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Saturday, August 22, 2015

France, Germany pressure Kiev to grant autonomy to separatists, as conflict escalates.

Link: Poroshenko meets with Hollande, Merkel in Berlin.

Today, Ukrainian President Poroshenko traveled to Berlin for consultations with German Chancellor Merkel and French President Hollande to discuss the rapidly unravelling "Minsk II" accord.  As anticipated, in recent days, separatist forces have launched numerous attacks against Ukrainian positions.  On August 10, separatists used tanks and heavy artillery in an attack on Ukrainian forces 20 kilometers east of the Donetsk-Mariupol Highway, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) monitoring installations continue to track "Grad" multiple launch rocket system (MLRS) strikes along much of the frontline in Donetsk Oblast.  On August 16, separatists launched an artillery barrage on the northeastern outskirts of Mariupol.  It is widely suspected that the upturn in violence is an effort on the part of the separatists to influence Kiev, as negotiations continue in Minsk and now also in Berlin.  The Russian-backed separatists hope that the more pessimistic the current military situation appears, the more likely that Kiev will be more flexible when it comes to negotiating the issue of autonomy for Donbas.

It is also widely accepted that both Hollande and Merkel will pressure Poroshenko to yield on the issue of autonomy for Donbas.  Again, just another example of the complete lack of conviction and courage on the part of European leaders when faced with military aggression.  If history has taught us anything, it is that a bully, regardless of the size of the playground, will continue to terrorize until he is confronted by a united opposition.  Poroshenko has no choice but to follow the advice of his benefactors (I would include President Obama on this list, but I'm not really sure where he has been lately...probably putting the final touches on his Amnesty Executive Order Action); without the continued support of Europe and the United States, Ukraine would be totally occupied by the Russian Army by the end of next week.  Back to the present: if Poroshenko grants autonomy to Donbas (without a plebiscite, mind you....shades of Austria, 1938), no doubt the separatists and Russia will control whatever elections come next, and those "elected" will uniformly support the annexation of Donbas by Russia.  Remember this blog post from August 21, 2015: if Poroshenko approves any form of autonomy for sections of Eastern Ukraine, those areas will eventually be swallowed up by Russia, a la Crimea.

Why are the European leaders so reticent to militarily confront Putin?  They must realize that this is a problem they will be forced to deal with sooner or later, and later will always be more difficult.  If the EU decided to support Ukraine militarily, and German, Polish, French and Italian Air Forces enforced a no-fly zone over Ukraine, Putin would be obliged to either back off, or actually go to war.  I don't believe the Russian Air Force is in any state of readiness to confront the combined Air resources of Europe and the United States.  Also, why not "loan" Ukraine a few hundred LeClerc Heavy Battle Tanks, and maybe a few Leopard as well.  This will be akin to the leaders of free and democratic Europe drawing a line in the dirt, and telling Putin, "you've gone far enough; don't cross this line".  If I were Poroshenko, I would ask Hollande to imagine what it must have been like for France when Germany "stole" Alsace-Lorraine in 1871?  Or remind Chancellor Merkel of Russia's stranglehold on East Germany.  Allowing a foreign country to invade and occupy Ukrainian territory should be unacceptable not only to Poroshenko, but to the EU as well.  Our position on this issue is not unique; many other blogs and learned analysts are warning that Russia will not stop its efforts at expansion with the annexation of Donbas, anymore than Putin quit with Crimea (which, considering how little it is mentioned by Hollande and Merkel, is obviously a Fait Accompli).  When will they learn?

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