At a hastily convened meeting in Geneva last Thursday the foreign ministers of Russia, the Kiev interim regime, the European Union and the United States worked out an agreement on the principles that are supposed to defuse the crisis. It is a flawed document, open to conflicting interpretations and devoid of verifiable benchmarks. The agreement reached on April 17 is likely to fail for five key reasons:
(1) “All sides must refrain from any violence, intimidation or provocative actions.” The problem is that the Kiev regime does not control the Right Sector and other ultranationalist groups, and actually includes some of their top leaders in its ranks. (As the eminently establishmentarian Foreign Policy magazine conceded on March 18, “The uncomfortable truth is that a sizeable portion of Kiev’s current government – and the protesters who brought it to power – are, indeed, fascists.”) Those groups rely on violence, intimidation and provocations, and will continue to use them as a means of achieving their objectives, as the deadly Sunday morning shootout in Slaviansk demonstrates. The local militias will respond in kind.
(2) “All illegal armed groups must be disarmed” sounds clear and simple. It overlooks the fact that hundreds of militant “Maidanists” have been recruited into the Ukrainian National Guard, which was established on March 14, and were thus promptly made “legal.” The Kiev authorities’ self-avowed goal was “to harness the fighting spirit of the Maidan… [They] are actively drumming up recruits among those who braved police bullets.” The result is a trigger-happy yet ostensibly legal armed force that killed three pro-Russian protesters at Mariupol last week. Pro-Russians in the east will not disarm if the likely result is the entry of armed Galician storm-troopers in Ukrainian uniform into their towns and villages.
(3) “It was agreed that the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission should play a leading role in assisting Ukrainian authorities and local communities in the immediate implementation of these de-escalation measures,” the statement goes on. “The U.S., E.U. and Russia commit to support this mission, including by providing monitors.” This will do nothing to defuse the crisis, and may well make it far worse. The OSCE monitors’ role will be, as always, to provide propagandistic backing to those groups which their governments support – as the example of the bogus “Racak Massacre” in Kosovo demonstrated 15 years ago. The “OSCE monitor” William Walker went to Kosovo to foment war, not to prevent it.
(4) “The announced constitutional process will be inclusive, transparent and accountable,” the agreement stipulates. “It will include the immediate establishment of a broad national dialogue, with outreach to all of Ukraine’s regions and political constituencies, and allow for the consideration of public comments and proposed amendments.” This will prove to be the most contentious clause. It will be interpreted in radically different ways in Lvov, Kiev, and Donetsk. No “broad national dialogue” is possible if there is no “nation” that has a shared sense of the self and a shared vision of its future – and no such nation exists in today’s Ukraine. The interim regime will offer some limited degree of devolution within a centralized state. The east and the south will settle for nothing less than the federal framework granting a high degree of self-rule to the constituent units. The “dialogue” between them, even if possible, will change nothing.
(5) Last but not least, the signatories’ stress on “the importance of economic and financial stability in Ukraine” and their stated readiness “to discuss additional support as the above steps are implemented” means nothing. Ukraine would need some $50 billion immediately just to pay its debts and avoid sovereign default. It will not get anywhere near that sum from the West, and Russia will no longer provide direct cash infusions or indirect subsidies (discounted natural gas). Even if Ukraine’s “economic and financial stability” could be achieved, it would do little to resolve the country’s political and constitutional crisis. In 1990 Yugoslavia’s economy posted the best figures by far in the country’s post-World War II history, yet the following year its violent disintegration was under way.
In June of last year I wrote that Ukraine could become “a pivotal player in the development of regional cooperation with its EU neighbors to the West, former CIS countries to the north and east, and emerging regional powers further afield”:
Stability in Europe and the continent’s long-term integration devoid of the Cold War, zero-sum-game mentality, requires a new paradigm in Kiev. It should be based on further diversification of political and economic options, which is not incompatible with Ukraine’s quest for optimal forms of association with its eastern and western neighbors.
The crisis of the past five months, caused by foreign interference and driven by the likes of Victoria Nuland, has rendered such options impossible. Today Ukraine is a failed state, “the Cold War, zero-sum-game mentality” is back with a vengeance, and Europe is more disunited than at any time since the fall of the Berlin Wall.