Towards a Mega-Yalta? (V)

Just as persistent as V. Inozemtsev, although less scrupulous when it comes to details, there is A. Lebedev, editor of the daily paper “The Independent”, based in the United Kingdom. In the issue of March 18, 2015, of this publication, he had an article entitled “Urgently Needed : A New Crimean Conference to Stop War” . In Lebedev’s opinion, “What is necessary now, as I have suggested a couple of times before, is a new Crimea Conference, as historically important as the Yalta Conference, also in Crimea, in 1945.The modern summit would be empowered urgently to look at a whole spectrum of issues – military, security, economic – including the status of the Crimea (perhaps considering some sort of free zone status as a way of compromise), the Russian Fleet, a glaringly necessary Marshall Plan for Ukraine…”. He even invites the influential circles in London, who have become addicted to the impressive sums of money leaked from Russia, to contribute to the organization of such international conference, that is terribly difficult to prepare. Lebedev is firm about it: “The problems this new Crimea Conference has to solve are immense. However, the alternative is horrific. As in our war-torn past, war-mongers, war-profiteers and even more ominously, supposedly neutral people, who quietly argue that a little bit of conflict, cold or warm, is somehow acceptable, are more plentiful than ever. Alas, as often happens, we’re the ones who will pay a terrible price should hostilities escalate.”

Obviously, this persistence by Russian experts or influential members of the new elite in Moscow to propose a new conference similar to “Yalta 1945” could not avoid gaining attention in Ukraine or Georgia, countries whose territorial integrity was recently violated by Russia and whose future might be decided by such reunion, in case it might occur. A researcher from Georgia, Nina Jobe, wrote on “Euro-Maidan Press” , an internationally organized media platform supported by donations, that accepts contributors with experience related to the former Soviet space. She expressed the opinion that “the elite of Russia” is the actual author of this message, spread again and again by various Russian experts. And this message may mean building a new world order – Jobe appreciates – based on the old manner of division into spheres of influence, that had generated numerous wars in the past among the Grand Powers. She describes this procedure of spheres of influence applied in international relations as a “fantasy” because of which “countries and nations were sacrificed” and wonders: “Are we willing to allow history to repeat itself?”

The fact that a compromise is necessary is a widely shared opinion by Russian experts, and these examples may also be identified in the literature of this genre, simultaneously with the already mentioned efforts in this field, published by the international media. Thus, in September 2014, Sergey Karaganov, one of the most reputable experts, closely bonded to Kremlin, an influential member of the “Valday Club”, published “the contours of a compromise” concerning Ukraine, between Russia and Europe (one may notice that the United States of America are avoided). He even mentioned possible lines of this compromise, that allegedly needed to be accomplished because “Russia needs peace in the West. Europeans need peace in Eastern Europe. Both players are faced with the risk of marginalization if they fail to overcome the division and pool their potentials and efforts.” And these lines are scrupulously listed: “the eternal neutrality of Ukraine, codified in its constitution and guaranteed by external powers; greater cultural autonomy for eastern and southeastern Ukraine; economic openness of Ukraine to the East and the West (ideally, a compromise allowing Ukraine to be both in association with the EU and in the Customs Union);Russian and German joint support for the economic development of Ukraine; termination by all involved, including Russia, of support for the sides in the civil war, and an appeal to them to renounce the use of force; evacuation of refugees and resistance fighters; mutual renunciation of sanctions and counter-sanctions.”

The alternative to such compromise would be the scenario of a nightmare, according to Karaganov: “a lukewarm civil war in the heart of Europe with the growing threat of disasters (there are 15 nuclear reactors in Ukraine), decades of misery for the Ukrainian people, and deaths ranging from tens to hundreds of thousands of people – not only in conflicts, but also because of the degradation of vital services and the healthcare system.”

The absence of the USA from the contours of the compromise imagined and proposed by Karaganov is explained by the expert himself, referring to the different politics applied by Washington regarding the crisis in Ukraine.  “The U.S. seems reluctant”, Karaganov writes, “to step back from Ukraine, although a victory (…) is hardly attainable (…). The U.S. will seek to attain negative goals, such as preventing Ukraine from coming under Russia’s influence, deepening the division of Europe, and, increasingly obviously, weakening Russia (…). The U.S. will try to involve Russia in a full-scale conflict with Ukraine, a sort of Afghanistan-2. The cost of such a policy is not great yet. It leads to a rapprochement between Russia and China, which is dangerous to the U.S., but the bulk of the price will be paid by Europe, Russia, and, of course, the long-suffering people of Ukraine (…).”

Therefore, in our opinion, the statement that the “Russian elite” in its entirety issues the signal that a “compromise”, a “grand bargain” is desired, able to grant satisfaction of both parties involved in Ukraine, the West and Russia, is highly accurate. One must note, though, the double game attempted by Moscow which, on one hand, is counting on a split in the Transatlantic relation and merely makes an offer to Europe, claiming that the USA is attempting to create Afghanistan-2 in Ukraine, and, on the other hand, in case of failing to make the Western world divide, it proposes a “mega-agreement” to the ensemble of the Western states, referring to the common exploitation of Siberian resources. And in both cases, as a sign of the extraordinary significance of China profiling as the leading world player, one may notice the use of the Chinese element as the main motivation for proposals, one way or another. Russia actually plays in Ukraine its own “Asian pivot” and, just as they negotiated an European status quo in Helsinki, in 1975, based on their status as grand continental power, as well as domination over Europe, now, similarly, in order to focus on Asia, they want a firm definition of their profile on the old continent. More precisely, the status of a grand power that cannot be ignored in any decision, from the Atlantic to Ural Mountains.

In the report of the annual reunion by the influential group of experts of the “Valday Club” in Russia, published on March 19, 2015, there is the diagnosis of the present state of world power, seen as valid by experts (and not just by Russian ones):  “By 1945 there was also a group of responsible nations that were striving to avoid new world wars and shaped an institution reducing the risk of fatal confrontation. Finally, the Helsinki Accords shared the spheres of influence in Europe. (…) The new international order could not be simply re-assertion of the institutional status quo but at the same time this new order would remain founded on the principles declared in Helsinki four decades ago. (…) The circumstances have changed too dramatically as has the circle of those who can influence the situation in the world. But it is extremely important to remember the atmosphere of those periods when international actors were able to hammer out efficient principles for operating the global system.” They refer to the time when officials gathered at Yalta, in February 1945 have drawn the present world order finished in Helsinki, in 1975, and later on at the end of the Cold War (Paris – 1990).

The same thing must happen today, to solve the crisis in Ukraine and to give Russia the status it desires. Should the inclusion of the US in the “Normandy format” be a start in this direction? May the encounter between US  State Secretary John Kerry and his Russian counterpart, S. Lavrov, as well as with President V. Putin, on May 12, 2015, in Sochi, be seen as a first step?



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