Another Western geopolitical fiasco. Merkel tries to limit the damage in Ukraine

The coup d’état in Kiev, which a year ago was executed with EU and NATO support, has ended in a debacle. First the new power-holders were fêted at the White House and then the coup regime of Yatsenyuk was encouraged to take the military route to deal with the federalists, who had resorted to occupations in the east.

What that implies we see below, in a picture taken around Easter last year, after CIA director Brennan had been in Kiev en the campaign against the ‘terrorists’ had been launched. Because the Ukrainian army is hardly operational and had no appetite for this fight (in contrast to the volunteer battalions with their ultranationalist or even neo-Nazi coloration), the Kiev forces confined themselves to artillery bombardment. 

The picture shows the Ukrainian doctor, Michael Kowalenko, who carries a small child hit by the bombardment to hospital, where he will establish that she must have been dead already when the picture was taken.

So what, apart from these horrors, has been achieved?

A commission of the British House of Lords has now published a damning report in which the Lords conclude that the West has sleepwalked into an extremely dangerous situation without first establishing what the risks involved might be.

The report argues that the policies of NATO and EU were blind to the fact that from Moscow’s point of view the advance of the two organisations to right up the Russian border were felt as a direct threat. After all, Putin has issued a clear warning already following the Georgian adventure against South Ossetia in 2008.

Because EU and NATO have become increasingly entwined and there was hardly any dividing line left between the civilian economic role of the one, and the military role of the other, pressing for an EU association agreement was extremely risky.

So we have helped blow up Yugoslavia, set fire on the Middle East, and now also demolished the state of Ukraine (which had been thinkable as a federation but after all that has happened, not even that any longer).

In an extensive article, Der Spiegel points out that Russia and Germany have drawn the only possible conclusion: there must be an immediate end to the fighting and the idea to bring the country under the control of the ‘monists’ by a military campaign (Richard Sakwa’s term for those who think that Ukraine can ever be a straightforward ‘national’ state) must be abandoned.

Der Spiegel in this article conveys the point of view of Ms Merkel herself and it has in fact been written in close cooperation with the Chancellery. It reports on the Minsk negotiations, which were held at Merkel’s initiative. For the Ukrainian army was staring a new military debacle in the face: the encirclement of some 6,000 men around Debaltseve. Since these were among the best units of the 30,000 men strong army, the impending destruction of these troops would have entailed a collapse of the regime in Kiev.

After the German intelligence service BND had reported that a catastrophe was about to happen, Merkel decided to go to Minsk and she took Hollande, Europe’s most prominent extra, with her to avoid invoking the memory of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 1939. After all, no one can afford the luxury of ignoring Senator John McCain and his hardliners, for whom no demagogy is beyond the pale.

Hence the fact that even the battles that continued after the truce had entered into force, were not considered a breach of the agreement by either Germany or France; they knew that this defeat had become inevitable. That is why they had gone to Minsk: the Ukrainian army was about to collapse completely.

The analysis in the Financial Times by the hedge fund director and historian, Niall Ferguson (these days also the husband of ‘our’ Ayaan Hirsi Ali), that Putin had arranged this meeting to foster disunity between Europe and the US, may therefore be safely put aside.

Even Washington had to face the facts. Dispatching weapons to this army makes no sense. And that should not be understood in a macho way, as if the Ukrainians would not be courageous enough or anything of the sort.

As I have argued many times on the basis of first-hand information: the Ukrainian population, excepting the ultra’s and neo-Nazis from the Lviv region and their fellows, does not want a civil war. So let it be over with, let’s not see one more day of fighting!

Kees van der Pijl

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