The End of Minsk-2: Kiev’s “Re-Integrating Donbass” Plan Means War


August 31, 2017 – Fort Russ – 

By Eduard Popov, translated by Jafe Arnold – 

Continued from Part 2

The famous and very knowledgeable Ukrainian political analyst who fled to Russia following the coup in Kiev, Rostislav Ishchenko, has characterized the legislation on “re-integrating” Donbass as an element of domestic political struggles. Indeed, there are certain grounds to suppose such, but let us analyze this matter in greater depth with an eye towards the overarching context and its dangerous implications. 

Unlike in the international arena, where Poroshenko is trying to present himself as a peacemaker, in the domestic Ukrainian arena Poroshenko is trying to look like a strong leader and a hawk. Ukrainian public opinion is militaristic overall and demands that the conflict in Donbass be resolved by force. In this light, Poroshenko’s plan looks more “defeatist” than the one being prepared by his competitors from the People’s Front Party, who are associated with the Secretary of the National Defense and Security Council, Turchynov, the Minister of Internal Affairs, Avakov, and the speaker of the Verkhovna Rada, Parubiy. Different proposals in regards to imposing martial law and abolishing the ATO can be heard coming from this group, but as far as the scraps of information available and a general understanding of Ukraine allow us to say, there are no fundamental differences between these two projects.

Poroshenko is a president with a very low approval rating (no more than 5-6% according to some estimates). This political and business figure draws so much hatred that mortal enemies can temporarily and conditionally unite against him – from Ukrainian Nazis to the Donbass militia. Thus, Poroshenko is striving to gain popularity through a combination of bellicose rhetoric and decisive steps. The bill on “re-integrating” Donbass is a step in this direction, as Poroshenko is seizing the initiative from his enemies and passing such off as his own. This is not the first time that this has happened. The freshest example is the trade blockade of Donbass started by the Ukrainian Nazi battalions. Although Poroshenko (as well as some corrupt leaders in the LPR) profited off of “shadow trade” with Donbass, he managed to quickly re-orient the blockade and turn it into state policy. Thus, in this regard, it is difficult to disagree with Ishchenko’s thesis that the legislative matter at hand is largely an internal political squabble.

In our view, however, this view is actually incorrect overall. Let us recall that Poroshenko’s competitors from the People’s Front are pushing their own plan for “re-integrating Donbass”, and both bills fit into the overall logic of Ukrainian state policy, which boils down to one formula: maximally aggravate Russia (up to the point of war) and rely on military and other aid from the West, first and foremost the US. 

Poroshenko is only using the trend of deteriorating relations with Ukraine’s eastern neighbor for his own goals. Yet the goals of those who actually developed this plan are too grandiose to be tied to the petty interests of this or that representative of Ukraine’s comprador establishment.

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Numerous commentaries in Russian media demonstrate a certain misunderstanding of the serious threat that this proposed bill poses to Donbass. While rightly noting the fact that the bill contradicts the Minsk Agreements, most commentators miss the causal link between the document and the Ukrainian leadership and their Western partners’ operation to militarize Ukraine. At the present moment, Ukraine has pulled up all of its reserve forces to the frontline against the Donbass republics, and is regularly conducting reconnaissance-by-battle operations and launching sabotage and terrorist raids into the republics. When the Ukrainian army will be re-equipped with highly effective American offensive equipment and trained in new tactics, the conditions will be ripe for a new, large-scale UAF offensive against the DPR and LPR. 

At the same time, the US and NATO are escalating their military and political pressure on Russia by means of Ukraine, such as through alleging Russian aggression against Ukraine and establishing bases on Ukrainian territory, etc. The new legal interpretation of the nature of the conflict in Donbass will place entirely new political issues before the Ukrainian regime. The adoption of such legislation and relevant subsequent steps would make a direct military conflict between Ukraine and Russia very likely and almost inevitable. This conflict could only be avoided if Russia directly and unconditionally surrendered on humiliating and unfavorable terms, which is an extremely unlikely scenario given the political risks entailed for the Russian leadership.

In our opinion, the majority of commentators who focus on the minor aspects of the Donbass “re-integration” bill miss such a logical conclusion based on a thorough analysis of the document and its context. Moreover, it is indeed psychologically difficult to accept the possibility of war with formerly fraternal Ukraine. Hence  why our conclusion seems to many to be too radical. But then again, my prediction in early March 2014 that Ukraine would use Grad rocket volley systems against million-strong Donetsk was also seen as fantastical. 

The first ever President of Ukraine, Leonid Kravchuk, has offered a more realistic evaluation of Kiev’s plans, calling any war waged by Ukraine against Russia “insane.” After all, there would be no talk of such if it were not for the fact that war against Russia is actually being discussed among Ukraine’s military and political circles.

The “re-integration of Donbass” in question is akin to a conquest of the territory of the DPR and LPR in the likes of the Croatian Army’s operation against the Republic of Serbian Krajina. The “incentive” measures which Poroshenko is offering the people of Donbass in the form of restoring social pay outs (pensions, benefits, etc.) – which the Minsk Agreements call for anyway in Point 8 – is but an element of unscrupulous political PR and social demagogy. 

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The immediate consequences of this future law on “re-integrating Donbass” would thus be the death of a large number of Donbass citizens and a mass of survivors fleeing Ukraine. This perfectly suits Kiev, for it would not only solve the problem of annihilating the politically disloyal population of Donbass, but would also relieve the Ukrainian state of its social obligations towards its own population. 

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