By Rostislav Ishchenko
Translated by Ollie Richardson and Angelina Siard
cross posted with http://www.stalkerzone.org/rostislav-ishchenko-the-non-existent-sea-of-azov-crisis/
After the resolution of the European parliament that, contrary to international law and common sense, condemned the actions of Russia in the Sea of Azov, Ukraine cheered up and achieved the bringing of the question concerning elections in the DPR/LPR to the consideration of the UN Security Council.
Russia couldn’t block the introduction of this issue into the agenda both for moral and long-term political reasons.
The fact is that Moscow in 2015 also tried to obtain, and actually did obtain, the approval of the Minsk Agreements via the decision of the UN Security Council. This allowed to put Ukraine on the hook of international legitimacy. Kiev, which desired to jump away from the topic, couldn’t state any more that it doesn’t consider itself to be bound to any agreement with “terrorist-separatists” and that it isn’t obligated to them at all. The decision of the Security Council also enshrined that Russia isn’t a party to the conflict. Kiev after this shouted a lot, caused a fuss, sabotaged the implementation of all without exception points of the Minsk Agreements, but didn’t at all dare to officially withdraw from them.
But every coin has two sides, it is possible to find something bad in any good situation, and in any bad situation – something good. The same thing applies here: cementing its position via the decision of the Security Council, Russia couldn’t, without suffering serious reputation losses, deny the Security Council its right to consider the implementation of the decisions approved by its resolution.
Of course, the Security Council couldn’t adopt an anti-Russian or anti-Donbass resolution in connection with the existence of Russia’s veto. But the 5 member countries of the Security Council (France, the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, and Great Britain) made a statement of non-recognition of the elections being prepared in Donbass and urged Russia to cancel them. The statement was supported by Germany, Italy, and Belgium. It is strange that there was no America among the declarants. However, this allows to present the statement as the collective position of the European Union, while Washington receives the opportunity to later express itself in support of its allies, but in the meantime to make one more attempt to carry out behind-closed-doors bargaining with Moscow.
Both parties are formally right. Ukraine and its Euro-American intercessors specify that elections in Donbass, according to the Minsk Agreements, have to take place under Ukrainian laws, but Minsk will be violated if they take place now. The People’s Republics, whose position Russia supports, state that this may of course be true, but Ukraine long ago had to adopt a whole complex of acts and carry out other measures, including disengaging troops and ceasing shelling before the turn of the People’s Republics to observe the Ukrainian electoral laws comes.
Judging by separate passages of the speech of the Russian envoy in the UN Security Council, Moscow suggests to consider these elections as the simple legitimation of the heads of the republics, who, unlike their predecessors, weren’t elected by anybody. The West is proposed to look at these elections as the solution to a purely technical problem. Moscow has a trump card on its side – the fact that the head of the DPR Zakharchenko was killed and charges of organising murder were brought to official Kiev structures.
Europe, however, didn’t want to accept the arguments of Russia, which is demonstrated by the statement of 8 EU states. This, of course, can be the usual diplomatic demarche without consequences — occupying an advantageous position for bargaining in the great global game. But there can also be more serious undertakings that as a result will lead to the realisation of Kiev’s dream of disavowing Minsk, but for reasons that are not at all joyful for Ukraine.
We remember that Germany and France weren’t at all afflicted when Russia froze meetings in the Normandy Format until Ukraine took a more constructive position. They sighed freely, because Kiev bothered them worse than a bitter radish, and sat down in the first row of the parterre to see how Volker will get out of the situation. But they remain guarantors of the Minsk Agreements. It is clear to all that Minsk will never be fulfilled. Kiev doesn’t hide from the West that it is afraid of a domino effect if Donbass is given special status. But Paris and Berlin can’t just say “we changed our mind, Minsk doesn’t work any more”. It is for this same reason that Russia can’t deny the UN Security Council its right to periodically consider the question of implementing the Minsk Agreements. France and Germany themselves insisted on these agreements, they participated in their development, they declared that this is their big victory. The political losses that both countries and their leaders will incur if they change their position will be too great.
France and Germany need to have a pretext to free themselves from the obligation of solving the Ukrainian crisis. If it is impossible to withdraw from the agreements at their own will, and if it is impossible to allow it to be disrupted by a Kiev supported by the West, then it is necessary to shift the blame onto Russia and the People’s Republics.
The West perfectly understands that the refusal under obvious pressure to hold elections in the People’s Republics will cause essential damage to Russia’s international authority. That’s why it acts maximally publicly, up to the level of collective statements following the results of the UN Security Council meeting, closing for Moscow the option of changing its mind and once again “postponing” elections. After the elections have taken place, the West can refuse to recognise Pushilin and Pasechnik as negotiators in connection with the non-recognition of the elections that they were elected in. Also the powers of other delegates signed by them during negotiations can also not be recognised. This is enough to bury the Minsk process under an absolutely plausible excuse.
But if indeed the West does this, then it won’t be done to start a new round of negotiations and reach compromises that are more acceptable for Kiev. If there was the desire to save Ukraine, then it would be enough for Germany to stop the construction of “Nord Stream-2” and not prevent Poland from paralysing the work of “Nord Stream-1”. The geopolitical situation surrounding Kiev would immediately significantly change, and the chances – albeit tiny – of lasting at least 5 years while Russia searches for new markets and delivery routes for its gas would sharply grow for the regime. But Germany initially didn’t plan to opt for such sacrifices, which indeed granted us [Russians – ed] the right to affirm that the destiny of Ukraine, in principle, has been decided, therefore it is better for the Kiev regime to immediately die because long agony only increases the torture.
The West in general, and Europe in particular, needs to jump away from the toxic topic, because it is already clear that Russia will soon raise the question of who will pay for the restoration of Ukraine, like how it already raised such a question concerning Syria. By the time that such a question will be asked by Moscow, it is necessary not to have any formal connections with the Ukrainian crisis. The destruction of the Minsk and Normandy Formats — formally not due to their own fault — allows France and Germany to distance themselves from the problem, while at the same time keeping their finger on the pulse. After all, Poland, Hungary, and Romania won’t be able to avoid border problems connected with their minorities in the West of Ukraine. This means that the EU will anyway be involved in a settlement. But Germany and France will be free from obligations and will be able to dictate to their younger partners in the EU the conditions of support for their position, threatening to leave them alone with their problem in the event of obstinacy.
The Azov crisis should be considered from the same point of view. The West didn’t notice this problem during a year, and then suddenly the European Parliament started to care about it, while even Ukraine recognises that although the economic losses from Russia’s actions in the Sea of Azov and big, Moscow acts in full accordance with international standards – no violations of protocols by Russian customs groups were documented.
There is nothing extraordinary about Russia’s actions. The US examined the vessels going to Cuba not only in the days of the Caribbean Crisis. Israel examined the vessels going to Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, which even caused a diplomatic incident and the cooling of earlier excellent relations with Turkey. It is possible to give a plethora of examples: a warship’s right to examine a trade vessel in the high sea is the ABC of international law.
Nevertheless, the European Parliament started talking about a possible aggravation in the Sea of Azov and began to threaten with sanctions.
Who will aggravate? Russia has no need to do this, Ukraine can’t, and there isn’t anyone else there. Sofa “experts” already started talking about the entrance of the “NATO fleet” in the Sea of Azov. Those who are cleverer speak about its entrance in the Black Sea, understanding that a warship can only pass in the Sea of Azov with the permission of Russia, and a breakthrough – moreover, by a whole “NATO fleet” – equals war. In addition, large ships anyway can’t breakthrough there, but small cutter boats and dinghies can be brought to the Sea of Azov by Ukraine via land routes without any NATO. But this won’t change anything since Russia can sink everything that floats on this sea. This water area is completely exposed to barrelled artillery fire from the coast, not to mention missile systems. If someone wants to launch a war against Russia, then they will find a more convenient place than the Sea of Azov.
NATO ships, for the purpose of flying the flag, entered, enter, and will continue to enter the Black Sea. The Sea Breeze exercises are staged there annually, but, having an unsinkable “aircraft carrier” named Crimea, Moscow reliably dominates in its water area so much so that a hypothetical attack of Russia using the forces of a really large squadron or shock aircraft carrier grouping is possible no closer than from the region of the Aegean Sea. In the Black Sea a fleet hostile to Russia becomes too vulnerable. Because of Crimea it has nowhere to manoeuvre, and it can’t quickly leave in case of danger – a large grouping of ships can’t overcome the Turkish straits overnight.
So all of this is a fairy tale in favour of idle chatter. The non-existent Azov crisis is invented, on the one hand, for the purpose of mobilising Russophobic voters in the EU for the European Parliament elections in May, 2019, and on the other hand — this noise masks the real actions of the West, and allows it to drift away from Ukraine, imitating its comprehensive support.
Otherwise it is difficult to explain why the West didn’t see the danger of the situation being aggravated during a whole year (when it really existed), but saw it precisely now when the problem was solved. The fishermen of “Nord” were exchanged for the Ukrainian poachers lassoed by Russia. It is only left to exchange captains, then vessels, and then the crisis will fizzle out. Especially if Kiev doesn’t forget to return “Mekhanik Pogodin” after “Nord”.
By the way, apparently Kiev started to suspect that something was amiss, because the comments of Ukrainian officials concerning the Azov crisis were wonderfully weighted, especially against the background of the West’s hysterics. The Kiev regime doesn’t even want to denounce the agreement on the status of the Sea of Azov, contrary to its habit of disrupting all agreements with Russia. However, the regime is now concentrated on destroying the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate and creating a pocket “local church”. It is too busy for the Sea of Azov.