Just as the existing 'truce' in Ukraine has been made a total farce as 1000s of military and civilians have been killed, so any 'hope' that this weekend's "peace efforts" will result in anything but more talk is rapidly diminishing... Germany's Merkel exclaimed honestly that it's "uncertain whether this will be successful," seemingly resigned to the fact as she added, "but it's at least worth making an attempt." French President Hollande admitted that Ukraine's eastern regions likely need "strong autonomy." Ukraine's Poroshenko blustered that he "trusts" Merkel, that the economy is collapsing (more money please), that the country does not need peacekeepers and a lack of arms is fueling conflict (so send us weapons) while pushing for a Russian withdrawal and quick cease-fire. Finally Vladimir Putin blasted that Russia is unwilling to tolerate a post-Cold War global system dominated by one absolute leader, to which US VP Joe Biden remarked simply "get out of Ukraine." But apart from that, talks are going great...
Stocks rallied after hours on Friday on a spurious headline that peace talks were progressing...
That appears to be entirely false...
Merkel... not optimistic... (via Bloomberg)
"It’s uncertain whether this will be successful, but in my view and in the view of the French president, it’s at least worth making an attempt,” Merkel says in speech at the Munich Security Conference. “I feel that we at least owe it to those affected in Ukraine.”
“Russia needs to show its contribution” in defusing Ukraine crisis, Merkel says.
"This conflict can’t be solved militarily," Merkel says
Minsk accord must be fulfilled: Merkel
Hollande... does not see a united Ukraine anytime soon (via France24)
French President Francois Hollande called for “quite strong” autonomy for Ukraine’s eastern regions while speaking on France 2 TV. He also revealed part of the joint plan discussed in Moscow on the conflict’s solution. On Saturday, Hollande said that the eastern Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Lugansk need “rather strong” autonomy from Kiev.
“These people have gone to war," Hollande explained "It will be difficult to make them share a common life [with Kiev]."
Ukrainian President Poroshenko appears tro demand more money and weapons...
- *POROSHENKO: 5,638 PEOPLE KILLED IN UKRAINE CONFLICT SO FAR
- *POROSHENKO: UKRAINE HAS LOST 20% OF ITS INDUSTRIAL OUTPUT
- *POROSHENKO: ONLY THE MINSK AGREEMENT CAN STABILIZE UKRAINE
- *POROSHENKO: UKRAINE'S LACK OF ARMS IS FUELING CONFLICT
- *POROSHENKO SAYS UKRAINE DOESN'T NEED PEACEKEEPERS NOW
- *POROSHENKO SAYS PRIORITY IS CEASE-FIRE, RUSSIAN PULLOUT
Russia's Lavrov slammed NATO...
- *LAVROV TOLD STOLTENBERG NATO'S BUILDUP PROVOKING CONFRONTATION
- *LAVROV SAYS NATO BUILDUP WORSENS TENSIONS, UNDERMINES SECURITY
- *LAVROV: NATO BACKING UKRAINE'S CRACKDOWN WON'T FACILITATE PEACE
NATO’s backing for crackdown by Ukrainian govt in southeast doesn’t facilitate peaceful settlement of conflict, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov tells military alliance’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
NATO course to boost its military presence, infrastructure on its eastern flank, “substantial increase” in number of drills near Russia’s border worsen tension, provoke confrontation, undermine “entire system” of Euro-Atlantic security.
Putin added some more strategic spice... (via Bloomberg)
Russian President Vladimir Putin struck a defiant tone a day after talks in Moscow with the leaders of Germany and France failed to achieve a breakthrough in resolving the Ukraine crisis.
Russia won’t tolerate the post-Cold War global system dominated by a single leader, Putin said Saturday at a meeting with the Federation of Independent Trade Unions in Sochi.
“That type of world order has never been acceptable for Russia,” Putin said. “Maybe someone likes it and wants to live under a pseudo-occupation, but we won’t put up with it.”
To which US VP Joe Biden responded... (via CNN)
Vice President Joe Biden served up some blunt talk on Saturday, telling Russian President Vladimir Putin simply to "get out of Ukraine."
Speaking at the Munich Security Conference in Germany, Biden said the conflict had moved beyond the need for a "reset" with the relationship, instead requiring a "re-assertion" of the "fundamental bedrock principles on which European freedom and stability rest."
"We must judge ... any future agreement with Russia by the actions Russia takes on the ground, not by the paper they sign," Biden said. "Given Russia's recent history, we need to judge it by its deeds, not its words. Don't tell us, show us, President Putin. Too many times President Putin has promised peace and delivered tanks, troops, and weapons."
"We will continue providing Ukraine with security assistance, not to encourage war, but to allow Ukraine to defend itself," he said. "Let me be clear: We do not believe that there is a military solution in Ukraine. Let me be equally clear: We do not believe Russia has the right to do what they're doing."
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But apart from that, talks are progressing nicely...
- *POROSHENKO: WILL HAVE AN ANSWER ON CEASEFIRE IN HOURS OR DAYS (or weeks or months or never)
And as Daniel Hannan notes (via CapX.com),
...in a throwback to the Khruschev and Brezhnev eras, the Kremlin is seeking to detach Germany and France from Nato’s more hawkish Anglo-Saxon members. Angela Merkel and François Hollande oppose sending military or logistical support to Ukraine, and Vladimir Putin is now dealing directly with them, pointedly excluding Britain, the United States and Canada.
In theory, a peace settlement might be hammered out. While we don’t know the details of the current negotiations, the broad outlines of a deal were visible by the end of last year. Russia would, in effect, buy back the Crimea, possibly for a sum based on the capitalisation of its annual rent of the naval facilities there. The international community would recognise the new frontier – Crimea, after all, was the one part of Ukraine where there really was popular support for an Anschluss with Russia – and Russia, in exchange, would withdraw from the grim industrial towns of the Donets basin. Some form of local autonomy might well be part of the deal – a worthwhile reform in itself in a territory as large as Ukraine.
Here, though, is the question. Does Putin really want peace? Is his aim victory – and recognition of the annexation of Crimea would certainly constitute victory of a kind – or is it a continuation of the crisis? The conflict, after all, has sent his approval ratings above 80 per cent. When you are presiding over both poverty and autocracy, you need something else to legitimise your regime, and that something else, for Putin, is the sense of nationalism and unity engendered by a conflicts involving Russian irredenti.
The West never quite knows how to handle Vladimir Putin, and the crisis in Ukraine is, at least in part, a consequence of our prevarication.
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Perhaps - in the same way - US leadership needs a 'foreign' boogey-man to focus national attention away from what is under the surface a weak and extremely divided economic 'recovery'?
Nineteenth-century German historians had a phrase, Primat der Innenpolitik, meaning that all foreign policy was essentially driven by domestic concerns. One government would pick a fight with another, not because of geopolitical imperatives, but in order to shore up its support at home.
Shakespeare has Henry IV give his son some advice from the deathbed: “Be it thy course to busy giddy minds with foreign quarrels”