Peace with the Newts. Will Donbas turn into a new Munich?




Article by: Aleksandr Skobov

The Karel Čapek novel War with the Newts was written two years before Munich. And it describes in detail how western powers step by step hand over Europe to Hitler and where this leads. People even understood all of this then. If not all people, then many.

Today, not only many people know all of this, but all people. The world freezes in anticipation: will Munich be repeated? Everyone understands that recognising a new line of demarcation is a New Munich. For this would mean that after a couple of months the line will move again and it will once again have to be recognised. Everybody understands that fixing the line of demarcation with international peacekeepers is also a New Munich. Because this is a consolidation of power by Russian agents over part of the Donbas. Authority produced by fraud and force, held in place by terror and backed by Russian troops and weaponry. In fact, it is an attempt to transfer to the peacekeepers the function currently performed by the Russian invaders in the Donbas.

In fact, this is the forced separation by Russia of another Ukrainian territory following the Crimea. This means that the Russian Federation may attempt to organise other hybrid forces in its neighbours. And the result of this is that soon this can be attempted by any country with enough arrogance and contempt for human life.

Perhaps Hollande and Merkel know a magic formula by which they can get the Great Newt to withdraw from the Donbas, with his position being safely covered by international peacekeepers? Why did they rush to the Kremlin amphibian? What made them hurry so?

The latter point is more or less clear. They were alarmed at the prospect of American arms being supplied to Ukraine. As the head of European diplomacy, Federica Mogherini, put it: “When trying to find a diplomatic solution, as we are trying to do with all our strength, supplying arms to one of the sides in the conflict seems to me an inconsistent gesture.” All painfully familiar. European democracies allowed Hitler and Mussolini to strangle the Spanish Republic by denying the supply of weaponry “to one of the sides in the conflict.” Of course in order “not to add fuel to the fire of civil war.” This was termed the “policy of non-intervention.” How many European communists (and not only communists) issued incriminating tirades against this policy? The bad joke of the story is that the role of the non-intervenor is filled today by a prominent figure, that of the former member of the Italian Communist Party, Federica Mogherini.

European leaders fear that the supply of weapons to Ukraine will provoke the Kremlin into an escalation. They are scared that the Supreme Newt will go even further. But where can he go on to?

He does not have the strength to occupy the whole of Ukraine. Any move beyond the limits of the Donbas is extremely risky for him, because the population there will not meet his armies in the same way as the people of “Luganda” (derogatory term for the “Luhansk People’s Republic”- ed.). The only thing the Kremlin can now do is to formally announce the introduction of troops into the Donbas and stop playing hybrid war. This will not fundamentally change the situation in the Donbas. But it will oblige European leaders to burn their last bridges with the Kremlin, and introduce the type of sanctions that will cost Europe a pretty penny. And this they really don’t want. That is what they are scared of.

Hollande and Merkel flew to Moscow to scare Putin: do not compromise on anything at all and arms supplies to Ukraine will become inevitable. But it is hard for people to scare Putin who are themselves more scared of the consequences than he is. People who continue to insist that they do not want to build European security against Russia, but together with her. People who are scared to say that we will not build security with this Russia, with Putin’s Russia.

In such a situation, any talk of concessions from Putin will inevitably turn into talk of concessions to Putin. When defending a situation of uncertainty and reticence, a policy of brinkmanship on the edge of a New Munich will sooner or later turn into a New Munich.

One can argue, as does the President of France, that it will be difficult for the pre-war population of the Donbas to return to their former life, and they will therefore need autonomy. But any elections, referendums and autonomy will only be possible once the Luganda rebels have given up power and arms. One can discuss who they should give up power and arms to. Perhaps to a temporary international administration. Perhaps to international peacekeepers. But only to real ones, not fake ones like those who slept soundly while Ratko Mladić was slaughtering the population of Srebrenica. An international peacekeeping operation in the Donbas will only be meaningful if the peacekeeping force has the right and physical capability to use physical force to disarm those who do not obey it. Not only along the ghostly demarcation line, but throughout Luganda. Any new bold initiatives or “peace plans” without the rebels giving up power and weapons will be a New Munich.

In fact, there is a way to make Putin fear the consequences of escalation more than they do. And at the same time not only to do without arms deliveries to Ukraine, but ruinous economic sanctions which lead to suffering of people guilty of nothing at all both in the West and in Russia. To do this they need to convince Putin of their willingness to answer the escalation with the deployment of their own forces in Ukraine, in order to carry out a peacekeeping operation to help those soldiers who accidentally strayed during military exercises to find the road back home.

Translated by: Michael Garrood

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  • StumpedNoMore2

    How best to support Ukraine is to honor the Budapest Memorandum. When you are in a relationship with someone, you make a commitment to them by signing on the dotted line. Your integrity is on that sheet of paper and it will define who you really are.

    Why sign on a dotted line if one is not going to honor those commitments? A person’s
    reputation is based on his or her honoring their past commitments. So in the future, how will anyone honor or respect any commitments or agreements if a single one from the past can not be honored?

    This is my view on the current EU structure and why it is failing Ukraine. Without a strong foundation, the EU experiment will fail miserably because it does not have unifying voice in dealing with Russia. Even though Russia is joined together by various federated states, the ultimate power is still through the Kremlin.

    In the EU, the power of Brussels is very weak and is undermined by various factions in the EU. These various factions are looking for their best interest and not for the best interest of the union as a whole. Governing power from various states are not equal and this is a reflection on the ongoing negotiation with Russia. Until these various issues are resolved, the EU position will remain disjointed and unable to weld the real the power that it was envisioned.

    Further integration is key as it would broaden the consensus from each member state and take the power away from the two juggernauts at the moment. The EU cannot have one feet in the water while the other is out. Monetary, political, social, and economical policies must be in unison or else it will not work.

  • Brent

    Does anyone else out there have concern with Merkl and Hollande’s sudden interest this past week with trying to resolve Russia’s war in Ukraine? Where have they been for the last several months? Merkl has been cowering in Berlin, refusing to talk to Putin, and even refused to go to scheduled peace talks in Astana last month because she didn’t feel they would yield results. Hollande did meet with Putin in December where they were still discussing France supplying Russia with Mistral assault class warships.

    Now, once there is finally some spine showing up in America’s leader, they are interested in seeking a peaceful resolution? Seriously? They’ve been refusing any further sanctions against Russia, they’ve been claiming for months there can be no military solution but still want to do business with Russia. Now they want to try to block the U.S. from being the only powerful nation from supplying Ukraine with weapons to defend themselves.

    Ukraine needs to be wary of these two and what exactly their intentions are and what they’re going to promise Putin for Ukraine’s capitulation.

    • Rods

      Merkel and Hollande are both compromised where they need to keep Russian gas flowing, especially Germany, and they both can’t wait to get back to normal trading. One to deliver cars and industrial products and the other military equipment.

      On the West’s side, by far the two most disappointing countries have been the US and UK where they have both IMO fallen well short of the spirit of the Budapest Memorandum. They have both been at great pains to find ways to do nothing!

      One big worry is that NATO Article 5 and the Budapest Memorandum aren’t so very different. They both say they will go an talk about any conflict at the UN Security Council, which is useless as Russia will just Veto everything. With the Budapest Agreement Russia, UK and US all agreed to respect Ukraine’s, ‘territorial and economic integrity’ with Article 5 countries agree to provide ‘appropriate assistance’ to each other if attacked. Well we can see the levels of assistance to Ukraine so far, nothing from many countries and blankets, MREs and first aid kits from the more proactive. Obama is even dragging his heels on the delivery of non-lethal aid he has promised!

      With the current build up of Russian forces in Ukraine and Obama’s dithering there is a real danger that any lethal weapon supplies will be too little too lates, with a much bigger area of Ukraine lost.