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January 21, 2022

Heading for a Mega-Yalta? (I)

The Ukrainian crisis is taking place – at first sight – according to the pattern installed after the Minsk-1 agreement. Therefore, it is a certain initial lull, interrupted sporadic or several shootings in Eastern Ukraine between separatist rebels and Government forces, the accusations of the West that Russia is sending regular forces and weapons, and prepares separatist forces and the refusal of Moscow to recognize its involvement in the rebellion; exchanges of information – by phone conversations or otherwise – among high officials, and sometimes supreme officials, of the main states interested in the local evolutions, showing signs of obstinacy in maintaining their own positions and the absence of any intention to make a compromise, an intense war of information between the two parties, invading the international public opinion in contradicting information, and, in the absence of qualification, it is increasingly hard to identify the real trends of the crisis, etc. And after Minsk 2 (February 12, 2015), this pattern seems to be visible and, according to the preceding “edition”, we should await either for a restart of the fight (followed eventually be a Minsk 3), as Russian separatist objectives are already widely known (Mariupol, to facilitate the terrestrial access Russia – Crimea, as the localities near this city are the scene of intense shootings); eventually Odessa, to extend control over the Northern seaside of the Black Sea, even tending, after certain evaluations, to reach the mouths of the Danube) or a general agreement at the level of the grand actors involved. This last probability needs analysis, as it is hard to estimate whether a restart of the fights beyond  certain level would make any attempt of negotiation useless and would lead the crisis into the deepest area of danger. Certainly, in such case, the West (pressured by the USA) will deliver lethal weapons to Ukraine, and the war, as well as its expansion, will hardly be stopped. The conflict will take place at that time at the edge of nuclear limit and the danger will increase exponentially.

The international scene shows evolutions in the last few months that may be seen as an index of possible developments in the case of the Ukrainian crisis. A possible development is that of compromise and we are trying to identify its bases. On April 2, an agreement was signed with Iran, which is proof that the Grand Powers, in their entirety, are open to compromise in extremely difficult files of international security. As it is known, P5 + 1 (the five members with the right of veto in the EU Security Council, to which Germany is added) signed a temporary agreement allowing Iran, in the case the agreement is respected, to return in the international community and suspending sanctions against Teheran. Despite of the opposition to this agreement expressed by international actors, such as Israel, Saudi Arabia and other Sunnite Arab states, or inside some of the signing countries (in the US, by example, where influential members of the Congress oppose the completed agreement and are campaigning to block ratification), April 2 represented a memorable date on the international scene overall. The main powers in the system showed the willingness to compromise in order to solve a highly complex issue. And among the powers willing to do so, there are, on one hand, Russia, as well as the United States, Germany, France and the United Kingdom, states on special positions in the Ukrainian crisis. Why could a historical compromise not be possible in this case? Obviously, what happened after April 2, 2015, was not at all encouraging. Immediately, Russia started the delivery of S-300 defence missiles to Iran, which would equip Tehran with sophisticated means to resist / confront an aerial attack in case the powers opposing the attack would decide otherwise. Yet, this difficulty itself seems exaggerated, as recent news showed that these installations may already be defeated by new military equipment owed by some of the actors (the USA, by example). What April 2 shows, most of all, in our opinion, is the willingness to compromise of the five powers, especially of Russia and the US.

It may be pointed out that the positions remained the same, despite of this moment, of April 2. And arguments are strong in supporting this point of view. Events destined to celebrate the day of victory in WW2, planned by Moscow on May 9, at great scale, are boycotted by Western leaders, much to the discontentment of Kremlin. Yet, this attitude of the West was highly expectable, as one cannot accept to be part of the event of celebration of military forces who, despite of Kremlin’s ferocious denial, are attending fights in Eastern Ukraine to support separatist level, and, this way, to politically approve Russia’s leadership. But there are also signs that, besides this principle-based position and aiming the highest position in the Russian state, the Russian contribution to the victory of 1945 against Nazism will not remain uncelebrated by allies.

Recently, John Tefft, the American Ambassador to Moscow, granted an interview to the publication “Echo of Moscow”, on April 21, declaring that the American President Barack Obama was willing to attend negotiations in the “Normandy format” to solve the crisis in Ukraine. According to the Russian press, Tefft’s declarations were the following: “American President Barack Obama is willing to join the “Normandy format” in order to solve the crisis in Eastern Ukraine, were he to receive an invitation to do so. (…)” The diplomat mentioned that Barack Obama was conducting telephone conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin and with other presidents of countries in the so-called Normandy format (Ukraine, France, Germany and Russia). “I think that German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande are doing a great job in this matter”, Tefft declared, pointing out that he received no direct information from Obama regarding the latter’s position on the possibility to join the “Normandy format”.  On the other hand, the US Ambassador to Russia suggested that Barack Obama would react positively if such proposal would exist. Moreover, Ambassador Tefft declared that he was willing to represent the US at the parade dedicated to the day of victory on May 9, in Moscow. Moscow’s reactions to Tefft’s declarations was immediate. According to the international press, in the evening of April 21, the spokesperson of Kremlin, Dmitri Peskov, declared that Russia had no objection against the attendance of the USA to negotiations regarding the conflict in Ukraine, that were carried so far in the so-called Normandy format and added that “Russia salutes any country willing to exercise its influence on Kiev, so that they would respect the agreement in Minsk”, Peskov declared, mentioning that some of the stipulations of the document signed on February 12 in the capital of Belarus are not respected.”

Therefore, even in reduced circumstances – the US, as part of the Normandy format – Russia seems to reach one of their purposes, which is the negotiation with Washington of a peaceful solution of the Ukrainian crisis. Is it the fair interpretation of the recent declarations in Moscow? Is Washington accepting an agreement that would leave the problem of Ukraine’s annexation by Russia unsolved? We are facing the dawn of a great agreement among the Great Powers? Could we be facing the dawn of what we could call – referring to old-time myths – a “Mega Yalta”?



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