Europe's heating needs, Obama's apathy....
AEI Russia scholar Leon Aron explains what the second Minsk agreement gives Vladimir Putin victory, by effectively partitioning Ukraine:
Yesterday’s agreement represents a de-facto cession of Ukraine’s sovereignty over much of the country’s South-East to Russia through the indefinite perpetuation of Russian protectorates inside Ukraine. These “People’s Republics” are thuggish, corrupt, utterly dependent on Moscow, armed to the teeth, and ready, most likely eager, to restart the war when the Kremlin gives the order. . . .
A total and unconditional amnesty is also to be granted to all “members” of the “self-defense forces,” whose multiple acts of banditry, pillage, as well as abuse, torture and murder of Ukrainian prisoners of war and civilians alike have been exhaustively documented by international media and human rights observers. Moreover, contrary to the established practice of successful peace negotiations . . . the “self-defense” detachments get to keep their Russia-supplied weapons. Only “illegal” and “foreign” fighters are to be “withdrawn” from the areas. (How, one might ask, can it be determined who is “foreign” given that Russian spetsnaz and paratrooper “volunteers” do not wear any insignia and speak the same language as local citizens, while, surely, no member of the “self-defense” forces will be judged “illegal” in the “People’s Republics” of Donetsk and Luhansk?)
To add insult to injury, while Ukraine has no control over the Russian proxies, the Minsk agreement will spare Russia the expense of paying for the conquest. In these utterly impoverished territories, Kiev is to restore “banking services” and provide “social transfers,” including pensions for retirees and salaries for civil servants, such as doctors and teachers.
These conditions will be written into law, and border negotiations cannot begin until the separatists get full constitutional sovereignty over the eastern areas they brutally and illegally annexed.
Former International Herald Tribune editor John Vinocur sees Putin beginning to crack the NATO alliance:
In theory, after the Obama administration outsourced the response to the Kremlin’s aggression against Ukraine to Angela Merkel ’s Germany, only U.N. Security Council member Britain was (very theoretically) left in Europe to take sides and name names. But London chose not to press for an active role. Ms. Merkel then signaled that Germany’s “strategic patience” with Mr. Putin’s asymmetrical war could last for decades. . . .
French President François Hollande, as Germany’s sidekick in meetings with Mr. Putin in Moscow and Minsk—Ms. Merkel didn’t want it to go down as a German-Russian deal—exclaimed, “I don’t want to say anything about the responsibilities of one or the other” combatants. He added, “Will someone please explain to me what the difference is between an offensive weapon and a defensive weapon?”. . . .
Britain’s response was a “no” to supplying Ukraine with defensive lethal weapons, coupled with a statement by Foreign Minister Phillip Hammond that, “We’re happy that the Germans have taken the lead.”
Vincour acidly notes that a tank is an offensive weapon & an antitank weapon is defensive. JV sees Putin likely emboldened by the "half-heartedness" of Europe.
Hungary gets 80 percent of its natural gas from Moscow. It recently signed a nuclear power plant deal under which Moscow will build a plant that by 2025 is expected to provide one-third of Hungary's total energy needs.
Bottom Line. Vladimir Putin has won in Ukraine. American lassitude & European appeasement have opened the door for a revanchist Russia to roll back the enormous gains of the past 25 years in freeing people from the Russian Bear's totalitarian embrace. Expect Putin to press further: Baltic nations beware.
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