On some days there is no single striking development in the Ukraine Crisis, but rather just different stories that illuminate this or that aspect of the situation. Nonetheless, by paying close attention to these different stories, we can each day gain a more nuanced understanding of the forces at play in the crisis.
1) Javier G. Cuesta, Marc Bassetts, y María R. Sahuquillo, “Rusia desmiente la promesa de no emprender nuevas maniobras militares anunciada por Francia tras la reunión de Macron y Putin; El presidente francés no logra cerrar la brecha con Moscú pero gana tiempo para el diálogo con un periodo de nuevas conversaciones, El País, el 8 de febrero, 2022 (06:34, Actualizado: 08:16 EST).
2) Javier G. Cuesta, “Lavrov, tras reunirse en Moscú con la ministra británica Truss: “Es como el diálogo de un sordo y un mudo”; El ministro de Exteriores de Rusia afirma que los soldados rusos que participan en las maniobras en Bielorrusia regresarán a su término,” El País, el 10 de febrero 2022 (09:35 EST);
3) “Russia makes ‘Goebbels’ comparison; Head of the Russian Foreign Ministry accused his Ukrainian counterpart of lying ‘with a straight face,’” RT, February 10, 2022 (14:01);
4) David M. Herszenhorn and Giorgio Leali, “Defiant Putin mauls Macron in Moscow; Russian president fires both barrels at NATO alliance, while Macron notes diplomacy with Russia carries ‘an element of ingratitude,’” Politico, February 7, 2022 (9:16 pm).
Herszenhorn and Leali report that Putin, at the press conference after his meeting with Macron, used extremely crude language to tell Ukraine it just has to accept Putin’s position in the Minsk II negotiations. He said:
“At one point, insisting that the Ukrainian government should be forced to implement provisions of the Minsk peace accords, Putin even quoted a line that features in an obscene song with allusions to rape and necrophilia: ‘Whether you like it or don’t like it, bear with it, my beauty,’ he said.”
Putin’s allusion to rape and telling the victim she has to just submit, whether she likes it or not, was an apt reference to Russia’s actions toward Ukraine in 2014 and since then. We are indeed facing a renewed rape of Ukraine by Russia, in a series of rapes the first of which were carried out in 2014.
The shamelessness of Lavrov and Russian propaganda-are amply demonstrated by the following:
Lavrov, at his joint press conference with the British foreign secretary, Liz Truss, rudely stood up and walked out without listening to her remarks. In the polite world of diplomacy, this crude act was an outrageous insult not only to the foreign secretsry, but also to Britain herself.
Lavrov’s insulting behavior was not limited to the foreign secretary:
As an example, Lavrov brought up Kuleba’s recent claim that Kiev would not engage in direct dialogue with the two breakaway regions Donetsk and Lugansk, since such dialogue is allegedly not covered by the Minsk agreements.
“Well, you see, this is definitely the school of Goebbels, and maybe even surpasses the art of the chief propagandist of the Third Reich,” Lavrov said. He explained that “to tell a lie with a straight face,” to reject internationally approved agreements and at the same time not to worry that the Western countries would pull you back, “is a quite comfortable position for the demagogues who are now defending their case, trying to rewrite the Minsk agreements.”
Lavrov’s statement, like most Russian propaganda related to Ukraine, must be understood as aimed at the domestic Russian audience, which is not likely to hear any rebuttals.
It is rich indeed to hear Lavrov complain of the foreign minister’s rejection of international agreements, when Russia stands in flagrant violation of the U.N. Charter prohibition of the threat or use of force, threatening an invasion of the Ukraine at this very moment, having invaded the Crimea in February 2014, and having invaded the Donbas region of Eastern Ukraine in the summer of 2014.
The Minsk accords were entered into by Ukraine while under Russian military threat. Now Putin wants them implemented in his interpretation of their terms. “Just accept it, whether you like it or not, beautiful one.”
Russia has continually violated the Minsk II provisions and failed to uphold the ceasefire they established. Now Putin insists that Ukraine accept his interpretation of ambiguous and disputed provisions, or…or else, or else he will invade Ukraine.
While, in principle, good faith negotiations between Germany, France, Ukraine, and Russia, under the “Normandy Format”, could offer an off-ramp for Putin from his current course of threatened invasion, this path will become viable only if and when he desists from his current absolutist demands. Anyone who looks at his record on the Minsk accords over the last 7 1/2 years cannot conclude that Russia has proceeded in good faith.
Looking at Lavrov’s behavior, which was undoubtedly performed for an audience of one, one would be hard pressed to conclude that Putin has at present any serious interest in diplomacy.
He may have thought earlier that he could stoke divisions among the allies, or at least take their measure to help him in his calculations. Yet he has not succeeded in either regard.
4) Pavel Lokshin, “Putins heimliche Frontverschiebung,” Die Welt, den 10. Februar 2022.
Lokshin describes how, as a result of the demonstrations in Belarus following fraudulent elections last year, and President Alexander Lukashenko s reliance on Putin in order to survive, Russia has now expanded its area of military deployment far to the West, in effect completing the encirclement of the Baltic countries of Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia, while opening a broad front for military operations near the northern border of Ukraine.
This is a dramatc development, though one so far little noticed with the world’s attention focused on the potential Russian invasion of Ukraine;
5) Harun Yilmaz, “No, Russia will not invade Ukraine; A large-scale military operation does not fit into Moscow’s cost-benefit calculus, Al Jazira, February 9, 2022.
Yilmar offers a more hopeful conclusion, based on his close analysis of how Russia has carefully calculated its risks in its interventions in Georgia and Moldova (2008), Ukraine (2014), Syria (2015) and more recently in Libya. He concludes that a major invasion of Ukraine is unlikely, though military operations on a smaller scale are quite possible.
So, we end the day with Putin’s take on rape and Minsk II, Lavrov’s undiplomatic and deeply offensive behavior, and his preposterous statements about Goebbel’s propaganda playbook and rejecting international agreements with a straight face.
While experts in international politics and military strategy are needed, satirists should be alerted to the extraordinary quality of the material being provided, almost every day, by Russian propagandists such as Lavrov.
The Trenchant Observer