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How Ukraine’s War Is to Be Settled: Zelenskiy, Crimea, and Donbass

Eric Zuesse

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On April 30th, Ukraine’s Central Election Commission announced that after the final voting tabulations (which included more than 13% of Ukrainians living abroad), Volodmyr Zelensky had beaten the sitting President, Petro Poroshenko, by a vote of 73.22% to 24.45%. The biggest single issue that Ukraine’s new President will be dealing with is going to be whether to continue, or to end, Ukraine’s war against its two break-away regions, Crimea in the extreme south, and Donbass in the far east.

Ukraine’s ‘civil’ war had started in late February 2014, when the United States’ longstanding efforts at regime-change in that country (in order to install an anti-Russian government in the European country that has the longest border with Russia) finally succeeded. These efforts succeeded there in much the same way that the U.S. regime’s efforts at regime-change in 1953 Iran did, and that the U.S. regime’s efforts at regime-change in 1954 Guatemala did, and that the U.S. regime’s efforts at regime-change in 1973 Chile did: by means of a bloody coup. In each case, the U.S. coup replaced an existing democracy and it installed instead a fascist dictatorship, which was promptly followed by a ‘civil war’ when the U.S.-installed dictatorship targeted for extermination and/or expulsion the leaders and voters for that overthrown democracy. In each of these coup-cases, the first task of the newly installed dictatorship was to eliminate enough of the voters who had voted for and backed the democracy, so that any future ‘elections’ would install only other fascists and thereby continue that government as being a U.S. vassal-nation.

A month before Zelenskiy’s April 23rd electoral win, UAWire headlined on March 23rd, “Front-runner in Ukraine’s election race names condition for returning Crimea”, and reported that Zelenskiy had suddenly made the radical statement: “Crimea will return only when power changes in Russia. There is no other choice.” This view accepted the likelihood that Crimea would remain as a part of Russia (which it had been for hundreds of years until 1954 when the Ukrainian Nikita Khruschev, as the Soviet dictator, arbitrarily gifted it from Russia to his own homeland). Zelenskiy’s statement directly contradicted the view that Ukraine’s Government had emphatically stated ever since the U.S. Government’s successful February 2014 coup (which was hidden behind massive grassroots anti-corruption demonstrations at Kiev’s Maidan Square) replaced Ukraine’s neutralist, simultaneously pro-Western and pro-Russian, Government, by the present rabidly anti-Russian U.S.-imposed regime. This U.S.-installed regime promised, repeatedly and consistently, that it would invade and conquer Crimea, and would thereby restore it to Ukraine, as Crimea had been, from 1954 to 2014.

That UAWire report also quoted Zelenskiy’s remark about the other breakaway region from Ukraine, Donbass: “Residents of Donbas should ‘realize that they are Ukrainians,’ stressed Zelensky.” This too constituted a radical break away from the U.S.-imposed Ukrainian Government’s repeated promises (which U.S. President Barack Obama had strongly supported) to retake Donbass by force — not by any means of convincing Donbassers about anything. The American regime’s view was that the residents of Crimea and of Donbass should have no say in whether or not they are to be ruled by Ukraine’s Government. 

None of the other candidates in the Presidential contest veered apart from the U.S.-installed regime’s consistent line of war against Russia and of retaking both Crimea and Donbass. All of them promised victory against Russia.

Zelenskiy thus won this election as the peace-candidate in the race. Ukrainians had finally become sick and tired of being at war against Russia, and that’s the main meaning of Zelenskiy’s enormous 73% win.

This victory by Zelenskiy represented actually the will not of the U.S. regime, but of the EU regime, which had never been quite as eager as the U.S. regime was to conquer Russia. On March 15th, France’s Ambassador to Ukraine, Isabel Dumont, communicating privately to Ukraine’s then-existing Government. Writing on behalf of all seven of the G7 Ambassadors, she warned Ukraine’s far-right Minister of the Interior, Arsen Avakov, that “the G7 group is concerned by extreme political movements in Ukraine.” Those “extreme political movements in Ukraine” were Ukraine’s two racist-fascist, or ideologically nazi, political parties, Svoboda and Right Sector, both of which had provided the shock-troops, which had worked for the U.S. regime during the coup, and which subsequently led in the new regime’s ethnic-cleansing campaign to kill as many as possible of the residents in Donbass. (90% of the Donbass voters had voted for the Ukrainian President that Obama overthrew.) America’s Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty headlined, on March 22nd, about the March 15th G7 statement, “G7 Letter Takes Aim At Role Of Violent Extremists In Ukrainian Society, Election”. This reported that the G7’s concern referred specifically to “products of the Azov Battalion.” That battalion is (though RFERL carefully ignored the fact) a self-organized blatantly white-supremacist Ukrainian organization of members both of Svoboda and of Right Sector. Azov’s founder and leader, Andrei Biletsky (or “Beletsky”), calls his movement “Ukrainian Social Nationalism,” and he has laid out in writing its program as “racial purification of the Nation” and specifically as being a return to “old Ukrainian Aryan values forgotten in modern society.” His followers had, under Obama (during and since the coup), powerfully helped to install the far-right post-coup regime, which regime now possibly could finally end — Obama’s coup in Ukraine thus to become terminated in abject failure (which it actually already is) and perhaps ultimately even to become abandoned by the Europeans. So: Zelenskiy will need will need to be very concerned with what the EU’s leadership wants. If Ukraine now were to lose the EU’s continued support, it would become totally isolated.

The EU’s new position on Ukraine is decidedly less American than it had formerly been. It’s no longer much respecting the U.S. regime. It falls more into line with what Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, has advocated for and helped to negotiate for in the Minsk accords (which the U.S. regime refused to particiate in). He wants Donbassers to be restored again into the electorate of the Ukrainian Government, but only in a way which those people themselves participate in helping to shape — and not (as the U.S. regime has constantly championed) by means of coercion: by military force (war).

Here is how Russia’s position on Donbass evolved into this fixed and steady policy:

On 19 September 2014, I headlined “Russia’s Leader Putin Rejects Ukrainian Separatists’ Aim to Become Part of Russia”, and reported the momentous news that Putin had finally decided not to allow the former Ukraine’s far-eastern Donbass region to be admitted into the Russian Federation, in any such way as he had, just a half-year before, on 16 March 2014, allowed Crimea in — simply by means of a majority-vote of the residents there to abandon Ukraine and to join Russia.

Then, a year later, on 12 September 2015, I bannered “U.S.-Installed Ukrainian Regime Now Fears Return of Donbass to Ukraine”, and reported that, and explained why, “for Ukraine to re-absorb the breakaway region, Donbass (its two districts Donetsk and Lugansk), back into Ukraine, would be politically disastrous, unless the residents there are eliminated.”

The reason for that “politically disastrous” was made clear by the voting-map for the 2010 Ukrainian Presidential election, which election had been won by the Presidential candidate who had advocated for Ukraine to have cordial relations both with Russia to the east and with the European Union and the U.S. to the west: Viktor Yanukovych. (The voting percentages for him are indicated on that map as the places that voted for “Janukovych”). The dark-purple part of that voting-map indicates the areas where Yanukovych had won by 90% or higher, which was the highest support in all of Ukraine, and almost all of the dark purple area is in Donbass. This is the reason why the Obama-installed regime wanted to eliminate those people. They could vote out-of-office Obama’s Ukrainian regime. So: if those voters aren’t permanently eliminated from Ukraine (or ethnically cleansed from Ukraine), then the U.S. regime’s control over Ukraine’s Government won’t be able to last long, and probably won’t even survive beyond the next Ukrainian elections. In other words: the U.S.-installed Ukrainian regime depends, for its very existence, not only upon the U.S. regime, but also upon eliminating from any future Ukrainian election the voters who live in Donbass. That’s the reason why “U.S.-Installed Ukrainian Regime Now Fears Return of Donbass to Ukraine”. At least between the time of ther U.S. coup and Zelenskiy’s win, Ukraine’s regime demanded the land in Crimea and in Donbass, but with the voters there either dead or gone as refugees to Russia — but definitley not participating in future Ukrainian elections.

Only in this light can the recently reaffirmed news that Putin wants the residents of Donbass to become Ukrainians again, become correctly understood: Putin doesn’t want a U.S.-stooge-regime to be ruling next door in Ukraine. He wants those pro-Russian residents to be voting in Ukraine, and he has no need for them to be added to Russia’s electorate. Their presence in Ukraine’s electorate reduces Ukraine’s anti-Russia policies, and thereby increases Russia’s safety. So: this is what Putin wants.

Thus, on 19 April 2019, Reuters headlined “Putin’s INTERVIEW-ally advised the new president of Ukraine to agree with Moscow and reclaim the Territory” of Donbass, and reported that a Ukrainian legislator who serves as a rare negotiator between Ukraine and Russia, “Viktor Medvedchuk, a significant figure of the Ukrainian pro-Russian opposition,” is urging Ukraine’s newly elected President, Vladimir Zelenskiy, to negotiate with Putin the return of Donbass to Ukraine. The article closed by saying, of Medvedchuk, that:

his party “opposition platform-for life”, which occupies the second place according to the polls, may be ready to cooperate with Zelensky after the October parliamentary elections, But the decision will be taken for each individual case. Zelenskiy hinted that he would not want to join the coalition with the Medvedchuk party and did not say whether he would be ready to work with him on an ad hoc basis.

And, then, on 23 April 2019, UAWire headlined “Russia to offer Zelensky deal on gas and the Donbas”, and reported that:

Moscow sees a chance to improve relations with Ukraine following the outcome of the presidential elections in Ukraine, announced Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on Monday as he commented on the results of the second round of voting after which 41-year-old Vladimir Zelensky won with over 70% of the vote. …

According to Medvedchuk, who had traveled to Moscow to meet with Putin and representatives of the Russian government two weeks ago, Moscow promises a 25 percent discount on gas if Ukraine agrees to resume direct purchases from Gazprom instead of reverse flow purchases from European countries as has been the case since 2015. …

Moscow’s main goal is to return the territories of the Donbas controlled by the pro-Russian militants to Kyiv on its own terms.

A deal on how to implement peace in the east of Ukraine can be reached “within a few months” and enforced within “six to eight months”, Medvedchuk said, adding that any negotiations on this issue should be conducted by Kyiv, Moscow and the two breakaway pro-Russian regions.

If Zelenskiy takes up Russia’s invitation, then the sticking-points will be:

Can ways be found that will persuade the residents of Donbass, whom the U.S.-imposed Ukrainian regime has been trying to exterminate and/or force to flee into neighboring Russia, to become again citizens of Ukraine? If, indeed, “any negotiations on this issue should be conducted by Kyiv, Moscow and the two breakaway pro-Russian regions,” then the residents in Donbass (who had voted around 90% for Yanukovych and since then were bombed and even firebombed by the U/S.-installed Ukrainian regime) would have a say in their own fates. How could they vote to become Ukrainians, after that — Ukraine’s war against  them? The inducements would have to be pretty strong.

Zelenskiy would, in that scenario, be seeking to absorb those voters back again into what would now be Zelenskiy’s own electorate, and therefore he would probably be voted out-of-office in his re-election campaign. Would he be willing to do such a thing? Well, if he were to be strong for Donbassers’ rights and for the Ukrainian Government’s protection of them, then maybe, because then he’d win Donbassers’ votes at least as much as Yanukovych did. That would be the end of Obama’s impact upon Ukraine.

Whereas, in The West, the war against Donbass is portrayed as Russia invading that part of (the former) Ukraine in order to ‘grab’ ‘another piece’ of its territory, the reality is that it’s an invasion there by the U.S.-installed Ukrainian regime in order to make sure that Donbass’s voters will never again be voting in any Ukrainian elections. One of the reasons that the publics in the U.S. international empire endorse their regimes’ aggressions against Russia — and against any nation’s leader (such as against Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, Viktor Yanukovych, Hugo Chavez, and Bashar Assad) who is friendly toward Russia — is the rampant fraudulent headlines such as was epitomized in the 7 December 2018 The Week magazine, “Ukraine: Is Russia trying to take another chunk?” It’s hardly a free press in the sense that the empire’s propaganda says it is. It’s a deceit-machine. The publics within the empire are overwhelmingly deceived, especially about international relations (which is what’s necessary in order to be able to increase the empire).

CONCLUSIONS 

The Minsk accords and all the rest are now just PR. The residents in Donbass have become stranded between two governments — one which wants them dead or otherwise gone, and the other which doesn’t need them but which does whatever it can to help them to survive where they are, until they finally accept becoming again ruled from Kiev.

If I were to venture a guess as to what the outcome of this will be, it would be that Zelenskiy will give the war-weary residents both in Ukraine and in Donbass — and also the residents of Crimea, which Putin did accept into Russia — what they want, while Ukraine extracts from Gazprom and Russia whatever discounts they can get, in return for reducing Russia’s costs to maintain the people in Donbass. 

What will happen if that doesn’t? Maybe, long term, Donbass will be able to become admitted into Russia, without the U.S. regime and its allies invading Russia on the excuse of there having been ‘another land-seizure by the dangerous and aggressive Russian dictator Putin’ (or his successor). But, post-coup, Ukraine’s leaders need to satisfy the U.S. and its allies (now especially the EU), and so the U.S.-led group will then ultimately determine what Ukraine does regarding Donbass. 

Only if the U.S. too somehow gets a peace-President can Donbassers have peace. If Zelenskiy doesn’t follow through on the peace-path and the U.S. wants the war against Donbass to resume, then that’s what will happen: the war against Donbass will resume. 

A way needs to be found to restore Ukrainian voting rights and social services to Donbassers and yet to allow Donbassers to be protected by Russia against Ukraine’s nazis. It won’t happen unless there is a U.S. President who wants peace with Russia, instead of conquest of Russia. Zelensky said “Crimea will return only when power changes in Russia. There is no other choice.” But the reality is that Crimea will remain as a part of Russia, and that Donbass will return to Ukraine only if and when America’s Government finally and truly ends its side of the Cold War, which Russia’s side ended in 1991 while the U.S. side secretly continued on right into the present, aiming ultimately to conquer Russia.

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010

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Eastern Europe

Lithuania’s voice in NATO is getting stronger, Karoblis is happier

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Lithuania’s voice in NATO is getting stronger but pushy. It uses new arguments to attract NATO attention to fulfill its individual goals. And it should be admitted that Lithuania successfully exploited its military weakness to obtain military strength.

About 500 troops are deploying to new training facilities in the country and will stay through the winter in preparation for a massive divisional exercise in Europe that will see 20,000 U.S. troops in Europe known as Defender 2020.

The troops deploying to Lithuania this October are the 1st Armored Battalion of the 9th Regiment, 1st Division, along with 30 Abrams tanks, 25 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles and 70 wheeled vehicles to the Gen. S.Žukauskas Training Area in Pabradė.

Defender, which will strain the beleaguered U.S. logistics system, will move thousands of U.S. troops from forts in the United States to sealift ships that will take them to Europe, testing investments in European security.

Lithuanian authorities do not hide their satisfaction with U.S. troops arriving. “The geopolitical situation in the region hasn’t changed,” Giedrimas Jeglinskas, Lithuania’s vice minister of national defence, said in an interview with Defense News. “For us this is a great thing. We see that the U.S. is in the region, and U.S. presence is the biggest deterrent that we could ever hope for. We’ve said for a long time that we want U.S. soldiers on our soil — and we can argue about whether its permanent rotational forces or a permanent rotation — but the fact is that they are there.”

But even such steps are not enough to Lithuania. Thus, Lithuania’s Minister of National Defence Raimundas Karoblis calls for NATO to deploy air defences in the country. In order to achieve another aim – to have reliable air defence – Karoblis insists that that NATO should deploy air defence measures to Lithuania in order to protect the international battalion stationed in the country.

It is interesting that Lithuania has moved from requests to strong political recommendations.

“It was already agreed during the [2016] Warsaw Summit, and it is not implemented. This issue was also raised by several commanders of the battle group,” Karoblis told journalists during a joint press conference with visiting German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer on October, 10.

Huge NATO is almost cornered by small Lithuania

Germany leads the international NATO battalion deployed in Lithuania since 2017, with around 600 German troops stationed in Lithuania as part of NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence (EFP).

Karoblis said air defence measures are primarily necessary to protect the foreign troops serving in the battalion, since Lithuania does not have necessary systems for that.

“It’s about the security of the soldiers who are deployed here,” the minister said.

So, NATO has no chance but provide necessary defence for their soldiers.

On the one hand, Lithuania shows its commitment in defending foreign troops properly. On the other hand, it defends its own troops and territory at the expense of others.

In this particular case Lithuania creatively developed the way how to attract the Alliance possibilities to strengthen Lithuania’s own military capabilities. It is paradoxically, but in this case Lithuanian Military Independence is equal to Lithuanian Military Dependence on others.

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Surprise signing of “Steinmeier formula”: Causes and consequences

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The news about the so-called “Steinmeier formula” having been signed by all members of the Trilateral Contact Group (TCG) came as a big surprise. All the more so, since the September 4 agreement by the political advisers to the presidents of the Normandy Four countries to endorse the proposal made a big buzz in the world media, and set off a storm of angry outrage in the Ukrainian press with a number of political and public figures, as well as representatives of nationalists all but calling President Vladimir Zelensky a traitor. Former President Leonid Kuchma, who represents Ukraine at the Contact Group, refused to sign the formula during a group meeting on September 18. In a bid to rectify the situation, they started talking about the existence of some alleged “Zelensky formula, whose contents was never made public.

Until the “formula” was actually signed at the October 1 meeting by the Contact Group, there had been neither announcements of, nor preparations for this. What happened between September 18 and October 1, which eventually prompted President Zelensky’s decision to sign the “formula”?

The UN General Assembly, during which Vladimir President Zelensky finally met with President Donald Trump, advised him to establish closer ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin and settle differences together. Shortly afterwards, the White House published, without securing any prior agreement from Kiev, the transcript of a telephone linkup between Trump and Zelensky. This was followed by the resignation of the US Special Envoy for Ukraine, Kurt Volker.

These two important developments are a clear sign of Washington’s utilitarian attitude towards Kiev. However, even if they did influence Kiev’s further actions, they only served as a catalyst. Finding himself on the brink of a diplomatic scandal with France and Germany, Zelensky needed to make good his campaign promises and move fast to maintain his lead over his political opponents (presidential elections – parliamentary elections – government formation – exchange of prisoners – signing of the “Steinmeier formula”- a meeting of the “Normandy Four”).

The signing of the “Steinmeier formula” at the Contact Group opened the way for a summit of the heads of state of the “Normandy Four” is open, and this is the most significant and, maybe, the only result of the October 1 signing. 

The signing of the “Steinmeier formula” is seen by Ukrainian media as an act of treason. Why? Because they are afraid. Of what?

“Do you know what the sense of this document (Minsk agreements – D.B.) was? That it will not be implemented. The sides had different interpretations of the text of the agreements, which gave Ukraine time to contain Russia, which faced additional Western sanctions. (…) Decentralization will be interpreted as federalization, local elections will be held, which the OSCE, being financially dependent on Russia, will formally recognize. At the same time, the constitution will be changed and the law on special status implemented, this time in full. Only after this (according to the Minsk agreements), will Ukraine restore control over its border. After all, it is clear that Moscow will only implement the first part of the agreement. (…) The authorities there will be formed by the Kremlin. Next up is a nationwide election in Ukraine. And the key to parliament is in the hands of the Russian authorities,” the Ukrainian website lb.ua news writes. 

In this logic, even the OSCE plays on Russia’s side. The main thing for Kiev, however, is that the documents will never be implemented.

Moreover, according to Russian experts, Kiev has ample opportunities to sabotage the Minsk agreements even after they have been signed. 

Andrei Kortunov gives his own picture of how the situation may develop further:

1. The Ukrainian law on the special status of Donbass will soon expire. A new law will be adopted, and what it will look like we do not know.

2. Kiev’s formal consent to the “Steinmeier formula” is not entirely obvious.   It says that it endorsed only the general principle of the formula. Moreover, given the strong efforts being made to undermine the Ukrainian position, just how the preparations for the summit will go depends on the political will of the Ukrainian leadership.

3. Disagreements remain, in particular, concerning the special status of Donbass.

That being said, the process has still moved forward. I do hope that all participants in this process will show maximum flexibility, so that it keeps moving on, which would probably provide some tangible results in the next three to four months.”

In a sober assessment of what happened, the OSCE Special Representative Martin Sajdik, noted that the signatures are not under one common document, but under separate letters. This means that theoretically, each side could stick to its own interpretation of the formula. As for the local elections in Donbass, Sajdik continues, there are many questions that need to be answered before the elections:

“There is still much work to be done on this issue within the contact group and in the ‘Normandy format,’” he told reporters. “A lot of work remains in the political subgroup of the contact group. It is in it that it will be necessary to talk about the holding of elections.”

He added that many questions remain open, including the security of the upcoming procedure; and that the “Normandy format” summit could be the first step in this direction.

As for the “Steinmeier formula,” it is only a mechanism which, as part of diplomatic cooperation in the “Normandy Four” format, symbolizes the participants’ readiness to resolve the conflict in southeastern Ukraine and determine the future status of the republics of Donbass. It does not guarantee the implementation of the Minsk accords though. 

Moreover, a statement issued by representatives of the unrecognized republics demands a step-by-step roadmap of what needs to be done now.  They believe that the signing of the “Steinmeier formula” should be viewed as recognition of the right of the people of Donbass to determine their own fate. This is the bottom line of the joint statement made by the leaders of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics (DPR and LPR), Denis Pushilin and Leonid Pasechnik.

“Yesterday, thanks to Russia, Germany and France, Ukraine finally signed the Steinmeier formula, which guarantees Donbass a special status. Thus, it   recognizes the special right of the people of Donbass to independently determine their fate. It is up to us to decide what language to speak, what kind of an economy we need, how our judicial system will be formed, how our people’s militia will protect our citizens, and how we will integrate with Russia. This is our business and our goal, and we will continue negotiations in Minsk in order to ultimately achieve self-rule and self-determination,” the statement says.”

The signing of the “formula” provoked fierce resistance on the part of the advocates of the so-called “Poroshenko’s course,” as the “party of war” considers the signing as a sign of surrender. Meanwhile, the European Union and its leading members welcomed Zelensky’s move. Paradoxically, Ukrainian parties, which support European integration, such as European Solidarity, Golos and Batkivshchyna, took an anti-European position. The nationalists brought about 2,000 people to the streets of Kiev and in many other cities (200-300 people in each city), who chanted “No surrender!” and called for the impeachment of President Zelensky.

In an October 2 appeal to Ukrainians protesting against the signing of the “Steinmeier formula,” President Zelensky said: “Today there is only one platform where these issues can be discussed at the highest level. This is a meeting in the Normandy format … This formula says only one thing – namely, exactly when the so-called law on the special status of the Donbass should work. It will after local elections have been held there according to the Constitution of Ukraine, the laws of Ukraine, and after the publication of the OSCE report that the elections were held in line with internationally recognized democratic standards.”

Political advisers to the leaders of the “Normandy Four” can confirm the signing of the “Steinmeier formula.” At their meeting, the heads of state of the “Normandy Four” can agree the “formula” as the initial mechanism for the implementation of the Minsk accords.

However, it is Kiev, who holds the key to the implementation of the “formula,” or rather, the Minsk agreements as a whole. Political decisions taken on the international level need to be followed up by the Ukrainian parliament, which should pass laws on the special status of the unrecognized republics, and an election law, after which local elections should be held.  President Zelensky has a majority in the Verkhovna Rada and can amend the constitution in such a way that it outlines the special status of the unrecognized republics of Donbass.

Depending on the intentions of the Ukrainian leadership, the situation may develop according to several scenarios:

1) Zelensky uses his majority in parliament to push through laws, necessary for the implementation of the Minsk agreements.

2) Zelensky fails to muster parliamentary support, since his majority is not solid enough. 

3) Zelensky receives parliamentary support, the laws are passed, but the Minsk agreements are interpreted in such a way that only Kiev can arrange. For example, “special status” is interpreted as part of a decentralization policy. The implementation of the Minsk accords is put on hold again. 

In the first scenario, the adopted laws will need to be implemented, which could prove extremely difficult.

In the second scenario, President Zelensky could say: “The elected representatives of the Ukrainian people failed to support the implementation of the Minsk agreements. I did all I could, but ‘everything is possible.’ Therefore, it is necessary to amend the Minsk agreements and look for a new formula of their implementation. And this is the third scenario.

Kiev’s intention to implement exactly the third scenario became very much evident during Vladimir Zelensky’s press conference, which he convened to clarify his position regarding the signing of the “Steinmeier formula.” Following are the main points of Zelensky’s address:

The “Steinmeier formula” is agreed upon, but not signed.

“Red lines” regarding Donbass Ukraine will not be crossed.

The Ukrainian Armed Forces will not surrender.

Nobody can influence the president’s decisions.

There will be no local elections in the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics in the presence of any armed forces on their territories.

Elections are possible only after the border between the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics and the Russian Federation goes under Ukraine’s control.

The exact date of the meeting in the “Normandy format” will be agreed shortly.

The signing of the “Steinmeier formula” has created more questions, which could be answered during the summit of the heads of state of the “Normandy Four.”  

From our partner International Affairs

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Eastern Europe

Two-faced Lithuanian politics

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Lithuania continues attempts to support the image of a democratic state and at the same time not to lose foreign military support.

On September 26, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda made his first address at the United Nations General Assembly in New York. In his speech he said that threat to Russia’s neighbouring countries remains strong and Moscow is attempting to further destabilise neighbouring states.

Such statement can be regarded as a call for further support in developing Lithuania’s military capabilities to oppose Russia in the Baltic Region.

In order to look “nice” in the eyes of the world community, Gitanas Nausėda added that Russia could change and inspire confidence.

As we know, it could be done only by political means and only through negotiations. The Lithuanian president underlined also that “determination to adhere to international law is often the last barrier separating our countries from unpredictable and therefore dangerous disorder”.

From the very beginning it sounded as if Lithuania would like Russia to change its position on the international arena. But later Lithuanian president contradicted himself. He called not to create any international platforms with Russia’s participation designed to resolve existing political and military problems. Thus, he strongly rejected the idea of some political leaders to create a new geopolitical space from the Atlantic Ocean to Vladivostok, drawing Russia in.

It turns out that Lithuania is not interested in changing Russia’s position.

The recent events in Lithuania illustrated such two-faced position on contemporary politics. Lithuanian authorities are not going to change their plans. According to Ministry of National Defence Rotational U.S. force, a battalion-sized unit of over 500 U.S. Army soldiers, will deploy in Lithuania to ensure deterrence and train in exercises shortly in October. The unit is part of the U.S. Army Europe Operation Atlantic Resolve.

“We have sought for a larger long-term U.S. military involvement in Lithuania and the region consistently and patiently. Therefore the deployment of the U.S. Army battalion for a longer period of time is good and awaited news and a result of our efforts and investment,” Minister of National Defence Raimundas Karoblis said.

He also underscores that Lithuania has already hosted many U.S. battalions, however, that used to be in the framework of concrete exercises. This time the U.S. forces are arriving for a long-term deployment, not for an international exercise.

The troops will bring heavy equipment 30 Abrams tanks, 25 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles, 70 wheeled vehicles and will deploy at Gen S.Žukauskas Training Area in Pabradė.

The U.S. battalion is planned to stay in Lithuania until spring 2020.

The more so, on September 26 the Lithuanian Armed Forces accepted 110 Unimog U5000 trucks of 5t payload manufactured by Germany’s Daimler AG as it is updating its truck fleet with vehicles of the same make as there already are in the fleet.

The trucks are delivered on the basis of a contract signed back in 2015 though continuing successful cooperation of the Ministry of National Defence and the NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA). 88 such trucks have already been delivered to the Lithuanian Armed Forces; the contract covers acquisition of the total of 340 new Unimog trucks.

The 110 have been delivered to the Lithuanian Armed Forces on the basis of the contract on the Unimog truck acquisition between the Defence Materiel Agency under the MoD and the NATO Support and Procurement Agency updated in 2018. Daimler AG is committed to delivering the remaining 142 trucks in 2020-2021.

In other words, Lithuania does not really want Russia to change its position and behaviour. it is profitable for Lithuania to show its political concern, arm itself and get help. Lithuanian authorities do not care of escalating tension in Europe and it ignores attempts to resolve crisis of political confidence in Europe by political means.

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