Associate Professor at the Institute of International Relations (studio guest), Soren Liborious, Spokesman, Head of Press and Information Delegation of the European Union to Russia, Eric Draitser, an independent geopolitical analyst based in New York City and the founder of StopImperialism.com, Vyaceslav Pazdnyak, head of 'Wider Europe' Project (MINSK).
Andrew Korybko: Have we moved past the brink and the climax?
Kyrill Koktysh: This is just the first step. We should understand that, first of all, this was the victory of Europe, because it was the European struggle to become not an object, but a subject of policy which is able to decide the internal European problems. Otherwise, the main broker of the European affairs would be the US, but not Europe itself.
The second winner of course is the region itself, because there is a hope that the peace process would be started. I'm rather skeptical of what would happen two months later. We definitely have a ceasefire, we have the facilitation of the ceasefire process, but all the institutional measures that were proposed to facilitate peace, they have no mechanism to be implemented.
One scenario is that this mechanism would be developed and implemented during these two months of pause. And the other possibility is that nothing would be done and in two months we will get the same situation, as we had before the negotiations.
Sergei Strokan: Russia convinced the leaders of the proclaimed republics to sign up to the agreement, does it end the controversy over what is described as Russia's dubious role?
Kyrill Koktysh: The Russian interests actually remained unchanged for the last year. Russia claimed from the very beginning that its main task is just to guarantee the cultural, economic and political rights of the Russian-speaking majority in Ukraine. But these conditions are strictly connected to the Kiev obligations to liquidate the very reasons for this internal conflict – to guarantee that the southeast regions would get enough cultural, political and economic autonomy. Before Poroshenko out of 24 ministers, 16 ministers were from the western regions and 8 ministers from Kiev, and not a single man from the eastern part of Ukraine.
Andrew Korybko: We are discussing the Minsk talks and we are wondering whether this shows that the EU is ready to engage Russia? And has it taken some of Russia's legitimate concerns into consideration from the agreement that was reached?
Soren Liborious: From the onset of the conflict the EU has been very clear in trying to assist where we can, both working with the government in Kiev and the Russian government in trying to bridge the conflict. We have repeatedly said that we are willing to support whatever steps to reverse this situation. Of course, there are conditions and requirements that need to be upheld. One of those is that we must respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity and the legitimate speakers.
I think when we look at the meeting in Minsk, it showed that there is a strong wish to engage and find some sort of solution that, if implemented on the ground, can reverse a very dangerous development.
Sergei Strokan: Do you think that, probably, the Minsk decisions would have a positive impact on Russia's relations with the EU?
Soren Liborious: If we see that a looming war is reversed and Russia does use its influence on the rebel groups, withdraws its support to the military conflict there, then, of course, we will see some positive news. We have to realize that we’ve both become hostages of this crisis. We must work hard on rebuilding the trust. There has been a very serious damage done to our relationship, we have to acknowledge that.
Andrew Korybko: It seems like Belarus has provided the diplomatic engine for engagement. What are your thoughts on that and how the Minsk talks elevated Belarus’s role in Europe?
Vyaceslav Pazdnyak: I believe that the Minsk agreements signify some shift in the whole framework of efforts to bring about the conflict’s settlement. It seems that we have kind of a pause for reducing the tensions and this is important at the moment. In the foreseeable future everything will depend on how viable the ceasefire is going to be. So, basically, it is all about good intentions to, first, break the vicious circle of bloodshed, and only after that we may witness the filling of the framework for the implementation schedule. The greatest issue will be how to implement whatever is prescribed in the further talks.
Andrew Korybko: Even though the US wasn’t directly involved in the peace talks, it is still contemplating weapons shipments and just announced that it will train the Ukraine’s National Guard. This shows that it is kind of preparing for a war, even though peace has been talked about in Minsk. How do you think Washington is going to react to the ceasefire?
Eric Draitser: Washington will publically acknowledge the ceasefire, they will acknowledge diplomacy, they will say all of the right thing, they will make all of the correct political gestures, but I think any educated political observer knows that the US doesn’t operate in public.
The US does its operations behind the scenes and covert operations, covert weapons shipments and funding, and other things will continue, because the goal in Ukraine for the US has never been the establishment of peace, it’s never been conflict resolution. Instead, it’s been to use Ukraine as essentially a weapon of war against Russia. And that will continue, though, of course, the puppet Government that the US has installed in Kiev is going to have to engage in ceasefire and a political settlement. But the reality is that a proxy war that the US was fomenting will continue, though it may continue by the slightly different means.
Andrew Korybko: Where does Merkel fit in all of this? What her intentions right now are?
Eric Draitser: Politically speaking, Germany is establishing itself as a leader for Europe in the way that it has already established itself as an economic leader. Maybe, hegemon might be a better word, because, really, that is how Germany is operating. But again, I think that we should be cautious about reading too much into the symbolic nature of what Germany is doing and rather focus on the economic reality, which is that the German ruling establishment is tremendously terrified of a division within Europe itself – the division between north and south. It already sees this in the context of breach. And it certainly sees the conflict between the US and Russia, and by extension Europe, being a central part of what could be called the collapse of the European project.
And so, in many ways Germany is trying to play a mediating role, not simply to bring peace to Ukraine, because I think that they could really care less about Ukraine, the reality is that they are trying to play a mediating role between the US and Russia in order to save the Eurozone and to save their own economic dominance. The South Stream is now dead, the North Stream is on line – what does that tell you about the relationship between Germany and southern Europe?