Making sense of the latest Kerry Lavrov deal
April 17, 2014
Ok, first the necessary caveats:
1) Kerry and Lavrov already
had a deal on Syria, also made in Geneva, but then the USA
2) The EU also had a deal on the Ukraine with Yanukovich, who was overthrown literally the next day.
3) The USA, NATO and the EU have lied, cheated, mis-represented, twisted and simply betrayed pretty much every promise which they made to Russia ever since Russia freed itself from the yoke of Communism in 1991.
4) The USA probably has as much control over the Ukrainian crazies a la Right Sector as it does over al-Qaeda, tenuous at best.
5) Putin does have a lot of "street cred" in the eastern Ukraine, but it is far from being infinite.
6) The USA does have full control over the Ukrainian oligarchs, but they, in turn, are clearly in a struggle with the nationalist crazies who probably have more firepower and crowd muscle than these oligarchs.
To these caveats, I also want to add a few basic reminders because from the comments I have seen on my previous initial post, a lot of you are over-reacting to this latest developments. So, just for context, please keep in mind that
1) The Kiev regime
has proven that it does not have the means to crush
the rebellion in the East.
2) For reasons I have already mentioned many times, NATO and the US do not have a military option in the Ukraine.
3) Western sanctions are not significantly hurting Russia and they are very significantly help Putin's personal popularity and reforms program.
4) Time is not on the side of the regime in Kiev as the West cannot rescue the Ukraine; Russia can, but will not do so as long as the regime in power remains both illegitimate and crazy.
5) Popular militia can which materialize overnight can also disappear overnight.
6) Until now Kiev has rejected any negotiations with the East.
7) Kiev hold tens or even hundreds of anti-Fascist activists in its jails.
8) The population which would suffer from open warfare is in the East.
Ok, now that we have set the context, let us look at what happened today:
1) Kiev has agreed to negotiate with the
2) All illegal armed groups will have to disarm (that was already agreed between Yanukovich and the EU).
3) OSCE monitors will be dispatched to the East to monitor the situation.
4) Kiev has committed to legal reforms for greater autonomy.
5) The Crimea has not even been discussed.
6) The EU has accepted Putin's proposal to discuss gas deliveries.
7) Nobody will face prosecution except for major crimes.
Now, in my opinion, very little has in fact been agreed to, and all that has been agreed to is vague, ambiguous and lacks any verifiable landmarks to achieve within a clear timetable.
So I very much disagree with those who see that as a sell-out by Russia or, even more so, who call a truly top-notch diplomat with fantastic diplomatic skills all sorts of bad names.
Furthermore, and that is the only big news, the USA, the EU and Kiev have agreed to negotiate with Russia, something they had categorically refused to do in the past (except for the EU agreement with Yanukovich which lasted less than a day and which the US never committed to). As for Crimea, it is simply not part of any negotiations and will just remain a great opportunity for western politicians to spew some more hot air when they feel the need to.
The illegal formations and their weapons? I suppose that if things go well they will very gradually vacate some buildings which are only needed for symbolic reasons, as for their weapons, they will hide them (and use extra time to get more!). None of the activists will be detained, at least not legally and, frankly, I see no other option at this point for the Kiev authorities then to release the anti-Nazi activists they are holding. So far, the Russian speakers, far from vacating any building, have seized one more.
The sanctions? Those in place will stay, the West will make lots of empty threats about more sanctions if these evil Russkies don't behave, Putin will assume not only that no sanctions will be lifted, but also that many more will be introduced (that serves his economic reform agenda).
Crimea? It will see a huge economic boom starting this summer with a wave of "patriotic tourism" and *massive* investments from the Russian business community which will now get a chance to bid and invest in all the neglected infrastructure the Ukies left after them and all the numerous millionaire mansions the Ukrainian oligarchs have built. Crimea will become the "jewel of the Black Sea" and the economic powerhouse of southern Russia. Military contracts, huge ones, will begin pouring in (the Russian Navy already ordered 5 ships today).
The Ukraine? It will get poorer, more unstable, totally dependent on western emergency aid which will barely let the regime stay in power unless the revolutionaries come to their senses or tell Uncle Sam to buzz off. Either way, as long as the rump-Ukraine remains anti-Russia (nevermind a Nazi Banderastan) it will remain a bankrupt failed state.
Russia? It will continue exactly on the same course and adapt its policies depending on the exact ratio of sanity/delusion it will detect in its "western partners".
So today agreement is really neither good, nor bad, in fact - it's no big deal at all. Either it will be as short-lived as the agreement between the EU and Yanukovich, or it will be slowly implemented with lots of zig-zags on the way. Regardless of which option proves true, it will not affect the deep dynamics which have been set in motion which have now acquired a momentum so powerful that probably nobody can stop it.
The attempt to put down the eastern Ukraine appears to have petered out and the chance to turn the Donbass into a "East Banderastan" lead by a clique of neo-Nazi freaks are as small as ever. In other words, chances are the at least the current phase of the Ukrainian civil war is over.
All in all, that is pretty good news, I think.