February 18, 2015

«Minsk-2». What's Next?

Recent events demonstrate that the Russian Federation is not actually able to timely and credibly implement its plans for Ukraine, either by military means, or with the help of targeted measures to destroy the Ukrainian economy and provoke social and political conflict in the country.

This is evidenced by the quite modest (local) results of the Russian-terrorist groups' offensive actions from the temporarily occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk regions. And this — despite the participation of regular troops of the Russian Federation in such actions before, as well as full support to terrorists by the Russian Federation, including permanent supply into the conflict zone of modern weapons and heavy military equipment.

At this, the Russian side's “achievements” are accompanied by heavy losses among the rebels and Russian soldiers, and destruction of military equipment supplied by Russia. Moreover, on a number of tactical directions the ATO forces of Ukraine carry out successful counter-offensives, liberating towns and territory from militants.

At the same time Ukraine's losses from trade closing up trade-economic cooperation with Russia, reduction of Russian gas supplies and measures of the Russian Federation's economic pressure are compensated by financial assistance from the USA, EU and international financial institutions, as well as by the opening of European markets for Ukrainian goods. This is evidenced, on the one hand, by a certain balance of the relationship between Ukraine and the West, and on the other — by the interaction between separatists and Russia, dragging on the conflict and resulting in an increasingly negative impact on the Russian Federation, making critical, in particular, the Putin regime. These consequences, first of all, are worsening of the financial and economic situation in Russia because of the USA and EU's sanctions, as well as the decline in world oil prices; increasing international isolation of Russia and undermine its political and economic position in the world; growing dissatisfaction with Putin's policy in political-oligarchic circles of Russia and the growth of anti-war sentiments in the Russian society; problems with manning the Russian Armed Forces, especially by contractors, due to the reluctance of Russian citizens to participate in the fighting in the east of Ukraine.

So, these circumstances make Putin's regime seek a way out of the situation, including by demonstrating readiness for peace talks to resolve the conflict around Ukraine. This way the leadership of the Russian Federation is trying to reassure Western countries and international organizations, that there is no reason for further sanctions against Russia, and at the same time it is seeking to realize its predatory interests in our state.

As demonstrated by the sadly known experience, any agreements reached with Russia in no way mean that it will necessarily fulfill them. Putin's regime will never give up the implementation of its intentions with regard to Ukraine. After all, these intentions are of fundamental importance for him both in terms of personal ambitions, and in terms of creating necessary conditions for further development of Russia in its present distorted way. For example, Russia violated the Minsk Agreements of 5 and 19 September 2014, and used them only to regroup and build up its forces on the territory of Ukraine and outside its borders, to strengthen the military component of the armed forces of so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics, as well as to prepare further offensive actions against our country.

At this, after the actual failure of such steps at the end of January this year, Russia has resorted to targeted shelling of purely civilian objects (including residential blocks in Mariupol, Donetsk, Luhansk, Kramatorsk and other settlements), which resulted in massive civilian casualties among the population. It sought to put pressure on Ukraine, as well as to substantiate its new idea of a “peacekeeping operation” in the conflict zone in the Ukrainian East. The idea of such an operation (when the main role will be played by Russian “peacekeeping force”) had been actively promoted by Russia on the eve of the next round of negotiations for a peaceful settlement of the conflict in February 2015 to give it “legitimate” grounds in establishing its control over Donetsk and Luhansk regions, as happened in the Trans-Dniester region of Moldova.

As V. Putin's regime is cynical and irresponsible, it is likely that a similar fate awaits the new Minsk Agreements reached February 12 within the framework of the meeting of the so-called “Norman Four”, with the participation of the leaders of Germany, France, Ukraine and Russia. Like in the previous case, they can be used by Moscow only to cover its new imperial plans for Ukraine, which provide for the failure of the European and Euro-Atlantic course of our state, its disintegration and return under the Russian Federation's control.

As demonstrated by the experience, in this context, Russia can resort to the practice of delaying the implementation of the agreements reached (under the pretext of its “lack of capacity to influence the militants”), an arbitrary interpretation of the provisions of the new documents of Minsk Agreements in its favor, denial of the presence of its troops in the Ukrainian territory, provocations in the conflict zone and other regions of Ukraine and others. At the same time Russia will not give up trade and economic pressure on Ukraine, trying to provoke a social and economic crisis as a prerequisite for the emergence of the “third Maidan.”

According to many estimates of leading Western and Ukrainian experts, Putin will not stop in Ukraine and will continue to expand to the west. There is reason to believe that the next objects of possible Russian aggression will be the countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the Baltics, against which Russia already now is using provocative methods of “hybrid” war (above all-political, diplomatic, economic/energy/, information ones), already tested in Ukraine. That is, it is the development of the situation around Ukraine, as well as on its ability with the USA and the EU's help to stop the Russian Federation on its eastern borders, depends stability of Europe and, of course, security of the European Union.

In turn, special attention is paid to further deepening of cooperation between Ukraine and the USA, the EU and NATO to jointly counteract the Russian federation's neo-imperialist and expansionist policy. In the new situation around Ukraine, the main directions of such cooperation should be as follows:

Firstly, Ukraine should be granted the status of non-NATO ally of the United States, as well as should be outlined a clear perspective on the membership in the European Union and the Alliance;

Secondly, Ukraine should immediately receive advanced (precision) Western models of weapons and military equipment (including lethal), enabling it to compensate for the numerical superiority of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation and to cause the aggressor's unacceptable losses in case if it continues the armed aggression;

Thirdly, the world community must recognize that the Russian Federation is the aggressor country and a country that supports terrorism. This will allow to strengthen the international isolation of the Russian Federation and to get grounds for introduction of additional sanctions against it;

Fourthly, the United States and the European Union should continue to use sanctions against Russia in the political and economic spheres (in case if the RF fails to fulfill Minsk Agreements) to undermine the Russian economy, to form the grounds for growing non-confidence to Putin's regime in the Russian society, as well as to deprive Russia of opportunities in the future to carry out its expansion into Ukraine and the West;

Fifthly, the United States, the European Union and international financial institutions should continue providing financial and economic assistance to Ukraine in order to ensure political and economic reforms in our country in the situation of confrontation with the Russian Federation, including to push on the process of reforming the Armed Forces and the military-industrial complex of Ukraine.

Practical implementation of all these directions requires from Ukraine, the USA, the European Union and the North Atlantic Alliance clear and decisive actions to achieve the set goals, in spite of Russia's negative reactions and threats “to take retaliatory steps,” as well as some politicians and experts' warnings about the “inevitability of escalation in the East of Ukraine”. Russia has already used all the resources available for the annexation of the Crimea, for the armed aggression in the East of Ukraine, as well as for the delivery of Russian arms and military equipment (including modern and of lethal effect) into the occupied regions of Donetsk and Luhansk regions. And this is a good reason for the United States, Canada and European countries (including NATO member countries)'s giving arms to Ukraine.

At the same time, according to experts, at the national level Ukraine should focus on issues of reliable isolation of the conflict zone at its East, restoration of a sound system of protection and defense of the Russian-Ukrainian border with Russia, reformation and development of its Armed Forces and other security agencies, both, by Western standards, and based on the experience of combat operations and features of the operational situation in the region, as well as on issues of counteracting measures of new “hybrid” wars on the part of the Russian Federation.

The above-mentioned approaches and activities will turn the tide in favor of Ukraine and will stop Russia's expansion, which will help restore the territorial integrity, sovereignty and the revival of our country in Europe. Besides, it will have a positive value for both, the West, and eventually for the Russian Federation itself, which will be able to return to the path of civilized development without conflicts or confrontation with other countries.