Ukraine/DPR+LPR: Death of the Minsk Agreements and the Onset of Many a Speech
Death of the Minsk Agreements and the Onset of Many a Speech
[Image: Mr. Fish]
Publication date: 2022-02-22
Update 2022-02-22: more sources and commentary will be added as interesting or informative sources are identified. For now, Joe Lauria and Ray McGovern have been added.
Update 2022-02-23: an ‘Updates’ section (a sort of ‘Post Script’) has been added to include commentary to balance any non-opinion based assertions in the text based on recent developments. More informed commentary has also been added at the end of Sources in a new section “More Sources”. Scroll to the bottom of the article for them.
Lastly, a Culture section has been added. Pump up the volume. Thanks to Norman Soloman and his article at Antiwar for inspiration.
If you are interested in the level of military activity happening in eastern Ukraine as derived from the OSCE’s SMM data, see this article.
Following an overwhelming request (351 for, 16 against, 1 abstention) from the Russian Duma to recognize the independence to the two self-declared republics in eastern Ukraine to be sent directly to the President (the Communist Party resolution) versus an alternate resolution (310 votes) which would have had the resolution sent via the Russian Foreign Ministry (United Russia Party, of which Putin is a member) Russian Federation President Putin called a meeting of the Russian Security Council (RSC) to debate the matter. The RSC meeting was live televised to the nation from the historic Catherine Hall in the Kremlin. RSC is perhaps a misnomer in that while security is one of its primary concerns it is one of the leading if not the most influential policy bodies within Russia's political system.
The RSC debate amounted to when a recognition of the republics should be issued, not if.
Much to the surprise of most of the world's policy elite and diplomatic core President Putin within hours issued a lengthy national televised address which ended with his declaration that he would sign the request issued by the Duma. I reiterate, the President agreed to sign a request issued by the parliament by a massive majority, and supported by the most influential policy body . This he then immediately did, recognizing the independence of the Lugansk People's Republic (LPR) and Donetsk People's Republic (DPR). He then approved a request for assistance already received from the DPR. He instructed the Foreign Ministry to establish diplomatic ties with the two republics and instructed Russia's Ministry of Defense to prepare for sending a peacekeeping force to the DPR. It seems likely that upon receiving a parallel request from the LPR a peacekeeping force, and other assistance will also be approved. Update: Andrei Martyanov informs us that identical provisions for LPR had already been issued.
The recognition of LPR+DPR provides Russia with the ability to send assistance in the form of essential goods and services (food, water, power, doctors, financial services etc.) and security forces to the republics as it now does not consider these territories as Ukrainian. This key topic is discussed further below.
Consortium News’ Editor-in-Chief, Joe Lauria, has published an informative, recent background to the actions taken by Russia.
The two key announcements of the recognition of independence and issuing of support for LPR+DPR occurred late in the evening of Monday 2022-02-21 Russian time (between 22:00 and 23:00) which places them around 14:00 on the USA's east coast or around 20:00 CET (European central time). The fact that official responses from both the USA and the EU are so brief indicates that they, along with much of the world's policy establishment, were largely caught off guard.
Some analysts, Scott Ritter comes to mind, have been observing for some time during the whole Ukrainian tension, which began around a year ago and lead to last northern summer's Summit between Biden and Putin, it has been Russia that has held the initiative. This latest development, having so wrong footed both the "establishment" and many an analyst serves to highlight the point.
President of the European Commission (elected by the parliament, not the people) Ursula von der Leyen stated:
The recognition of the two separatist territories in #Ukraine is a blatant violation of international law, the territorial integrity of Ukraine and the #Minsk agreements.
The EU and its partners will react with unity, firmness and with determination in solidarity with Ukraine.
Here we see what will be the likely three objections by those counter to Russia's choices of action. Now, Twitter is not a great place to make legal arguments, and us members of the considered commentariat await informed legal argument as to what is in "blatant violation of international law". It seems reasonable that sovereign countries can recognize the independence of whatever they want. In the end whether that recognition is, aaaaah, recognized by the rest of the international community is what matters. Unsurprisingly, French President Macron has called for an immediate emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council, and this has just concluded as this article is being posted.
As for the "territorial integrity of the Ukraine" it would be reasonable to argue that the country which threatened it was Ukraine itself by sending its military rather than police and aid workers against the breakaway republics in 2014 and 2015. LPR+DPR did not recognize the new Ukrainian government, and quite rightly. It was not elected, but installed following a coup. While elections have been held since in Ukraine, policies issued by the government have demoted Russian as a language, and economically isolated the eastern provinces including removal of social services and access to pensions. This is on top of the continued aggression. It would be fair to say that Ukraine has not only lost control of the regions but continued to antagonize them for over 7 years.
Lastly we get to the Minsk Agreements. It is certainly true that Russia's decision to recognize the independence of the republics scuttles the Minsk Agreements. However, since 2015, Ukraine itself has been resolutely resisting the core component of the agreements which is to provide autonomy to the regions via a constitutional amendment. The key interlocutors for the agreement were the government of Ukraine and representatives of the two breakaway republics, with a collection of groups to facilitate; the OSCE and its three-part contact group and the "Normandy Four" (Ukraine, France, Germany and Russia). Ukraine has been undermining both the negotiations component and the implementation component. Now Russia has also said they're sick of sitting on the merry-go-round and have joined Ukraine itself in getting off. Have fun France and Germany! You had 7 years, and we see no sign of change.
From the "not a signatory to anything, but an essential player nonetheless" USA we have the following statement from a spokesperson for President Biden:
President Biden has issued, today, an executive order that will prohibit new investment, trade, and financing by U.S. persons to, from, or in the so-called DNR and LNR regions. This EO will also provide authority to impose sanctions on any person determined to operate in those areas of Ukraine.
We will take further measures tomorrow to hold Russia accountable for this clear violation of international law and Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as of Russia’s own international commitments.
So, the USA is issuing economic sanctions against its own people for any economic activity in LPR or DPR. Okay.
Then we get back to "violation of international law" and "sovereignty and territorial integrity" as discussed above.
From the commentariat, Caitlin Johnstone questions the legitimacy of the USA to talk about matters of sovereignty or territorial integrity, and pre-issues defenses against the usual “whataboutism” and “two wrongs don’t make a right” deflections. Prof. Robinson has issued a reserved initial response noting risks ahead. The usually level headed Anatol Lieven begins his response by declaring Russia’s actions “illegal under international law” without describing how, which illustrates the “Overton window” type restraints under which the Quincey Instutite finds itself.
The ever thoughtful Ray McGovern zooms out for a far wider view.
Obviously, "the west" is going to completely throw its toys out of the pram over this. Expect lots of the three points on "international law", "territorial integrity" and "Minsk Agreements". The response has already been planned, economic sanctions. The most dangerous of those, denying Russia access to the SWIFT international bank messaging system has been pushed down by financial institutions in Europe and eventually quietly by the U.S (Private) Federal Reserve as the effect on the world economy would be devastating.
Thus, the likely sanctions will have a small effect on the economic front, and denial of technology transfers to Russia will also have temporary and probably minor effect. Time will tell, as the cliche goes.
In the short term a greater issue is Russian gas supply to Europe. Russia's actions will have likely scuttled not just the Minsk Agreements but also the Nord Stream II pipeline. This will raise global gas prices and place quite a strain on Germany's manufacturing sector, raising its prices. Rises in energy supply costs ripple through an entire economy, from fertilizer production to the operation of hospitals. On the home heating front, luckily, the beginnings of Spring have been detected during pauses on the edges of the big storm "Eunice" which recently visited Europe (I know, I live here). Europe's challenge will be resupplying her gas reserves before next winter arrives. She does not have the shipping port transfer capacity or storage capacity for liquid natural gas, and LNG costs will rise. Significantly increasing either of those capacities in 6 to 12 months will be next to impossible.
The impending Russian peacekeeping forces for LDPR+DPR, will be used by the west to drive their "invasion" narrative. To get a better sense of that, it may be useful to ask the people of LPR+DPR how they feel about it. But, narratives are narratives and its obvious what is coming. There will be grandstanding speeches and not much will be done.
Any military analyst worth their saltpeter acknowledges that NATO fighting Russia in a ground war on her western flank is destined to end very badly for NATO.
The core of what seems to be occurring is a varied repetition of the events in Georgia in 2008. The "west" attempts to influence and destabilize a region, previously a part of the USSR, which has a significant Russian speaking/heritage community. The end result is that the territory which the west attempts to gain influence over is fractured into its dominant ethnic components. Those of dominant Russian heritage gain Russia's support and are carved off from the larger whole.
A summary of Russia's action may be "the least worst scenario". Russia really did want the Minsk Accords to succeed. It is far better for her to have all of Ukraine re-unified and to have those autonomous regions within it that can then exert political influence over greater Ukraine to prevent her joining NATO and accepting intermediate range weaponry on her territory. The worst scenario is either all of Ukraine joining NATO or Russia invading and trying to control all of Ukraine and suffering a drawn out insurgency which would deplete resources and during which many would die. The recognition of LPR+DPR enables Russia to defend the 700 000 Russian citizens there, and the greater ethnic Russian community. The political situation will remain unsettled for years, which essentially denies even the remainder of Ukraine joining NATO for the foreseeable future.
There are hidden landmines in this. What will happen in Odessa or Kharkiv? These regions of Ukraine are also dominantly Russian and are being somewhat oppressed by Kyiv. The west needs make a very careful choice here. Can they run some media bluster and an interminably long sequence of meaningless speeches for local political gain but quietly inform Kyiv to pull its head in? Do they need to remove Zelensky who has become a bit of a loose cannon?
The days ahead will be very interesting.
A Polemic Against the Mainstream
(Takes off "balanced" commentator hat, places on sideboard, reaches for a glass of wine and a pen, pauses, breathes out and nods.)
While attempting to divine Vladimir Putin's mind is a fools errand, one can make an attempt at the combined political and economic elite of the Russia Federation on their journey with the support of China into a new world order, as it were. The unipolar world is gone. A new multipolar world is being birthed, and in this moment the Russian Federation's executive, at the behest of its legislature and elite policy forum (the RSC) have placed what may turn out to be quite a significant marker in the sand.
Let us name the actors behind the actions to support the LPR+DPR as the "RSC", for brevity. People who claim that Putin is a dictator ruling over the Federation are idiots. There's a group, a cabal, a team of advisers, a clique, a continuously shifting band of influencers, a menagerie of fools; call them what you will. The traits one is likely to find among them are patriotism, a desire for stability, a little nationalism and perhaps more universally a belief in Russia's journey now that the political excesses of Russia’s Soviet Communist period and the looting of the 1990's have been set behind them.
A period of rebuilding, reversing the desperation and economic suffering visited upon Russia in the 1990’s was required. Her industries needed to be bent towards the health of her social fabric to recover her strength. Russia and her "friendly neighbour" China watched the events of the Rose revolution in Georgia, then the abuse of the U.N. Security Council "no-fly" resolution over Libya, continuing through the proxy war visited on Syria. By this time, Russia's economy and probably more importantly military and military technology had been rebuilt and revamped. I believe that far too few people understand the gift that was offered to Russia by Syria when Syria requested assistance. Yes, Russia received continued approval of its naval base at Tartus, and a new airfield at Khmeimim. That's the trade, not the advantage. What did Russia gain from her role in protecting Syria's government from being overrun by a bunch of religious zealots wielding US weapons and sacks of dollars? She got the chance to test her military, their new technology, and her military intelligence capability. I have no idea why people don't comment on this. It is staring everyone in the face. Do policy “elites” think they just flew are few planes around and had fun?
When the whole "Afghanistan withdrawal" happened China and Russia were informing the Taliban that the new Afghan government would receive strong support but only if they cracked down on religious extremists. It’s again, a trade. You kick out NATO and we'll give you food and enough energy. If you also get rid of the religious extremists you can join our little economic corridor and we'll invest in your country. You choose. The reason that Russia can enter these discussions is because of what she had learnt in Syria: how the extremists operate. Its a rewind to the 1980’s disarmament era and the “trust but verify” mantra. Russia had the ability to verify reductions in extremism in Afghanistan and that is the gateway to Chinese investment.
A spectrum of different types of operations by the western intelligence services from things like the Rose revolution in Georgia, to all of the shenanigans in Latin America, to the employ of religious extremists in the middle east had been observed by the greater world, and Russia and China particularly. Russia's military intelligence understands the modus operandi, and now if the rubber hits the road she has advanced military technology and a military that knows they have this, a bunch of commanders who have battle experience, and equally importantly a sufficiently well functioning counter-intelligence force to identify these actions as they’re being constructed. Russia + the CSTO’s put down of the attempted coup in Kazakhstan serves as an example of this combined capability.
In the background, a huge economic change had been constructed, the hardening of the Russian economy against external influence, including a dramatic reduction in debt and increase in reserves particularly in gold and non-USD currency. In parallel, China’s economy had burgeoned. Russia is secure in energy, food, and with China's help manufacturing goods. She also has most of the raw resources she needs for her manufacturing. Now, together with China as the world's leading economy and Russia possessing world's best equipped and trained military force for non-nuclear combat they have staked their claim to be given respect. In case it was missed, see what happened in Anchorage, March 2019, when neophyte Blinken walked into a room woefully under-prepared by his State Department and had his pants burnt off by his Chinese interlocutors.
So, back to the RSC (recall, we're using that term as a collective for the menagerie of “fools” who make up the Russian political/policy establishment) and the pressures being brought to bear. You probably wont read this in "western" media, but I put it to you that the most significant pressure felt by the RSC is from the Russian domestic population. The request to recognize LPR+DPR had huge political backing. Putin and advisers played for time, hoping that the new German leadership and the dancing Macron could push the Minsk Agreements forward. I firmly believe that this was always what Russia wanted. It was perfect for her. With that, and then via a piss-around extended negotiation silliness with USA+EU, given Russia's ability to influence things via the EU's energy reliance on Russia, the security guarantees and specifically the removal of short flight-time nuclear armed weapons from Russia's western borders, could have been achieved. I’m channeling my inner Ray McGovern here, the greybeard of greybeards, an honest ex-CIA political analyst and Russian specialist.
But, no. The west ignores the thrust of Russia's desires, continues endlessly to not pressure Ukraine to engage in the Minsk process, and finally with the pressure of the parliament and reported impending further escalation against the Russian citizen/speaking/heritage peoples in the breakaway republics, a crunch time is reached.
Of course, this does not happen on Monday. It was seen coming. Plans were in place for this eventuality. But, its not the optimal solution. In the end, it is forced, not by time but lack of options. Whether the published threat of an all out attack from Ukraine was real or not matters little. If it was felt as real, with the potential killing of many tens of thousands of Russia citizens/heritage, what would you do? I call it Russian democracy and compassion in action. Clearly, Russia was left with no room for manoeuvre and chose to rotate the board wrong-footing the entire “western policy elite”.
The really funny bit is how akilter the west was placed after the Russian policy change. How far did they think they could push Russia, with the level of Chinese backing she has and her level of military and military intelligence capability? I call idiots on the west.
It would be quite easy to say that "Putin has raised his middle finger to the west". That is to completely misunderstand the situation. My characterization would be, not that Putin would ever say such a thing:
Well, fuck you, you disorganised, incompetent idiots for pushing me into this position. But, I cannot sit by an let thousands of our people be killed or have their lives destroyed by your geopolitical ineptitude. I don't want a fight, but that's where you've pushed me, so either come and talk or grow some balls.
Needless to say, if you think Russia will try to "invade" all of Ukraine, you have got rocks in your head.
Meanwhile, the U.S embassy staff, already evacuated from Kyiv to Lvov, are now peddling their pushbikes to Poland while their masters peddle completely unconvincing narratives across an uneducated and thoughtless media.
While this article’s leading title of the “Death of Minsk (Agreement)” is politically true for now, both Russia and a Ukrainian political analyst on RT’s Cross Talk highlight that that process could be revived given a motivated Ukrainian government. The key point is that in the negotiations rather than implementation tracks of the process, Russia has no role. However, such a motivated Ukrainian government does not exist, and one would need to convince both of the breakaway republics to change position from independence with Russia security assurance into being autonomous regions of a greater Ukraine. This seems such a long stretch as being unrealistic. Nonetheless, the point is valid.
Putin Recognizes Donbass Independence as Violence Soars, Joe Lauria, Consortium News, 2022-02-21
(I have no idea how Joe prepared and published this extensive coverage so quickly, but hats off to him).
Perhaps The US Should Shut The Fuck Up About Respecting Other Countries' Sovereignty, Caitlin Johnstone, her newsletter, 2022-02-22
Quick reaction to Putin’s speech recognizing DPR/LPR, Paul Robinson, his newsletter, 2022-02-22
What Accounts for Putin’s Assertiveness on Ukraine?, Ray McGovern, AntiWar, 2022-02-22
Putin signs ‘immediate’ recognition of Donbass regions, RT, 2022-02-21
Russian parliament urges Putin to recognize Donbass, RT, 2022-02-15
Security Council meeting, Kremlin, 2022-02-21
Biden’s Ukraine policy has doomed the EU to years of decline and suffering, Mercouris and Christoforou, The Duran, 2022-02-22
Russia Moves to Recognise Donbass Republics as Shelling Continues and Diplomacy Flounders, Alexander Mercouris, his youtube channel, 2022-02-22
Escalation in Ukraine - NATO & Russia | Prof. Kuznick, Prof. Kuznick, acTVism Munich, 2022-02-22
Pepe Escobar provides are more geopolitical analysis of the situation in eastern Ukraine and the birth of the “Baby Twins” (LPR+DPR). It is a thoughtful, engaging article.
The Birth of the Baby Twins: Russia’s Strategic Swing Drives NATOstan Nuts, Pepe Escobar, Unz Review, 2022-02-22
Aaron Maté from The Grayzone interviews Professor Richard Sawak, an expert on EU/Russia relations and particularly on Ukraine, to seek a clarity both on recent events and their ancestry.
Rejecting NATO expansion, Putin recognizes forgotten Donbas civilians, Aaron Maté interviews Prof. Richard Sakwa, Pushback / The Grayzone, 2022-02-23
Eddie Vedder - Masters of War (Tribute Bob Dylan 30th Anniversary) HD, Eddie Vedder and band (Live at Madison Square Garden, New York, NY - October 1992), director's cat, uploaded 2011-12-04
If I have ever heard a song that is a eulogy to Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler, this is it. If you are a USA citizen and don’t know who Butler was, please learn. His principles and patriotism are an example so rarely seen since his passing. His portrait deserves to be hung in the Oval Office.
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