February 26, 2016

Minsk Agreements vs the Minsk Process: What Is the Difference?

The Independent Analytical Center for Geopolitical Studies “Borysfen Intel” affords ground to the analysts generation for expressing their point of view regarding the political, economic, security, information situation in Ukraine and in the world in general, according to their personal geopolitical studies and analyses.


Note that an authors’ point of view
can disagree with the editor’s one

O. Rohovyk, Coordinator of Free Voice IAC


Today in Ukraine, the Minsk agreements, by their negative popularity, especially in expert circles, can only equalize with the activities of the government: everybody speaks about them and almost everybody criticizes them.

The Minsk Agreements have become a field of enormous speculations, the talk at conferences of various kinds, the argument by which people are pigeonholed and so on.


Why did it happen?

The Minsk Agreements have got such a bad reputation due to the fact that they have become the subject to nearly everybody's dissatisfaction. This dissatisfaction concerns both the general course of the conflict in the East of Ukraine, and the legal technicalities, brought by the Minsk-2 Agreements.

It is worth noting that these outbursts of discontent are quite reasonable, because Russia's “hybrid” war has spawned a not less “hybrid” reaction of Ukraine. The international armed conflict for some reason has become the Anti-terrorist operation (ATO), and the state in this situation is a strange body, simultaneously sitting on the chairs of war and peace.

Even the fact that the very existence of the Minsk Agreements in a certain way did weaken the aggressive military operations in the East of Ukraine, cannot save them from some important theses.

Firstly, the Minsk-2, of course, does not meet Ukraine's national aspirations, because it is a complicated combination of our interests and the interests of the aggressor-state and a number of Ukraine's European partners.

Secondly, the Minsk-2 is a framework and questionable (from the point of view of international law) document that does not give Ukraine prospects for resolving the issue of territorial integrity.

Today, debating on this urgent and important issue, we have to take into consideration one important fact. This fact is that it is impossible to turn back. We may repeat forever that the Minsk Agreements are bad and the process of signing them was terrible, but we cannot deny the fact that they have been concluded and under them there is a signature of the Ukrainian side. Now, we cannot cancel the Minsk Agreements, because we understand that in such a case there would be a real threat of war, or very negative reaction of the international community. We cannot cancel them, until we have a clearer and obviously better for us alternative. As of today, such an alternative has not been clearly voiced or lettered. So it is too late to talk about the past, and even, perhaps, it is too late to talk about the present. For the Minsk-2 is important only “tomorrow”. Apart from the time factor, we must also mention another — the limitations of Ukraine's capabilities. We signed the Minsk-2, because, obviously, could not get anything much better. Ukraine's capabilities in terms of its strength are limited by those who are stronger than it is. This should always be remembered! That is, we are in a trap by our choice because of being unable to get out of it.


What should we talk about today and tomorrow? In the process of implementation (and mainly non-implementation) of the Minsk Agreements in 2015, it is becoming increasingly clear that any timeframe of the Minsk-2 Agreements has lost its relevance. This happened because the “spirit” of these Agreements has gained supreme power over their text. After the apparent complex leveling of the Agreements by the Russian Federation and LDNR, today the Minsk-2 has to be understood as the aggregate uncertainty about the sequence of fulfillment of individual points and their semantic content. In what order and how to fulfill them — is not clear. That is why, what does matter today is the real processes of interaction between Ukraine and its Western partners, as well as the aggressor-state with its puppet “implants”.

Due to the fact that the interaction is more important than the text, about which it is going on, critically important become real international conditions.

Firstly, Ukraine's long-term dependence on foreign players, and, consequently, Ukraine's partial subjectivity.

Secondly, the worrying trends in the West concerning the possibility of softening the position on Russia (talks/rumors about lifting of sanctions or resumption of the partner dialogue in the nearest future).

Thirdly, Russia being close to the collapse, moving to self-destruction, but having not gone far enough to weaken its military and political pressure on Ukraine.

These conditions make the processes not linear, but multiple choice ones!

That is why I am inclined to believe that the Minsk-2, as we saw it after the signing, in reality no longer exists. To replace it there came the “Minsk Peace Process of the Third Wave or Minsk-3”. By it we should understand all international processes on a free interpretation of the negotiations relating to the Minsk-2 between the conflicting parties. Free to such extent that it often goes far beyond it. The third generation of the conflict in the East of Ukraine has resulted in the third generation of the Minsk Agreements.

The Minsk-2 has not just gradually turned into the process of the Minsk-3, but like a large vase, from time it has cracked and began to fall apart. By these pieces should be understood autonomous modes of international negotiations over certain points of the Minsk Agreements.

For example, it is worth mentioning at least 3 (three) such autonomous modes:

The first, in accordance with article 4 (regarding to the modalities of holding the elections in the Donbas);

The second, in accordance with articles 5-6 (regarding to the exchange of prisoners in the context of the amnesty);

The third, according to articles 9-12 (relating to the control of the state border, the withdrawal of Russian troops, the constitutional reform).

Each of these modes is a self-sufficient field for extended international and national discussions. Within the framework of each of these modes, new ideas-innovations are born, significantly modifying the original text of the Minsk-2 Agreements.

As an example of these ideas, we may mention the control over the state border by Ukrainian border guards, which will be from the “former” LNR and DNR. The today's variety of choice concepts is common knowledge. You can just mention O. Zakharchenko's “creativity”, who said that he would compete on equal terms in the elections with one Ukrainian party — O. Lyashko's Radical Party. As for the third autonomous mode, we may point out all the ideas starting with the “referendum”, introduction of international contingents of different types and ending with different options of the constitutional consolidation of decentralization status in Ukraine. That is, innovations are plenty, but they make no sense!

So what have we come to? The Minsk-2 today is a gas stove. The Minsk-3 as a process is a collection of fragrant dishes, intertwining of scents and spices in the form of salt or pepper, being thrown into the saucepan by all who care or just are not lazy.

The Minsk-2 actually does not exist any longer, but it is still alive as a difference of interpretations within the framework of the processes of the new Minsk-3. Ukraine may even be lucky enough that the Minsk-2 did not become for us a key and unquestioning plan for the development of the situation in the Donbas. Its “death” gave us a chance to turn the scales for the better (although, with the risk that we can shift them for the worse).

At the same time, today's domestic political and socio-economic processes in Russia, as well as international political and economic processes and trends in the world around Russia, not without reason, give us hope that the future process of the Minsk-3 would be better for Ukraine than the previous document of the Minsk-2.