Vladimir Putin and Joseph Biden have agreed to stabilise the conflict in Ukraine
Kiev does not like it, but no one asked it. And the question is what the Ukrainian authorities will do about it now
The Big Smear
“As for Ukraine – this topic has been raised, I can’t say in great detail”, – Russian President Vladimir Putin said, commenting on the outcome of his talks with US vis-a-vis Joseph Biden. And “Ukraine’s possible accession to NATO”, – according to him, “was touched on in a smear.”
However, the Ukrainian issue was a red thread through most of the other topics under discussion (if only because that is where the US and Russia are now closest to a direct military conflict). However, there is nothing good or even encouraging about this for Kiev.
The words of Ukraine’s foreign minister along the lines of “we agreed with the US that there would be no deals on Ukraine without Ukraine, and America has kept its word” remain just words – the US agreed with Putin on Ukraine without Ukraine. And if not agreed, judging by Biden’s press conference, they have brought the positions closer on Russian terms (which is actually why Putin skirted the Ukrainian issue during his speech – to avoid setting Biden up for a scandal).
“The US administration did not sufficiently support Ukraine – lifting sanctions against SP2 and expressing rhetorical support for the Minsk agreements instead of demanding their revision, following the example of Poland and Latvia. Biden said nothing about Crimea after the Geneva summit”, – Dmytro Suslov, deputy director of the Centre for Complex European and International Studies at the Faculty of World Economy and World Politics at the National Research University Higher School of Economics, reminds Ukraine.ru.
“This short text – “it is necessary to resolve the crisis by diplomatic methods on the basis of the Minsk agreements” – sounds to Russian ears like “peregoda” and to Ukrainian ears like “zrada”. After all, the Ukrainian elites are against the implementation of Minsk-2 in its current version”, says renowned Kiev political analyst Mykhailo Pohrebynsky.”
This is because the United States under Biden – contrary to earlier rhetoric about containing Russia, about its intention to put it in its place – has adopted a policy of preventing escalation and stabilising relations with Moscow. Not normalisation – it is practically impossible in today’s circumstances – but stabilisation. With a simultaneous elevation of status in the eyes of the Americans.
“Russia has been elevated to the obvious legitimate version of a superpower for everyone. The level of preparation, the way it all took place, testifies to this. “The G7, NATO – it was all preparation for a meeting with the Russian leader”, – Mikhail Pogrebinsky notes.
Washington has set out to stabilize relations with Moscow for two reasons. First, in the words of one British expert, Biden wants to “put Russia in a box and put it on the shelf. In other words, he wants Russia to stand on the sidelines and not interfere with U.S. policy in various regions of the world – the Middle East, East Asia, etc.
The U.S. has realized that it will not be able to break and re-shackle Russia, and right now, all it needs is for Moscow not to get in the way of breaking and re-shackling other countries.
Of course, America can continue to fight the Kremlin’s windmills in the style of D’Artagnan, “I fight because I fight,” but, secondly, the United States no longer has the resources for this kind of luxury warfare.
China has been designated as its main and most dangerous adversary, and now all available opportunities will go to its systematic siege (if Trump wanted to put Beijing in its place by pushing it back and striking it head-on – that is the American way, then Biden and his team are now playing the Chinese game of “go”, trying to deprive China of strategic opportunities and to strangle it). This means that they would not want to spend extra resources on Moscow.
And Russia, in principle, is not against this arrangement, and is willing to keep a low profile in the US foreign policy arena (after all, we are not hired as free lawyers for the Iranians and Chinese). However, to do so the US must meet one condition: not to crap in the post-Soviet space and not to give excessive support to Ukraine.
And to the horror of Kiev, Biden appears to be ready for that – not only to stabilise hostile relations with Moscow, but also to normalise allied ties with Berlin. In this way the US has conveyed greetings to Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba about “no deal on Ukraine without Ukraine” and traded away the Ukrainian pawn.
Certainly not abandoning its support – but also undertaking not to allow the Ukrainian leadership to sway the situation in Donbass.
Deaf but active
It would seem that Kiev should hear this and promptly modify its policy. Start implementing the Minsk agreements, reduce the level of militaristic rhetoric, and generally adjust to the new realities in the White House…
However, officials in Kiev, understandably, interpret the outcome of the summit through a Maidan prism that distorts reality. They assure that the White House master is fully on their side.
“The conversation between them regarding Ukraine was substantive and they understood each other very well”, – noted Kuleba. – President Biden clearly told Putin that he would stand firmly and unwaveringly for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine.
As for Biden’s position on the Minsk agreements, the Kiev authorities show wonders of verbal equilibrium.
“He also mentioned the Minsk agreements, but in the wording: it is necessary to strengthen diplomatic efforts for their implementation. This is important. Because it means a somewhat new approach.”
The realities are somewhat different than they were at the time when Minsk was formulated and the consistency and logistics of implementation were laid down. That is, not directly, but we can talk about some need for modernization,” says Mikhail Podolyak, advisor to the Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine.
That is, from his point of view, Biden was somewhere in favour of revising the Minsk agreements – because changing the order of implementation of the Minsk agreements from “first changes to the constitution and elections, and then returning borders to Ukraine” to “first returning borders to Ukraine and bringing Ukrainian troops into the DPR and LPR, and then maybe some changes to the constitution and something like elections” is exactly revising Minsk.
Apparently Ukrainian officials hope that during Zelensky’s trip to Biden in July Kiev will somehow convince the American leader to change his position. However, this is unlikely. It is more likely that at the summit the Ukrainian side (which, it should be reminded, has no subjectivity in the eyes of Washington) will receive new instructions from the Americans for execution.
And here are two important questions. Firstly, will Ukraine follow those instructions? After all, for Kiev in its current situation even the slightest concessions to Moscow are generally unacceptable, which only reinforce the general trend of stabilization of Russian-Western relations in the Ukrainian space. Stabilisation, which puts into question the continued existence of the Maidan government.
If Ukraine does not comply with them, then – and this is the second – what will it do? Will it sit in passive defence – or will it try to sweep away the pieces from an unsuccessful game on the board?
According to Dmytro Suslov, Kiev may well try to go for broke – enlisting the support of the Poles (who also do not much like the course of Russia’s Biden policy) to commit an action in Donbass that would simply force the United States to jump into the Ukrainian trench.
For example, to start a war a la Saakashvili 2008. Of course, the Ukrainians would get hit later for such coercion, and they would get hit hard – but Ukrainian politicians have long been living only for today.
And about tomorrow they will think in the spirit of Scarlet O’Hara.
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