Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Top articles on Putin, the Ukraine, and Russia

Friday, April 17th, 2015

Check back for updates

Some of the best articles by the Trenchant Observer on Putin, the Ukraine, and Russia include the following:

(1) “Russian propaganda and Western reporters who can’t think: Putin’s great rise in popularity, as revealed by polls,” March 14, 2015.

(2) “Nemtsov assassination represents a stark warning to the opposition: ‘Criticize Putin, especially on the Ukraine, and you may die,’” (Updated March 6, 2015)

(3) “Putin’s triumph over the pacifists and appeasers of the West, and the ferocious opponents he may face in the future,” (revised February 25, 2015).

(4) “Ukraine Update: Overview and signficance of the continuing Russan invasion,” March 5, 2015.

(5) “Minsk II Agreement of February 12, 2015 (with full texts in English and Russian), February 12, 2015.

(6) “Russia’s utter and continuing violation of international law in the Ukraine: U.N. General Assembly Resolution A/RES/25/2625 (1970) on Principles of International Law and Friendly Relations Among States,” February 8, 2015.

(7) “The virus of nationalism and military aggression: Adolf Hitler in Vienna, March, 1938; Vladimir Putin in Sevastopol, May 9, 2014,” June 30, 2014.

(8) “Steinmeier-Lavrov Meeting in Moscow: “Sergej Wiktorowitsch, Du, du liegst mir im Herzen, Du, Du machst mir viel Shmerzen, weisst nicht wie gut ich dir bin,” November 18, 2014.

The Trenchant Observer

Ukraine Crisis Timelines (2014-2015)

Monday, March 23rd, 2015

It is important to understand the unfolding of events during the ongoing Russian invasion of the Ukraine and military occupation of part of its territory (Crimea, Donbas).

To understand Putin’s military aggression, and the slowness and inadequacy of the responses of the EU, NATO and the U.S., we need to bear in mind not only the headlines of the day, but also the entire process of how we got to where we are today.

The following list of Timelines or Chronologies will be updated from time to time:

(1) “Ukraine Crisis Timeline as of January 30, 2015,” Foreign Policy Research Institute, January 30, 2014.

(2) “Ukraine crisis: Timeline” BBC News, November 13, 2014.

(3) Evan Beese, Tzvi Kahn, FPI FACT SHEET: TIMELINE OF RUSSIAN AGGRESSION IN UKRAINE AND THE WESTERN RESPONSE, Foreign Policy Initiative, September 18, 2014.

This chronology, while highly useful, contains some errors. It states for example,

“In the second half of August 2014, Russia dramatically escalates its operations against Ukraine, launching an offensive in Novoazovsk, southeast Ukraine. This maneuver opens up a second front in the conflict and secures a Russian-controlled land bridge between the Russo-Ukrainian border and the Russian-occupied Crimean Peninsula.”

While the offensive in Novoazovsk would be a step in building a land bridge to the Crimea, it is only a step. Such a landbridge has not yet been established.

(4) Emily Tamkin, “Sorry, Did We Invade Your Country?” Slate, September 5, 2014.

(5) “Timeline: Ukraine’s political crisis; Key events in Ukrainian anti-government protests that have been followed by political upheaval and international crisis, Al Jazeera English, September 20, 2014 (05:48 GMT).

The Trenchant Observer

REPRISE: After disappearing act, Vladimir Putin remains prime suspect in Nemtsov assassination

Thursday, March 19th, 2015

After disappearing act, Vladimir Putin remains prime suspect in Nemtsov assassination

Originally published on March 17, 2015

See

(1) “Ukraine Update: Overview and signficance of the continuing Russan invasion »Nemtsov assassination represents a stark warning to the opposition: ‘Criticize Putin, especially on the Ukraine, and you may die,'” The Trenchant Observer, (Updated March 6, 2015).

(2) “Putin’s disappearing act —- and rifts within the Kremlin,” March 15, 2015.

(3) Brian Whitmore, “The Power Vertical: The Sick Man Of Moscow,” Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, March 12, 2014.

Now that Vladimir Putin has reappeared, on March 16, after an 11-day absence from public appearances that began only six days after the assassination of the leading opposition figure in Russia, Boris Nemtsov, on February 27, 2015, news attention should be redirected to the question of whether Putin was the intellectual author of Nemtsov’s execution.

Nemtsov, with his participation in the large demonstration planned for the Sunday following his assassination, his announcement that he was finishing preparation of a report on Russian military participation in the invasion of the Ukraine, and his making public of his plans to travel to a town which lost soldiers in the Ukraine, posed a very serious threat to Putin.

The threat was that through his report and evidence gathered concerning Russian military participation in the fighting in the eastern Ukraine (including that he was soon to travel to gather from soldiers who he said had contacted him), he might pierce the propaganda bubble Putin had erected denying any Russian military involvement in the fighting in the Donbas.

(T)he threat Nemtsov represented was not that hundreds of thousands of demonstrators would storm the Kremlin, but rather that through his report or book and large demonstations calling for an end of the war in the Ukraine, Nemtsov might succeed in piercing the giant bubble of grotesque lies and war propaganda that Putin has spun around the subject of the Ukraine.

If and when that bubble is pierced, the hot gas may burst not only the propaganda balloon of the Ukraine narrative, but also the balloon of Putin’s popularity and the myth that Russia’s present economic crisis is not the result of his war on the Ukraine and the economic sanctions, capital flight and other consequences it has produced.

Nemtsov represented, in this sense, a grave threat to Putin and his hold on power. If the propaganda bubble were to burst, Putin could quickly encounter serious trouble within Russia.

That is why, for Putin, the greatest threat, the greatest enemy, is the truth, about the war in the Ukraine and its connection to the economic crisis in Russia. With his insistence on telling the truth and proving that Putin’s narrative of there being no Russian troops or other forces in the eastern Ukraine, Nemtsov embodied that threat.

While it is not yet clear–if it ever will be–who ordered the assassination of Boris Nemtsov, sometimes little details can be highly suggestive of what really happened.

One such detail was the fact that, shortly after Nemtsov’s death, Russian security forces raided his house, carrying away documents, computers, and hard disks.

–Nemtsov assassination represents a stark warning to the opposition: “Criticize Putin, especially on the Ukraine, and you may die” (Updated March 6, 2015), February 28, 2015.

Thus, Putin certainly had a motive to get rid of Nemtsov.

Second, Putin as the dictator of Russia with control of the FSB and other security forces within several hundred meters of the Kremlin’s walls, certainly had the opportunity to order Nemtsov’s execution. Nemtsov was under very close surveillance by Russian security officials, as attested to by Alexey Navalny, a leading opposition blogger.

Moreover, the occasion was striking. Nemtsov had just delivered blistering remarks against Putin in an interview on Radio Moskvy some four hours before he was killed. Worth noting is the fact that Putin is known to have an explosive temper.

For a contrary view, see “Russian security expert at New York University raises questions about “known and unknown” factors bearing on Nemtsov’s murder, The Trenchant Observer, March 9, 2015 (considerations raised by Mark Galeotti).

Third, Putin had the means available to orchestrate the assassination. These means included not only the FSB, presidential security officials, and other security officials in Moscow, but also the Chechen leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, and the agents and loyal followers at his command.

Another small detail that appears anomylous could be relevant here:

It remains to be seen who pulled the trigger in the Nemtsov case, but the motives are as long as your arm. Circumstantial evidence is chilling.

A nearby security camera caught some low-resolution footage of the lead up, but at the exact moment of the murder a huge snow plough pulls into view, blocking the camera lens. It was odd because there was no snow on the streets on the night Nemtsov was shot.

–Cahir O’Doherty, “Vladimir Putin’s path to glory will only end one way – in a graveyard,” IrishCentral, March 18, 2015 (02:11 AM).

Who arranged for the snowplow, and for the specific video to be released–of all the video available to the security forces to release–that showed the snowplow blocking the view of who killed Nemtsov? This is either evidence if amazing coiincidence, or an extraordinarily well-orchestrated assassination.

Consequently, Putin, the former KGB official who is a master of sleight-of-hand, had two types of means available to him. He could have used elements of the security forces, or indeed, with greater deniability, he could have given the order (or “green light” or “wink and a nod”) to Kadyrov, who could be counted on to carry it out.

Following the assassination, Putin appointed an investigator who had handled the investigation of the deaths of other political opponents in the past, usually finding a connection to Chechens or other terrorists in the Caucusus.

Immedediately, Russian investigators and other officials began a disinformation campaign, tossing out a wide variety of hypotheses and leads they were following, some of which were quite fanciful. They also went out of their way to stress that Nemtsov did not in any way represent a political threat to Putin.

Within a week, five Chechen suspects were arrested, and at least one confessed. He happened to be a high official in Kadyrov’s security forces. Even after he confessed, Kadyrov publicly expressed strong confidence in him, calling him a patriot. After meeting with representatives from human rights organization, he withdrew his confession amid allegations that it had been obtained by torture.

At the same time, Kadyrov published on the internet assurances of his absolute loyalty to Putin, “no matter what office you may hold.”

At this point, all one can say is that Putin should be considered a prime suspect in the assassination of Boris Nemtsov.

However, since Putin is himself in charge of the investigation of the crime, we are not likely to hear his name mentioned as a suspect by Russian investigators or security forces, or even by Western journalists operating within Russia or by the news organizations they represent.

We may never learn of evidence linking Putin to the crime, even if such evidence exists. However, we should certainly take with a grain of salt all protestations–even from opposition leaders–that Putin could not have been responsible for Nemtsov’s death. If you are living in Russia, this view is required.

Putin had the motive, the opportunity, and the means to carry out the crime. More than anyone else in Russia, he had the most to gain by Nemtsov’s death, provided it could not be traced back to him.

While Putin as President has the ability to orchestrate an endless stream of diversions (e,g., ordering combat readiness exercises of the Arctic forces, or announcing that mid-range missiles will be installed in the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad), at the end of the day the attention of foreign jounalists, investigators and the public–both in Russia and abroad–must come back to the question of whether Putin was behind Nemtsov’s assassination.

The Trenchant Observer

Anniversary of the Russian military seizure of the Crimea; Details reveal Putin’s gross lies and distortions of the facts

Sunday, March 8th, 2015

Benjamin Bidder of Der Spiegel reports on the content of a report prepared by Russian military experts at a think tank in Russia, which details the facts of the Russian planning and invasion of the Crimea a year ago.

These details underline the gross lies and distortions of the facts which Vladimir Putin and Russian propaganda fed the world about what happened in the Crimea.

More significant that the content of the report, however, may be the mere fact of its publication.

See

Benjamin Bidder (Moskau), “Jahrestag der russischen Annexion: Coup auf der Krim; Vor einem Jahr übernahmen Truppen ohne Hoheitsabzeichen die Macht auf der Krim. Doch wie kam es dazu? Auswertungen russischer Militäranalysten zeigen, wie Moskau offiziell eine Beteiligung leugnete – die Soldaten aber einschleuste, Der Spiegel, 8. Marz 2015 (12:07 Uhr).

The Trenchant Observer

Ukraine Update: Overview and signficance of the continuing Russan invasion

Thursday, March 5th, 2015

Developing

See

Matthew Schofield, “A year after Russia took Crimea, stronger Ukraine military braces for long fight, McClatchyDC, March 5, 2015 (updated 4:17 p.m. EDT).

“Russischer Soldat beschreibt Einsatz bei Debalzewe; Von der Grenze zur Mongolei wurde er in die Ukraine geschickt, erzählt ein russischer Soldat. Er beschreibt auch, wie Panzer umlackiert und Abzeichen abgelegt wurden. 4. März 2015 (19:34 Uhr).

CARSTEN LUTHER, ALEXANDER SCHWABE UND STEFFEN DOBBERT, “OPPOSITION IN RUSSLAND: Die wenigen, die nicht schweigen. Boris Nemzow ist tot, Putins Politik der Einschüchterung wirkt. Sieben Beispiele, die davon erzählen, wie schwer es in Russland ist, Kritik an der Regierung zu üben,” Die Zeit, 3. Marz 2015 (16:16 Uhr).

News of the Russian invasion of the Ukraine has become “old hat”, no longer “hot” news because it continues on a daily basis.

Vladimir Putin has adapted the “salami technique”, used by the Soviet Union to take first one, then another country in Eastern Europe after World War II, to the new demands of the hybrid hidden war, executed first in the Crimea and then in the eastern Ukraine.

Why follow the details of the ongoing Russian invasion of the Ukraine?

Why follow the continued faltering response of the West, led by pacifists and appeasers who have failed to respond to Russian military aggression in Europe with more than economic sanctions?

Those sanctions have always been “too little, too late”. They always seem to come long after the most serious and definite of threats to deter some move or another by Putin, which he ignores, and which have then repeatedly been forgotten–not carried out. Instead, they are recycled and converted to threats to forestall his and Russia’s next act of military aggression.

As a result, such threats are not credible.

It is almost as if Western leaders and their foreign ministers are too busy flying around to meet with each other, and with Putin, to read the newspapers and form a coherent view of what is going on, what has worked and not worked, and what needs to be done.

Just today, less than a week after the assassination in Moscow (some 100 meters from the Kremlin’s walls) of Boris Nemtsov, a leading opposition figure who was an outspoken critic of Putin’s military aggression in the Ukraine—a cold-blooded execution that was almost certainly ordered by Putin or carried out with his approval—Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi flew to Moscow for a “quick visit” with Putin.

His attempt to have it both ways, by visiting the scene where Nemtsov was executed, was pathetic. What counted was that he traveled to Moscow to see Putin, sending the signal that Italy will not push for harsher sanctions against Russia for its current invasion of the Donbas. No doubt Renzi hopes for some kind of gas deal or other concession in exchange.

According to the U.S. military, Russia now has some 12,000 soldiers in the Donbas leading and fighting alongside the so-called “separatists”– which Putin called into being in April, 2014. Further, Russia has an estimated 50,000 troops threateningly poised on its border with the Ukraine, in addition to the 28,000 troops it has stationed in the Crimea.

Today, March 5, 2015, Russia continues its overflights near NATO countries flexing its military muscles, seeking as it were an incident that might provide a further “provocation”.

Yet beyond Russia and the Ukraine, there is so much more going on in the world, such as the advance of Iraqi army and militia forces, and Iranian-led forces, on Tikrit in an effort to reconquer that city from ISIS or the Islamic State group.

In Europe, the Greek crisis has slowed but not let up, leaving Greece’s participation in the Euro Zone and the possibility of a collapse of its financial system very much up in the air.

In Africa, Boko Haram continues its massacres in northern Nigeria and beyond.

In Argentina, the ex-wife of Alberto Nisman, a prosecutor who wss drafting a complaint against President Cristina Kirchner, says she has proof Nisman was murdered. He was killed by a gunshot to the head at close range the evening before he was to testify about a conspiracy with Iran not to bring to justice the authors of a 1994 bombing of a synagogue in Buenos Aires which claimed 84 lives. Nisman had no gunpowder trace on his hands.

In Washington, Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a strong speech to the U.S. Congress attacking the deal Obama and the P5+1 are negotiating with Iran to resolve the nuclear issue.

With all of this going on, why should we continue to pay close attention to the Russian invasion of the Ukraine and the response of the West?

The answer is stark and unyielding.

So long as Russia continues to defy the most fundamental norms of the United Nations Charter and international law, through its invasion of the eastern Ukraine but also through its continued military occupation of the Crimea, Russian-occupied Ukrainian territory conquered by military force, the entire international political and legal order established after World War II under the U.N. Charter (1945) is swaying under the assault of Russia, one of the five permanent members of the Security Council.

We must pay close attention to the Russian military aggression against the Ukraine, and its military threats elsewhere, because the resolution of all the other international conflicts that face the world today, including the Iranian nuclear question and the future of the nuclear non-proliferation regime, depend on upholding the U.N. Charter’s fundamental norms and the rules and mechanisms it lays out for the maintenance of international peace and security.

The threat represented by Putin’s and Russia’s policies of military aggressiom is also an existential threat to the West and the rest of the world.

Putin and Russia possess thousands of nuclear weapons and missile delivery systems which if used–and Russia has raised the possibility of nuclear war–could result in destroying the world.

Managing the risks of accidental nuclear war, or even the intentional use of nuclear weapons, outside the framework of international law and the U.N. Charter, and their definitions of legitimate state actions, is several orders of magnitude more difficult than managing these risks within that framework.

That is why we must pay close attention to Russian policies of military aggression and annexation, however familiar the headlines may become.

So long as Russia defies the postwar international legal and political order established under the U.N. Charter, no nation will be safe, as citizens throughout the world face an unacceptably high risk of nuclear war and annihilation.

The Trenchant Observer

Putin’s triumph over the pacifists and appeasers of the West, and the ferocious opponents he may face in the future (revised February 25, 2015)

Thursday, February 19th, 2015

COMMENTARY

Revised February 25, 2015

The pacifists and appeasers who lead Europe and the United States, by taking no effective measures to counter Russian military aggression in the Ukraine, have brought us to where we are today.

Russian military forces continue to occupy the Crimea, sovereign territory of the Ukraine conquered by Russian troops and purportedly “annexed” by Russia.

After the military defeat of the Ukrainian army at Debaltseve, in flagrant violation of the Minsk Protocol of September 5, 2014 and even the ill-advised Minsk II agreement reached on February 12, 2015, Europe lies defenseless at the feet of the Russian army and Vladimir Putin.

If Putin wants to take Mariupol and seize territory linking his puppets’ “separatist” territories in Donetsk and Luhansk provinces with the Crimea, he can do so.

What was most telling about the collapse of the Minsk II agreement and the military conquest of Debaltseve after the Minsk II ceasefire was supposed to enter into effect on February 15, was that the United States, the EU, and NATO did not even attempt to organize a countervailing force that might halt or even slow the Russian army and its puppets.

No attempt to impose new economic sanctions. No “decision” to send “lethal weapons” to Kiev, which in the event amounted to a cowardly decision not to send such weapons.

Putin appears to have secured blocking votes within the EU which render the possibility of imposing further sanctions on Russia moot. Consequently, the EU was able to do absoluely nothing to deflect the Russian military drive.

Now, we shall return to the pattern of Minsk I, where the Europeans beg Putin to honor his “agreement” (now Minsk II), while his tanks, artillery and other forces and equipment are free to move in and out of the Ukraine at will across an open border, earlier dismantled by Russian military means, and to launch new rebel offensives whenever they deem the moment right.

Meanwhile, the United States has shown that it is all talk and no substance when it comes to opposing Russian tanks on the move in Europe.

NATO’s nuclear deterrent, designed to offset Russia’s immense advantage on the ground with the largest army in Europe, is moot. Inoperative. Not able to be deployed.

Consequently, the pacifists and appeasers who lead the U.S. and Europe have left Europe totally exposed to the Russian military, which is led by a man who has openly expressed approval of the Molotov-Von Ribbentropp agreement of alliance between Russia and Germany in 1939 and its secret division of Poland, who does not consider Russia bound by the prohibition of the threat or use of force in Article 2 paragraph 4 of the U.N. Charter, and who does not feel bound by agreements Russia makes such as the April 17, 2014 Geneva Agreement, the Minsk Protocol of September 5, 2014, or the Minsk II agreement of February 15, 2015.

There is no point negotiating with Putin, who is a brazen liar and whose word is worthless.

The next two years are going to be tough, until the United States gets a new president in January, 2017.

Hopefully, he or she will be strong on defending the U.S. and Europe against Russian aggression, and resume forceful leadership of the free world.

National security issues promise to be central to the 2016 presidential campaign.

In the meantime, a Republican Senate, with John McCain as Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and a Republican House are sure to keep foreign policy issues in the limelight.

Barack Obama’s record of passivity and its consequences will not be easy to defend.

The only point of light for the Democrats is the appointment of Ashton Carter as Secretary  of Defense. Carter has in his first few days in office already signalled that he will take a hard-nosed, pragmatic approach to defense and foreign policy issues. He may form a rallying  point and nucleus around which other serious, experienced foreign policy officials within the Obama administration can rally. As in rugby, they may form a scrum that can push through hard measures against Russia, in response to its continuing policies of military aggression and the annexation of conquered territories.

Putin may yet be surprised by the ferocity of the American response to his mlitary aggression, whether in two years or sooner as the Democrats try to reverse a situation which is currently out of control.

Democracies can be slow to react.

The United States was slow to enter World War I and also World War II. In both cases, however, its entry proved decisive to the outcome of the conflict. These are examples Putin would do well to ponder.

So, in the short run, Putin can take Mariupol and seize a land bridge to the Crimea. In the longer term, however, the responses of the West and its allies to any such actions could send the Russian economy into a tailspin from which it could not recover so long as Putin remains in power.

In five years, if not before, we’ll have a better perspective on Putin’s triumphs of the moment.

The Trenchant Observer

U.N. Security Council unanimously adopts Resolution 2202 (17 February 2015) —with full text, annexes and summaries of interventions by delegates

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015

See

“Unanimously Adopting Resolution 2202 (2015), Security Council Calls on Parties to Implement Accords Aimed at Peaceful Settlement in Eastern Ukraine,” United Nations Security Council Press Release (Doc. SC/11785), February 17, 2015.

The resolution unanimously adopted by the Security Council reads as follows:

HOME Unanimously Adopting Resolution 2202 (2015), Security Council Calls on Parties to Implement Accords Aimed at Peaceful Settlement in Eastern Ukraine
17 FEBRUARY 2015 (SC/11785)

Unanimously Adopting Resolution 2202 (2015), Security Council Calls on Parties to Implement Accords Aimed at Peaceful Settlement in Eastern Ukraine
7384th Meeting (PM)
SECURITY COUNCIL
MEETINGS COVERAGE
Expressing the Security Council’s grave concern at the tragic events and violence in eastern regions of Ukraine, the 15-member body today unanimously adopted a resolution endorsing last week’s ceasefire agreement.

By resolution 2202 (2015), the Council called on all parties to fully implement the “Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements”, adopted on 12 February 2015 in Minsk, Belarus. Firmly convinced that the resolution of the situation in eastern regions of Ukraine could only be achieved through a peaceful settlement to the current crisis, the Council welcomed the declaration by the Heads of State of the Russian Federation, Ukraine, France and Germany in support of the “package of measures” and their continuing commitment to implement the agreements.

The 13-paragraph “package of measures”, contained in Annex I of the resolution, called for a number of actions. Those included an immediate and comprehensive ceasefire in certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine and its strict implementation as of 15 February 2015, as well as the withdrawal of all heavy weapons by both sides by equal distances in order to create a security zone. Measures also included the withdrawal of all foreign armed formations, military equipment and mercenaries from the territory of Ukraine under the monitoring of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), as well as the disarmament of all illegal groups.

In addition, the package called for carrying out reform in Ukraine with a new constitution entering into force by the end of 2015. That document had to provide for decentralization, as well as adopting permanent legislation on the special status of certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in line with eight measures until the end of 2015.

Following the resolution’s adoption, some speakers expressed concern about ongoing intense fighting and called for an end to violence. Speakers also supported the Council’s role in urgently addressing an increasingly troubling humanitarian crisis that had seen more than 5,000 killed and 1.5 million displaced. Council members had also emphasized that perpetrators must be held accountable for the 2014 downing of the Malaysian airliner that killed 298 people.

Echoing a common view, the representative of France said it was the Council’s collective responsibility to “silence the guns”. The representative of Germany said the resolution was of utmost importance, conveying a stern message to those who violated the ceasefire.

Agreeing, the representative of Ukraine called on the Security Council’s permanent members to prevent violations. He also emphasized that the Russian Federation needed to secure its borders with his country and urge militants to honour the Agreements.

The representative of the Russian Federation said his country had continually done its utmost to ensure that open dialogue be established between the parties to the conflict. Underlining that the current package of measures presented an opportunity to “turn this tragic page in history”, he warned against unilateral measures that would contradict the spirit of the Minsk Agreements.

Also speaking were representatives of the United Kingdom, United States, Spain, Chile, Malaysia (speaking for Australia, Belgium, Canada, Indonesia, Netherlands, New Zealand and the Philippines), New Zealand, Nigeria, Lithuania, Chad, Venezuela, Jordan and China.

The meeting began at 3:07 p.m. and ended at 4:28 p.m.

VITALY CHURKIN (Russian Federation) said that the events that had taken place in Ukraine in recent months were tragic. Thousands had died and over a million civilians had left the conflict zone, many of them seeking shelter in Russian territory. The agreement of 12 February in Minsk presented a genuine opportunity to “turn this tragic page in history”, he said, warning against unilateral measures that would contradict the spirit of the Minsk agreement. The Russian Federation had continually done its utmost to ensure that open dialogue be established between the parties to the conflict, he added.

MARK LYALL GRANT (United Kingdom) said that his country had voted in favour of the resolution, as it recognized the importance of backing the recent agreements unanimously in the Security Council. The parties to the conflict must commit to the recent ceasefire, and “this time, we must see commitments translated into action,” he said. To date, the ceasefire had been in place for two and a half days, and it appeared that it had been respected with the exception of a “flagrant” disregard in the Ukrainian town of Debaltseve. It was totally unacceptable that rebel leaders had made statements to the effect that the ceasefire did not apply to Debaltseve. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) must have immediate access to that town. “We call on Russia to use its influence on the separatists” to uphold the ceasefire, he said, adding that he also expected to see the withdrawal of heavy weapons by both sides within the next two weeks. The Council must play its full role to ensure that there was complete compliance with the ceasefire and to ensure the full territorial integrity of Ukraine.

SAMANTHA POWER (United States) said it was ironic that the Russian Federation had called the meeting to adopt a resolution on a conflict that it had fuelled. Amid conflicting reports about whether or not Debaltseve had fallen, the ceasefire that had been in effect since Sunday had not been respected, with many civilians enduring the terror of ongoing assaults. In addition, forces that the Russian Federation had trained and armed were still active. Her Government had, since the outset of the crisis, supported Ukraine’s sovereignty, the ending of violence and, today, the “package of measures”, which was a road map to fulfilling the Minsk Agreements made in September 2014. All parties must implement all commitments made. Too often, Council debates occurred in a vacuum that did not consider reality on the ground, she said, calling on the Russian Federation to take action to end the violence.

FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) said the emergency in Ukraine had called for action. Given the troubling humanitarian situation, it was the Council’s collective responsibility to “silence the guns”. The path towards peace hinged on diplomacy and resolution 2202 (2015) reflected the Council’s action in tracing that path. Sadly, fighting had continued, he said, calling for an end to violence immediately. Establishing an expanded buffer zone and removing heavy weapons over the coming two weeks were among the steps to be taken towards peace. All parties should fully and lastingly shoulder their responsibilities to move forward on the path towards peace.

ROMÁN OYARZUN MARCHESI (Spain) said he had voted in favour of resolution 2202 (2015) because the Council must urgently act. Grateful for the steps taken by France and Germany, he said it was clear that a military option would not solve the crisis. The recently released Security Council press statement had recognized that the ceasefire had not been respected. The success of the package of measures was essential for peace and stability in Ukraine, the region and the world, with the European Union and OSCE playing key roles and both acting responsibly and together to resolve the crisis.

CRISTIÁN BARROS MELET (Chile) said the ceasefire would lead to an end of the crisis and that resolution 2202 (2015) contained important elements in that regard. He said the 13 points of the Minsk Agreement would benefit the people of Ukraine. With a view to ending the violence, he called on all parties to comply with the ceasefire until a solution was found to resolve the current crisis.

HUSSEIN HANIFF (Malaysia), also speaking on behalf of Australia, Belgium, Canada, Indonesia, Netherlands and the Philippines, said that his country believed that the resolution just adopted conveyed the Council’s full support for the negotiated ceasefire and peace agreements. However, recent developments in eastern Ukraine proved that the situation was more urgent than ever. The conflict had gone on far too long and had claimed the lives of too many innocent people, including those on board flight MH17 which was tragically shot down over the conflict area on 17 July 2014. All States must cooperate fully with efforts to bring those responsible for that tragedy to justice. The resolution adopted today was unambiguous in that respect, he said, reiterating that international standards regarding accountability applied to all Member States. He called on the parties to the conflict to adhere to the Minsk agreements, as well as the sovereignty, territorial integrity, independence and unity of Ukraine.

JIM MCLAY (New Zealand) said that it was no secret that the Council had struggled to negotiate a mutually acceptable text for the resolution adopted today. However, that should not obscure the simple truth: the overall objective must be to see lives saved, to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and to bring an end to external support for the separatists. Ceasefires did not always hold with consistency at all times in all places, but the Council had today sent a strong signal of its support by unanimously adopting the resolution. In addition, the Council’s previous decisions on the downed aircraft, MH17, were clear. The victims of that tragedy must not be forgotten, and those responsible must be held accountable. Therefore, the amnesty offered by the resolution adopted today should not apply to those responsible for that crime. The Russian Federation, in particular, should use its “undoubted” influence on the separatists to ensure that they uphold the ceasefire.

KAYODE LARO (Nigeria) said it was important for the Council to send a message that it was imperative to find a lasting solution to the crisis in Ukraine. There would be no military solution to the conflict, he said, noting that all parties should pursue a resolution to the situation through dialogue that did not impinge the territorial integrity of Ukraine.

RAIMONDA MURMOKAITĖ (Lithuania) said the humanitarian crisis, with more than 5,000 deaths and 1.5 million displaced persons, had been exacerbated by an influx of Russian weapons. Even while the “package of measures” was being drafted, foreign tanks had rolled into Ukraine and heavily armed criminals had continued their onslaught against Debaltseve, with threats to continue their “deadly march” up to Kharkiv and further. Ceasefires, including the most recent, had been violated, with militants waging a war with the Russian Federation’s help. Peace would have been possible without that country’s support to the militants. While the package was flawed, its elements must be respected and the Minsk Agreements must be implemented. “We know well what needs to be done,” she said, emphasizing the need for monitoring and for the Russian Federation to end its support for militants.

BANTE MANGARAL (Chad) said his country strongly supported the resolution for its contribution towards addressing the situation. He also urged all actors to implement every element of resolution 2202 (2015) to help to put an end to the crisis in Ukraine.

RAFAEL DARÍO RAMÍREZ CARREÑO (Venezuela) said his country supported the resolution as diplomatic means were the only solution to the conflict. The resolution and the Minsk Agreements needed to have full political support for their full implementation, he said, adding that he trusted that parties would commit to those efforts. In addition, a transparent international investigation must be undertaken with regard to the downing of the Malaysian Airlines passenger jet. It was not a time to spread hate but to promote peace, dialogue and diplomacy.

MAHMOUD DAIFALLAH MAHMOUD HMOUD (Jordan) said that a political settlement was the right way to help Ukraine regain its stability. The parties to the conflict should fully implement the peace agreements of September 2014 in line with the agreed time frame. It was important to note that the package of measures adopted did not in any way change the content or provisions of the Minsk agreements, which should be implemented by all countries. He also expressed concern about the non-respect of the ceasefire in Debaltseve and asked the secessionists to put an immediate end to the violence there.

LIU JIEYI, speaking in his capacity as the representative of China, welcomed the Minsk agreement reached by the leaders of the Russian Federation, Ukraine, Germany and France, which he said were integral to the peace process. That agreement should be fully observed by all parties. The Security Council, for its part, should scale up its support, in order to de-escalate tensions in eastern Ukraine. The resolution adopted today was a demonstration of support by the international community for the agreement by the four countries. “We must stay the course of a political solution”, he said, adding that any long-term solution must be balanced, and address the legitimate concerns of all parties and respect the long-standing realities of the region.

YURIY SERGEYEV (Ukraine) said his country welcomed support for recent agreements reached last week. While the Russian side had positioned itself as a devoted proponent for peace and had even suggested the resolution that had just been adopted, what happened in reality was different. Unfortunately, despite hope from all the parties over the fulfilment of all the commitments, non-compliance with the agreements had ruined the prospect for peace, he said.

Militants had violated previous arrangements, as well as the entire package of the Minsk Agreements, he said, adding that Ukrainian targets had succumbed to more than 160 shellings and weapons arriving in Ukraine after the ceasefire deadline. Meanwhile, Ukraine’s military had remained silent, respecting the agreement. The situation in Debaltseve was incredibly tense, with militants moving ahead, undermining the essence of the peace process. He called on the Security Council’s permanent members to prevent violations and emphasized that the Russian Federation needed to secure the borders and urge militants to honour the agreements.

HARALD BRAUN (Germany) said the ceasefire had been mostly holding, with the deplorable exception of Debaltseve. The continued attacks not only threatened the ceasefire, but undermined the political settlement process as agreed upon in the framework of the Trilateral Contact Group and as endorsed by the Normandy Heads of State and Government at Minsk. The Council’s resolution was of utmost importance, he said, as it conveyed a stern message to those who violated the ceasefire.

Taking the floor for a second time, Mr. CHURKIN (Russian Federation) expressed his disappointment with the outcome of the debate. The adopted resolution was to have laid a solid foundation for the work of the Security Council. However, “our hopes were only partially filled”, he said, adding that some members of the Council were engaging in their usual rhetoric. He called for the appropriate implementation of the resolution just adopted. Responding to his counterpart from the United States, who had spoken of an “upside-down world”, he said he regretted that his country had been accused of triggering the crisis in Ukraine. “But is it we who toppled a president? What is it that triggered the conflict?” he asked. It had been the decision of the Kyiv authorities to launch a military operation in eastern Ukraine. They could have acted more nobly, preventing the death of their soldiers, he stated.

Recognizing the fate of the civilian population in Debaltseve, he asked why Western countries did not raise concerns about the populations of Donetsk and Lugansk. He assured Council members that the Russian Federation had tried to organize collectively for humanitarian convoys. Regrettably, Ukraine had refused to inspect their loads. Finally, addressing the two delegations who had spoken of Crimea, he said that, according to a poll, 93 per cent of the inhabitants of Crimea support reunification with the Russian Federation. Regarding the territorial integrity of Ukraine, he recalled that the Council had adopted a resolution in that regard in February 2013.

Also taking the floor for a second time, Ms. POWER (United States) welcomed the agreement, stating, “We will do everything we can to support it.” However, she asked the Russian Federation to stop the separatists and to stop sending heavy weapons across the border. “Stop pretending you do what you do not do,” she stressed, asking that country to meet its obligations.

Taking the floor again, Mr. CHURKIN (Russian Federation) said his country was not pretending, and voiced hope that the agreements would be fully implemented.

Taking the floor for a second time, Mr. SERGEYEV (Ukraine) argued that what the Russian Federation called “reunification of the Crimea” was actually “an occupation, annexation following aggression.” The Russian Federation had trampled on international law and was interfering in the internal affairs of Ukraine. “We will decide ourselves how to organize our lives and interact with our people,” he insisted.

Mr. CHURKIN (Russian Federation) responded that in order to organize its affairs, Kyiv must establish a dialogue with the inhabitants of its eastern region.

Ms. MURMOKAITĖ (Lithuania), taking the floor for a second time, stressed that it was not easy to work on a draft constitution “with a gun against your head”. She said she also noticed that activists in Ukraine, “criminals”, were better armed than some European armies, like that of her country. Such weapons could only come from the other side of the border. Furthermore, she noted her surprise that the Russian Federation should demand Kyiv to ask its own soldiers to surrender. How many countries would simply accept their cities being surrounded by criminals? Any country on the Council would defend its territory to the end, she said.

Mr. CHURKIN (Russian Federation) invited Council members to read the Minsk agreements, which he said discussed the reinstatement of Ukraine. He took offense that Ukrainian soldiers had fired on the frontline. Responding to his counterpart from Lithuania, he said that her country was the only State that had admitted it gave arms to Ukrainian forces.

Responding, Ms. MURMOKAITĖ (Lithuania) said it was incorrect to say that her country was providing arms to Ukraine. While Lithuania had taken Ukrainian citizens for medical treatment, even if her country did provide armaments, it would be a “drop in the ocean” and would not make a difference, she said.

Also taking the floor again, Mr. SERGEYEV (Ukraine) said while leaders had met in Minsk and made very clear statements, his delegation could not agree with the interpretation just heard from the Russian Federation’s delegate. “We are not here to create Minsk III,” he said.

Mr. CHURKIN (Russian Federation), taking the floor again, said the Minsk agreement should be read, interpreted and implemented word for word.

Resolution

The full text of resolution 2202 (2015) reads as follows:

“The Security Council,

“Recalling the purposes and principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations and reaffirming its full respect for the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine,

“Expressing its grave concern at the tragic events and violence in eastern regions of Ukraine,

“Reaffirming its resolution 2166 (2014),

“Firmly convinced that the resolution of the situation in eastern regions of Ukraine can only be achieved through a peaceful settlement to the current crisis,

“1. Endorses the “Package of measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements”, adopted and signed in Minsk on 12 February 2015 (Annex I);

“2. Welcomes the Declaration by the President of the Russian Federation, the President of Ukraine, the President of the French Republic and the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany in support of the “Package of measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements”, adopted on 12 February 2015 in Minsk (Annex II), and their continuing commitment therein to the implementation of the Minsk Agreements;

“3. Calls on all parties to fully implement the “Package of measures”, including a comprehensive ceasefire as provided for therein;

“4. Decides to remain seized of the matter.

“Annex I [to the resolution]

“Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements

Minsk, 12 February 2015

“1. Immediate and comprehensive ceasefire in certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine and its strict implementation as of 15 February 2015, 12am local time.

“2. Withdrawal of all heavy weapons by both sides by equal distances in order to create a security zone of at least 50 km wide from each other for the artillery systems of caliber of 100 and more, a security zone of 70 km wide for MLRS and 140 km wide for MLRS “Tornado-S”, Uragan, Smerch and Tactical Missile Systems (Tochka, Tochka U):

-for the Ukrainian troops: from the de facto line of contact;

-for the armed formations from certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine: from the line of contact according to the Minsk Memorandum of Sept. 19th, 2014;

“The withdrawal of the heavy weapons as specified above is to start on day 2 of the ceasefire at the latest and be completed within 14 days.

“The process shall be facilitated by the OSCE and supported by the Trilateral Contact Group.

“3. Ensure effective monitoring and verification of the ceasefire regime and the withdrawal of heavy weapons by the OSCE from day 1 of the withdrawal, using all technical equipment necessary, including satellites, drones, radar equipment, etc.

“4. Launch a dialogue, on day 1 of the withdrawal, on modalities of local elections in accordance with Ukrainian legislation and the Law of Ukraine “On interim local self-government order in certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions” as well as on the future regime of these areas based on this law.

“Adopt promptly, by no later than 30 days after the date of signing of this document a Resolution of the Parliament of Ukraine specifying the area enjoying a special regime, under the Law of Ukraine “On interim self-government order in certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions”, based on the line of the Minsk Memorandum of September 19, 2014.

“5. Ensure pardon and amnesty by enacting the law prohibiting the prosecution and punishment of persons in connection with the events that took place in certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine.

“6. Ensure release and exchange of all hostages and unlawfully detained persons, based on the principle “all for all”. This process is to be finished on the day 5 after the withdrawal at the latest.

“7. Ensure safe access, delivery, storage, and distribution of humanitarian assistance to those in need, on the basis of an international mechanism.

“8. Definition of modalities of full resumption of socioeconomic ties, including social transfers such as pension payments and other payments (incomes and revenues, timely payments of all utility bills, reinstating taxation within the legal framework of Ukraine).

“To this end, Ukraine shall reinstate control of the segment of its banking system in the conflict-affected areas and possibly an international mechanism to facilitate such transfers shall be established.

“9. Reinstatement of full control of the state border by the government of Ukraine throughout the conflict area, starting on day 1 after the local elections and ending after the comprehensive political settlement (local elections in certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions on the basis of the Law of Ukraine and constitutional reform) to be finalized by the end of 2015, provided that paragraph 11 has been implemented in consultation with and upon agreement by representatives of certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in the framework of the Trilateral Contact Group.

“10. Withdrawal of all foreign armed formations, military equipment, as well as mercenaries from the territory of Ukraine under monitoring of the OSCE. Disarmament of all illegal groups.

“11. Carrying out constitutional reform in Ukraine with a new constitution entering into force by the end of 2015 providing for decentralization as a key element (including a reference to the specificities of certain areas in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, agreed with the representatives of these areas), as well as adopting permanent legislation on the special status of certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in line with measures as set out in the footnote until the end of 2015. [Note]

“12. Based on the Law of Ukraine “On interim local self-government order in certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions”, questions related to local elections will be discussed and agreed upon with representatives of certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in the framework of the Trilateral Contact Group. Elections will be held in accordance with relevant OSCE standards and monitored by OSCE/ODIHR.

“13. Intensify the work of the Trilateral Contact Group including through the establishment of working groups on the implementation of relevant aspects of the Minsk agreements. They will reflect the composition of the Trilateral Contact Group.

“Note

“Such measures are, according to the Law on the special order for local self-government in certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions:

-Exemption from punishment, prosecution and discrimination for persons involved in the events that have taken place in certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions;

-Right to linguistic self-determination;

-Participation of organs of local self-government in the appointment of heads of public prosecution offices and courts in certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions;

-Possibility for central governmental authorities to initiate agreements with organs of local self-government regarding the economic, social and cultural development of certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions;

“-State supports the social and economic development of certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions;

-Support by central government authorities of cross-border cooperation in certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions with districts of the Russian Federation;

-Creation of the people’s police units by decision of local councils for the maintenance of public order in certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions;

-The powers of deputies of local councils and officials, elected at early elections, appointed by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine by this law, cannot be early terminated.

“Participants of the Trilateral Contact Group:

Ambassador Heidi Tagliavini

Second President of Ukraine, L. D. Kuchma

Ambassador of the Russian Federation to Ukraine, M. Yu. Zurabov

A.W. Zakharchenko

I.W. Plotnitski

“Annex II [to the resolution]

“Declaration of the President of the Russian Federation, the President of Ukraine, the President of the French Republic and the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany in support of the ‘Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements’, adopted on 12 February 2015 in Minsk

“The President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, the President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, the President of the French Republic, François Hollande, and the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, Dr. Angela Merkel, reaffirm their full respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. They firmly believe that there is no alternative to an exclusively peaceful settlement. They are fully committed to undertake all possible individual and joint measures to this end.

“Against this background, leaders endorse the Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements adopted and signed on February 12, 2015 by all signatories who also signed Minsk Protocol of September 5, 2014 and Minsk Memorandum of September 19, 2014. Leaders will contribute to this process and will use their influence on relevant parties to facilitate the implementation of that Package of Measures.

“Germany and France will provide technical expertise for the restoration of the segment of the banking system in the conflict affected areas, possibly through the establishment of an international mechanism to facilitate social transfers.

“Leaders share the conviction that improved cooperation between the EU, Ukraine and Russia will be conducive to the crisis settlement. To this end, they endorse the continuation of trilateral talks between the EU, Ukraine and Russia on energy issues in order to achieve follow-up stages to the gas winter package.

“They also support trilateral talks between the EU, Ukraine and Russia in order to achieve practical solutions to concerns raised by Russia with regards to the implementation of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement between Ukraine and the EU.

“Leaders remain committed to the vision of a joint humanitarian and economic space from the Atlantic to the Pacific based upon full respect for international law and the OSCE principles.

“Leaders will remain committed to the implementation of the Minsk Agreements. To this end, they agree to establish an oversight mechanism in the Normandy format which will convene at regular intervals, in principle on the level of senior officials from the foreign ministries.”

To stop Russian tanks in Ukraine: (1) Ban Russia from SWIFT; (2) Boycott / change venue of 2018 World Cup; and (3) Add Putin to sanctions list

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015

Developing

See

AFP, “Rebels claim to capture key Ukraine rail hub of Debaltseve
Fighting breaks out for first time inside flashpoint town in east Ukraine, say officials, with rebels claiming victory in harsh blow to a fragile ceasefire,” The Telegraph, February 17, 2015 (12:56 p.m. GMT).

To stop Russian tanks from advancing in Ukraine:

(1) Ban Russia, effective immediately, from participation in SWIFT international payments system;

(2) Boycott / change venue of 2018 FIFA World Cup Championship; and

(3) Add Putin to the Ukraine sanctions list, with exception by special authorization for diplomatic travel.

The Trenchant Observer

What’s the hurry? Russia pushes hard for U.N. Security Council resolution endorsing Minsk II agreement—a “Munich II” agreement reached under the pressure of Russian military aggression

Sunday, February 15th, 2015

Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande may assume they have achieved something notable in the Minsk II agreement of February 12, but in point of fact they have forged an agreement at the end of the barrel of a Russian gun which weakens the provisions already agreed upon on September 5, 2014 in the Minsk Protocol.

Bearing in mind that the Minsk II agreement represents paper promises by Vladimir Putin, who used the paper promises in the Minsk Protocol to lull the West to sleep while pouring more Russian troops, tanks, artillery and other war machines into the eastern Ukraine, then lauching military offensives with Russian troops leading and fighting alongside “separatist” forces (Putin  puppets) to produce the territorial gains now in place on the ground, one has to ask why Russia wants the Security Council to endorse the Minsk II agreement.

The answer is manifestly clear. The Minsk II Agreement represents an outstanding victory over the pacifists and appeasers who lead the West, a victory which Putin now wants to put into stone with a U.N. Security Council resolution.

Moreover, he apparently has the support of France, Germany and Ukraine for such a resolution. The threat, hardly veiled, is that Russia will continue its military onslaught in the eastern Ukraine if it doesn’t get its way.

That is the same threat the West will face if Putin doesn’t get his way in the future negotiations called for in the Minsk II agreement, over future elections in the separatist-controlled areas of the Donbass, or the legal and constitutional reforms that are conditions for a return of the border to the Ukraine, and in practice a withdrawal of Russia troops, irregulars and war machines from the territory of the Donbas.

What would a Security Council resolution endorsing Minsk II add to the latter?

Absolutely nothing.

The Minsk II agreement depends on Putin for its implementation, and if he doesn’t cooperate there is nothing the West can do about it through direct military means, other than begin the delivery of lethal weapons to Kiev. That, while advisable for a number of reasons, will hardly be decisive against the largest land army in Europe.

Instead of endorsing the terms of Minsk II, the Security Council should be called upon to vote on a draft resolution demanding an immediate withdrawal of Russian troops and irregular forces, and their military equipment, and immediate restoration of Ukrainian border control in the Donbas.

The role of the Security Council is to halt aggression and restore international peace and security at the earliest possible moment.

It is not to become embroiled in a ceasefire charade or an illusory political solution as it did with Resolutions 2042 (2012) and 2043 (2012) on Syria, and the wholly illusory 6-point peace plan of Kofi Annan, which led to the useless Geneva I and Geneva II peace conferences, while over 200,000 Syrians were being killed –with full Russian backing of the government and diplomacy of Bashar al-Assad.

Hollande and Merkel have given us the 2015 equivalent of the Munich Pact of 1938, surrendering to Vladimir Putin and Russia on all real issues likely to affect military developments on the ground in the Donbas.

They now want to accede to Russia’s demands for a Security Council resolution to further placate the Russian Aggressor, while covering over their own fecklessness in concluding the Minsk II agreement, accepting at face value the promises of a known and pathological liar while ceding to him huge military concessions on the ground.

There is no reason for haste in adopting any U.N. Security Council resolution on the Ukraine,

Any such resolution should in any event refer specifically to the  Russian military occupation of the Crimea, sovereign territory of the Ukraine, and the steps that will be taken to secure the withdrawal of Russian troops, perhaps establish an international authority, and after a period of years hold a plebiscite under international supervision and control on the future of the Crimea and the city of Sevastopol.

The postwar international political and legal order must be restored, and the fruits of Russian military aggression rolled back.

The Trenchant Observer

Minsk II Agreement of February 12, 2015 (with full texts in English and Russian)

Thursday, February 12th, 2015

Updated, revised and corrected on February 13, 2014

(Originally published on February 12, 2015)

The Telegraph has published the full English text of the Minsk II accord of February 12, 2015 The text is found here.

The full text in English, with the points numbered and the individual signatories listed, has also been published in the Financial Times. The text is found here.

The full text in Russian, published by the OSCE, is found here.

The Minsk Ii Agreement of February 12, 2015 holds out the hope for a ceasefire from February 15, and a path toward peace in the eastern Ukraine.

However, it is a minefield, and all the cards for its successful implementation lie in Vladimir Putin’s hands.

There are, to be sure, positive aspects to the agreement, including the resumption of social payments, banking facilities, and the duty to pay taxes under Ukrainian law in rebel-controlled areas.

Nonetheless, perhaps the most striking aspect of the agreement is that the obligation to withdraw all foreign fighters and equipment is not tied to any timetable or deadline, while the obligation to restore the border to Ukrainian control is subject to conditions which require the agreement of local separatist leaders, with a deadline for restoring Ukrainian control of the border that extends until the end of 2015.

It will be quite difficult to verify the withdrawal of Russian fighters so long as the border is not returned to Ukrainian control, pending agreement on elections, and legal and constitutional reforms. Should they be so inclined, Putin and the so-called “separatists” (his puppets) will as a result have endless opportunities to quarrel about implementation.

In effect, German Chancellor Merkel, French President Francois Hollande, and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko have achieved more promises from President Vladimir Putin, who continues to deny that Russia even has troops, tanks, armor and soldiers in the Ukraine–despite overwhelming proof to the contrary.

More significantly, they have agreed to give Russia until the end of 2015 to comply with the most fundamental norm of the U.N. Charter, Article 2 paragraph 4, which prohibits “the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.”

This provision is a norm of jus cogens or mandatory international law, from which there can be no exception by way of agreement. As such, the provisions in the Minsk II agreement which suspend the binding effect of Article 2 paragraph 4 of the Charter would appear to be void ab initio, with no legal effect.

Consequently, Russia remains under an international legal obligation, not subject to conditions, to immediately withdraw its forces, tanks, artillery and other equipment from the territory of the Ukraine.

These provisions subject to conditions amount to no more than political commitments from an aggressor state which is not known for its veracity or carrying through on its promises, and the victim  of its aggression, and the latter’s supporters, in an agreement concluded at the end of the barrel of a gun.

Moreover, the agreement does not address the Russian conquest and purported “annexation” of the Crimea, which under international law remains Ukrainian territory under Russian military occupation.

Without the United States, NATO, and the European Union participating in the Minsk Summit of February 11-12, this was probably the most Merkel, Hollande, and Poroshenko could have extracted from Putin at this time.

The agreement probably represents the end of the road in terms of what can be achieved by verbal diplomacy not backed by more forceful instruments of national power. The next time negotiations are undertaken, e.g., to ensure compliance with this agreement, they should be led by the U.S., NATO, and the EU, not France and Germany.

Echoing Neville Chamberlain after he and Eduard Daladier of France signed the infamous Munich Pact in September, 1938, the German and French leaders might well say that they have achieved “peace in our time”.

Unfortunately, Chancellor Merkel and President Hollande were so obtuse as to not even secure Vladimir Putin’s signature on the document, failing to understand the political significance of such an act.

The agreement should be signed by Putin, Merkel, Hollande, and Poroshenko, even at this late hour. Putin’s signature would add greatly to the pressures, both at home and abroad, for him to comply with its terms.

Perhaps the Minsk II agreement will produce a ceasefire that will hold for a time, and save lives. That would be good. Perhaps Putin will abandon his plan for producing a “frozen conflict” in the Ukraine that will prevent that country from ever joining NATO, or even the European Union, and even lead him to drop the idea of building a “land bridge” to the Crimea. That would be really good.

But if one considers Russia’s pattern of duplicity and lies, from supporting Bashar al-Assad in Syria as he broke every agreement he ever made, beginning in 2011, to Russia’s own monstrous lies and deceptions regarding the Ukraine during the last year, including its own violation of the April 17, 2014 Geneva Agreement, the September 5, 2014 Minsk Protocol, the September 19, 2014 Minsk Memorandum, as well as the 1994 Budapest Memorandum and Article 2 paragraph 4 of the U.N. Charter itself,  there would appear to be few grounds for hope that such a change might occur.

What Putin has achieved at Minsk II is to deflect the pressure in the U.S. for immediately sending “lethal weapons” in significant quantities to Kiev, and the decisions of individual EU member states to do likewise. He has also succeeded in providing both Americans and EU members who oppose imposing really harsh, sectoral sanctions—now—for Russia’s recent and continuing invasion of the eastern Ukraine, many new arguments to delay or defeat their adoption.

In a word, the only real winner at Minsk II appears to have been Vladimir Putin.

What the U.S.and the EU should do now is to draft very harsh sectoral sanctions (which can be imposed immediately by the U.S. acting alone—while the EU seeks to develop its consensus), and to begin gathering and staging the supply of “lethal weapons” to Kiev so that the decision can be executed immediately upon its adoption. They should maintain intense pressure on Putin, not with words or threats, but with actions and facts on the ground (e.g., preparing really harsh sectoral sanctions, including expulsion from the SWIFT international payments system, actually shipping lethal arms to staging areas in NATO countries for quick delivery to Kiev if such a decion is made) so that he might actually turn away from his present course of war in the Ukraine.

We can hope for the best in terms of Putin’s implementation of the Minsk II agreement, but need to prepare earnestly to act quickly and energetically through economic and other means if he doesn’t adhere to its terms, in order to bring Russia’s aggression against the Ukraine, including its military occupation of the Crimea, to an early end.

Finally, the definitive and authoritative document should at all costs be circulated to Merkel, Hollande, Poroshenko and Putin, so that their signatures are affixed to it. As noted, it is of paramount importance that the signature of Vladimir Putin appear on the final document, if there is to be any hope that he might actually adhere to its terms.

In domestic law, an agreement that leaves essential terms open to be agreed in the future is known as an “illusory contract”, is not binding, and in fact is not a contract at all.  It may become binding, however, if in the course of its performance those essential terms are supplied.

Let us hope that the Minsk II agreement may become more than illusory as its essential terms are filled in during the course of its performance.

That is a hope, however, not a binding agreement that resolves the conflict—which is driven by Russian military aggression. It’s not something you would want to bet the farm on.

The Trenchant Observer