The Lavrov-Kerry Statement on Ukraine

Here is a very good summary of the meaning of the recent agreed statement between the US and Russia on the situation in Ukraine. It is from Dmitry Orlov's blog and seems to be a translation of a Russian piece found here. Some comments from me at the foot of Dmitry Orlov's post.

The talks in Geneva resulted in an agreement that is in favor of all that is good and opposed to all that is bad. That's the basic gist of it; but what does that mean? Let's translate this memorandum from the language of high diplomacy into the language of the Ukrainian crisis.

Kiev's government representative was invited to participate in his role as a potted plant—because there is nothing to discuss with him. On this all the participants were in complete agreement. That is, there is no government in Kiev, in the sense of an entity that exercises sovereign authority over the territory of Ukraine. This is understood equally well in Moscow, in Brussels and even in Washington. Thus, the actual talks were between USA+EU and Russia.

Russia's position is that Kiev doesn't have a government, it has a God-only-knows-what. It makes no difference what they are called or who they are. They have no power and they control nothing. They do not control the economy, or energy, or the army, or the police, or even their supporters who are running around waving machine guns.

The position of USA+EU: “That's not true! There's a perfectly nice government in Kiev, we made it ourselves, and we hold discussions and even sign agreements with them.”

In view of the difference between these two positions, further discussion is pointless. Therefore, it is necessary to run an experiment and to establish a simple fact: are the dramatis personae in Kiev a government, or aren't they?

The authorities in Kiev have to prove themselves. To do that, they have to disarm and reign in their freaky supporters, grant amnesty to their opponents, and begin to exercise control over the army and the police. If they prove that they are in control, then it will possible to move to the next phase in resolving the crisis.

The ball is now in their court. If they can prove that they are a power, then there will be a step-by-step resolution to the crisis. If they don't, then the crisis will be resolved on their behalf, and they won't be invited to participate, even as potted plants.

Considering that these personages have already reneged on a previous international agreement—in February of this year—it might have been smarter for them not to sign this one. Because if they don't live up to this one either, then nobody will want to offer them political cover—not Brussels, not even Washington.

Those are all insightful comments to which I would only add something on what the Kiev coup government (such that it is) gained from the statement and enlarge on the position that the Russians found themselves in.

The Ukraine military was in the process of rapidly going over to the people. The Kiev group had obviously lost control of the military (assuming they ever had control). To stop this loss of power which even threatened their position in Kiev, they were happy to agree to anything now and hope to retrieve their position later.

From the Russians point of view, they at least prevented a power vacuum which could have worked out well but these situations usually end badly and they would have been alert to that. The statement has the potential to usher in a truce which will save some lives. It also gives the Eastern Ukrainians time to better organize themselves which hopefully will also help save lives in the near future.

The other point is that Russia has been calling for trilateral talks all along between the EU, the Ukrainians and the Russians. They could hardly refuse to talk when it was put to them and, given the 'motherhood' nature of the joint statement, they could hardly refuse to agree to it.

Never-the-less, the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, looked tired and unhappy giving his statement. But, then, talking 8 hours with snakes will do that to anyone trying to bring about peace, I suppose.

I'm sure some people in the east of Ukraine will see this statement as a refusal to back them and that could account for some Lavrov's apparent discomfort. But the days of the Kiev coup are numbered, in any case. Also, there are bigger stakes in play than just Ukraine and the avoidance of world war will be foremost in the Russian government's mind


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