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Friday, August 28, 2015

Ukraine and Russian- backed Donbas separatists are negotiating a complete ceasefire to begin on September 1.

Link: Cease fire in Ukraine planned for 1 September.

Here we go again.  For the third time in the past two years, France and Germany have assisted in the crafting of a ceasefire agreement between Ukraine and Russian-backed Donbas separatists.  According to negotiators, the ceasefire is a blanket agreement in which both sides unilaterally agree to end the discharge of weapons in eastern Ukraine on September 1, 2015.  Up until the very minute of the announcement of the intended ceasefire, separatist forces had escalated attacks against Ukrainian troops, killing two soldiers less than ten miles outside of the strategic port city of Mariupol.  This attack comes one week after a separatist artillery barrage killed three civilians in a suburb of Mariupol.  On August 10, a separatist combined arms assault east of the Donetsk-Mariupol highway, in conjunction with an increase in separatist shelling of Ukrainian-held areas outside Mariupol, indicate that the Russian-backed separatists have set the table nicely for this most recent negotiated ceasefire.  You see, each time the negotiators reach the more difficult issues at hand, the separatists increase offensive activity, as a means of influencing the diplomatic proceedings.  By raising the level of military activity, the separatists are sending the clear message that they are nowhere near backing down, and it would be in Kiev's best interest to compromise.  You would think that after two ceasefires that were violated by the separatists almost immediately, that the Ukrainians and their European allies would be reticent to enter into another agreement.  But Poroshenko has absolutely no wiggle room.  Basically, he has to do what is told.  Without the support of France, Germany, and the United States, Poroshenko knows that Ukraine would be invaded by Russia in the blink of an eye.  The real question, which has been asked so many time over the past few decades and has never received an adequate explanation, is why the leaders of Europe are so intent on placating aggressive dictators who are fully intent on expansionist enterprises?

On September 1, the latest ceasefire (Minsk III?) will be implemented.  Because the provisions contained within are so favorable to the separatists, it is likely that we won't see a violation for some time.  You see, the new agreement calls for elections, and also mandates the establishment of a special self-management status for separatist-minded regions.  What is so fascinating is that until Russia started expressing real annoyance at Ukraine's insistence on being an independent nation, there was no "eastern Ukraine separatist movement".  For the past decade, Ukraine has tweaked Moscow's nose on a number of occasions, and the cozying up to NATO and the United States was probably the last straw (or was it the popular removal of a president who was acting as a Russian puppet?).  Putin didn't try and create a nationalist, pro-Russian movement in Crimea; he just gauged the complete lack of spine amongst the European leaders and the United States.  The annexation of Crimea was a marvelously orchestrated "fait d'accompli" on the part of Putin; but it did get the attention of the international community, so  justification had to be created for the biting off of eastern Ukraine.

I'm sure the OSCE will deploy observers whenever elections take place in the disputed regions, and no doubt the separatists will hound and harass them so that it is impossible to validate the electoral process.  Why will the separatists do this?  Because they can.  Even if the election observers were able to verify extensive electoral fraud, what would be the end result?  Nothing.  Probably within six months after the elections occur, the separatists will kick the military campaign back into gear, to swallow up the next piece of free Ukraine, which more than likely will include the city of Mariupol.  We will repeat the same process, with Merkel and Hollande pressuring Poroshenko to agree to more demands.  The only hope for a free and democratic Ukraine will be if the Ukrainian people rise up and remove Poroshenko, and replace him with someone who is willing to tell the west to go suck an egg.  Unfortunately, this will create the military environment that Putin is waiting for: an under-equipped Ukrainian military facing off against the Russian Armed Forces.  And the EU and the United States will stand back and say, "we tried to get the Ukrainians to negotiate, but they were determined to follow another course".   My prognostication is probably way off base, but it doesn't take Henry Kissinger to see that Putin has manipulated this crisis in a manner that guarantees some level of success.  God forbid that the European nations are ever faced with the decision to fight for their freedom, or become the slaves of a group like ISIS.  I fear for the decision that will be made.       

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