Alone with a bear

Roman Tsymbaliuk
11:40, 22 June 2016
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The world keeps saying that the Minsk agreements have no alternative. However, it’s getting increasingly clearer that this negotiation process is in a deadlock, it's like a tunnel with no light at its end. And that in the foreseeable future, there will be no successful resolution of the conflict. As a result, European politicians are getting increasingly curious, in public: why suffer from the sanctions if there is no visible end to this war?

Last week's St. Petersburg Economic Forum was a demonstration of fatigue from Donbas of the European politicians - both in office and the former ones. The highlight of the event was ex-president of France Sarkozy, who was frankly imploring Putin to become the first party to remove countersanctions because "the strong must reach out first, and the most powerful is Russia and President Putin." During his speech, it turned out that Ukraine's integration into Europe was a mistake, while the halt of the Russian army’s offensive forty kilometers from Tbilisi in 2008 was exactly the manifestation of that Russian strength. Sarcozy claimed he was the one who personally persuaded the Russians to not seize the Georgian capital. Italian Prime Minister Renzi did not look so toothless and even tried to talk back after Putin almost openly called the Europeans Washington’s minions. After all, according to the Russian logic, all the evil comes from the U.S. and it’s the Americans who forced Europe to stick to this sanctions line to its own detriment.

There are less political forces in Europe these days, which are ready to give up Russian money in order to support Ukraine

It is clear now that sanctions against Russia will continue for at least another six months. But six months later, there will be more European votes for their lifting. And it's not looking good for Ukraine: there are less political forces in Europe, which are ready to give up Russian money in order to support us.

Europe is afraid (or, due to economic bonuses, does not want) to call a spade a spade. But if one engages in verbiage and ignores the real situation on the ground, there can be no talk about any conflict settlement. What happened? Russia occupied militarily part of the Ukrainian Donbas, and now it has full military, political and economic control over these territories. Is this a secret for anyone? No, it’s not. There has been an enormous pile of evidence collected with thousands of confirmations of Russia’s military presence in the east of Ukraine. Even this week, on Monday, the OSCE monitors have spotted the Russian military jamming station Zhitel outside Donetsk. And no one has had the courage to say that it is an invasion, and not some kind of a revolt of the “miners and farmers." Reports of endless attacks have become so commonplace that they are no longer interesting for the Western media. At the same time, against the background of constant Russian attacks, Moscow says let's proceed to the political part of the negotiations. Translated into normal language, this means that the Kremlin shows it will continue killing the Ukrainian soldiers as long as Kyiv doesn’t agree with the Kremlin the constitutional amendments providing for neutrality and the special status of the occupied Donbas, with the right to veto any decisions of the Ukrainian authorities. And there are some other “minor” things: the amnesty / legalization of militants and giving the Russian language and official status of a second state language.

To fall for such demands means to open the gates for the Moscow Trojan horse. Moreover, this horse doesn’t even hide its militaristic intentions

Unfortunately, this message of the Kremlin is gradually beginning to find understanding in the West. They say, Kyiv does not fulfill its obligations under the Minsk-2. It’s just not clear where in this document is the occupation legitimized. Why is it necessary to fulfill provisions right from the paragraph 4, which spells out the political part?! No Ukrainian government would be able to meet the demands of Moscow, even if it was willing to. To fall for such demands means to open the gates for the Moscow Trojan horse. Moreover, this horse doesn’t even hide its militaristic intentions.

Meanwhile, the Russian president has already stated that Russia "holds no grudge” against Europe and suggested that EU policymakers make a step forward to the European business and regain trust in Russian-European relations. That is, Moscow says almost explicitly that it will negotiate directly with the European industrial groups and it’s an open question, how it will all end for EU leaders. It's only Putin's presidency which is limited to a biological life span, but the reign of Merkel, Hollande, or Poroshenko could actually end after the next election. The new political situation in Europe may be far less friendly toward Ukraine. The sanctions may be eased or even removed, as well as the other forms of pressure on Russia. The Ukrainians will have to deal with their problems and to tame their arrogant neighbors on their own, without any support from the West, and it would be like going in a cage with a hungry bear. And, instead of begging for a lethal aid from the West, it would be necessary to concentrate more on its own security. After all, despite all the declarations and Ukraine's desire to join NATO, we remain a non-aligned country, for which no one will really stand up.

Roman Tsymbaliuk, Moscow

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