Armed Forces

Why the Ukrainians will lose the Donbass region?

  • Wizja startu rakiety nośnej Ariane 6. Ilustracja: Airbus Defence & Space
    Wizja startu rakiety nośnej Ariane 6. Ilustracja: Airbus Defence & Space

Assuming that back in 2008, in Georgia, Putin’s intention was to, in a more or less planned manner, test the West, we may come to two conclusions. Firstly, the time, number of victims and financial assets the Kremlin devotes to the Ukrainian operation are not an optimistic sign for anybody, who believes that the fight is going on in order to provide autonomy for two Oblasts of Eastern Ukraine. Secondly: the Western leaders are not learning their lessons. 7 years of naïve policy led to the Ukrainian crisis, and to suffering of the Ukrainian society.

Judy Dempsey, in her commentary made for the Carnegie Europe think-thank, stated that the Debaltseve boiler shows that diplomacy has failed, and the Europeans are far from understanding the consequences, which stem from the fact that Ukraine has lost its territorial integrity. It is hard not to agree here. Threatening Russia with another set of sanctions does not change the simple fact that, starting from the annexation of Crimea, the Kremlin has been destroying the whole foundation of the international relations, which has been the base for the situation in Europe, ever since the Soviet Union collapsed.

It may be even stated that the roots of the new European order are dated even further back, to the moment when the Helsinki Accords have been signed, back in 1975. This act has covered the issues such as territorial integrity and inviolability of frontiers, and refraining from the threat or use of force. On the other hand, the leaders of contemporary Europe, by signing the Minsk-2 memorandum, have accepted the new-old Russian imperialism. So far this state of affairs is valid solely in Donbass. But does anybody believe that after the fights are stopped within the area which is controlled by “Russian-terrorist forces”, as they are called by Ukrainian Analyst, Dmytro Tymchuk, democratic elections will be carried out in the Donbass region?

France and Germany have become self-proclaimed representatives of all of the European states, and they are trying to stop the escalation of tension, by resigning from any risk or using the argument of force. The effort is considerable, however it is not impressive for the heads of state, who are taking responsibility for the fate of the region, or even the whole continent. Not to mention the fact that their stance has become a background and a catalytic factor for the war operations, which are a cause of death of many more civilians. The stance assumed by the leaders seems to be immune from any conclusions, stemming from the lies, manipulations, methods and fact policy, which have been used, with successes, by Putin so far.

It is also worth to recall Dempsey’s argument, referring to the European double standards:  Europe, on one hand, wants to stick to soft power methods, on the other, some of the European governments have joined the U.S.-led coalition, which is using military force, fighting the IS. According to the German Minister of Defence,  Ursula von der Leyen, Russia is being treated as a threat by the Berlin authorities, however, the German government is still able to talk to Putin, negotiate with him, treat him as a partner. When it comes to the IS led by the jihadists – there is no-one left to talk. Well, I must admit it – it is quite an interesting logical construct. What can we learn from the fact that we are able to talk to Putin, when he does not tell the truth regarding the Russian involvement in Donbass, and he did not comply with any declarations he had made earlier?  

The Western countries have made and are still making serious mistakes, they are satisfied with half-measures, declarations, promises, they’d rather be involved in a fictional dialogue and meetings in front of the cameras. Meanwhile, OSCE cannot fulfil its tasks in Ukraine. Not only cannot the OSCE do the job because the terrorists supported by the Russians do not let the organizations’ observers enter the war-zone, but also because the organization has no sufficient human resources or equipment at its disposal to be effective. OSCE reports and warnings regarding the dramatic situation the civilians and soldiers are in still remain unanswered, hence we should not be surprised that the local rebels do not treat the international agreements seriously.

The Ukrainian media discuss the reports created by the Russian journalists working for the  “Novaya Gazeta”. These journalists are in possession of documents, written by high officers from the Putin’s circle. These documents state that before Yanukovych ran away, the scenario of events which are currently taking place in Ukraine, had been already written,  even long time before the Crimean annexation or annexation of the Eastern Oblasts happened. That stemmed from 2 factors:

1) Some voices at Kremlin stated that  Yanukovych would break away from the Kremlin’s influence in his struggle for power.

2) Losing Ukraine would mean that not only would Russia lose control over the Ukrainian market of energy, but also that the Russians would no longer be in control of the gas transfer system located within the Ukrainian territory, which would have an impact on Gazprom’s position in Central and Southern Europe. Costs of warfare and sanctions seem to be calculated factors, analysed by the Kremlin-officials in cold blood.

What is more, annexation of Crimea and increase of the regional autonomies, is just the beginning. Next step here, would be aimed at creating a customs union with Russia. The regions will probably be referred to as “independent subjects”. And later, these areas will be simply incorporated into the Russian territory. It seems that this plan has been premeditated, and it is expected to be a long-term process, hence the current Western sanctions will not have any impact on Putin’s stance. Thanks to the expansive propaganda machine, working in Russia,  he is still being endorsed by 90% of the Russian citizens. 

If we consider the “Polish reality” and the period when confidential documents or recordings are circulated in a non-public sphere, before they are publicized, we may assume that the Western intelligences also were aware of the potential scenario, which means that the leaders also knew what was going to happen – and this led to the present status quo. In a situation which is complicated within such great scope, nobody is going to look for the guilty. However, it’s just a matter of time – a moment will come when more than 50 million Ukrainians, in country and abroad, particularly in the US and Canada, will start to analyse the situation.  Probably, before they will even start, the Russian propaganda will deal with that issue, continuing the long-lived tradition of dividing the Western nations.

An interesting opinion has been stated by Andrew Kornbluth in „The Moscow Times”:

“On a more basic level, Europeans do not know much about one another. As much as they love to rightly ridicule Americans for their ignorance of basic facts about Europe, they are guilty of the same when it comes to close neighbours. Ask an educated German to name the current Polish prime minister and you will draw a blank nine times out of ten. Very few Western Europeans know much, if anything, about the language, culture and history of their Eastern neighbours. And yet, NATO presupposes that they will send soldiers to fight for countries that are strangers to them. (…) If the optimists are right, and letting Ukraine be swallowed up is the price of "peace in our time," then, given the European public's disinterest in the country's fate, it will be a prize very cheaply bought. But it should give all Europeans pause to consider that all it requires is a tap from one aggressive, erratic man — Putin — to bring the house of cards that is the Western alliance system crashing down.”

Andrew Kornbluth in „The Moscow Times”

Annexation of the Crimean Peninsula has been possible thanks to the chaos caused by overthrowing the Yanukovych’s regime, and, as the available information seem to indicate – thanks to the surprise. Formalizing a federation of an independent European country and taking over control over its territories by illegal armed groups, which have been trained, equipped and commanded by the Russians – in other words, the terrorists, among whom, since the very beginning, Russian soldiers could have been found (“volunteers” on vacation), become possible thanks to naivety of the European leaders and a complete fiasco of the EU bureaucracy. The latter subject is completely incapable of using the cumulated economic potential of its member states and transform that potential into an effective hard power instrument, which, besides the military factor,  could be used, as the only option of having any impact on Putin’s decisions. Maybe it would be possible to force Putin to verify his policy and take a step  back.

Foreign policy is not about the intentions, ideology or declaration, What matters is security, strategy and effectiveness. One of the burning problems of the European Union stems from a dissonance between the official ideologically-bureaucratic new-speech and the hard reality. Formally, the EU represents all of its member states,  however, it’s the most powerful players who pursue their own interests and goals. What is more,  foreign policy and international relations should not focus on moral concern or being right. However, considering lack of ideas or passive stance taken by the Polish PM or President, when it comes to Ukraine, all that is left for our Minister of Foreign affairs to do, without any institutional and political support, is discussing the interpretation of history with the Russians or stating own opinions, which are heroically defended by some opinion-makers. Even  in spite of that, these measures are still a weak substitute of the real actions or achievements, when it comes to the Polish relationship with the East.

If one assumed that the superpowers’ priority is to realize their own interests, then a question still remains, whether the Germans, who represent the EU, have defined these interests properly. It seems evident that the policy pursued by Berlin (and other countries) assumes that the territorial integrity of Ukraine, along with the fait accompli policy pursued by Putin, have no significant meaning for own security. Berlin also assumes that the events do not require any decisive steps or any actions which would raise the costs of collision, imperial policy of the other party. Finally, Berlin probably thinks that there is no need of defining an inviolable limit, with which the other Party shall coomply. This diagnosis is confirmed by a slow evolution of own stance and strategic assumptions – and – primarily, by a proper selection of methods and tools used to realize the foreign policy.

Another worrying issue is the fact that the contemporary leaders are following the footsteps of their predecessors, who were controlling the European policy in the period before the World War II. They try to maintain peace at all costs, not seeing that since some time now, they lose the view of a wider perspective. They are not fighting for a realistic, long-term or complete solution of the conflict – their actions lead to “freezing” of the conflict, postponing the tough decisions. Another concerning issue is the fact that the process of political evolution of the West, which is amplified by the Russian propagandists and influencers, has reduced the European self-preservation instinct to bare minimum. How can one assume, knowing the Kremlin’s intentions, its effectiveness and determination, that Moscow may be a credible “partner”, who may participate in negotiations, over a cup of coffee? 

One may risk and state that now another ceasefire memorandum has been created, and it is not worth anything. The EU structures, instead of wondering how they should not support Ukraine as the EU state, should rather focus on another issue – how much they do not want to border with the People’s Republic of Ukraine. One of the memes circulating around the Internet, featuring Putin and Medvedev, states “3 ceasefires more, and we will be at the Polish border”. And if they are successful – what’s next? People’s Republic of Latvia, Lithuania or Estonia?

Adam Lelonek, PhD