Prospects For Peace
This week’s Normandy Summit in Paris represented a tremendous step towards the long-sought goal of finally bringing a lasting peace to Ukraine after the latest diplomatic efforts undertaken by Presidents Putin and Zelensky during their first-ever face-to-face meeting. The two leaders reached an agreement alongside their French and German counterparts to continue with the so-called “Steinmeier formula” of holding OSCE-monitored elections in the rebel regions sometime next year in parallel with Ukraine enacting the constitutional reform mandated by the Minsk Accords in order to ultimately return control of the international border to Kiev. Chairman of the Duma Committee on International Affairs Leonid Slutskiy celebrated this development for “exceeding expectations” because it “unblocked and restarted the peace process”, while Merkel reportedly told President Putin right before their joint press conference that “today you are a winner.”
“Deep State” Dangers
While there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done by both Kiev and the rebels, the latest Normandy Summit proved that Zelensky is staying true to his word in sincerely trying to bring peace to his country after he and his party received an unprecedented mandate from the people during this year’s presidential and parliamentary elections to do so. It took a remarkable amount of political will to publicly reaffirm the Minsk Accords that his predecessor signed despite Poroshenko never having had any intention of abiding by them in hindsight, especially since Zelensky is increasingly forced to confront an ever-vocal hyper-nationalist “opposition” at home with a clear track record of violence and even coups. Undeterred, the Ukrainian leader even committed to exploring the possibility for another prisoner swap with Russia, a ceasefire in Donbas, and the pullback of his country’s military forces from the area of operations as goodwill gestures under the right conditions.
Left to their own without any external interference, there’s little doubt that peace would eventually return to Donbas, but the problem is that there are some powerful foreign forces that don’t want to see that happen, namely President Trump’s “deep state” foes who are obsessed with doing anything that they can to thwart his desired rapprochement with Russia by encouraging Ukraine to continue the failed civil war as a proxy conflict against Moscow’s national security interests which they hope would indefinitely perpetuate the New Cold War. Trump is already facing enormous pressure by the so-called “opposition” as a result of the manufactured Ukrainegate impeachment scandal, and with the Democrats about to enter the primary season early next year, it’s entirely conceivable that their “deep state” allies might try to provoke the breakdown of the Donbas peace process in order to compel the President into offering even more military aid to Ukraine so as to “save face” before the voters but ruin his chances for a meaningful rapprochement with Russia before the election in exchange.
The Significance Of President Putin’s Srebrenica Statement
The most realistic way in which this scheme could be advanced is through the leverage of their NGO, intelligence, and on-the-ground “agent” influence over that same hyper-nationalist “opposition” that was earlier described as becoming increasingly vocal in their condemnation of Zelensky’s peace efforts. Their narrative is that he’s “selling out the country” even though the end result of the peace process as agreed upon by all parties through the Minsk Accords would arguably result in the exact same victory that Kiev is aiming for, albeit in a responsibly phased fashion alongside some constitutional concessions for sustaining stability in the conflict-plagued southeastern region after the war officially ends. His opponents, however, want a Croatian-like “Operation Storm” ethnic cleansing of the Russian-affiliated people of Donbas in order to send a message to all of their “fellow” dissatisfied citizens that there will be a bloody price to pay if they ever dare to follow in their footsteps.
President Putin knows that the West will never recognize the worst ethnic cleansing in Europe since World War II so he instead sought to change his narrative tactics by warning about a second “Srebrenica” if Kiev jumps a few steps ahead of the peace process by demanding the return of its military forces to the international frontier before Donbas’ elections and the completion of the country’s subsequent constitutional reform. This statement, while intended to put additional pressure upon Ukraine by the comparatively responsible members of the West (such as Trump, Macron, and Merkel) to abide by its international commitments, caught Russia’s “brotherly” Serbs off guard since it strongly implied some measure of guilt on their part for the so-called “genocide” that they’ve been falsely accused of carrying out since 1995 but which was completely discredited by the research conducted by many independent experts such as Stefan Karganovic for example.
Whether a faux pas or a sign of something sinister such as the impending sell-out of Kosovo that some strongly suspect is in the cards, the point to focus on in this context is that President Putin’s rhetoric was intended to achieve the immediate effect of scaring the West using its own “genocide” mythology in order to counteract the pernicious influence of Trump’s “deep state” foes in possibly sabotaging the peace process. The means through which they could accomplish this mostly boil down to encouraging another Color Revolution, which could also serve the indirect purpose of putting pressure on oligarch Kolomoysky who allegedly wields enormous influence over Zelensky and also recently threatened to “switch sides” towards Russia after previously financing Neo-Nazi death squads. Accepting the likelihood of this asymmetrical threat, the question becomes one of whether the Ukrainian security services can be relied upon to remain loyal to their internationally recognized president or not, and if so, whether they can responsibly respond to a nascent Color Revolution without unwittingly worsening it.
Assessing The Threat
It’s difficult to answer these questions from afar, but one can reasonably speculate that the odds are in Zelensky’s favor. After all, the successful conclusion of the peace process would result in an incontestable victory for Kiev despite the constitutional concessions that it’ll have to undertake beforehand, something that all of its servicemen want to see happen even though some would prefer for it to be preceded by an ethnic cleansing without any constitutional concessions being made. Those hyper-nationalist and sometimes outright fascist forces are probably in the minority despite being so vocal and highly visibly in both the media and the streets that one would be forgiven for thinking otherwise since they would have already undermined the peace process before this point had they been in the majority or had the power to overturn the will of the aforesaid. They’re still a threat, but they can only succeed with their scheme through a Color Revolution, the viability of which depends on the “moderate majority” of the security forces’ response to any such incipent threat.
The use of disproportionate force against anti-state provocateurs who take advantage of mostly peaceful protesting crowds and/or the unprovoked use of force in the first place against the latter category of demonstrators could incite the public to spill out into the streets at a much larger scale than some of their members already threatened to do in order to pass the critical threshold whereby a Color Revolution could prospectively succeed. The Ukrainian security services aren’t known for their discipline so it’ll be difficult for them to deal with this scenario, though they might be able to handle it if they stay focused and are briefed by their superiors about the specific nature of the threat that they’re responding to which always attempts to tempt them into triggering a self-sustaining cycle of violence that eventually destabilizes the state and ultimately leads to either a regime change or unconventional (civil, terrorist, etc.) war. Their response to any impending Color Revolution will be the test that determines whether or not the peace process succeeds.
Ukraine has never been closer to peace since the civil war first began almost six years years ago, yet it still has a long way to go considering the rest of the steps that must first be undertaken (especially elections in Donbas and Kiev’s constitutional reform) and the intense efforts of Trump’s “deep state” foes to thwart this by proxy via the influence that they wield over the country’s Color Revolution-prone hyper-nationalist “opposition”. If Kiev and the rebels succeed in carrying out the mutual concessions mandated by the Minsk Accords, then Ukraine will finally be reunited, with any malcontents in the southeast being able to simply move to Russia by taking advantage of the passport program that began earlier this year which the author correctly predicted was intended to facilitate their migration eastward instead of legally enabling their region’s incorporation into Russia like many “wishfully” speculated at the time. Looking forward, there’s certainly a reason for observers to be hopeful about the prospects for peace, though they also shouldn’t get their hopes unrealistically high either.
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This article was originally published on OneWorld.
Andrew Korybko is an American Moscow-based political analyst specializing in the relationship between the US strategy in Afro-Eurasia, China’s One Belt One Road global vision of New Silk Road connectivity, and Hybrid Warfare. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.