Zelensky Makes A Monumental Blunder With Myriad Ramifications

Zelensky Makes A Monumental Blunder With Myriad Ramifications

by Venu Gopal Narayanan - Thursday, February 16, 2023 01:14 PM IST
Zelensky Makes A Monumental Blunder With Myriad RamificationsUkrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy
  • Why did Zelensky say that there was never any intention of respecting the Minsk II agreements?

    Was it intentional or was it a last-ditch attempt to goad the West into giving him more military supplies and financial aid before the Russians raise the stakes?

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky made a startling revelation to a prominent German news magazine last week.

Speaking to Der Spiegel, he confessed that he never had any intention of honouring the Minsk II peace agreements of 2015, signed by Russia, Ukraine, and an organization with no legal status internationally — the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe).

A brief recap of the regional geopolitical background, plus the issues surrounding the signing and implementation of Minsk II, is required, if Zelensky’s statement is to be understood from the correct perspectives.

Ever since the end of the Cold War, America has persistently sought to expand its sphere of influence into those regions vacated by the Soviet Union. These efforts have four broad parts:

One, regime change, through well organized ‘Colour Revolutions’ using pliant local politicians, mass media, non-governmental organizations, and, at times, by fomenting violent insurgencies.

Two, membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Three, the installation of NMDs (Nuclear Missile Defence systems) in new member states.

Four, gaining control of the routes through which Russian pipelines carried natural gas and oil to Europe.

Much of the American focus has been on eastern Europe, the Balkans, the Black Sea Region, and the Caucus Mountains.

The objective is a vast swathe which hems Russia in from the south, brings NATO closer to the core of Russia, creates a buffer zone under NATO control, and severely restricts Russian maritime access to the vital trade routes of the Baltic Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, and land access to Europe and Asia.

And all of this happened after American Secretary of State James Baker gave a cast-iron guarantee to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1990, that NATO would not go ‘one inch eastwards’.

Look at the chronology from the very next year:

  • 1991: Insurgency in Chechnya begins

  • 1999: The Chechen War

  • 1999: Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic join NATO

  • 2003: Pro-West government installed in Georgia following successful regime change through a ‘Rose revolution’

  • 2004: Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia join NATO

  • 2008: Russo-Georgian war after NATO promises to consider Georgian membership in NATO

  • 2009: Albania and Croatia join NATO

  • 2013: ‘Euromaidan’ protests begin in Ukraine against pro-Russian regime; American politicians address crowds in Kiev

  • 2014: ‘Revolution of Dignity’ breaks out in Ukraine. American diplomat Victoria Nuland caught on tape discussing modalities of regime change. Donbas war breaks out in March. Russia annexes Crimea

  • 2015: Minsk II agreements signed

  • 2017: Montenegro joins NATO

  • 2018: ‘Velvet revolution’ in Armenia leads to regime change; strains ties with Russia

  • 2019: Zelensky wins presidential election; countdown begins. Shadowy lobbyist firm allegedly facilitated visits by Zelensky campaign team to meet think tanks and senior politicians in Washington DC during the campaign.

So, for all practical purposes, the fabled ‘containment policy’ followed during the Cold War continued without interruption. Even supporting insurgencies, arranging protests, managing mass media, and promoting pro-American leaders, was taken from the old manual.

The only addition was the use of right-of-pipeline-passage as leverage, to regain control of global energy prices.

Similarly, when we view Zelensky’s statement against the backdrop described above, we see that his admission about the Minsk II agreement being a dead letter is really no different from James Baker’s official guarantee to Mikhail Gorbachev in 1990 — neither was worth the paper it was signed on.

It was just a continuation of past policy, of not meaning what you commit to.

In society, not keeping your word and betraying trust is called fraud; in diplomacy, it is a fatal mistake with grave ramifications. Thus, it is difficult to believe that Zelensky would have made such a momentous statement inadvertently, even if he is not the brightest bulb in the room.

Besides, both former German Chancellor Angela Merkel and former French president Francois Hollande have independently admitted recently, that Minsk II was signed only to buy time, so that Ukraine could be armed to the teeth by the West; meaning, that that they began preparing actively for a proxy conflict with Russia from 2015 itself.

Now, if neither Ukraine or its backers in the West had any intention of ever honouring the Minsk II agreements, what are the implications of Zelensky’s recent revelation?

First, it confirms that NATO’s efforts to push eastwards, closer to the Russian border, continued right up to the moment in February 2022, when the Russian military entered Ukraine.

Second, it confirms Russia’s long-held fears about aggressive NATO expansion eastwards to the Russian border, and reduces the countless meetings and summits held on this topic by various leaders to diversionary theatrics and devious chicanery.

Third, perhaps most importantly, it gifts Russia the moral high ground on a platter, and justifies Russia’s decision to invade the Donbass last year. They drew a red line many years before which was plainly obvious to everyone.

They also consistently maintained that Ukraine was being used as a tool by the West, and, that the Minsk II agreements were mere eyewash, because oppression of ethnic Russians in the Donbass never really stopped. Zelensky’s remarks validate these apprehensions.

Fourth, they completely contradict the overwhelmingly sanctimonious moralising which has so far dominated Western mainstream political and media narratives (that Ukraine is fighting a principled war to preserve noble democratic ideals).

Where is the morality in their prosecution of the conflict if there was no morality in a treaty which the Russians signed in good faith?

Fifth, it further erodes whatever morale that remains in the Ukrainian war machine, since the next time the prevailing narrative says that this is a noble Ukrainian struggle to uphold democratic values, the only sounds to be heard in response will be weary, hollow laughs.

Sixth, it negates all arguments in favour of Ukraine prosecuting this conflict any further, and ought to finally silence those who advocate greater military and financial support for Kiev’s war efforts.

On this point, perhaps it is a coincidence, but have readers noted how the past fortnight’s frenzied chatter about sending tanks to Ukraine has died down since Zelensky gave his interview to Der Spiegel?

If so, then why did Zelensky say that there was never any intention of respecting the Minsk II agreements?

Was it a blunder? Was it intentional? Was it a last-ditch attempt to goad the West into giving him more military supplies and financial aid before the Russians raise the stakes? Or, is this just plain frustration showing? We don’t know.

Whatever the reasons, in conclusion, this much is clear: Ukraine, America, and those in the West who back this proxy war against Russia, should know that no force lacking moral authority may ever be victorious in any contest.

In the end, they will fail. Perhaps they would do well to read the Mahabharata once?

Venu Gopal Narayanan is an independent upstream petroleum consultant who focuses on energy, geopolitics, current affairs and electoral arithmetic. He tweets at @ideorogue.
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