European Union leaders made a flurry of diplomatic visits in early February, holding panicky negotiations with Kiev and Moscow to reach a ceasefire in the war between Ukraine and the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, also called Novorossiya.
On Feb. 9, German Chancellor Angela Merkel met with President Barack Obama in Washington to discuss U.S. plans to openly arm the Ukrainian coup regime of oligarchs, neoliberal politicians and neo-Nazis installed with Washington’s help one year ago.
This followed whirlwind visits by Merkel and French President Francois Hollande to Kiev and Moscow. The leaders of the two dominant EU economic powers met face to face with Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin for five hours on Feb. 6 to present a ceasefire proposal.
Held with no other diplomats or media present, the meeting fed speculation that the EU bosses wanted to speak frankly with Putin about the U.S. attempt to push Europe into conflict with Russia. The EU is being economically hurt by sanctions on Russia, imposed at Washington’s insistence.
French media reported that Hollande and Merkel undertook the trip without consulting Washington — a highly unusual step. Other reports suggested that a section of the Obama administration shares the European concern that the West may lose out by escalating the war. (RT.com, Feb. 6)
The Hollande-Merkel proposal is to be the focus of reconvened negotiations in Minsk on Feb. 11.
A high-ranking source in German intelligence told the newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung Feb. 8 that the real death toll of the Ukraine civil war is nearly 50,000, including civilians and troops. This is almost 10 times the “official” United Nations figure.
Interest from the EU and perhaps U.S. leaders has little to do with stopping civilian casualties in the besieged Donbass region. Rather, it is prompted by the Novorossiyan militia’s successful encirclement of an estimated 6,000 to 7,500 Ukrainian troops in the region of Debaltsevo in northern Donetsk and southern Lugansk.
The looming defeat of the latest Ukrainian offensive — begun by Kiev in early January — also stepped up calls by the U.S. Congress to provide the coup regime with more powerful weaponry.
McCain admits Ukraine used banned weapons
Senate Armed Services Chair John McCain — who has based his long career on support for war crimes — leads the charge for openly arming Kiev, with $3 billion in heavy weaponry as a starter. At a Feb. 5 Washington news conference, he admitted that the Ukraine junta has used internationally banned cluster bombs in its war against Donbass. McCain said this war crime was a reason to give Kiev more weapons: “I think that if we had provided them with the weapons they need, they wouldn’t have felt they had to use cluster bombs.” (Sputnik News)
The overwhelming majority of Congress — both Republicans and Democrats — plus Secretary of State John Kerry and outgoing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, back the plan to arm Ukraine, as does Ashton Carter, Obama’s nominee to replace Hagel. (Sputnik, Feb. 4)
Washington has been arming Ukrainian President Peter Poroshenko’s government, both through proxies like Poland and directly in secret, since at least mid-December. Novorossiyan militias have captured U.S.-made and NATO-distributed weapons during the past month.
Kerry and State Department official Victoria Nuland, an architect of last year’s coup, rushed to Kiev Feb. 5, a day ahead of Merkel and Hollande’s visit, in an attempt to stiffen Poroshenko’s backbone with a pledge of another $1 billion in economic assistance.
The same day, NATO announced it would increase its “Rapid Response Force in Europe” to 30,000 troops, from the current 13,000.
Poroshenko’s government showed no signs of wanting peace. In the past week, Ukraine’s armed forces, National Guard and volunteer fascist battalions continued to terrorize civilians throughout the Donbass by shelling homes, schools and hospitals. They killed five people by striking a hospital in the capital of Donetsk Feb. 4. Even after Kiev agreed to create a “humanitarian corridor” in the area around Debaltsevo, the National Guard Aydar Battalion fired on civilians fleeing Chernukhin, Lugansk, as the people’s militia attempted to evacuate the village. (News-Front.info, Feb. 6)
And overnight Feb. 8-9, a Ukrainian missile struck a chemical plant in central Donetsk, shaking the entire capital city. (Rusvesna.su, Feb. 9)
‘Minsk warmed over’
In a Feb. 3 interview with Cuba’s Prensa Latina news agency, Deputy Chair of the Donetsk Supreme Soviet and chief negotiator Denis Pushilin said, “Kiev’s troops apply the methods used by the U.S. military in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. They unload heavy artillery against the population from afar until they know the area is destroyed, and then send in soldiers to kill those who remain alive and clean out the city.”
In the face of this brutal situation, Hollande and Merkel appear to be offering to turn the clock back to the September Minsk agreement, with some additional language on “federalization” meant to appease Russia, and the introduction of “peacekeepers” — that is, troops taking orders from the West. (Slavyangrad.es, Feb. 6)
Donetsk and Lugansk would be forced to roll back the progress they have made in the past month against the Ukrainian occupation forces, including the situation in the Debaltsevo.
Saving the Ukrainian military from defeat and its hardware from confiscation by Novorossiya is the most immediate purpose of the EU proposal.
“Minsk warmed over” is how anti-imperialist media analyst Daniel Patrick Welch described it.
Will the Novorossiyan leadership, much less the population, be willing to go along with a re-run of Minsk after so much death, destruction and broken promises by the Ukrainian junta and its Western backers? It will be a very hard sell.
Donetsk Prime Minister Alexander Zakharchenko has stated that the people’s republics intend to reclaim the entire territory of the former Donetsk and Lugansk regions of Ukraine, including occupied cities like Mariupol and Slavyansk.
Alexei Mozgovoi, the radical commander of the Lugansk “Ghost Brigade” that is slamming shut the “Debaltsevo cauldron” on Ukrainian occupation forces, made a Feb. 1 political appeal to all people of Ukraine: “Our goal is to remove the oligarchs and big business which destroy the economy that belongs to the people, and build a fair system, creating equal conditions and equal opportunities for all segments of the population.” (Red Star Over Donbass blog)
The leaders and people of the Donbass have every right to take advantage of whatever differences exist within the imperialist camp to defend themselves, further their goals of liberating the primarily Russian-speaking southeastern region of Ukraine, and provide internationalist assistance to Ukrainian anti-fascists.
The global anti-war, anti-imperialist and workers’ movement has a responsibility to support their struggle and to oppose every manifestation of U.S.-EU imperialist intervention. This means stopping the U.S. and EU from arming the fascist-oligarch regime in Kiev.