In Europe - West, Russia

By Alexander Mercouris, published on The Duran, July 5, 2016

The weekend after EU sanctions are renewed, Ukraine Parliament Speaker admits he has opposed Minsk-2 Agreement all along.

Andrey Parubiy, Speaker of the Ukrainian parliament, founder of the neo-fascist Svoboda movement, creator of Ukraine’s National Guard, former secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council, author of Ukraine’s misnamed ‘Anti-Terrorist Operation’ in the Donbas, former Maidan Commandant and the man possibly responsible for the sniper shootings in Kiev in February 2014, has just exposed the total illogic of the EU’s entire sanctions policy.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (F. Bensch, Reuters)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (F. Bensch, Reuters)

That sanctions policy – imposed by Angela Merkel – purports to link the lifting of the sanctions the EU has imposed on Russia to the full implementation of the Minsk-2 Agreement.  Yet as everyone knows, it is not Russia which is not implementing the Minsk-2 Agreement.  It is Ukraine.  Putin set out the position clearly at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit last month in Tashkent:

We all know that these restrictions are supposedly tied to the implementation of the Minsk agreements but the key aspects of the implementation of the Minsk agreements today are in the hands of our Kiev partners, in the hands of the Kiev authorities. Without them, we can do nothing. We cannot amend the Ukrainian Constitution; we cannot implement and enforce the law on special forms of governance in the well-known territories, the Lugansk and Donetsk People’s Republics; we cannot sign an amnesty law for the Ukrainian president.

These are key issues in the settlement of the Donbass situation. And it is simply absurd to expect us to make these decisions. I cannot think of any other word for it. Nevertheless, we have worked patiently and are willing to continue working just as patiently both with our Ukrainian partners and with our EU partners. However, there is no other way to fully resolve the situation in Donbass other than by implementing the Minsk agreements.

The EU nonetheless on Friday rolled over the sanctions against Russia for a further six months till December, on the grounds that the Minsk-2 Agreement has still not been implemented. Here is how it is explained on the EU’s website:

On 19 March 2015, the European Council agreed to link the duration of the sanctions to the complete implementation of the Minsk agreements, which was foreseen to take place by 31 December 2015.  Since the Minsk agreements were not fully implemented by 31 December 2015, the Council extended the sanctions until 31 July 2016. Having assessed the implementation of the Minsk agreements, the Council decided to renew the sanctions for a further six months, until 31 January 2017.

Now – immediately after the sanctions were extended – Andrey Parubiy has acted to prove the EU wrong and Putin right.  Though he is the Speaker of the Ukrainian parliament and a key figure in the Ukrainian power structure, he admits that he entirely opposes the Minsk-2 Agreement and always did.  In a television interview on Monday 4th July 2016 he is reported as saying:

I have not supported the Minsk Agreements from the very start. I thought, and I still think that the Minsk Agreements were signed in conditions that were unfavourable for Ukraine.

The EU’s decision to link sanctions against Russia to the full implementation of the Minsk-2 Agreement happened directly after that agreement was reached in February 2015.  Deeply humiliated by Putin at Minsk, Merkel tried to salvage her reputation with the U.S. hardliners and gain some leverage over the process by getting the European Council to link the lifting of the sanctions to the full implementation of the Minsk-2 Agreement.

By doing so, Merkel led the EU into a trap where its sanctions policy against Russia – which is severely hurting scores of European businesses, including German businesses – is now hostage to the obsessions of people like Parubiy, who have made it perfectly clear that they will never willingly implement the Agreement.

Though this fact may not be widely known by the generality of the European public, it is very well known by the businesses affected and of course it is well known to EU governments including – as I discussed recently – to members of Merkel’s own coalition government.

At the St Petersburg International Economic Forum 2016 last month, I saw and heard the anger and exasperation amongst European businessmen and amongst some EU political leaders with a policy which is increasingly hurting them and which makes no sense.  By contrast, the mood amongst the Russians was the diametric opposite.  More and more of them were openly expressing the view that the sanctions for Russia had actually been beneficial.

There are quiet voices starting to be heard in Europe which blame Merkel’s disastrous policies for Britain’s vote for Brexit. If reports of Merkel’s attempts to unseat EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker are true, it is almost certainly because he is widely known to be one of these voices and is also quietly believed to share his friend German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s increasingly open skepticism about the sanctions policy.  The stories being spread about Juncker’s supposed alcoholism do look like an attempt to undermine Juncker and are fully in keeping with the sort of vicious backstairs character assassination Merkel regularly uses against her enemies.

Regardless of how any power struggles within the EU play out, Vladimir Chizhov, Russia’s ambassador to the EU, is surely right when he says that who is reported to have said at the same time that Parubiy was speaking that

… the EU countries are gradually starting realise that the sanctions have already brought the European Union into a stalemate. However, it (ie. the EU) will have to find the way out of this deadlock on its own.

One way or the other, the sanctions policy is collapsing under the weight of its own absurdity.  When it does – possibly in December – without the British to back her, Merkel will be left to face the music on her own.


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