On July 18th, a number of reports flooded Russian media claiming that one of Putin’s proposals to Trump at their July 16th Helsinki meeting was to organize a new, internationally-monitored independence referendum in Donbass.
Widely advertised as Putin’s new plan to “resolve the conflict in East Ukraine”, Russian media have unanimously cited a Bloomberg article as the source of this news. The Bloomberg article itself’s sources are two unnamed attendees of Putin’s post-Helsinki meeting with Russian diplomats. One of Bloomberg’s alleged sources also claimed that Putin offered Trump “time to think the proposal over”, and in turn Trump asked Putin not to publicly air the idea.
Putin’s press spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, has refused to comment on this specific point, but has confirmed that the conflict in Ukraine figured on the two presidents’ Helsinki agenda.
In the wake of Putin and Trump’s historic Helsinki summit, an overwhelming barrage of misquotations, unsubstantiated allegations, and outright fake news has engulfed the media sphere, intentionally obfuscating what might or might not have been said by Trump and Putin during and after their meeting.
However, the very fact that the “Donbass proposal” has engulfed the information sphere to the extent that it has within a matter of hours is hardly coincidental. Such a proposal would be revolutionary. It would mean the end of the US’ “Project Ukraine”, the end of the Minsk Agreements, the official recognition of Donbass self-determination, and an enormous step in the readjustment of the US’ imperial architecture, which is Trump’s historic, watershed opportunity to “make America great again.”
To recall, the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics seceded from Ukraine as the result of referenda held on 11 May 2014, in which 89% of voters with a 75% turnout in Donetsk and 96.2% of Lugansk voters with a turnout of 81% voted for independence from Ukraine and the formation of independent states. These unrecognized states have withstood war waged by the US-NATO-EU-backed post-Maidan Kiev regime for more than four years now.
A new, internationally recognized referendum in Donbass would mean the end of the Second Minsk Agreements adopted in February 2015 upon agreement between Ukraine, France, Germany, and Russia, which stipulated a package of ceasefire measures and political reforms aimed at ultimately re-integrating the Donetsk and Lugansk regions with Ukraine.
After four long years of Ukrainian terror and destruction and four momentous years of Donbass statecraft and hardening, any referendum would inevitably sound an overwhelming, resounding chime in favor of an independent Donbass. Such would make Kiev’s war on Donbass – and the whole US operation behind it – officially illegal, illegitimate, and immoral for the entire international community, and it would be ended as such.
After all, anyone who has followed the war in Donbass on even a semi-regular basis and has an intuitive grasp of geopolitics knows that the Minsk Agreements were never the end goal: they were a means of buying time and resources on the larger geopolitical chessboard – for Russia, who recognized the indispensability of the Syrian front and a long-term multipolar strategy; for the EU, which recognized the sheer futility and suicide of rushing into a US-inspired war with Russia; for Ukraine, which had been time and time again routed in combat; and for the US, whose unipolar hegemony is in decline and which overstretched its resources and will with color revolution and hybrid war in Ukraine.
If any internationally-monitored referendum is held in Donbass, Trump could move forward with his reform of US geopolitics and pull out of Ukraine; the EU could have the Ukrainian thorn in its side removed; and Russia would have accomplished its strategic task of preventing a war on its borders and winning public opinion for the cause of multipolarity.
With an internationally-recognized referendum, the Donbass republics would hold the key to sovereignty under international law, with which they could accomplish their objective of integration with Russia, and engage in the gravitational attraction of the other regions of the disintegrating project known as “Ukraine”, both of which were part and parcel of the many visions which drove the ambition for Donbass statehood in the first place.
In other words, such a move would be a genuine gift to the major actors who have been sucked into the US-fomented Ukrainian vortex. And first and foremost, such would be a gift to Donald Trump’s initiative of restructuring the US empire by strategically retreating from the Russian front to focus on other vectors both abroad and at home.
The best part of it all is that even if “Putin’s new plan” turns out to be “fake news”, its very airing is a sure and steady sign, or perhaps reconnaissance, that things are moving in that direction.