Poroshenko’s bid for the coveted Colin Powell Memorial “We Think You Are Idiots” Award
The Munich Conference Post-Mortem
Judging by what was said and what was not said by the various parties at Munich, here are the conclusions that can be drawn:
The West views the junta as a disappointment (at best) or a liability (at worst). It would be too simplistic to say that Washington and Berlin dictated and dictate the course of events in Kiev. Instead, it was more of a case of the soon-to-be junta leadership approaching their Western “partners” with a set of proposals in order to secure their support, support which in fact they garnered.
However, that support was going to be conditional on the junta fulfilling a certain set of obligations once in power. These were, in no particular order:
a) Ukraine conducts economic reforms so as to make the country more accessible/friendly to Western imports and capital, even if it means the destruction of Ukraine’s both heavy and light industry, which served as one of the causes for the explosion on the Donbass.
b) Ukraine transforms itself into something of a NATO door-mat by allowing greater NATO access to and presence at various major military bases, starting with Sevastopol.
c) Ukraine becomes a “shining city on the hill” to like-minded Russian “oppositionists”, who then proceed to use Ukraine’s example (and Russia’s humiliation inherent in point b above) to topple Russia’s political system, possibly by means similar to that of the Maidan. Let’s not forget that a year ago many Russian “opposition” “thinkers” were openly talking about moving to Kiev, which would become, in their words, “the center of Russian thought” (!), from which Russia’s political reforms would be planned.
But oh, what a difference a year makes! Who in their right mind still thinks any of these three items are still even remotely realizable?
Let’s not forget that all Western promises of aid were conditional on reforms and progress toward the objectives listed above (including through the conquest of the Donbass). A year later the lack of progress has been so conspicuous that the junta had lost virtually all of its supporters (spare the occasional George Soros who seems to have made some pretty hefty bets courtesy of inside information provided by the junta members, but who forgot that Russia might have a thing or two to say about what happens to Ukraine’s economy).
Therefore, entirely unsurprisingly, the take-away from Munich is this:
No serious person (McCain doesn’t count–even the hawkish Polish government distanced itself from his remarks) wants to supply weapons to Kiev. Not even Biden made such a commitment. Not even the usually callous British promised anything. Had the junta demonstrated even an average aptitude for the conduct of the war, these weapons would have been supplied a long time ago. I should note this was an unconditional refusal to supply weapons, irrespective of what happens in Ukraine.
No serious person (Soros doesn’t count–everyone knows who he is and what his interest in Ukraine is) wants to give money to Ukraine. This is quite a development, because back in the day when the junta still had a shred and a half of credibility to its name, the West would make aid commitments on the basis of reforms. I’m guessing nobody is expecting any reforms any time soon.
No serious person so much as mentioned additional sanctions against Russia. That train seems to have left the station. About 6 months ago. The situation with Greece is a complicating factor for the EU, but so is the awareness that sanctions are not having their desired political effect, and the economic effects are being felt by the EU as well. Kerry made some vague statements concerning “additional costs”, but it was not echoed by Merkel and Hollande.
Every serious person wants Poroshenko & Co. to make peace, somehow, somewhere. Everyone from Kerry through Merkel to Hollande politely reminded Poroshenko that the Minsk Agreements provide for a “special status” for the Donbass, though nobody bothered to define what the geographical limits of that region were. Except for Putin, who specified administrative boundaries of Donetsk and Lugansk districts, echoing Zakharchenko’s statements from about a month ago. Nobody seems to have contradicted him and, what’s more, Hollande’s proposal for a 50-70km demilitarized zone is entirely consistent with what Putin and Zakharchenko want. Poroshenko’s Russian passport-waving antics left everyone singularly unimpressed, and even quite possibly a little bit embarrassed that the West had thrown its prestige on the side of this Mussolini-esque creature who doesn’t seem to have remembered that the deal the junta seems to have made with the West in no way specified that the West would fight Kiev’s battles for it. And yet this is precisely what Poroshenko and Yatsenyuk demand every time they meet with their Western partners. Considering that professional diplomats are famous for their attention to detail, Steinmeier’s choice of tie for his appearance at the Munich Conference seems like a pretty clear message for everyone concerned.
Lavrov, for his part, warned Poroshenko that he might share the fate of Saakashvili–the first official Russian statement reminding Ukraine’s president that, to quote Charles de Gaulle, “cemeteries are full of indispensable people.”
So, in conclusion, every serious person wants the conflict to end, on some reasonably mutually acceptable terms that do not include Novorossia’s army marching on Kiev or doing anything to topple Poroshenko & Co. The question is whether Poroshenko &Co. includes even one serious person? Ukraine’s problem is, once again, that it’s being run by people who are stunningly incompetent at their jobs, and who just might fail at peacemaking just as they had failed at everything else.