Kiev officials continue to describe the Donbass separatists as “terrorists’ even while the Kiev administration has signed up to negotiating with separatists as part of the Normandy and Minsk agreements – but has never actioned that agreement . Defining the separatists as ‘terrorists’ makes it virtually impossible for Kiev to negotiate anything with them. Kiev is supported in this position (at least officially) by Poland, the U.K and U.S.)
The new government in Berlin however appears to be currently more reticent in supporting Kiev in its aggressive stance and has declined Kiev’s request for more weapons. There are real risks to Ukraine’s neighbours of neo-nazi military brigades like the Azov battalion and other extremist groups supported by the Right Sector, that those groups would not only continue to fight against the Donbass separatists , kill Russian speaking Ukrainians in other parts of Ukraine, and, as in the past, Poles and Jews as well as Russian speakers elsewhere, but also foment trouble in disaffected youth in their own countries…
The U.K. and the U.S. continue to support these extremist groups with arms and training , as they have done since the end of the Second World War (using the extremist OUN-B group led by Stepan Bandera ( now an official hero of the Kiev government ), in an effort to destabilize first the Soviet Union, and now the Russian Federation and the Donbass.
Despite the 9/11 blowback that occurred with the U.S. and U.K support of Saudi and Turkish backed wahhabist extremists in Afghanistan against the Soviets, the strategy of using local extremists continues to be a key item in the U.S. destabilisation playbook. Extensive Ukraine government and Right Sector media has portrayed Western Ukrainian as ‘true slavs’, unlike the Russians in the north and east who are deemed to be lesser beings with eastern mongol genes; a strategy that gives permission for extremist groups like the Azov battalions to exterminate Russian speaking eastern Ukrainians with impunity.
Berlin’s current reticence to fully support the NATO and U.K./U.S. agenda in Ukraine appears to come from a sudden realization that they are hugely reliant on Russian gas. The Nordstream 2 gas pipeline from Russian to Germany was initiated at the insistence of Germany with the understanding that Russian gas would not only be much cheaper than U.S. gas shipped across the Atlantic to Germany, but was also both more reliable and able to be delivered in greater volumes than the Americans could ever provide. Germany’s economy therefore relies on cheap Russian gas, particularly now that its coal fired electricity producers have been largely shut down in response to climate change concerns . The German government therefore walks a tightrope between supporting its NATO allies, and getting the energy it needs for its economy .
The Russians have insisted that the expansion of NATO up to its borders be reversed ( an outcome of the negotiations that led to East Germany and the other Easter European countries becoming independent from Russia in the 1990s, on the verbal understanding that NATO would not expand beyond its 1990s borders). U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken and NATO’s Stoltenberg have insisted that that agreement never existed ( despite multiple citings of evidence of its existence) and that NATO will continue to expand its membership and site weapons wherever it wishes to, regardless of the resultant explicit threat to Russia’s existence..
Exactly what NATOs current purpose is now that communist Soviet Russia has gone, is never explicitly stated, but it is clear that its purpose is to stop Russian ‘aggression’ and intimidate Russia through ongoing military threats. U.S. think tanks have also intimated their wish that Russia be balkanised, so that the carve-up of Russia’s economy can continue from the Yeltsin years, and so that Russia does not have the capacity to militarily oppose any Western military plans (as it has done in Syria).
While Western media and the U.S. continue to hype up the threat of a Russian land invasion of the Ukraine ( with extensive videos of Russian tanks conducting military exercises in Russia), the reality is that it would simply not be worth-while for Russia to invade Ukraine with tanks and troops.
It is possible however, that if the Kiev government or its extremist wings were to launch a large scale attack on the Russian speaking Donbass ( emboldened by Western weapons supplies and bombacity) that Russia would feel obliged to protect its Russian speaking neighbours and respond militarily. Sending columns of Russian tanks into Eastern Ukraine, let alone across the Dnieper River into Western Ukraine, where Ukrainian nationalism is most fierce, would however be a suicidal endeavour; not least because the Ukrainian economy is devastated after years of corruption and mismanagement, and Russia would have to take responsibility for economically supporting 37 million Ukrainians, whilst countering an Eastern Ukrainian insurgency (supported and trained by the U.S. and U.K)
Russian not only wants a NATO pullback, but also the Kiev government to officially adhere to and implement the Minsk agreements they signed up to-i.e. negotiate with the Donbass separatists and agree to their self-government within a Ukrainian federal structure. However the level of Kiev propaganda against the ‘terrorists’ in the East and against Russian speaking people generally, seems to indicate that such a compromise is currently not possible; particularly while the extremist right wing groups hold such sway in Kiev. Those groups would also be fearful that a re-integration of the Donbass population into a federal Ukrainian democratic framework, would tip the balance towards a national government that once again would be more favorable to Russia, and likely result in many of the underhand deals that have occurred since 2014 between the Kiev government and Ukrainian oligarchs, being re-aligned once more towards Russian interests.
Ukraine is in crisis; its young people drifting in the multitudes to more favourable economic conditions in Western Europe, and an accelerating drift towards a centralized autocracy in Kiev driven largely by extremist groups like the Right Sector, with corruption widespread throughout the economy. The loss of revenues from Russia from the Russian gas pipeline which passes through Ukraine to Europe (and the siphoning of some of that gas for Ukraine’s use) with the inevitable advent of the opening of the Nordstream 2 gas pipeline to Germany and beyond, via the Baltic Sea , will only exacerbate this crisis. The Ukrainian ex-comedian President Zelensky’s position is extremely fragile- torn between the demands of the ever-increasing power of the right wing extremists in Kiev and Western Ukraine, and the demands of the U.S and U.K., while his popularity with the majority of Ukrainians plummets. Zelensky has tried to eliminate some of his key political rivals like Petro Poroshenko and Viktor Medvedchuk, with legal challenges of ‘treason’, but the opposition forces are gathering against him.
What options does someone like Zelensky now have in the face of such challenges ? War can so often improve a leader’s political chances..