Monday, August 25, 2014


"Ukraine accused Russia on Monday of sending soldiers across the border to open a new front, a charge that Moscow dismissed as the latest salvo in a campaign of misinformation. Poroshenko expressed "extraordinary concern" at the alleged move, his press service said. Russia has consistently denied arming or fighting alongside the separatists. Stung by U.S. and EU sanctions against its finance, oil and defence sectors, it has hit back by banning most Western food imports, in a trade war that is hurting both the Russian and European economies. With East-West tensions at their highest since the Cold War, Russian and NATO forces have both stepped up exercises in recent months. Tuesday's talks, expected to begin after 0700 ET in the Belarussian capital of Minsk, will include European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and the leaders of Belarus and Kazakhstan, partners in a Russian-led customs union. But expectations on all sides appear low, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel among those playing down any likelihood of a breakthrough to end the fighting, in which more than 2,000 people have been killed since April. At a news conference on Monday, Russia's Lavrov said the West must not expect Moscow to solve the crisis as if by magic, and suggested it needed to rethink its view of the conflict. "I think that with regard to Ukraine, a recognition will come of the complete pointlessness of betting on supporting a civil war, of betting that Ukraine, by using its army, will defeat part of its own people and peace will reign in Ukraine," he said. In the latest twist in a protracted conflict, the Ukrainian military said a group of Russian forces, disguised as rebels, had crossed into south-east Ukraine with 10 tanks and two armoured infantry vehicles. It said border guards had halted the column outside Novoazovsk, Ukraine's most south-easterly point on the Azov Sea. "This morning there was an attempt by the Russian military in the guise of Donbass fighters to open a new area of military confrontation in the southern Donetsk region," military spokesman Andriy Lysenko told journalists".
Alexei Anishchuk, "Slim chance of progress as Russian and Ukrainian leaders meet". Reuters. 24 August 2014, in
The likelihood of success in any talks between Kyiv and Moskva which are supposed to take place in Minsk this week, seems to be close to nil. With the Financial Times reporting that there appears to be a build-up of Russian forces inside Ukraine who are aiding sub rosa (only in part!) the rebels in the Donbass region 1. The fact of the matter is that Russia will endeavor, short of an overt military invasion if it can help it, to keep the rebellion alive as another frozen zone of conflict `a la the situations in Moldova and Georgia. One can agree readily of course with the analysis recently offered by the Russian-based analyst for the Carnegie Endowment, Dmitri Trenin, that au fond the only winners of the current conflict in Eastern Ukraine is Peking 2. That fact does not absolve Moskva with turning a domestic, Ukrainian conflict, into an international crisis of major proportions with first the annexation of Crimea and second the attempted subversion of Ukraine. The whys and the wherefores of Russian policy can be studied and analyzed without end 3. However, that does not obviate the fact that it was the Putin regime which decided to (in the words of German Imperial Chancellor Theobold von Bethmann-Hollweg in 1914): 'let the iron dice roll'. And unfortunately, it does appear to be the case that sans a domestic upheaval in Russia proper, and the partial or complete overthrow of 'Putinism', that normal relations between the West and Moskva will be a long time in arriving. One may state that the current conflict between Russia and the West is both completely unnecessary and a tragedy, but this truism will not obviate the nature of Russian policy and its basis in the internal domestic political regime that Russia 'enjoys' under 'Putinism'.
1. Peter Spiegel & Roman Olearchyk, "Moscow may be using convoy to distract from military build-up, says Nato chief". The Financial Times. 25 August 2014, in
2. Dmitri Trenin, "Ukraine and the new divide". Carnegie Moscow Center. 30 August 2014, in
3. Trenin's own analysis is more premised upon what one may label as 'primat der aussenpolitik' ['primacy of foreign policy'], then what I would feel is in fact the case. For a longer and more detailed version of his argument, see: "The Ukraine Crisis and the Resumption of Great-Power Rivalry". Carnegie Moscow Center. 9 July 2014, in For an alternative and to my mind much more cogent view of the motivations of Russian policy, see: Lilia Shevtsova, "Putin rides the waves". The American Interest. 15 May 2014, in


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