By Giancarlo Elia Valori*
The conflict between the Russian Federation and the Ukrainian government is the point of greatest tension, but also of EU weakness towards its East, as well as the point of greatest tension between Russia and Europe still today.
The European Union cannot solve this problem, just because it currently has the same armies that ironically Stalin asked the Pope to have – hence it will be closed to its East.
Unlike Jason and his Argonauts – owing to the clash going on in Ukraine – Europe will not be able to find the “Golden Fleece”.
And the “Golden Fleece” is the beginning of the Greek myth: Jason who travelled to Colchis to look for gold – an initiation theme – and married the sorceress Medea. Now Europe is depriving itself of the new way of communication with the land of Colchis to accept the orders of a power that is obviously doing its utmost to harm the EU, the Euro, the EU exports, etc.
Currently none of the two main parties, namely Russia and Ukraine, has any intention to implement or at least to formally comply with the Minsk II agreements of February 2015.
In what did those agreements consist? It will be worth recalling the origins and the development of the conflict.
After the various “Orange Revolutions” of February 2014 – which were US operations – when the long wave of protests called the Euromaidan movement culminated in the removal of the regularly elected President Viktor Yanukovych, violent riots broke out in the Eastern part of the country – traditionally the region most linked to the Russian-speaking world and the Russian culture.
The Ukrainian activists of the pro-Russian Eastern region feared the marginalization – and hence the future ban – of the Russian language and also rejected the new resurgence of Ukrainian nationalism, traditionally linked to the Third Reich and the Nazi mythologies.
At that juncture the armed insurgency took place in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions and spread also to the other cities of the Russian-speaking neighboring regions. Indeed, most of the Ukrainian people is Russian-speaking.
At the end of summer 2014 a real war broke out between the Ukrainian armed forces and the rebels operating within the “People’s Republics” of Donetsk and Luhansk.
Hence, in late August 2014, Ukraine decided to proceed with a diplomatic solution.
It was the typical problem of the Ukrainian forces since they were badly organized, badly trained and could not face the rebels of the two “pro-Russian” Republics, who were much better organized and optimally motivated.
Finally, on September 5, 2014, the representatives of Russia, Ukraine, the Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, as well as the OSCE observer, gathered in the capital of Belarus and signed the Protocol called “Minsk-I”.
It was essentially an agreement for the ceasefire and the exchange of prisoners.
Ukraine promised to adopt a law on the special status of the two regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.
From the very beginning it was an agreement written in the sand. Meanwhile clashes and firefights went on, in addition to bombings on the inhabited centres.
Nevertheless it was in January 2015 that tension mounted again.
The reason lay in the fact that the Ukrainian military, who came to the region in force, planned to fully reconquer the Donbass, while the “rebels” of Donetsk and Luhansk, too, thought they could expand the territory of their own pro-Russian republics.
On both sides, however, the forces on the field were not enough to achieve their respective goals.
And the Donetsk and Luhansk military fought very well, albeit with a much lower number of soldiers than the Ukrainian army.
Ukraine, however, decided to resume diplomatic negotiations.
Therefore the above stated “Minsk-II” agreement was signed by Russia, Ukraine, the Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, France, Germany, the usual OECD observers and the delegates from the other secessionist Ukrainian provinces, which had not been officially invited to the meeting.
Everything happened on February 12, 2015 in the Belarusian capital – as was the case with the Minsk-I agreement – in the sumptuous Independence Palace. It was an agreement envisaging 13 points: 1) immediate and full ceasefire in the districts of Donetsk and Luhansk as from midnight on February 15; 2) pull-out of all heavy weapons and withdrawal of troops by both sides with the aim of creating a security zone on minimum 50 kilometers apart for artillery and 140 kilometers for multiple rocket launchers. However, the pullout of the above-mentioned heavy weapons had to begin no later than the second day after the start of the ceasefire and finish within 14 days. The process had to be assisted by OSCE with the support of the Trilateral Contact Group; 3) OSCE effective monitoring and verification of the ceasefire and pullout of heavy weapons from the first day of pullout; 4) on the first day after the pullout a dialogue had to start on the ways for conducting local elections in accordance with the Ukrainian law and the Minsk I agreements in the districts of Donetsk and Luhansk; 5) pardon and amnesty had to be provided by means of a law forbidding persecution and punishment of people in relation to the events that took place in the districts of Donetsk and Luhansk; 6) the release and the exchange of all prisoners and illegally held persons had to be ensured; 7) safe access, delivery, storage and distribution of humanitarian aid to the needy had to be provided on the basis of international rules and mechanisms; 8) definition of the ways to fully restore social and economic relations and connections, including social transfers such as payments of pensions, wages and welfare benefits; 9) restoring full control of the State border to the Ukrainian government in the whole conflict zone; 10) pullout of all foreign armed formations, military equipment and also mercenaries from the territory of Ukraine under OSCE supervision, as well as disarmament of all illegal groups; 11) constitutional reform in Ukraine, with a new Constitution the key element of which had to be decentralization and also approval of permanent legislation on the special status of the Donetsk and Luhansk districts; 12) the issues related to local elections had to be discussed and agreed upon by Ukraine with the representatives of the Donetsk and Luhansk districts; 13) intensification of the activities of the Trilateral Contact Group.
It was a weak agreement, just to play for time.
An agreement that was reached also thanks to a very strong pressure put by France and Germany.
The Minsk-II agreement was a rift between the Franco-German axis and the US interest, which had previously dominated the European strategy.
This was the core of the matter at that stage.
The United States was thinking of a new war to make the Russian Federation think twice and see reason since – after the USSR collapse – Russia had not resigned itself and adapted to be the poor Asian country depending on the IMF’s and World Bank’s funds and selling its oil and minerals off.
As Francesco Cossiga said, however, “Americans are always about to wage a war and later, when they are stuck in it, they do not know how to break through”.
Least of all, the United States wanted to join the Eurasian peninsula and the “Greater Russia”, according to Zbigniew Brzezinsky’s old idea.
It would be the end of its geopolitical project.
Furthermore, Ukraine is the contact point between the Russian Federation and the EU area that has accepted the US missile rearmament and “signal war” programme in Poland, the Czech Republic and Romania.
As said in the United States, it is formally positioned “against the Iranian missiles”, but no one is so naive not to understand what this new positioning is really for.
It is from Ukraine that the safety and security of those installations is controlled and that we can react to a possible attack by Russia and its allies on the US bases at the edges of the Russian Federation.
It is worth clarifying that they are US and not NATO installations.
The United States has also de facto declared war on Russia, with Resolution No. 758 of the US Congress adopted on December 4, 2014.
A resolution stating that Russia was an “aggressor State” that had invaded Ukraine and ordered the shooting down of the MH17 flight of Malaysian Airlines that took place on July 17, 2014 – something which is still uncertain. Furthermore the Resolution called upon NATO to apply Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, should Russia invade Ukraine.
Yet there is a not negligible fact to consider: Ukraine is not a member of NATO.
Considering the aforementioned Resolution, the US President could legally declare war on Russia without requiring further authorizations from the House of Representatives and the Senate.
The Pentagon sent 100 tanks to Eastern Europe shortly after voting on that Resolution, while the Ukrainian government was full of strange characters at that stage such as Natalia Jaresko, US citizen, Minister for Economy until April 2016 and Aivaras Abromavicius, a Lithuanian citizen and investment banker, married to a Ukrainian lady, who resigned on February 3, 2016. Without fearing of falling into the temptation of “conspiracism”, it is also worth recalling that George Soros, the point of reference of the many foreigners present in the Ukrainian government at the time, publicly stated in a CNN interview with Fareed Zakaria on May 25, 2014 that he had funded the Euromaidan coup.
In Resolution 758 there is also an explicit reference to Georgia and Moldova, which could be treated by the USA as points of friction and attrition against the Russian Federation if the situation in Ukraine developed according to the best predictions.
Said points could cause a US war against the Russian Federation just as with Ukraine.
Nevertheless let us revert to the Franco-German axis in the Minsk-II agreements.
There were three sets of reasons for the finally vigorous behaviour of the Franco-German duo. Firstly, since September 2015, the pro-Russian militias had tripled their control area up to the Sea of Azov. Secondly, 8,000 Ukrainian soldiers were trapped in the Debaltsevo bulge and, southwards, the neo-Nazis soldiers – particularly loved by US Senator McCain – were encircled by the pro-Russian militias of the Azov division.
Thirdly, the increasingly disorganized Ukrainian army could certainly not reconquer the Donbass.
The defeat of the Ukrainian Armed Forces marked the end of the project – nurtured in the EU Eastern region – of a new Hanseatic League that would unite the rich and powerful German-Baltic-Polish North to the fertile lands of the Golden Fleece, namely Ukraine.
This was precisely the “dream” that had convinced Germany to accept the US policy line on Ukraine.
In an infra-European perspective, said project was also a German way to clearly oppose the EU Mediterranean areas.
The idea was to have an autonomous sea of reference and leave the Mediterranean to the poor Southern European countries, deprived of means and resources, as well as flooded by African migrants and overburdened by massive public debt.
Nevertheless even if the United States had provided more weapons to Ukraine, no success would have been recorded by the anti-Russian front on the ground.
In that case, it was Angela Merkel who flew to Putin’s Russia to ask for putting an end to the conflict and later visited President Obama to stop the transfers of weapons to Ukraine.
President Obama always hoped that the truce would fail, while Putin did not need it because he was already the strongest on the ground.
Currently Russia can control NATO’s Southern Flank from Crimea – which was not illegally annexed, as Western documents repeatedly state – including remote control from the US missile base in Devreselu, Romania.
With the appropriate security of the area, Russia can always exert control again from Crimea and also from the “friendly” Ukraine.
Ukraine could be an irrenounceable asset also for the Atlantic Alliance, as Western military stations in that country could control the axis stretching from Novorossisk to Sevastopol, the real key connection for Russia in the region.
Said axis is decisive also for Russia’s operations in Syria.
At economic level, the clash between Ukraine and Russia is also very dangerous for Russia’s gas distribution to the EU.
The Russian Federation cannot use the natural gas it exports to Europe as a real tool for political pressure, considering the magnitude of the clashes that block any influence action outside the Ukrainian area.
Furthermore Russia tends to support two pipeline projects encircling Ukraine, namely Nord Stream 2 and TurkStream.
The Nord Stream 2 pipeline stretches from Narva Bay, Russia, on the border between Finland and the Baltic countries, up to Lubmin, along the German coast on the border with Denmark.
The TurkStream pipeline stretches from Anapa in the Krasnodar region, Southern Russia, up to Kiyikoiy in the Turkish Thrace after crossing the Black Sea.
The recently reactivated Turkstream pipeline will above all meet the Turkish interest. It will naturally join the TransAdriaticPipeline (TAP) and reach Italy, thanks to the Turkish Botas carrier, without infringing the EU rules that accept the crazy sanctions against the Russian Federation.
However, we still need to be careful: on August 2 last, President Trump’s Administration signed a new law called “Countering America’s Adversary Through Sanctions Act”, which extends the energy sanctions against Russia significantly.
The Russian strategic logic in Ukraine basically works on the assumption that the breaking of trade and economic ties with Russia and the loss of the Donbass are the beginning of default for the Ukrainian economy.
Ukraine, however, is still able to acquire resources from both the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, regardless of the problematic situation of its economy.
Until when, however, the interests of the United States and its ever less convinced allies will be such in that region as to afford the costs for maintaining a failed state such as Ukrain,e which is not even capable of waging a real proxy war against the Russian Federation?
The Russian economy finds it hard to back the war in Ukraine, but it cannot certainly withdraw from the conflict.
The war stagnation, however, now favours the Ukrainian Republic, which is supported by the United States and the international financial institutions, while Russia is still constrained by international sanctions and the stagnation of the oil price, which is yet showing some signs of recovery.
Hence, as Italians and Europeans, are we interested in following Zbi Brzezinsky’s old geostrategic psychosis, which keeps us in check and slave at any price to the United States? Or can we finally think for ourselves with the independence of mind to open the doors to the Russian economy, without having to pay this now meaningless seventy-year-long tax to those who won the Second World War (and made us pay it also immediately afterwards)?
Hence, we can assume a further strategic separation between the two NATO mainstays, namely Europe and the United States, with the EU putting an end to sanctions. Or we can assume a heroic exit – the only possible today – of Putin who decides to launch the final attack on current Ukraine so as to later redesign the geopolitics of the Great Mediterranean region.
About the author:
*Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori is an eminent Italian economist and businessman. He holds prestigious academic distinctions and national orders. Mr Valori has lectured on international affairs and economics at the world’s leading universities such as Peking University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yeshiva University in New York. He currently chairs “La Centrale Finanziaria Generale Spa”, he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group and member of the Ayan-Holding Board. In 1992 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d’Honneur de la République Francaise, with this motivation: “A man who can see across borders to understand the world” and in 2002 he received the title of “Honorable” of the Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France.
This article was published by Modern Diplomacy