Reprinted from Consortium News
By adding a poison pill to legislation implementing the latest Minsk agreement, the Ukrainian government has effectively guaranteed a resumption of the civil war, which U.S. hardliners and the mainstream U.S. media will no doubt blame on ethnic Russian rebels and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The U.S. media has focused on the so-called Minsk-2 agreement's cease-fire component, first claiming it was being sabotaged by the rebels and Russia but now acknowledging that it is shaky but relatively successful. But the larger point of Minsk-2 was that it would provide for a political settlement of the civil war by arranging talks between Kiev and authorities in the east that would lead to giving those areas extensive self-rule by the end of 2015.
The Minsk-2 agreement had called for dialogue with the representatives of these territories en route to elections and establishment of broad autonomy for the region, but Kiev's curveball was to refuse any talks with rebel leaders and insist on establishing control over these territories before the process can move forward, in effect requiring a rebel capitulation.
Reflecting that view, Vadim Karasyov, director of the independent Institute of Global Strategies in Kiev, said: "Ukraine isn't going to go along with any legalization of those so-called people's republics. We need them to be dismantled," according to the Christian Science Monitor.
The leaders of the Donetsk and Luhansk "people's republics" have protested this bait-and-switch tactic, declaring in a statement that the change was unacceptable: "We agreed to a special status for the Donbass within a renewed Ukraine, although our people wanted total independence. We agreed to this to avoid the spilling of fraternal blood."
Kiev's maneuver -- reflecting the bellicose position of neocon Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and other U.S. hardliners -- puts pressure on German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande to either get Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko to return to the original understanding of Minsk-2 or watch the fighting resume leading to a potential showdown between nuclear-armed Russia and the United States on Russia's border.
The surrender-first-negotiate-later stipulation also raises questions about the strength of Merkel and President Barack Obama to overcome resistance from America's powerful neoconservatives who have exploited the Ukraine crisis to isolate Russia and drive a wedge between Obama and Putin. The two leaders had cooperated to reduce tensions with Syria and Iran in 2013 when the neocons were hoping for more "regime change."
Following those Obama-Putin collaborations, Nuland and other neocons both inside the Obama administration and in Congress took aim at Ukraine, egging on public disruptions in Kiev to destabilize the elected government of President Viktor Yanukovych during the winter of 2013-14. [See Consortiumnews.com's "The Neocons -- Masters of Chaos."]
To a great extent, the Ukraine crisis became Nuland's baby as she rallied Ukraine's business leaders and political activists to challenge Yanukovych and discussed with U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt in early February 2014 how, in his words, to "midwife this thing."
In that same conversation, Nuland expressed her disgust at the European Union's less aggressive approach to the crisis with the pithy expression, "f*ck the EU." She also handpicked new leaders, ruling out some politicians and declaring that "Yats is the guy," a reference to Arseniy Yatsenyuk who became the post-coup prime minister. (This past week, it was Yatsenyuk who oversaw the insertion of the poison pill into the legislation for implementing the Minsk-2 agreement.)
Cue in the Neo-Nazis
The uprising in Kiev reached its peak on Feb. 22, 2014, when a violent coup -- spearheaded by neo-Nazi militias from western Ukraine -- drove elected Yanukovych from office, with the U.S. State Department immediately declaring the new regime "legitimate." The coup government then sought to impose its control over the ethnic Russian east and south, which had been Yanukovych's base of support.
Protected by Russian troops who were already based in Crimea on a base-lease agreement, the people of Crimea voted to secede from Ukraine and rejoin Russia, an annexation that took place one year ago. Uprisings also occurred in the eastern Donbass region with hastily arranged referenda also seeking independence from Kiev.
The coup regime responded by declaring those resisting in the east to be "terrorists" and mounting a punitive "anti-terrorist operation" that relied on army artillery to bombard cities and neo-Nazi and other right-wing militias to go in for the brutal street-to-street fighting.
Thousands of ethnic Russians were killed in these offensives as the rebels were pushed back into their strongholds of Donetsk and Luhansk. However, receiving supplies and other assistance from Russia, the rebels turned the tide of the conflict and began driving the Ukrainian military back, inflicting heavy losses.