Props to Slovakia’s PM Robert Fico for getting it half right.
At the EU summit this weekend hosted by Slovakia (which holds the EU presidency for the second half of 2016) he once again called for an end to EU sanctions against Russia (actually against citizens of EU countries who want to do business with Russians).
Like PM Orban in Hunary and president Zeman in Chechia Fico has been firmly in the anti-sanctions camp (along with Austria, Greece, Italy and the powerful German Social Democrats) albeit unwilling to veto the automatic renewal of the same sanctions.
He has reasoned that refusal to do business with Russia is actually bad for the EU and only benefits the US:
Fico said on Saturday the sanctions had done nothing to change Russian policy. “Sanctions are harming the EU and Russia and they help the United States. I reject them but at the same time I won’t break the unity of the EU on that,” he said.
Explaining his stance Fico said it was Ukraine, rather than Russia which is the main obstacle to peace in Donbass, and meeting the Minsk II Agreement “even less than Russia”.
Ukraine is doing less than Russia to meet its obligations under the Minsk peace plan, Slovakia’s Prime Minister Robert Fico said on Saturday, stepping up calls for the European Union to end sanctions against Moscow.
“When speaking about the implementation of the Minsk agreement, it needs to be said clearly that both parties are violating it. Actually, if we were to do an inventory of how Ukraine is meeting it, you would have to say Ukraine is meeting it even less than Russia,” Fico told Reuters in an interview.
“With the Minsk agreement (to bring peace in Ukraine), it is necessary to take stock. It is not true that Ukraine is the good guy and Russia is the bad guy,” he said.
Good on Slovakian Prime Minister to point out that Russia is not “the bad guy” and to note correctly that it is the government in Kiev which is the main obstacle to implementation of the Minsk II peace plan. What Fico gets wrong however is in saying that Russia is violating the agreement in any way.
Minsk II is a plan to achieve peace between the government in Kiev and the rebels in East Ukraine. Russia is no more a party to the agreement than Germany and France who are also signatories.
Russia’s sole role in the process is to convince East Ukraine rebels to comply with the agreement, just like the role of Berlin and Paris is to convince Kiev of the same — with the difference being that Moscow actually has meaningfully pressured Donetsk and Lugansk to acquiesce whereas Germany and France have absolutely failed to even attempt to do the same.
If Fico has a full understanding of Minsk II he would have said that Kiev is a bigger obstacle to a negotiated resolution than the rebels, and that Russia has done far more to advance Minsk II than Europe has.