Minsk II – just a break between the Russian Empire battles

Minsk II just a break between the Russian Empire battles Minsk I Minsk agreements heavy weapons withdrawal Russian troops and mercenaries withdrawn Russia stop supplying weapons Budapest Memorandum Boris Nemtsov Crimea Donbass war Debaltseve Mariupol Volnovakha

Minsk II is no better than Minsk IAsk anyone whether ‘Minsk agreements’ holds or it’s main articles are in place and you will get a conversation along these lines:

Is Minsk II holding? Yes.
Was Debaltseve a breach of Minsk II? Well, yes, but…
Have all prisoners been released, including Nadia Savchenko and others? Well, no, but…
Has there been a 24hr period with no shooting? No, but…
Has the heavy weapons withdrawal been confirmed and verified as the agreement specifies? Well, we’re not sure, but…
Have Russian troops and mercenaries withdrawn? We cannot be certain, but…
Has Russia stop supplying weapons? No, but…
So Minsk II is holding? Well, not in all specifics, but…
In what ways is it holding? Well, there’s less fighting…
Despite the flagrant breaches of Minsk II in every regard the EU and US, having said that Minsk II was the ‘last chance’, still dither about increasing sanctions or sending the requested anti tank and anti battery radar equipment that Ukraine desperately needs. Let us be clear here: the full arsenal of the Russian army is available to it’s contracted mercenaries and criminal accomplices. The Ukrainian army having suffered 25 years of neglect because the Governments relied on the Budapest Memorandum simply does not have the number of working 9M133 Kornet anti tank systems, nor the counter battery radar, to compete with the numbers of tanks or accuracy of the artillery that Russia can supply to their proxy forces. It is in view not only incumbent on the Budapest Memorandum signatories, but also in the Wests interests and Ukraine’s neighbours to supply these deficiencies to the Ukrainian armed services immediately. The Ukrainian servicemen and women have proved their valour – the war would have ended in September last year had Russia not invaded in Brigade level forces. Do the NATO allies want Article 5 tested and to fight on the Vistula and the Danube? It is better to face the bully down now east of the Dnipro – for that is all Russian mafia state is – a bully which once faced with overwhelming supiority will always back down. The truth must be recognised in Western capitals and sanctions increased now as the requested arms delivered asap.
Nor is this ‘Minsk II’ but ‘Appeasement 101’: Transnistria, Nagorno Karabakh, South Ossetia and Abkhazia were all ‘Minsked’ in some way or another – and that’s not including the massacres in Chechnya in a time period of 25yrs since the end of ‘Cold War’. So much for peace in our time… Nor were the rebellions in the Warsaw Pact supported or the Polish and Ukrainian independence movements before and between the World Wars a record short of abysmal and based entirely around self interest. The same is true of Minsk II: France and Germany, being the dominant alliance in EU, and because the ‘Normandy format’ was mistakenly conceded by Ukraine’s truer friends, want to end the sanctions for entirely self interested economic reasons. It wasn’t so much about giving Putin an “off ramp” or a way out, but about giving them an excuse to end EU sanctions. Ukraine would be wise to reject any further diplomatic ‘help’ from it’s French and German ‘friends’ and ask for the Poles, Romanians and British (which would be sufficient to counter Franco German influence in the EU) to support them in any further such attempts to stop the Russian aggression by diplomatic means.
The real questions about Minsk II are will the ‘less fighting ceasefire’ last and who does it benefit? These questions are entwined and can only be considered together – who benefits decides what happens.
Will the ‘less fighting ceasefire’ last? Perhaps it may even become a complete ceasefire and cessation of hostilities? Of course were hostilities to end totally – were the illegal armed groups in Donbass to disarm, under immunity from prosecution, and Ukraine to regain control of its eastern border as specified in Minsk II, then Ukraine would benefit enormously. Many of the volunteer units could go home and contribute by doing their real jobs before their patriotic duty stirred them to defend to their homeland so valiantly and, alas, sometimes with such tragic ends. The Government could concentrate on the reform and anti corruption process – which is of course what the Revolution of Dignity was about – and in 10 years we might be talking about a ‘Ukrainian economic miracle’. The currently occupied area of Donbass would be a burden on the Russian economy – the cost of rebuilding let alone modernising the industry as well as uprooting the almost lawless corruption now embedded by the ‘Cossaks’, Chechens and other criminals imported by Russia can never make a ‘State’ – as witnessed by the recent mining disaster. Nor can Russia afford Donbass as it is now – the drop in the oil prices and the ruble (and the endemic corruption in Russia) make it unaffordable for a state who’s foreign currency reserves have dropped by over a third in a year and which all economic analysts expect to enter recession this year. If they believed they could afford to rebuild and modernise the occupied territories of Donbass they would have annexed them already so clearly this is not the intention.
The question then becomes: “What use is the occupied area in Donbass since Russia clearly doesn’t want it?” To this question there are two possible answers: to stop Ukraine progressing/generally to cause a economic drain and be a pain OR to go for the ‘land bridge’ to Crimea. This leads on the costs Russia will incur in Crimea, which is dependent on Ukraine for water, electricity and gas. The proposed Kerch bridge that would be an alternative to the land bridge of Crimea dependence on Ukraine is by some accounts unviable for technical reasons, but on a military level a bridge connection across the Sea of Azov straits is particularly vulnerable – cut the bridge, which would carry the gas and electricity supply – and the Sevastapol naval base is at least partially cut off – air and sea supply would be required and this is expensive and time consuming. The bridge contract is likely to cost the Russian people a pretty penny or several billion of them anyway as it has gone to the Rotenberg brothers, old judo pals of Putin from St Petersburg who did much of the Sochi Winter Olymips works at a cost of 300% more than any other winter Olympics – Boris Nemtsov was one who asked questions about Sochi, of course. There are some who have also questioned the viability of the Kerch bridge on technical grounds, but while it may be possible it will be very expensive and will remain vulnerable to a single bomb. Clearly an easier option, and less expensive monetarily (though more in lives) is the land bridge via Donbass and this why most people will agree this the Russian ambition and why Minsk II was never intended to succeed from the Russian point of view. The ‘be a pain’ and stop Ukraine progressing theory cannot be ruled out entirely – it may be the case – but in forward planning Ukraine must consider the worst options and only hope for the best.
Having given the reasoning why it won’t work – and was never intended to – it is a welcome lull no doubt for Ukrainian forces. Resupply and continued production 24/7 of all military systems, particularly anti tank weapons and training need to be rushed forward, if Ukraine cannot get the systems it requires for the coming battle from it’s supposed friends then it should buy them on the open market. Supplies need to be gathered and stockpiled in the Dnipropetrovsk area with sufficient transport to carry them forward. The area north of the occupied Luhansk northern routes needs to mined as does the central area from Donetsk to Debaltseve southward. Nobody can say when the ‘land bridge’ move will be made – they may wait for July when the EU sanctions must be reconsidered and hope to fool the European leaders again that the ‘less fighting ceasefire’ is ‘holding’ hoping to split the European and the US – but it will with almost 100% certainty come. There is no point hoping of pretending it may not – preparations need making now on the basis that it will in the event and likelihood that it will.
Everybody knows already that Mariupol is the next front line city and Mariupol needs to evacuated of elderly and children and supplies sufficient for a seige built up there – it will be seiged, they will not storm it but bypass it from the north around Volnovakha. There is no point ordering a ‘no retreat policy’ in the area where they try to break through – mine it and withdraw. But the real problem is knowing where the ‘pivot’ will be… Allow me to explain: let us suppose break south from Donetsk to Volnovakha to cut off Mariupol and press on to Melitopol to create a narrow land bridge along the coastal E58 road. It doesn’t work because the corridor is too thin – Ukrainian artillerly could shell them from miles away. The corridor needs width – as the Ukrainian staff learnt last August – and for width it need a pivot to hold the southern sector. This may be Zaporizhia or Dnipropetrovsk itself – or even south of these cities – but this is where the ‘Battle of Ukraine 2015’ will be fought. Deny the pivot – the crucial defencive bastion they require for the land bridge – and the land bridge fails. Then the currently occupied areas of Donbass become nothing but a burden on the Russian economy and will sooner or later be regained. Even then Ukraine cannot allow itself to relax – the borders will need mining all along and 24/7 surveillance systems will be needed as well human spotters both on the Ukrainian side of the border and infiltrated on the other side. Nor will Crimea be regained but it can perhaps then for a breathing space as it were and refocus more on the reforms that the whole nation so requires and so very much deserves for it’s heroic response the Russian regimes imperialist ambitions.
Europeans and all freedom loving people who want a better future for their children today owe a debt of gratitude to the brave Ukrainian soldiers who stand on the front line against a Russian state hell bent on conquest and corrupt to the core. My prayers are with them and their families. In future may they think back on their defeats and ultimate victory in knowledge that the whole world honours their heroism. Героям слава!




Richard Drozdowski for EMPR

 

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