…I saw a white ladder all covered with water
I saw ten thousand talkers whose tongues were all broken
I saw guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children
And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall….
A Hard Rain’s a’Gonna Fall; Bob Dylan
Josh Rogin is always magic.
In his clever hands, facts become…fluid; nebulous things that support the truth he wants you to internalize, often inserted deftly in an otherwise-true statement in such a way that they borrow from its truth.
And Josh Rogin reports that Washington is about to involve itself in the Ukraine peace process in a big way.
Like just about every political marker Trump has thrown down since he began his feckless turn as head of American decision-making, he has reversed himself as if his previous statements were never made. As recently as this past July, when he was still just a candidate rather than the waking nightmare he is now, Trump said the Ukraine mess was “Europe’s problem”, and the USA should only step in if other countries ask for its help. Considering what a dog’s breakfast Washington has made of past nation-building efforts, and its slobbering devotion for Israel in endless ‘negotiations’ with the Palestinians in its own parody of a peace process, you would think that is about as likely to happen as a tiny angel appearing to sit on your shoulder and help you make good decisions.
Well, Germany at least – not to mention Josh Rogin – affects to be delighted that Washington is considering inviting itself to form the Normandy Five, and inject its bouncy, effervescent presence into Ukrainian reconciliation. What could go wrong? It’s only putting the world’s two biggest nuclear powers into direct confrontation.
European officials, for their part, are cheering. “We very much appreciate that the new administration will be more engaged in the Ukraine issue. In the beginning they seemed not to be so interested in this issue. That’s changed a lot,” German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel told The Post after meeting with Tillerson on May 17.
Let’s take another look at Ukraine’s negotiating position, just to refresh our memories. Russia must withdraw its legions of regular troops from Eastern Ukraine (this will be considered to have happened only when the Ukrainian Army is able to roll through Donbas unopposed), return control of the Russian/Ukrainian border to Ukrainian authorities…and hand back Crimea.
Initially, Trump suggested he would look seriously at America recognizing Crimea officially as Russian territory. But in true attention-deficit style, his Secretary of State now expects Putin to return Crimea to Kiev’s control, and there will be no consideration of relaxing sanctions until that happens.
Think that’ll ever happen? Me either. Donald Trump’s latest game of poke-chest ignores the clear warnings that Russia is all through backing up. Moscow considers Crimea Russian territory again, and it is not going to walk back on that before things turn bloody.
Germany and France have been involved in what’s called the Normandy Format, an effort to implement the 2015 Minsk agreement, which is stalled due to cease-fire violations on the ground primarily by Russian-backed forces and a lack of Ukrainian political progress. Their hope is that the United States can break the impasse.
Mmm hmmm. The ceasefire violations are primarily by Russian-backed forces – see how slickly he slipped that in? Let me ask you something: what are they shooting at? I mean, they never seem to take any territory – the lines on the map which demarcate the negotiated border never move in the federalists’ favour. But they’re always shooting at somebody. Is it maybe the Ukrainian Army, hunkered down on their doorstep and waiting for them to slip up, drop their guard? And if the waiting Ukrainian Army never pressures them, why are they shooting?
In fact, the Ukrainian Army shells the eastern regions all the time, apparently randomly and with little or no regard for tactical objectives or the suspected presence of enemy forces. But most of the reports of these violations come from local news in Donbas and Russian sources such as TASS and Sputnik. The west sneers at the latter as “state-controlled”, and implies they are non-stop liars. Is there any possibility for good-faith negotiation there? No, there’s not.
But Rogin is giddy at the thought that Putin is now trapped:
If the Trump team does its best to strike a deal with Moscow and fails, at least Putin’s true intentions will be laid bare. Then the administration will have little choice but to pursue a path of actively pushing back on Russian aggression, increasing support for Ukraine’s government and military, and abandoning the idea of yet another Russian reset.
So it’s a win/win for the war party – if Trump manages to broker a deal, it cannot happen without Russian capitulation and, according to Tillerson, the return of Crimea to Ukrainian control. If it doesn’t happen, Trump will have to get tough with the Russians instead of sucking up to them.
That’s how wars get started – by one side demanding what it knows the other side will not, cannot concede, in many cases because what is demanded is not in its power to grant. Russia cannot make the eastern Ukrainians stop resisting Kiev, because they know the Ukrainian Army will roll over them if they stop resisting, and the nationalist elements will kill as many as they can. They have promised as much. The only hope for Eastern Ukraine is a change of government in Kiev, and the west keeps propping up the openly corrupt Poroshenko government and shows every intention of continuing to do so, as it has supported despots in the past so long as it suited its interests.
Washington’s fresh-faced exceptionalist entry into the Ukrainian mess is not going to ‘break the impasse’, as Rogin attributes to European hopes. What recent history suggests is far more likely is that it will touch off a conflagration which will result in no peaceful place left on earth, and the world’s populations forced to choose sides.