U.S. officials flex their power over Ukrainian parliament

By Dmitry Rodonov
July 17: Yesterday the President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, introduced to the parliament constitutional amendments on the special status of Donbass.
The amendments were introduced during the visit to Ukraine by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland, who along with U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt was present of the floor of the Verkhovna Rada.
Nuland and Pyatt, lords of the Verkhovna Rada

Nuland said that the constitutional amendments made by Kiev suggest that Ukraine has fulfilled its obligations under the Minsk Agreement.
According to her, at a meeting with President Petro Poroshenko, they discussed the importance of Ukraine’s compliance with its obligations under the Minsk Agreement. She paid particular attention to the need for legislative recognition of the special status of Donbass. In her opinion, this is necessary for the restoration of peace and territorial integrity in eastern Ukraine.
The special status of Donbass will be “the answer to any question about Ukraine’s compliance with the Minsk agreement,” she said.
Political analyst Victor Shapinov said that to accept constitutional changes you need a minimum of 300 votes of the deputies (out of 450), whereas the draft proposed by Poroshenko received only 288 votes, and will now be sent to the Constitutional Court for examination.

Victor Shapinov: So the case drags on. The law itself was enacted under unprecedented pressure from the United States. Victoria Nuland personally came to the Parliament to conduct the ballot – an unprecedented case even for puppet regimes like South Vietnam. The United States, and even more so the EU, has already “got” the situation where the Kiev regime is defiantly not fulfilling the Minsk agreement. On the other hand, the Kiev regime, under the dictation of the United States, “complied” in such a way that Donbass can under no circumstances accept it.

Once again there is an impasse – which probably suits the Washington strategists.
The Russian media response is surprising, with some beginning to say that Poroshenko’s proposal is exactly what the Donbass republics sought. In fact, the population of the republics initially demanded at least federalization of the country, and then voted in a referendum for complete independence from Ukraine and the creation of their own state.

Free Press: The adopted amendments really look like a mockery of Minsk, which is recognized in Donetsk and Lugansk, and in Moscow. What do you think?

VS: The same. Even Poroshenko said that his proposals do not provide for special status for Donbass and the “additional provisions for the peculiarities of local self-government in some areas of eastern Ukraine.” This is a direct mockery of the spirit and letter of the Minsk accords.

Kiev’s maneuver is obvious — to simulate the execution of Minsk, but in fact leave no chance for the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics to agree to its proposals. It is an attempt to shift responsibility for the escalation of the war onto the republics and put Russia in an awkward position: either Moscow abandons the republics to Kiev under unacceptable conditions, or it becomes responsible for a new round of war.

However, the Kiev authorities have not taken into account that the tail can’t wag the dog. Or if so, not for long. Kiev’s European senior partners have repeatedly expressed dissatisfaction with the collapse of Minsk-2. Now Washington is unhappy with its satellite. And they don’t hesitate to show this openly. Before our eyes Kiev goes from being a convenient tool in the hands of the West to an inconvenient one. They shame Kiev. And from this it is only one step to withdrawal of support, which the Kiev regime clearly would not survive.

FP:  They speak of completely unprecedented pressure on Kiev from the West to adopt this decision. Why now?

VS:  Washington is now talking about the need for cooperation with Russia on the situation in Syria and the Middle East as a whole. Apparently, by “turning up the heat” on official Kiev, they are trying to show Moscow that an agreement is possible, that for the U.S. the Ukrainian conflict is not so fundamental, and they are willing to compromise. Another thing is that any compromise will be rotten.

FP: Is the adoption of the amendments connected with the intensification of fighting in Donbass?

VS: Quite the opposite. They were training and preparing the intensification of hostilities. Now the United States showed that they can rein in their satellite if necessary. They demonstrate their control over Kiev in tradeoff with Russia.

FP: Will the adopted amendments complicate the standoff with the authorities, provoking another coup by ultra-right radicals?

VS: So far, since Mukachevo, the so-called radicals have demonstrated very limited resources for mobilization. Without the support of the Ukrainian oligarchy and a “signal” from the West, they hardly dare to do anything serious. The United States continues to support Poroshenko, and the EU follows in their footsteps in this regard. The “radicals,” the Nazis, are only a tool of the oligarchy for suppressing street opposition and dissent. No one takes them seriously as contenders for power — at best, merely as junior partners.

Ukrainian journalist Andriy Manchuk stressed that yesterday’s events in Parliament showed that the foreign policy of Ukraine is dictated from outside — and, moreover, no one considers it necessary to conceal this fact from the public.
Andriy Manchuk: Nuland and Pyatt put direct pressure on the ruling coalition to force them to inscribe in the constitution a new version of the special status for the Donbass territory outside Kiev’s control. Of course, it looks like a humiliation for Ukraine’s national dignity, as with some of the Latin American “banana republics” of the last century — even though Latin American society usually responds much more forcefully to such cynical external dictates. And one can be sure that the nationalist rhetoric adopted by the regime is a cover for our country’s loss of sovereignty – even many of its ideological supporters are now becoming aware of that.
Internal policies of Ukraine are determined from the outside — across the full spectrum of major important political and economic issues. And it’s not the Kremlin’s doing.
FP: Adoption of the amendments comes amidst the government’s conflict with the radicals in the west. Is there a connection between these events?
AM: The conflict with the ultra-right, combined with the fact that Poroshenko was unable to hold a vote on the Donbas without the personal intervention of U.S. politicians and diplomats, really shows that the government does not control fully the situation in Ukraine. Another thing is that it fully coincides with the traditional political line of the U.S. State Department, which always seeks to act as an external arbiter between political forces weakened by internal conflicts in countries dependent on the U.S.
FP: Why did the U.S. suddenly decide to put pressure on Poroshenko?
AM: The reasons that the United States forced the Ukrainian parliament to take yesterday’s decision likely has a complex character — that is, it’s determined by different aspects of  U.S.-Russian relations on a wide range of issues, from the Iranian and Syrian issue to behind-the-scenes dialogue on the Ukrainian problem. Both sides are maneuvering in the context of an acute conflict, and are very far from ending the war – as shown by the escalated fighting at the front.
First, despite the fact that most citizens of Ukraine are waiting for peace, the politicians of the ruling coalition, as well as officials and businessmen who profit from this war — not to mention their clientele from among far-right militants, “civil society activists” and pro-government media — are categorically not interested in ending the conflict. And they will do all they can to make it last as long as possible. Second, external political forces that define our country’s policies also see the special status as something very vague that could be disavowed at any time, no more than a political bargaining chip, where the conditional “carrot” balances the “stick” of the proposed tribunal for Boeing [the MH17 crash].
FP: Do you see any non-military solution to the conflict? The media often write about the prospects of a Transnistrian or Bosnian scenario…
AM: Donbass is not Bosnia or Transnistria, and the economic and political situation in Europe and around the world today not at all similar to the situation in the early ‘90s. Peace is possible in the Donbass — the only question is, how many months or years of war separate us from it, and will this conflict be a prelude to more global shocks? I do not think Washington, Brussels or Moscow know the exact answer to this question.
Translated by Greg Butterfield

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