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Thursday, July 23, 2015

Ukrainian separatists pretend to abide by the Minsk Agreement by re-deploying certain forces.

Links: A. Calls for the implementation of the Minsk Agreement.
           B. Right wing protests Poroshenko in Kiev.

Both Kiev and Moscow are very interested in giving the impression of support for the Minsk negotiations.  The discussions, which include the Ukraine, France, Germany and Russia, evolved after the failure of the Minsk Protocol, a 5 September 2014 agreement to halt the war in the Donbas Region.  The Minsk Protocol included twelve main points, but within the first few weeks, both sides had violated the agreement.  By January 2015, it was acknowledged by all parties concerned that the Minsk Protocol was a failure, and that negotiators had to return to Minsk and begin again.  On 11 February 2015, the leaders of Ukraine, Germany, France, and Russia agreed to a new package of measures which for all practical purposes, revived the Minsk Protocol.  As opposed to the first agreement, it appears at this early stage that both parties are interested in at least giving the appearance of compliance.  As an addendum to the Minsk II agreement, both parties (Ukraine and the Donbas separatists) agreed to a heavy weapons withdrawal that includes tanks and certain "previously excluded" lighter weapons.  On June 21, monitors for the Organization for the Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) reported that both Ukrainian and separatist forces had begun removing the proscribed weapons from the front lines, even though the addendum had yet to be actually signed.  Although the intention of the addendum was to reduce the intensity of the fighting in southeast Ukraine, the separatist almost immediately issued a declaration that they will retain armor around the key cities of Donetsk and Debaltseve.  It is apparent that the separatist will utilize a well-worn strategy of continually moving heavy weapons and firepower from one location to the next, to give the impression that they are abiding by the agreement.  In reality, as long as the armor and heavy firepower are present in Donbas, they can be maneuvered into position to fire on Ukrainian targets within a day's notice (and in most instances, less).

Not surprisingly, the separatists will agree to whatever particular parts of the agreement that suits their military and political objectives.  While Ukrainian President Petro Poroschenko bends over backwards to demonstrate to his European supporters that he is willing to negotiate with the separatists (and the Russians), regardless of the continual violation of previous agreements and the brutal destruction of a civilian passenger airliner by an SA-11 missile fired by Russian Buk missile launcher, he faces mounting disapproval in his own capital.  The Right Sector Movement (RSM), the political movement which led the demonstrations that eventually removed Poroschenko's successor,  has become increasingly more active and vocal in their opposition to the manner in which Poroschenko is handling this crisis.  Poroschenko must be very careful how he maneuvers around this pot-hole, because the RSM, which contributes volunteers to actively fight alongside the Ukrainian Army, is very popular in western Ukraine. One issue that receives a great deal of attention in Ukraine, is the fact that Poroschenko continues to refer to the crisis as an anti-terrorist action (!) as opposed to an actual war.  Poroschenko has also been opposed to calls in Parliament (supported by RSM and the majority of Ukrainians) to institute and economic blockade of Donbas, and he does not support the various volunteer military units that have sprung up in support of the Ukrainian Army.  All of these measures would be seen by the European "friends of Ukraine", as being inflammatory and not in the spirit of de-escalation, so its obvious from where Poroschenko is currently receiving his marching orders.  And you can't blame Poroschenko for taking direction from the leaders of nations that haven't been to war in over five decades, at least not declared.  He is being advised by honor graduates of the Neville Chamberlain "sacrifice anything and everyone for peace in our time" school of diplomacy.  It should come as no surprise; this is how Europeans think in 2015. Considering the devastation of two World Wars, I certainly understand their wish to avoid aggravating the situation.  But dangerous times call for courageous leadership.  This is the time and place for the United States to act as the leader of the European delegation, and start dealing with Putin directly.  Since the entire planet recognizes that he is calling the shots for the separatists, why to we continue to avoid dealing with him directly?

At present, we in the United States are without a President who is willing to utilize both our diplomatic and military resources appropriately and aggressively, in defense of international freedom and security.  Since 2008, the United States has basically been adrift internationally, occasionally reacting to important events, but always the last one to show up at the party.  The establishment of ISIS in Iraq is a direct result of the rash removal of U.S. forces in contrast to the phased-out, long-term withdrawal schedule preferred by the Pentagon.  And Ukraine is obliged to cling to the coat tails of Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande because our government is preaching the same, defeatist diatribe as they are (and they're closer).  If I could only remember the number of Democrats who have argued against long-term sanctions at one time or another (Cuba comes to mind); and now these same Democrats watch Vladimir Putin and the Russian people totally ignore the sanctions regime in-place against Russia, and call for.....continued sanctions!  Putin will eventually swallow Ukraine piece-by piece.  Why?  Because its in his nature; he is a megalomaniac, and like true megalomaniacs, he won't stop until HE IS STOPPED.  When we made the point in favor of aggressive and appropriate diplomatic and military action, we were recognizing that the United States and our European partners have the opportunity to persuade Putin to climb back into his box.  We must show that we are determined to protect the independence and sovereignty of Ukraine, and this can be accomplished by providing all supplies and military equipment that the Ukrainian military requests.  Would you like a chuckle?  If the Iranian nuke treaty is approved, we will then be able to sell F16s and Abrams tanks to Iran, but no to Ukraine!  We can also influence Putin's decision-making by returning U.S. military forces to Europe, but in new locations, possibly, Poland, Latvia, Estonia, and Romania?  The threat of a missile-defense shield for eastern Europe is another issue that annoys Putin (and that we have sacrificed for absolutely no political gain).  We have military options in dealing with both Putin and ISIS; now all we need is the motivation and the backbone.

2016 can't come fast enough.

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