Sehr geehrte Frau Merkel,
I write this appeal to the person who I believe more than anyone holds the key to peace or war in Ukraine and possibly even Europe as a whole.
As you are well aware, thanks in part to the role you played in brokering the 2nd Minsk agreement, there is at this current point in time relative calm in Ukraine. Yes there are occasional ceasefire violations — ceasefires almost never bring about perfect peace — but the agreement for the withdrawal of heavy weaponry has now been carried out by both sides, and by and large the situation is immeasurably improved since before 12th February.
However, as you are also well aware this ceasefire, like all such ceasefires, is extremely fragile and could quite conceivably break down relatively swiftly. What will prevent it breaking down? Though it may seem rather too obvious to mention, the fact is the only way such a breakdown can be prevented is if both sides continue to abide by the terms of the accords to which they agreed.
The key term in that last sentence is “both sides”. It is of course logically impossible for any ceasefire between two sides to work unless “both sides” abide by the terms they agreed, and if either one or the other of the two sides refuses to abide by its terms, then it is obvious that the ceasefire cannot hold and it is only a matter of time before fighting resumes.
Having been heavily involved in the intense 17 hour discussions in Minsk that brought about the agreement, you will be aware that since the military parts of the agreement as set out in Articles 1,2 and 3 have now been largely adhered to — i.e the ceasefire, withdrawal of heavy weapons and OSCE monitoring — the next stage is to begin the political process. What does this involve? According to Article 4:
“On the first day after the pullout a dialogue is to start on modalities of conducting local elections in accordance with the Ukrainian legislation and the Law of Ukraine “On temporary Order of Local Self-Governance in Particular Districts of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts,” and also about the future of these districts based on the above-mentioned law. Without delays, but no later than 30 days from the date of signing of this document, a resolution has to be approved by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, indicating the territory which falls under the special regime in accordance with the law “On temporary Order of Local Self-Governance in Particular Districts of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts,” based in the line set up by the Minsk Memorandum as of 19 September 2014.”
The most crucial word in this Article is the word dialogue. Whom is the dialogue to be conducted between? The Article clearly refers to the parties as being the Kiev authorities and the representatives of the Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts. Therefore, since articles 1, 2 and 3 have been enacted, the next stage is for the beginning of dialogue between the Kiev government and the leaders of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
Yet what has happened? Whilst the leaders of those regions have repeatedly stated that they are ready for dialogue, the government in Kiev has steadfastly refused to engage. Instead, they have passed a unilateral resolution in the Verkovhna Rada referring to the areas of Donetsk and Luhansk as “temporarily occupied” territories.
You are surely aware of the significance of this. Not only has the Kiev government clearly departed from the agreement you helped broker in Minsk by refusing to enter into dialogue, they have also signalled in their description of the Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts as “temporarily occupied” that they have only one intention towards these regions: to win them back by force. In other words, not only are their actions in clear violation of the letter of Minsk; they are also entirely contrary to the spirit of the agreement as a path to peace.
Now at this point I have a question for you. What do you suppose your obligations, and that of you French counterpart, Francois Hollande, to be under Minsk? Clearly you have no influence on the anti-Kiev forces in the South East of the country and so no one could expect you to play a role in pressuring them to abide by the agreement. Yet equally clearly you do have influence on the Kiev government — else what were you doing at Minsk in the first place — and so it is natural to assume that your obligations under the Minsk agreement are to do all you can to put pressure on that government to comply with the terms they agreed and which you yourself helped broker.
Yet all we have seen from you is two very odd responses. The first is yet more belligerence towards Russia by way of the threat of renewed or even further sanctions should Minsk fail. This is frankly bizarre because it puts the potential failure of Minsk solely on the shoulders of Russia (even though they were, like Germany and France, merely deal-brokers, rather than being one of the parties to the conflict). The second of your responses has been a total silence when it comes to Kiev’s obligations.
I’m sorry to say that this fits with the pattern of behaviour you and your Western counterparts have exhibited from the start of this conflict. Forgive me if I have missed it, but not once have you come out and condemned the actions of the Kiev government over the past year. You have not condemned them for their indiscriminate shelling of civilian populations, even though you must surely have been aware that this was happening. You have swept under the carpet their use of far-right battalions to launch terror on innocent civilians, yet you were surely aware of this uncomfortable truth. And you have put precisely no pressure whatsoever on that government to come to the negotiating table with their opponents, yet you are surely aware that those opponents have repeatedly expressed their willingness to enter into direct dialogue.
I had wondered whether Minsk II had marked a change in your policy. After all, if you were prepared to go to the trouble of sitting down for 17 hours to thrash out an agreement, it would be reasonable to assume that you would then have an interest in making the deal work. Yet in failing to condemn the Kiev government’s blatant violation of Minsk, and in failing to put any public pressure on them to comply with their obligations, you are not only singularly failing to meet your own obligations to the agreement, you are also ensuring that the deal will ultimately fail.
The ramifications of this are frightening, as you are surely aware. The leaders of the Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts have made it clear that if Minsk II fails, there will not be a Minsk III. Which means what? It almost certainly means that fighting will resume, only this time on a much larger scale, and Ukraine will begin to resemble a European Libya. It also almost certainly means that the U.S. will increase the stakes by overtly beginning the supply of lethal weaponry to the Kiev government. We know that this is something you fear, largely because of the recent comments coming out of your office, reported by Der Spiegel, where your officials were sounding the “alarm” at the bellicose and propagandistic
comments of NATO Commander, General Philip Breedlove, and wondering whether “the Americans [are] trying to thwart European efforts at mediation led by Chancellor Angela Merkel?”
More than that, the failure of Minsk II could well end up pushing the conflict outside the borders of Ukraine, into other parts of Europe. I believe that you are aware of this, and I believe that is why you went to Minsk in the first place to broker a peace deal.
Which is why your refusal to publicly rebuke the Kiev government and call upon them to fulfil their obligations is so odd. Frankly, it won’t do to blame it on Russia if the ceasefire is broken. Right now the party that is violating the agreement you brokered is not Russia, nor is it the Donetsk and Luhansk Republics. No, the clear violator of the agreement you brokered is the government in Kiev and you surely are well aware of that.
You could put a stop to this in an instant. By publicly calling out the Kiev government for their clear violation of Minsk, and by seriously pressuring them to enter into dialogue with the leaders of the Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts, which Article 4 of the Minsk agreement compels them to do, you could in one decisive blow move this conflict away from the resumption of war, and to a possible peaceful resolution.
The US and UK governments are only interested in escalating tensions, as seen by their respective decisions to send military personnel to Ukraine to train the army, in direct violation of Article 10 of the Minsk accords. The Russian government may have some influence over the leaders of the Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts (although not nearly as much as Western governments and media like to make out), but they clearly have no influence over the government in Kiev. Only you have sufficient influence over the Kiev government, along with a vested interest in preventing the conflict from flaring up again, to make a real difference.
It is no exaggeration to say that you, more than anyone else in the world right now, have in your hands the key to peace or war. The choice is yours: Publicly press Kiev to adhere to Minsk, and you might well open the door to lasting peace in Ukraine. Maintain your policy of failing to publicly pressure them to adhere to the agreement you brokered, instead continuing to pin the blame on Russia, and you will not only have failed to fulfil your own obligations under Minsk, but you might very well be opening the door to the worst conflict in Europe since 1945.
The onus is on you. What will you do?