Wednesday, March 23, 2016

If One Rereads the Minsk Agreements, One Must Conclude that Putin and the Kremlin Has Already Pledged Returning Crimea

Thanks to a generous hint by a professional whom I've never met, I looked again at Lavrov's recent worded coded confession on where Moscow stands and wants to stand in the New World Order. I am talking about his piece "Russia's Foreign Policy: Historical Background." Specifically, the issue concerns the status of Crimea and its role in any deal, which the Kremlin has clearly (to me at least) tried to seek over the last two years with a mixture of its now famous/notorious cunning and desperation.

The relevant passage is here and it comes from the very end of Lavrov's article:

"I repeat, we are not seeking confrontation with the United States, or the European Union, or NATO. On the contrary, Russia is open to the widest possible cooperation with its Western partners. We continue to believe that the best way to ensure the interests of the peoples living in Europe is to form a common economic and humanitarian space from the Atlantic to the Pacific, so that the newly formed Eurasian Economic Union could be an integrating link between Europe and Asia Pacific. We strive to do our best to overcome obstacles on that way, including the settlement of the Ukraine crisis caused by the coup in Kiev in February 2014, on the basis of the Minsk Agreements."

The first part may look like an empty cliche and it surely looks that. At the same time, it may, however, also be seen as Moscow's reaffirmed consent to offer and prostrate Russia to the West as an open "common and humanitarian space" all the way to the Pacific Ocean (if going from Europe east). Lavrov does say and emphasize that Putin and the Russian government is trying all they can to move away "obstacles on that way" of availing the West of all that vast space as the West's (new) commons--the vast territory of Russia as a vast "common space." This is of cardinal, fundamental importance, but the hint concerned Crimea and not this fundamental agreement of all other agreements.

The part concerning Crimea comes in the last sentence where Crimea is ostensibly not mentioned at all: "We strive to do our best to overcome obstacles on that way, including the settlement of the Ukraine crisis caused by the coup in Kiev in February 2014, on the basis of the Minsk Agreements."

Yes, one has to note that Lavrov here effectively stresses that the Minsk Agreements are the basis of the settlement of the Ukrainian crisis as a whole--namely that the Minsk Agreements are and were never only about Donbass or the one third of Donbass controlled by the DPR and the LPR as a specially created Hobbesian reservation for the most recalcitrant Russians. This means that the principles of the Minsk Agreements are, according to Lavrov or the wording he is using, also binding and valid for settling the whole of the Ukrainian crisis, and this, by definition, has to include Crimea as well. If so, what exactly does this mean? What are the principles or the key principle enshrined in the Minsk Agreements sealed by Putin that provides this "basis" for settling the Ukrainian crisis as a whole?

Well, if one casts another look at the Minsk Agreements (as I was compelled to cast yet another look at Lavrov's piece), one will find this: "Pullout of all foreign armed formations, military equipment, and also mercenaries from the territory of Ukraine ..." This is one of the last points in the Minsk Agreement of February 12, 2015. Note that the text, much like Minsk 1 from September 2014, don't pretend to be restricted only to Donbass. In fact, they conveniently leave out geographic limitations and, instead, use language that speaks of Ukraine as a whole--in the citation given above, the reference is made to "the territory of Ukraine" and not just the DPR and the LPR or whatever other label might have been for them, since they are not recognized as such even by Moscow.

But the crux, the real "meat", comes from the Joint Declaration, which, if you review the press coverage from that time, was actually Germany's and France's main objective when coming to the meeting with Putin (; And the "basis" for settlement of the Ukrainian crisis as a whole is right there:

"The President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, the President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, the President of the French Republic, François Hollande, and the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, Dr. Angela Merkel, reaffirm their full respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. They firmly believe that there is no alternative to an exclusively peaceful settlement. They are fully committed to undertake all possible individual and joint measures to this end."

Putin vows here "full respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine"--no exception is assumed or granted for Crimea whatsoever. In this form, the text is clear--it does not exempt Crimea by passing it in silence. By not singling out Crimea, Crimea is included: "there is no alternative." Moreover, three out the four parties made it always clear that this is also who they understand Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity. The demand for the declaration and the language used here is also utterly theirs.

The declaration was then elevated in status to the unanimously adopted UN Security Council Resolution 2202 on February 17, 2015, the very first sentence of the otherwise brief in itself resolution reads:

"“The Security Council, Recalling the purposes and principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations and reaffirming its full respect for the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine ..."

FULL respect for (full) sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. In fact, there is no other principle stated as the basis for the settlement of the crisis in Ukraine--in the whole of Ukraine. No self-determination, no fascism, no sorting out of fundamental political or ideological dispute etc.

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