The last month has seen Russia pull out of peace talks (citing attacks in Crimea and detention of key individuals) and an increasing mobilization of Ukraine troops near the Russian border, and now, after the deadliest month since last August, Ukraine president Poroshenko has warned he isn't ruling out a full-scale Russian invasion and may institute a military draft if the situation with its neighbor worsens.
As Bloomberg reports, the confrontation between Ukrainian forces and the rebels in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region has worsened, Poroshenko said in the western city of Brody on Thursday.
His comments come a week after Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the government in Kiev of engaging in “terror” tactics in Crimea, which Ukraine’s fellow former Soviet republic annexed in 2014. Putin vowed to respond with “serious measures.”
“The probability of escalation and conflict remains very significant,” Poroshenko said in a televised speech. “We don’t rule out full-scale Russian invasion.”
The Ukrainian government, which says Russia is funneling troops, cash and weapons to the separatists, has rejected Putin’s accusations over Crimea and said its neighbor may use them as a pretext to mass more troops in the disputed Black Sea peninsula. Ukraine has enough forces along its eastern front line and near the border with the territory to resist a possible offensive, military spokesman Oleksandr Motuzyanyk said Thursday.
Rebels fired more than 800 artillery and mortar rounds at government positions during the past 24 hours, the most since last August, Motuzyanyk said. He added that Ukrainian positions along the front line stretching from near the rebel-held city of Luhansk to the government-controlled port Mariupol on the Azov Sea came under attack. July was the deadliest month since last August in the conflict, which the United Nations estimates has killed at least 9,500 people since 2014.
Putin may travel to Crimea on Friday to talk with local officials and visit a summer camp for children, Russian media group RBC reported on its website on Tuesday, citing three people it didn’t identify.
Of course, all western officials are calling for a resumption of talks but as we noted previously the so-called Minsk II agreement was set up to fail...
“Minsk II is set up in a way that Russia can blame Ukraine for not meeting the political targets, and then you lose the perspective that Russia is still fueling this conflict,” said a European diplomat in Moscow.
The preceding paragraph is precisely what one would expect from mainstream media. Here’s a short translation: “It’s all Russia’s fault”
In reality, it’s clear both sides have violated aspects of the Minsk II agreement.
However, Ukraine has taken none of the key steps on constitutional reforms and local autonomy laws for Donetsk and Luhansk as promised.
Tomorrow’s Ukraine discusses the reasons for a “deadlock” in Minsk II: A Trap, or an Escape?
“France is calling for the full implementation of the Minsk agreements by all parties.”
—French President Francois Hollande.
“We are confident that only through full and faithful implementation of the Minsk agreements of February 12, 2015 can we put an end to the bloodshed and find a way out of the deadlock.”
—Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“We are here to implement the Minsk deal, not to call it into question.”
—German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Many leaders in the East and West find the Minsk II Agreement indispensable. But is this truly the case?
Why Isn’t Minsk II a Slam-Dunk?
Point 9 says that control of the border between Russia and Ukraine should be restored to Ukrainian control IF Ukraine successfully implements Point 11; which, in turn, requires Ukraine to enact constitutional amendments permanently decentralizing power and to pass laws permanently granting special status to separatist territory, which would entail local self-government, the right to form “people’s militias,” and more. And then there’s Point 10, which mandates the “pullout of all foreign armed formations” and the “disarmament of all illegal groups.”
But here’s the rub: popular opinion in Ukraine makes it impossible to discuss a special status for the breakaway territories until free and fair local elections are held there, and “free and fair” effectively means that illegal armed groups and foreign armies need to pull out. But Minsk II says that border control doesn’t need to be restored to Ukraine until after it decentralizes, while also requiring that local elections be held in accordance with Ukrainian law.
This is the definition of “deadlock.” Elections that prop up what Kyiv calls “terrorist regimes” would be difficult for Ukraine’s elite to sell to the people, regardless of the merits of such a plan. The general fear on Ukraine’s side is that if Kyiv approves of the elections in rebel-held territory, the separatist leaders—who would likely win any election held at their guns’ points—would claim some degree of legitimacy. Public opposition to granting even the slightest concessions to the separatists, much less elections that could possibly lead to “special status,” is driven by populists like Oleh Lyashko and his Radical Party, as well as by Yulia Tymoshenko and the Fatherland Party, both of whom stand to gain many seats in Parliament if MPs are unable to form a government and new elections are held.
The “Prisoners’ Dilemma” from game theory describes this situation exactly. The game illustrates why two rational actors might not cooperate, even though cooperation is in both their best interests.
The second main reason why Minsk II is seen as controversial is that it requires Ukraine to enact constitutional amendments that devolve some powers to local and regional governments. In the fall of 2015, it became clear that Ukraine was not going to be able to enact the constitutional amendments required. The German, French, Ukrainian, and Russian heads of state, meeting in Paris on October 2, 2015, informally decided to postpone the deadline into 2016.
Minsk II Designed to Fail
With so many obvious complications, Minsk II was setup to fail right from the start.
By accident or design, the setup is precisely what warmongers like.