniversary of the Minsk agreements is not celebrated, it’s just a date amid Ukraine’s continued attempts to use the deal’s low efficiency in the interests of the state. Several western centers of influence have stated their positions regarding the political situation in Ukraine. Relations between Russia and Turkey are further worsening.
There is definitely no shortage in interpretations and assessments of Minsk agreements. It is clear that the document is far from perfect, and each party reads it the way most beneficial to them. Perhaps, over time, the outcome of negotiations in the Belarusian capital on February 11-12, 2015, will be used as an example of a compromise - the art of the possible. Ukraine was allowed to win time, strengthen its armed forces and finally realize that the implementation of this document may be the subject of political bargaining with the West. There is no sense in bargaining with Russia, which ignores the need to adhere to the provisions of the Minsk deal.
The meeting of the Normandy Four foreign ministers at the international conference on security in Munich early Saturday saw no diplomatic breakthrough, quite expectedly. It’s not just that French FM Laurent Fabius was replaced by Jean-Marc Ayrault, but also that Russia is trying to play big with the world community, on a pitch stretching from Donbas to Syria. Who knows, maybe tomorrow weapons of mass destruction for North Korea will come into play. Ahead of the Munich conference, Sergey Lavrov traditionally accused Kyiv of sabotaging the Minsk deal, and there is no reason to believe that the Kremlin's position has changed a bit.
Both Petro Poroshenko and Pavlo Klimkin Munich intend to use the event, including its backstage, to promote the issue of Crimea, where the Russian FSB security service has launched a massive “law enforcement offensive” on the Crimean Tatars. Dysfunctional Minsk agreements allow searching for opportunities to seek for a new negotiating format, in which Russia is not interested, for obvious reasons. But one should not discount the Turkish factor since the relations between Ankara and Moscow has continued to deteriorate as both countries have been rattling sabers intensively. Against the background of such escalation, any prospects for a peaceful settlement in Syria are becoming more elusive, although Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan mentioned direct connection between the Russian bombings and an increase in the number of refugees in Europe. Quite surprisingly, he was supported by German Chancellor Angela Merkel who stressed that she was shocked by the actions of the Russian combat aircraft.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg assured that the Alliance is not going to go to war in Syria, but will strengthen its presence in Lithuania and Turkey in light of the Russian military maneuvers. NATO is set to deploy a 40,000 strong rapid reaction spearhead force in Europe to deter possible aggression. The NATO chief also pledged political and practical support for Ukraine. It should be noted that Stoltenberg has not found a common language with Sergey Lavrov in Munich despite the fact that the meetings in the capital of Bavaria are one of the few platforms for dialogue between Russia and the West. By the way, just ahead of his Munich visit, Lavrov explicitly noted that the EU would have to decide on further sanctions against Russia.
It’s not enough today to just keep reminding the world about Ukraine’s confrontation with Russia. A real change within the country is needed. This was reported by Christine Lagarde who chose the Ukrainian issue as one of the most important ones to manifest her adherence to certain principles as the IMF’s Managing Director. Petro Poroshenko and Joe Biden have also talked about reform, as the latter continues to be in charge of the “Ukrainian affairs” in the Obama administration. Meanwhile, the European Union demanded from the Ukrainian authorities the fight against corruption confirmed by the actual facts. Of course, Kyiv may ignore these persistent wishes of Ukraine’s Western partners, but in this case, the prospect of being left alone to deal with the Russian aggression and the inner problems will become very real for Ukraine.