Kremlin Minsk PreparationsAugust 26, 2014
Tomorrow sees a meeting in Minsk of Presidents Putin, Poroshenko, Lukashenko, Nazarbeyev, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice President of the European Commission Catherine Ashton, European Commissioner for Energy Günther Oettinger and European Commissioner for Trade Karel De Gucht.
As was stated in an entry here a few days ago, after the humanitarian trucks rolled into Ukraine – and before they rolled out again loaded with looted technical parts from Ukrainian factories required for the Russian defence and space industrial complex – “Perhaps it is far more basic than that? By upping the ante, is it simply a way to give the impression of negotiating from a position of strength when the Minsk meeting arrives? Another act of Kremlin defiance prior to that meeting to insure all attending are well aware of The Kremlin ability to act unilaterally as and when it wants to.”
@leonidragozin As I wrote today in the blog – it is about negotiating from a position of strength, and facts on the ground create that
— Nikolai Holmov (@OdessaBlogger) August 22, 2014
Somewhat diplomatically put, as that clearly was and remains the case – at least in part. Since then Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, today announced that The Kremlin will continue to send humanitarian aid into Ukraine, regardless of any Ukrainian objection or international condemnation.
Also today, approximately 50 Russian military tanks entered Ukraine at Novoasovsk, and whilst engaged by Ukrainian forces, made it ways toward Mariupol, the strategic port city of the Donbas.
The Donetsk People’s Republic looks a far more viable entity with the port city of Mariupol than without it – and creating that impression and possibility prior to the meeting in Minsk tomorrow matters when strengthening a Kremlin negotiating position.
Ukrainian forces have retreated to the city of Mariupol.
As the tweets related above state, a full invasion force it was certainly not. Creating further difficulties on the ground for Ukraine, and once again upping the ante was and is – at least in part – the point.
To be blunt, The Kremlin does not need to win any military war in eastern Ukraine – it simply needs to avoid losing. Ukraine on the other hand, cannot afford to have a hot or frozen conflict take root. The combined weight of Luhansk and the Donbas Oblasts would be an incredibly heavy anchor to have to drag toward Europe. Not an impossible weight to drag along, but one that would slow any momentum dramatically.
As such it appears The Kremlin has now completed its preparations for the Minsk meeting. The ante has been upped, military facts on the ground have been changed by entering Ukraine further south of the existing fighting, announcing a declared intent to ignore Ukrainian borders and refusals of further convoys entering Ukraine under a humanitarian pretext etc.
The Kremlin has improved its negotiating position by changing facts on the ground within the space of 5 days. It is now in a far stronger negotiating position than 2 weeks ago. It therefore follows that it will not feel much need, if any, to offer concessions or to reach an agreement that falls significantly short of its initial positions tomorrow.
Ukraine cannot and will not accept any loss of territory or sovereignty. It is engaged in a war of independence and a fight for its right to choose its own course.
The Europeans are currently bereft of ideas acceptable to all EU Member States, and whilst more sanctions may or may not come, any damage over time will neither change the facts on Ukrainian soil, nor change Kremlin course soon – if at all.
Positive expected outcomes from the meeting tomorrow? Low to no none, unless there be a rabbit to pull from a hat by somebody.