Earlier, before entering the process, I believed that the main problem of "Minsk" was that it did not clearly name the other side of the conflict and did not specify its responsibilities. All obligations in the Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements of 2015 are imposed only to Ukraine. Accordingly, it was written out as conditions for the unilateral surrender of Ukraine. But it turned out that this problem is secondary, the Minsk documents have the potential to solve it.
A more significant "generic defect" of "Minsk", which I saw when I was inside the process: "Minsk" is not what it is presented to us and how we see it…
Moreover, today's Minsk process is a total violation of the Minsk agreements themselves! "Minsk" today is not a dialogue between the parties on the basis of documents, but a set of dead-end "traditions" and stereotypes imposed on us by both our own authorities and the adversary.
Perhaps the most dangerous of them is that "Minsk is a peace". Allegedly, it is only necessary to fulfill it, and the "the conflict settlement" will immediately come. At the same time, everyone understands the word "settlement" in his own way…
"Minsk" is not a "peace"!
It is perhaps necessary to reveal this thesis with a reminder that the war between Russia and Ukraine is a hybrid one and it is being waged not only in the Donbas. Only one instrument of this war is used in the East – the military. Therefore, even if they stop shooting in the Donbas, this will not bring peace to Ukraine, since the hybrid war will continue. That is, "Minsk" is a priori a tactical tool, and not a panacea for war.
It is important to clearly understand this in order to correctly imagine what "Minsk" is. Now there is a catastrophic problem with this…
It is considered by many to be a "road map to peace". This is an incorrect assertion. If only because "Minsk" is the documents signed by the representatives of Ukraine, Russia and the OSCE in September 2014, and the "Package of Measures…", signed by them in February 2015. Both the first and the second are "Minsk", but they have significant differences! And it is impossible to go to the same goal in different directions.
It is even more logical to recall the conditions in which "Minsk-2" was held to substantiate the falsity of such a stereotype. Which, by the way, Russia is persistently trying to make the main and only one "Minsk".
It was signed amid the military defeat of Ukraine in front of the Russian military machine. Its text was written by four teams of leaders from Germany, France, Ukraine and Russia during 16(!)-hour-long, extremely tense negotiations. This caused both obvious gaps in the logic of the document, and the absolute opposite of its interpretation by the parties. They were obvious even that moment, but Ukraine and the West were interested in stopping the offensive of the Russian Federation at any cost, so they needed to act. Russia, in turn, felt itself so strong and "smart" that it did not bother with trifles, hoping to crush the Ukrainians and their "deeply concerned" partners.
The problem for Moscow emerged when the West tied economic sanctions to "Minsk", and the Ukrainians began to assert that there was "lack of alternatives to Minsk", but did nothing to implement it in Moscow's view.
At that time, the real goals of the "Minsk Agreements" were outlined for each of the parties. And this goal was not to end the war between Ukraine and Russia. "Minsk" could not have had such a goal, since it concerns only the Donbas, and the war began from the Crimea…
It turned out that the West needed "Minsk-2" as a tool to stop active hostilities in the center of Europe, that is, to stabilize the conflict. Kyiv – as a tool for stopping the offensive of the Russian Federation and its weakening by Western sanctions. Moscow – as an instrument for destroying Ukrainian statehood from within, by implanting a military-political implant that weakens the state's immune system and paralyzes, on a signal from the Kremlin, its internal and foreign policy organs. Or as a tool for preserving the conflict. This option will also suit Russia.
Once again: "Minsk-2" was and remains for all players an instrument of influencing opponents and partners. That is all! The mythical "peace", about which diplomats, propagandists and politicians have been telling us from all sides for seven years, was not initially incorporated into its algorithm, and therefore, there is no need to deceive either oneself or others. There is no need to expect from it what it a priori cannot give.
It is curious that our "Western partners" understood this from the start. Thus, describing the course of negotiations on "Minsk-2" in his memoirs, then French President François Hollande quite realistically outlined the plan of Russia: "His (Putin's – ed.) tactics is to stir up conflicts between its supporters and opponents, and then freeze them. Thus, a grey zone is being created on the border of Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova and Azerbaijan. These states remain independent. But they are weakened and, therefore, succumb to the Russian bait".
As we can see, the tactics of creating conflicts in neighboring countries and freezing them in order to weaken these countries is traditional for Moscow. And it is a priori directed not at the peace.
Nevertheless, "Minsk" can become the basis for achieving peace, if all the "Minsk" documents are viewed as a single complex, and if Russia (under pressure from external or internal circumstances) wants to withdraw from the war.
Now Moscow, like during all seven years, still considers "Minsk" solely as an instrument of weakening Ukraine. Accordingly, Kyiv should treat it in the same way – as an instrument to weaken the Russian Federation, and not as a Bible. Okay, let it be the Bible, if the god of sanctions wants it. But you need to use it adequately to the situation. Otherwise, it will turn out that you are hit in the head with a weighty volume, and you use it only for singing psalms…
Well, now, having dealt with the real essence of "Minsk" and having lost false expectations from it, let us consider what risks and opportunities this instrument can bring to Ukraine at the present stage of the war. And whether it is necessary to abandon it, for which various politicians have been calling more and more often.
Four hypostases of "Minsk"
Today, "Minsk" is represented in four hypostases at once, which exist in parallel, often contradict each other and mislead both the public and the players themselves.
The first hypostasis is "Minsk" documentary. This is the most forgotten "Minsk". It really looks like the Bible – it is often spoken about (when necessary), especially by Russians; it is often cited (mainly incorrectly); it is often interpreted (in someone's own interests); but it is rarely read, trying not to notice any obvious contradictions or obvious revelations, if they are regarded as unprofitable.
This is the most underestimated tool by Kyiv. If only because if we operate directly with documents, and not with established ideas about them, then it gives Ukraine a fairly wide field of operation. For example, in the interpretation of the main controversial (oddly enough) issues of "Minsk" – who is the second party to the conflict and members of the TCG?
Representatives of Russia substantiate their statements that it is CADLO, and not the Russian Federation, which are the second party to the conflict, by paragraph 2 of the Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements. It refers to the withdrawal of "heavy weapons by both sides…" and lists: " – for the Ukrainian troops…; – for the armed formations of certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts of Ukraine…".
The reference to this point is manipulative, since, firstly, "Ukrainian troops" and "armed formations of CADLO" cannot be parties to the conflict, but are only their military instruments. And secondly, the very name of the document – "The Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements" – suggests that the Minsk Agreements took place even before the "Package of Measures". Therefore, the Minsk Agreements mean the "Protocol following the consultations of the Trilateral Contact Group on joint steps aimed at the implementation of the Peace Plan of President of Ukraine P.Poroshenko and the initiatives of President of Russia V.Putin" dated September 5, 2014 and the "Memorandum of Implementation of the provisions of the Protocol following the consultations of the Trilateral Contact Group on the steps aimed at the implementation of the Peace Plan of President of Ukraine P.Poroshenko and the initiatives of President of Russia V.Putin" dated September 19, 2014.
So, directly in the Minsk Agreements – in the Protocol of September 5 – it is said that "the Trilateral Contact Group, consisting of representatives of Ukraine, the Russian Federation and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, has reached an understanding of the need to take the following steps:
1. Ensure an immediate bilateral cessation of the use of weapons.
…4. Ensure permanent monitoring on the Ukrainian-Russian state border and verification by the OSCE with the creation of a security zone in the border regions of Ukraine and the Russian Federation".
Please note: the term "Certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts" is used in the Protocol only as a territorial designation of the area of operation of the law on the peculiarities of local self-government, and there are no "representatives of CADLO" in it at all.
Thus, the parties to the conflict here directly indicate Ukraine and Russia, between which, the creation of a "security zone in the border regions of Ukraine and the Russian Federation" was envisaged for the "bilateral cessation of the use of weapons". That is, on the territory of two countries, which rules out the possibility of interpreting the conflict as internal.
That is why Russians are systematically trying to offset "Minsk-1" at all levels and operate only with "Minsk-2". But the Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements cannot cancel the agreements themselves. It clarifies the list of measures for their implementation, but these measures concern the determination of the parties to the conflict in no way.
However, "Minsk-2" also has reserves, which Kyiv is still embarrassed to use. I will not voice all of them for obvious reasons, but I will give only one example that will radically change the course of negotiations. "Minsk-2" clearly defines the trilateral format of consultations and, most importantly, the role of CADLO representatives – consultations and agreements. As well as the topics of the issues on which these consultations should be held – local elections and peculiarities of certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. That is all! It turns out that on all other issues – security, economy, exchange of detainees, access control, etc. – the conversation, according to the Minsk Set of Documents, must be conducted with the second party to the conflict – Russia. It is clear that it will refuse, but the documents give us the right to insist and record its refusal. And to demonstrate this to our peace-loving Western partners. But for some reason, we do not do this…
And here we come to the second hypostasis of "Minsk" – "Minsk" as a real process: diplomatic (TCG) and political.
It is constantly heard, constantly discussed and constantly evaluated. But since these assessments are determined by false ideas and unrealistic expectations, they only become part of an information war (as a rule, against our own state) and do not allow us to see either real possibilities or real dangers of the process.
The main danger lies in the subjectivization of CADLO. If not yet as a party to the conflict, then as a party to the negotiations. This did not start under Zelensky, but it is now intensifying. This is an objective fact, expressed in the fact that the so-called "public experts of the republics" have been present at the TCG for three months – this is how the "official" representatives of CADLO announced their appearance in the working group on political issues.
And if earlier, these "experts" were silent, then at the next-to-last meeting of the working group, they already tried to speak. That is, in fact, they are trying to make the very Advisory Council from the TCG working group, the agreement on the creation of which ZN.UA made public just in March last year.
No, not that the Ukrainian side was silent: the representatives of Ukraine raise the issue of violation of the confidentiality of the negotiations at each meeting. The head of the delegation writes letters to Special Representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office Heidi Grau about the inadmissibility of involving new persons in the negotiations without the consent of the participants… But alas, "blithely ignore criticism". Moreover, the mediator and moderator of the negotiations – the OSCE – has nothing against the participation of unknown people in the diplomatic process and even creates a technical capability for them…
At the last TCG meeting, the Ukrainian delegation harshly raised the issue of inadmissibility of the presence at the talks of recidivist Maya Pirogova, convicted of terrorist activities. We even left the virtual negotiation room when, despite our warnings, the Russians struck an attitude and, nevertheless, left Pirogova in the frame. It is likely that she will not be at the TCG this Wednesday. But the next meeting will be the seventh with the participation of non-convicted "experts". There is a danger that their presence will become an "established practice" or "tradition" of these negotiations. And "traditions" and "practice" are for some reason honored in this diplomatic process much more than the documents.
I am not even talking about 151 meetings with the participation of "official" representatives of CADLO, whose windows on the monitor for some reason are signed "Nikanorova DNR" and "Danego "LNR"… It is still not clear whom they represent in the negotiations, if specific individuals are named in the 2014 Memorandum as participants in the consultations from CADLO – now-deceased Zakharchenko and Plotnitsky, lost in the vastness of the Russian Federation. Maybe these two have written powers of attorney to Nikanorovs and Danegos (I am not talking about all the others who sit in the working groups)? However, according to the OSCE representatives, there is an agreement in these negotiations not to raise the issue of the parties' status. Thus, a paradoxical situation has arisen, when mainly CADLO (which consider themselves "DNR"-"LNR") speak in the dialogue between Ukraine and Russia, mediated by the OSCE, and not Russia and Ukraine... It is clear that such a "dialogue" cannot be constructive from the point of view of the end of the conflict.
It is probably worth explaining for uninitiated readers here what the actual danger of subjectivization of CADLO is, and why Russia is doing everything to achieve this.
Many people think this is just a matter of principle. And supporters of negotiations think that this is simply Kyiv's unwillingness to "settle" the conflict. In fact, direct negotiations with Pushilins and Pasechniks, on the contrary, will mean the end of even the hope for a peaceful settlement. Let me explain.
Now, when Ukraine does not liberate its territories using military means, the only instrument to weaken the enemy is sanctions of the West. But if we enter into a direct dialogue with Donetsk and Luhansk, we will in fact agree with Moscow's narrative of an internal conflict. Then the Russian Federation will quite reasonably raise the issue of lifting the sanctions because of the conflict, in which Ukraine itself "acknowledged" its innocence. There is a chance that they will be removed. And when the sanctions are lifted, Moscow will do the same as now: provoke, finance and manage the conflict, build pro-Russian puppet formations on our territory, but with complete impunity. That is, it will continue the hybrid war against us, but Ukraine will no longer have any instrument of weakening it (except the military one).
In this case, there will be two options for the development of events: either the war will continue until the form of statehood in Ukraine or Russia changes, and the Donbas will remain a running sore for several years; or Kyiv will use the only instrument left at its disposal for the liberation of its territory – the military one. And this means victims…
That is why Kyiv cannot go to direct negotiations with the "DNR"-"LNR" – because this will not be a step towards peace, but a way to intensify and prolong the war.
Forcing the aggressor to admit that he is the aggressor and to increase the burden of his responsibility for the aggression is a step towards peace. And any action that makes it possible to remove responsibility for the war from the aggressor only leads to its strengthening.
Moreover, in order to call an aggressor – aggressor, and a puppet – puppet, it is enough just to read the Minsk Agreements and demand their implementation. That is, to bring the process in line with the documents that should define it.
For example, it is written in paragraph 13 of the Package of Measures, which provides for the creation of working groups "for the implementation of the relevant aspects of the Minsk Agreements" that "they will reflect the composition of the Trilateral Contact Group". Now attention! – Russia states that it has nothing to do with the CADLO delegations. Two more TCG members – Ukraine and the OSCE – also did not include any "public experts" or even "official representatives" of CADO and CALO in their delegations. Then what are they doing in the working groups and the TCG?
Why do the Russians pretend that they are intermediaries, but mostly people who do not represent any of the TCG members speak? After all, this is a direct violation of clause 13 of the Minsk Package of Measures! And if, first of all, the OSCE as a mediator simply followed the Minsk Agreements, and Kyiv did not remain silent, and even explained this to the West, then Russia would have to either recognize itself as a party to the conflict, or withdraw from "Minsk" with all the consequences… But…
After all, if Moscow really wants this conflict to become "internal Ukrainian", let it stop interfering in the internal affairs of Ukraine, give us control over the border, stop bringing money, weapons and leave men to the Donbas, then Kyiv will really have to conduct a dialogue with those who will really control the situation in the region. Only the Kremlin is well aware that the conflict will end without Russian money in two months. Therefore, all this talk about "civil war" is like an endless benefit performance of the Russian Federation in a "Russian-world" natural reserve cut off from the world. Our western partners in the N-4 (Normandy Four) and the G-7 all declare that Russia is a party to the conflict, and everyone in the TCG, except Ukraine, pretends that this is CADLO. Including the "mediator" OSCE.
Another hypostasis of the Minsk talks is "Minsk mythological".
This is how people see it, how they see its goals and opportunities. What narratives the sides of the conflict build into it and what expectations these narratives evoke not only among the general public, but also among the players themselves. In fact, this is "Minsk" as an instrument of information and internal political war.
I already partially wrote about this above. But besides the strategic myth that "Minsk" is a single option "road to peace", there are also operational and tactical myths. One of them – "the Minsk Agreements provide for the inclusion of a special status for CADLO into the Constitution".
We open the Package of Measures and read: "Conducting constitutional reform in Ukraine with the entry of the new Constitution into force by the end of 2015, which presupposes decentralization as a key element (taking into account the peculiarities of certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, agreed with representatives of these areas)". To take into account the peculiarities of CADLO when carrying out decentralization or enshrine them in the Constitution – is there a difference? For some reason, not only Putin, but also many Ukrainian politicians does not notice it…
By the way, another myth, which the OSCE intensively cultivates for some reason in the course of the negotiations, is that the representatives of the occupation administrations should be "representatives of CADLO". At the same time, IDPs from CADLO are actually thrown out of the discussion of model of the future Donbas. The OSCE simply does not see us, stubbornly unwilling to create equal conditions with the "representatives of CADLO", who officially represent no one, but in fact – the occupant…
In fact, nowhere in the Minsk texts is indicated who these people are, with whom Kyiv must agree on something and consult. However, logically, given that they represent certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts of Ukraine, they should be citizens of Ukraine, not the occupant. Today, virtually all "representatives of CADLO" from Donetsk and Luhansk are Russian citizens…
Another widespread myth about "Minsk" is that there is a competition of arguments, a platform where you can say something, demand, etc. Strangers, who are outraged by the ineffectiveness of "Minsk" and demand something to "declare" or "demand" from Russia, often write to me… Well, we declare. Well, we demanded. So what? If they do not want to hear you, they just do not hear you. But we still declare and demand, because if this is not done, then those who do not hear you will then say: why were you silent, did not declare, did not demand? Therefore, we declare, we demand, but it is extremely naive to expect that after this, Moscow, which has put (diplomatically speaking, veto) on international norms and the world order in general, will immediately begin to comply with the norms and international treaties. What can we talk about, if the Russian Federation does not even comply with the decisions adopted at the last N-4 summit, although Putin also approved them. Moreover, we are not even talking about the military sphere, but about the elementary unhindered admission of the OSCE SMM observers to the conflict zone and the Red Cross visits to our prisoners…
Another myth stems from this – "Minsk does not work". Or "Minsk is not effective". It works! The sanctions against Russia are being extended every year. These sanctions are slowly but surely weakening the Russian Federation. In addition, it is in Minsk, where Russia denies the obvious – its participation in the conflict, the West sees Moscow's unwillingness to end this conflict. "Minsk" is the link that, albeit diplomatically, but consolidates the positions of the USA, France, Germany and Ukraine against the aggressive policy of the Russian Federation. And if we do not want to be left alone with Putin's Russia, this factor, whether we like it or not, should be taken into account.
You can treat the Minsk Agreements and the Minsk Process in different ways, but there is no other instrument in which Russia would take part and which would weaken the aggressor with sanctions right now. Therefore, getting rid of this tool without having another, more effective one, is probably not quite reasonable.
In my opinion, the question should be raised not about the inefficiency of "Minsk", but about how to use this tool so that it is effective. You should not throw the hammer away if you hit yourself on the fingers, but use it correctly. "Minsk" will be effective when the process meets its documentary form: a trilateral format (Ukraine, Russia and the OSCE as a mediator); all its participants will have an official status and perform the functions assigned to them in the Minsk documents, and not "traditions".
It is precisely the fact that Russia does not want such a format and effectiveness of "Minsk" as an instrument of peace, and not just stabilization (conservation) of the conflict, which determines the ever-growing stakes of Kyiv on the Normandy Four. This, in turn, is causing more and more activity of Moscow in its attempts to weaken the N-4 as the center of decision-making on the Donbas.
The more Russia, with the help of OSCE "mediation", brings the activities of the TCG to the point of absurdity with its "second mediation" and "public experts of the republics", the more important the Normandy format becomes for Ukraine. Because Russia is not an intermediary in it, and because there is no CADLO in it. That is, a real dialogue with real actors is possible there, and not imitation with the puppets. This makes N-4, in fact, the fourth hypostasis of "Minsk" – "Minsk the highest". And this has both pros and cons. At the moment, judging by the Ukrainian proposals to the Franco-German clusters, leaked to the Russian Federation, there are more advantages.
But this is already a topic for another analysis…
Serhiy Harmash, OstroV, posted by Dzerkalo Tyzhnia