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Thursday, August 6, 2015

Ukraine separatists take full advantage of Minsk negotiations; France cancels Russian warship purchase.

Link: France cancels Russian warship order.

While pro-Ukrainian demonstrators in Mariupol argue against making concessions during the latest round of negotiations in Minsk, separatists continue to accuse the Ukrainian military of double-dealing.  The issue at hand deals with the withdrawal of heavy weapons and tanks from sensitive areas.  The negotiations have reached the point at which anything that the Ukraine agrees to will be manipulated for press consumption; how the participants on the Kiev side can continue to negotiate in good faith is a mystery to us.  The separatists regularly violated the Minsk II agreement to withdraw heavy weapons from contested areas, but for some reason current negotiators are discussing the same issue, with the idea that the separatists will, for some reason, decide to abide by the agreement this time.  Every effort on behalf of both the separatists and the Russian government is intended to further the determination to dismember the Ukrainian state as we know it.  The frustration expressed by the numerous nationalist groups in Kiev, Mariupol, Odessa, Lvov, and other Ukrainian cities, is beginning to put tremendous pressure on the government of President Petro Poroshenko.  The current government in Kiev has shown incredible restraint, taking great care to not upset its European and U.S. allies.  Unfortunately for Poroshenko, his popularity is in free-fall as the Ukrainian public grows increasingly frustrated at the lack of direct military support from Europe and the Obama Administration.  The crisis in Donbas is no closer to being resolved than it was at the commencement of the original Minsk negotiations.  No doubt the separatists consider the subject of national boundaries to be an issue of occupation.  At this stage, its hard to imagine Ukraine returning to its pre-conflict borders.

In 2011, Russia and France negotiated the purchase by Russia of two French Mistral-class amphibious assault ships.  The delivery of the ships was on schedule, when the Ukrainian conflict intervened.  The French government decided to review its decision to sell the modern warships, following Russia's obvious military support for the Donbas separatists.  The decision to reconsider the sale was controversial for both the French and the Russians.  The French weapons industry was anxious for the positive press that would accompany the on-schedule delivery of the warships, not to mention the financial windfall.  And the Russian military is determined to upgrade and modernize its amphibious capabilities.  Regardless, on Wednesday the French government, after lengthly deliberation, decided to cancel the contract and all payments to Russia.  The Russian foreign ministry has responded as anticipated, accusing the French of illegally breaking the contract.  This development will probably negatively impact the French arms industry temporarily, but the French are always in the forefront of developing new military hardware, and in the end, Paris will have its usual backlog of defense industry orders from international customers.

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