In the international press, the plan under discussion has appeared with the benignant name of ‘an agenda of peace’, developed by a’ group of Americans and Russians’.
According to press reports, in order to overcome the impasse installed in the Ukrainian crisis threatening global, not just European security, experts and former American and Russian officials – top-ranking, even if retired – an ex-director of the Russian Secret Service and a former adviser on Russian matters to ex-President George Bush – met on the Boisto island near the Finnish Coast to discuss solutions. It is what was called ‘Track II Diplomacy’, meaning a semi-official canal for the identification of a solution to the Ukrainian crisis. As the press writes, ‘In a climate of intensifying hostilities, their ideas—among others, establishing a UN-authorized peacekeeping mission in eastern Ukraine, granting amnesty to combatants who have not committed war crimes, and respecting Ukrainian legislation on the country’s ‘non-aligned’ status—chart a path to peace.’
The plan developed by this working group – later on I will discuss parts of it – was named ‘A 24-step plan to resolve the Ukrainian crisis’ and includes, under the ‘Elements of enduring, verifiable ceasefire’ chapter, the following measures: ceasefire monitored by OSCE, setting up and deploying a UN-led peace-keeping mission, withdrawal of regular Russian and Ukrainian troops to an agreed safe distance to the conflict spots, withdrawal of the units of the Ukrainian National Guard Donetsk and Luhansk; border control to prevent illegal action, limitations on military force concentration along the Russian-Ukrainian border and confidence building measures. Under the ‘Humanitarian and legal issues’ heading, the document stipulates: return and humanitarian aid to refugees, compensations for destroyed properties, investigation of war crimes, amnesty of fighters not involved in war crimes. Four measures presented under the ‘Economic relations’ chapter refer to the preservation of economic relations between Russia and Ukraine, also in the defence industry area, cooperation on implementing the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU, gas delivery to international markets and so on. In the ‘Social and cultural issues’ department, the measures include the protection of the Russian language and traditional relations between Russia and Ukraine, free media, including Russian-language media, and the chapter ‘Crimea’ includes: ‘discussion of the settlement of legal issues pertaining the status of Crimea; guarantee of uninterrupted war and energy supplies; protection of ethnic minorities; discussion of access of Ukrainian companies to development of offshore oil and gas reserves.’
The last point (24) refers to the ‘international status of Ukraine’ and foresees: ‘mutual respect for the non-bloc status of Ukraine as stipulated by Ukrainian legislation’. In not so many words, the country must not join NATO. Something that has become quite clear in the last weeks’ developments.
In what regards the participants in the negotiations among experts, some that are most noteworthy are: the group co-chairmen – Thomas Graham, managing director of Kissinger Associates, former special assistant to the president for Russia and Ukraine, and Alexandr Dunkin, director IMEMO (World Economy and International Relations Institute) in Moscow, former adviser to the Russian prime minister, Alexei Arbatov ex-deputy head of the Defence Committee in the Russian Duma, co-chairman Andrew Weis, vice-president of Carnegie Foundation, former director for Russian, Ukrainian and Eurasian Affairs on the National Security Council staff.
An interesting fact is that, before this information made its way into the international media, the ‘Boisto’ package – to give a name to the production of the US-Russian working group that met on the Finnish island – it had first been published by the ‘Komersant’ in Russian on 26th August. Elements of this plan are also present in the Minsk agreement of 5th September 2014, that ended the crisis between Russia and Ukraine, as well as in the subsequent one on 19th September. The question is whether or not the plan was at the foundation of the mentioned agreements, since it had been published by the Russian press already on 26th August, or it is a troubling coincidence.
As for the US and Russian expert group, they took necessary precautions ever since their proposals had been published on 26th August: ‘We are not privy to the confidential discussions between our governments. It would help whatever diplomacy may be underway if the public debate in both Russia and the West were focused on not so much fixing blame and stoking passions as finding ways to reduce the risk of further escalation and end the crisis. In that spirit, a group of high-ranking Russian and American experts with a strong experience in executive and legislative branches of power and analysis of international relations, with the generous support of the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Carnegie Corporation of New York and Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO) recently met outside Helsinki on an island retreat called Boisto to consider the Ukraine crisis and a way forward.’
A reader’s comment on the ‘Boisto’ plan speaks volumes while expressing his perplexity when faced with the content: ‘This is a purely Russian narrative. Is the west only interested, at this stage, in railroading Ukraine back into the Russian sphere of influence in order to appease Putin and safeguard the west’s economic interests in Russia. Unbelievable’