Ukraine: The pivot of future relations between Trump and Putin

Guest commentary by Alberto Fazolo, Contropiano

February 2: Trump and Putin have the same problem: they would like to be fully recognized as legitimate actors in international politics.

It has always been assumed that the U.S. president is considered a priori and uncritically as a great statesman (with the exception of Bush Jr.). Just think of the ridiculous Nobel Prize given to the newly-elected Obama. But it doesn’t work for Trump; for many he is not a true politician but a pretender, clumsy and unable to maneuver in institutions and above all on the international arena.

At the same time, Putin has still not entirely redeemed the Yeltsin era, when Russia was obscenely subservient to the West. Putin’s actions in Syria should be seen from the perspective of wanting to reassert a starring role that Russia has never had since the end of the Soviet Union.

The two presidents are united by a strong pragmatism, so it would seem they are oriented to seek a common solution to their problems. The easiest way would be to sit at a table and make an historic gesture with a strong media impact, probably by signing a peace agreement. At the moment the possibility of achieving a rapid peace in Syria (without a big aftermath) is unlikely, but in the former Ukraine the situation is radically different. Here the two presidents have an effective persuasive power on each of the warring parties, so it is possible to impose (also against the will of the people and forces involved) a rapid and effective peace. An agreement that would make it difficult for anyone to dispute the merits and capabilities of the two presidents.

Probably the solution will be reached on the basis of the Minsk II agreement, which, although expired and vilified, contains the regulations that the leaders of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics have tried to follow for several months: end of attacks (fighting only in self-defense), no territorial advance, withdrawal of heavy weapons, complete accessibility for OSCE observers, exchange of prisoners of war, withdrawal of foreign armed groups, etc.

On both sides of the front, many people do not like the Minsk agreement. In the People’s Republics are many who contest it, especially the internationalist fighters: it involves the renunciation of the armed liberation of the rest of the former Ukraine and their withdrawal. There are also many in Ukraine who reject a peace agreement which establishes a further alteration to the territorial integrity of the country (after Crimea). Now in Ukraine there is a fear that a process of Balkanization is starting. This is tearing Ukraine, which feels betrayed by the U.S.

Inevitably this split exists also inside the Ukrainian Armed Forces. On the one hand, there are those who have sniffed the winds of change coming from U.S. and are already aligned with the new orientation from Washington (mostly in the regular armed forces). On the other hand, especially in the ranks of the Nazi punitive battalions, there are many who after three years don’t want to lay down their arms passively to please the U.S. will. This provokes a new conflict inside the conflict. That is the way to understand the recent events of the war in Donbass: senseless bombing (even from a military point of view) and firefights inside the ranks of Ukrainian army. The latest Ukrainian bombing would appear to be not so much the last ditch effort of a defeated army, but distinctly crazy actions of local commanders who reject the peace agreement and seek to destroy it. From the military point of view, these actions make no sense, are never part of a wider offensive and are never really followed by ground attacks: in short, they are not aimed at any advancement. They are just criminal provocations that mostly kill civilians: a terroristic sabotage of the peace agreement.

There are daily reports of gun battles inside Kiev’s ranks, causing many casualties among the soldiers. Although the Ukrainian army tries to minimize the facts and pass them off as accidents due to alcohol abuse, these actually could be included in the context of the clash between groups who reject the agreement (using provocations and sabotage) and troops more loyal to the new Ukrainian course. It’s a clash which no one in Ukraine wants to talk about, because it accelerates and magnifies the existing fragmentation.

If the U.S. and Russia sign a peace agreement, there would be two other important political consequences that our movements should take into account.

The first is that, at present, the peace negotiations (both in the former Ukraine and Syria) would appear to be substantially conducted by two countries: the U.S. and Russia. Then the EU would be cut off from decisions on matters that concern it directly from a geographical, political and economic perspective. This would be a very big blow to the prestige and role of Europe, effectively a downgrading of its prestige and power relative to the U.S. and Russia. This is an interesting scenario for anti-EU movements.

The second would be the official end of U.S. interventionism, at least as we have known it for the past 20 years. So maybe it will revise the foreign policy model characterized by: NATO aggression, proxy wars, color revolutions, Soros, etc. An historic turning point that movements must grasp quickly.

Translated by the author

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