The Minsk II agreement – The long game.

The Minsk II agreement – The long game

European Council on Foreign Relations

13th February, 2015

By Gustav Gressel 


“ Constitutional reform in Ukraine, with the new Constitution to come into effect by the end of 2015, the key element of which is decentralisation (taking into account peculiarities of particular districts of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts, agreed with representatives of these districts), and also approval of permanent legislation on special status of particular districts of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts in accordance with the measures spelt out in the footnotes, by the end of 2015.“

„After reaching an implementation agreement in Minsk on 11 February 11, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was very cautious in her predictions of whether the ceasefire will hold and whether this means there is a real chance to end the conflict. There are more than a few reasons why the whole process might fail.

There is a real danger that the negotiations are a rather tactical delaying manoeuvre by the Kremlin…

The agreement is everything but perfect. But between this and the continuation of war, it is probably the lesser evil. In her Munich speech [read in German], Angela Merkel made it clear that the Russian-Ukrainian war had ramifications beyond the Donbass. The wider Russian-European standoff is about values, norms, rules and social and political order in Europe and will not be ended with a truce, not even with peace in Ukraine. It will end when the Russian regime changes fundamentally – something we might not see for a generation to come.

There is no silver bullet to cure Ukraine’s military shortfalls overnight.

But Ukraine can’t fight for decades, not least for humanitarian reasons. While the West will never recognize or legitimize Russia’s conquest of the Crimean peninsula or the Donbass, it should have little illusion that Russia will give them back any time soon – or will allow Ukraine to retake it. Since autumn 2014 Russia has sent regular military units across the border and Russian military presence in the Donbas increased considerably in January and early February 2015. Although Ukraine’s armed forces have made tremendous efforts, the  weaknesses of Ukraine’s hastily expanded and reorganized armed forces has become obvious.

The newly founded Lithuanian-Polish-Ukrainian brigade as well as US training activities in Lviv are first measures to cure those ills…“

  • On June 14, 2007, during an EU Defence Ministers‘ meeting, Lithuanian, Polish and Ukrainian ministers agreed to create a multinational unit. Lithuanian–Polish–Ukrainian Brigade – Wikipedia, the free … is a multinational brigade consisting of units from the Lithuanian, Polish and Ukrainian Other countries are free to join the trilateral agreement. The unit was finally formed on September 19, 2014. The 4,500-strong brigade will have its headquarters and staff in Lublin, Poland. Once it reaches operational readiness it will be used to fulfill tasks given to it by NATO, European Union (EU) and the United Nations. The operating language of the brigade will be English. The three countries did have experience in past joint military operations, most notably, through the Lithuanian-Polish Peace Force Battalion and the Polish–Ukrainian Peace Force Battalion. Lithuania and Poland are NATO members, Ukraine is currently not but requested to join the NATO Membership Action Plan in January 2 008.
  • Nato begins military exercises in Ukraine – Telegraph Sep 15, 2014. For the first time one European country now contains both Nato troops and Russian combat units, although they are deployed at opposite ends of Ukraine about 700 miles apart. America and the leading Western powers began a military exercise in Ukraine… About 1,300 troops from 15 countries joined
  • Exercise Rapid Trident held in the Lviv region of western Ukraine. America sent 200 troops and Britain dispatched a reconnaissance troop from the Light Dragoons with 40 personnel. This multi-national force, which included soldiers from 11 Nato countries, carried out a „battalion-level field training exercise“, said a US Army statement. The manoeuvres were held „at the explicit request of the Ukrainian government and military.”

„But it will take time till they have an effect. The same is true about possible US and European arms deliveries to Ukraine. There is no silver bullet to cure Ukraine’s military shortfalls overnight. Meanwhile, the territory effectively controlled and held by Kyiv only got smaller. And Ukraine’s financial and economic situation deteriorates faster than that of Russia.36D32A02-DA5A-4AAC-8FCC-3AECE425B7E4_mw1024_s_n


For Europe, and above all Germany, the hard work with Ukraine on

  • implementing the ceasefire,
  • stabilizing Ukraine’s finances,
  • reforming the administrative system, and
  • rebooting the economy has just begun.

All regulatory issues mentioned in the ceasefire now have to be hammered out. And especially when finding viable way to revive the banking and social transactions into the Donbass, Ukraine will need some advice and assistance in order to find viable solutions that do not put too many burdens on Kyiv.

Even if it holds, the ceasefire is only a beginning. Both the war in Ukraine and the wider conflict with Russia will need the full attention of European leaders for the foreseeable future.“

The real problem with Mogherini’s Russia paper | European …

European Council on Foreign Relations

Jan 20, 2015

By Kadri Liik

13123untitled-1On Monday, the foreign ministers of the European Union discussed relations with Russia, taking as their departure point the “issues paper” prepared by Brussels bureaucracy, with the European External Action Service under High Representative Federica Mogherini taking the lead role.

This paper, published last Thursday by the Financial Times, has already created a minor storm because it was interpreted as advocating a return to “business as usual” with Russia…However, the paper also included some more fundamental flaws that have so far escaped attention. Since the paper – or the thinking behind it – may guide the EU’s Russia discussions for some time, these failings still deserve a closer look.

The EU’s end goal is not to isolate or destroy Russia, but to find a way to make Russia modify its behaviour to correspond to international law.

The paper’s general guiding vision, although not very clearly articulated, seems to be correct: the EU’s end goal is not to isolate or destroy Russia, but to find a way to make Russia modify its behaviour to correspond to international law and to an OSCE-based international order, and thereby, in the end, to arrive at a new level of co-existence and cooperation that would also include elements that appeal to Russia. This is a good goal – but it is also a very difficult and demanding one.

Sadly, it is evident from the paper that its authors have

  • no proper understanding of what it will take to arrive at such an end result.The most worrying problem with the paper is that it betrays
  • a profound lack of understanding of the driving factors of Russia’s foreign policy and their relative importance.

Compare, for example, the passages that try to identify Russia’s and the EU’s interests with regard to each other.

Russia’s interests are seen as largely formal and bureaucratic: they include

  • resumption of formal dialogue with the EU,
  • trilateral talks on a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement, and
  • recognition of the Eurasian Union (EEU).

The EU’s interests, while listed in the same quick and somewhat offhand manner, belong to a different world:

  • Russia’s respect for international law and OSCE-based order, an end to
  • Moscow’s destabilising activities on the EU’s borders and to
  • Russian pressure in the common neighbourhood, and
  • improvements in fundamental freedoms and human rights in Russia.

It is absurd to expect that Russia will stop putting pressure on its neighbours in the hope of “resuming a formal dialogue with the EU”. These are not compatible categories.

It is absurd to expect that Russia will stop putting pressure on its neighbours in the hope of “resuming a formal dialogue with the EU” (a dialogue in which Russia was already becoming less and less interested before the current stand-off).

For Russia, pressurising neighbours is almost inevitable, because it stems from its chosen identity:

Russia wants to think of itself as a great power, and its definition of great power includes having “a sphere of influence” around its borders. Great power status and the ability to control vast areas also legitimise the oppressive nature of the regime at home.

Moreover, it would be wrong to think of great power rhetoric merely as a propaganda tool of the Kremlin. No –

the idea of other countries being afraid of Russia enjoys true popularity among large parts of the population, who are happy to sacrifice certain freedoms for the sake of this national status.

Therefore, with this paper, the EU is effectively asking Russia to abandon its basic political personality in exchange for some more talking.

It is hard to see how Moscow could consider it anything but insulting – especially given the deeply held Russian view that the West has already cheated it into leaving its Soviet sphere of influence in exchange for membership in organisations that, in Russia’s eyes, amounted in the end to little more than talking shops.

Of the things listed by the EU as Russia’s interests, only two – technology transfers and exemptions for Russia’s state-owned energy company, Gazprom, from the requirements of the EU’s Third Energy Package – could be truly attractive to the Kremlin.

But even these two are still not attractive enough to cause Russia to abandon its basic worldview. Quite the contrary –

technology and, particularly, exemptions are needed precisely in order to retain and increase Russia’s leverage over its neighbourhood.

Talks between the EU and EEU are proposed these days by many in Europe as a potential basis for a new “grand bargain”. But it remains unclear what the talks would actually achieve. As recently as a year ago, Moscow would probably have been thrilled about such an offer.

After all, the Eurasian Union was designed as a means to increase Russia’s economic clout and thereby to make it an equal partner to the EU and other trade blocs in ways that Russia could not be on its own.

But things have changed after the events of 2014: Moscow’s “loss” of Ukraine and the other EEU members’ increased reservations.

Russia will by no means abandon the EEU project, but, for now, Moscow seems unclear as to how exactly it should proceed and to what it should aspire. So, the EU’s offer may be too little, too late. At the same time – and contrary to the EU’s hopes – this kind of cooperation would not really solve the dilemmas associated with the countries in between.

Agreement for Moscow means recognition of spheres of influence – on the ground, as well as, and more importantly, as a principle of international life.

Of course, even though the paper fails to mention them, Moscow does also have real interests vis-à-vis the EU – and they belong in the same category as those listed in the paper as the EU’s interests. They concern the rules of the game in Europe. Ever since April, Moscow has signalled to the West that it is prepared to talk and that it wants to reach an agreement.

But agreement for Moscow means recognition of spheres of influence – on the ground, as well as, and more importantly, as a principle of international life.

Understandably, the EU cannot enter a dialogue on these terms. Thus, the disagreement between the West and Moscow is a fundamental one, and there is no easy solution to it. But trying to circumvent it by focusing on trivialities – a measure that sometimes, indeed, can be useful – in this case runs the risk of being counterproductive, because it may overburden the agenda with irrelevant topics and obscure both sides’ understanding of the situation…

We want to share the continent with a Russia that accepts international rules, respects its neighbours’ freedoms, and seeks influence by means of its own attractiveness rather than by coercion. Achieving this would probably require a major change in Russia’s worldview – and, ultimately, that can only come from inside Russia itself. The best way for Europe to help is to develop a properly thought through long-term strategy to guard what remains of the European order. We should restrict Russia’s freedom of action as necessary and possible, while trying to be clear about the nature of our disagreements. And we should keep articulating the vision of the continent whole and free, even if this can only be realised in the distant future. Whatever happens, we are in for a long haul. The Minsk agreements, even if they are fulfilled, will not be the end of the story, but only the beginning…”

CFR is an award-winning international think tank that …offer a media platform to get Europeans talking about their role in the world. It was established in 2007…with initial funding from George Soros’s Open Society Foundations, the Communitas Foundation, Sigrid Rausing, Unicredit and Fride. Inspired by the role American think tanks played in helping the US move from isolationism to global leadership, ECFR’s founders set about creating a pan-European institution that could combine establishment credibility with intellectual insurgency. Today, it…receives funding from a wide range of charitable foundations, national governments, companies and private individuals.



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