From a Munich in Moscow to a Munich in Minsk: How Europe has come to Putin’s aid

Putin cartoon


Analysis & Opinion, Russia

In the 1930s, Hitler pursued a simple policy: he simply said one thing and did another. Putin has innovated: he not only lies but uses forces to do his bidding for which no one holds him responsible and thus has the chance to be accepted by some in the West as a “responsible” statesman while continuing his aggression in Ukraine.

Thus, the most important news from Minsk is not that there has been an agreement between the Kremlin leader, the German chancellor, the French president and the Ukrainian president on most of the aspects of a ceasefire but rather that the leaders of the undeclared “peoples republics” are refusing to go along.

Citing “an informed source,” TASS is reporting today that the leaders of the Donetsk and Luhansk Peoples Republics have refused to sign the document “agreed upon by ‘the Noman quartet,’” thus in one sentence presenting Putin in a way the West will like and showing that what he has signed will have no impact on what he continues to do.

That is just one of the important conclusions about the Minsk meeting suggested by Andrey Piontkovsky who points out in a commentary today that “the very fact of its having taken place is much more important than the little pieces of paper which [these leaders] will sign or not sign.”

The Minsk meeting which follows on the Moscow meeting between Putin, on the one hand, and Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande, on the other, reflects a significant change in the way the West is dealing with Putin over all issues and is showing up the Kremlin leader’s position at home, the thing he cares most about.

At the time of the Brisbane summit, Western leaders were demonstratively isolating someone who was invading Ukraine and otherwise violating the international rules of the game. According to Piontkovsky, that threatened Putin’s standing with precisely those on whom his survival depends.

“The power of the dictator depends on the unqualified subordination to him of two or three dozen people: senior civilian, police, media and military officials,” he writes. And these people are completely behind Putin as long as he could guarantee them wealth based on stealing from Russians at home, the ability to keep the results of their theft in the West, and “a sweet life there for several generations of their descendants.”

After Brisbane, it began to look as if he no longer could provide such guarantees, and they began to question their support. But Putin responded with a clever campaign in which he caused the leaders of Europe to change their approach and thus restore his unchallenged authority at home with precisely those on whom his dictatorship depends.

Putin’s response took the form of suggesting that Moscow was prepared to use nuclear weapons if the West armed Ukraine, a campaign that has its roots in the words of Dmitry Trenin, the former GRU officer who heads the Moscow Carnegie Center, first in 2009 and most recently in an interview to a British newspaper.

That sparked fear in Europe that Putin might in fact use nuclear weapons, split Europe from the United States with regard to Ukraine, and led both Merkel and Hollande to “walk to Canossa” first in Moscow and now in Minsk, a dramatic shift that convinced those around Putin that the Europeans are so afraid of Russia that they won’t do anything to oppose its actions.

This nuclear “blackmail” has been “at many levels, taken many forms and been creative,” Piontkovsky says. It has made use of the North Koreans, Rogozin, Ivanov, Shoygu and others. And most recently, it has taken the form of a Russian TV spot showing Russian tanks “visiting” the capitals of Europe on Victory Day.

And Putin’s propaganda ploy has worked. The day after US President Barack Obama’s nominee to be defense secretary said the US would increase military assistance Ukraine, including possibly lethal arms, Chancellor Merkel announced that “Germany does not intend to sell arms to Ukraine since it considers that the conflict does not have a military solution and that diplomatic efforts must continue.”

She certainly had read Trenin in the “Financial Times” and heard the warnings of German analyst Alexander Rahr, and she drew exactly the conclusion that Putin hoped for: The Americans are engaged in a reckless policy and Russia might respond with “tactical nuclear weapons,” something that would affect Europe but not the Americans “beyond the ocean.”

Consequently, she and Hollande rushed to Moscow and then to Minsk, allowing Putin to put on the show of being interested in peace even though his agents show that he is not and thus taking exactly the steps that shore up his dictatorship rather than weakening it and leading Moscow to change its dangerous course of aggression.

Edited by: A. N.

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  • Charles J. Kollman

    Well i see the powers to be kept The US. from the latest talks. I know this will not take place, but i as an American would love to see America get out of NATO. and the UN. Both are worthless. I would love to see now that all American Military be removed from Europe and for America to fuck the Europeans. Let them clean up their own shit.

    • Czech Friend

      I hear you but that would be unfair to millions of people who want to live in democracy and free society still.

      If only you could swap places on the map I would put Germany and France right next to Russia to have some fun for once.

    • Racquel

      Except that when push comes to shove and Putin’s knocking on their door, who will they be calling on to bail them out? The World’s Police, who they simultaneously accuse of police brutality.

  • Mephisto

    I see a couple of differences to Munich 1938 (I am Czech, so I know the history perfectly well).

    1) Ukraine had no military agreements with Europe or NATO, while Czechoslovakia had miliatary pacts with France and Great Britain.

    2) Putin is not as strong as Hitler. His economy is fragile and might collapse by the end of 2015 if the sanctions are continued (as they should). The Russians are by no means self-sufficient, they have no real industry, they lack the precision of Germans

    I agree that Merkel’s politics is disastrous. They should have isolated Putin and break Russia economically.

    • StumpedNoMore2

      Mephisto, it is business as usual as the French are ready to ship out the Mistrals to the Russian.

      • Mephisto

        This is simply disgusting. They refuse to arm Ukraine (who was attacked and defends itself) and arm the agressor. How stupid must one be to do this? Hollande and Merkel, two imbeciles. And Obama is on their side. I have a feeling all of this is a charade from Hollande, Merkel, Obama to help save face their comrade Putin.

        • Czech Friend

          save face-exactly that’s what Minsk theatre play was all about with lead protagonist Vlad The Peacemaker

    • Czech Friend

      I am afraid Minsk just proved EU does NOT want Russian economy to fall thus they are keeping Putin on the throne. There is now way too much negligence and clear failures not to notice this is in fact a charade from Merkel and co. All they try to do is getting Putin back to their team while giving him more perks if he plays the ball.

      I think you could call that a high treason.

    • George

      I totally agree. In short, by Putin taking Southern Ukraine and building military base in
      Greece, he is assuring full control of the Black Sea and Europe. You
      don’t have to be a genius to see what he is doing. Europe is slowly
      being divided by indecision of their leaders like Merkel and rest of the West is waiting for a leader. As we all know who sold Czechoslovakia in
      Yalta, now we are seeing repeat of history in Minsk, only the Germans
      are not buying this time, but selling. Time will tell when it gets to
      Russia dividing Germany again. It has taken 11 years to plan attack on
      Eastern Ukraine, in 10 more years there will be New USSR stretching all
      the way past West of Berlin. Wake up West!!!

      • DejaVu

        The reality is that history is repeating and it only took an interval of a year before world war II broke out. World War III is now inevitable.

      • Guest

        Well the answer to that would be total annialation

        • George

          If they don’t o into self destruction first. Putler is very close.

    • Lucifer

      “1) Ukraine had no military agreements with Europe or NATO”
      Well, how about the Budapest Memorandum? Have you ever heard about that?

  • disqus60

    We now know why Nuland said “F the EU”

    • Racquel


    • Murf

      Prophetic wasn’t she.

  • Charles J. Kollman

    My Czech Friend, Yes put Germany and France next to Russia. Germany should not be in these talks or any talks for or about peace. What Germany did before WW11 and doing it they should keep a very low profile. As you must know France is a Country with no balls.

    • Czech Friend

      as the old joke goes: French Army rifle on sale. Never shot. Only dropped once.

      • evanlarkspur

        Omg, never heard that one. Hilarious!

        Reminds me of the elderly American gentleman who was reprimanded for not producing his passport quickly enough for the officer at Charles De Gaul airport while visiting. He politely apologized and said he wasn’t prepared, because he hasn’t had to show it at all the first time he visited France. The customs officer sneered at him, “Monsieur, Americans ALWAYS have to present their passports here!”

        The elderly gentleman’s amiable smile slipped away as he straightened himself and looked the officer full in the face. “Son,” he said quietly, “when I came ashore at Normandy, there wasn’t a Frenchman in sight. France was swarming with Germans, though, so we freed up some territory for you. No one asked to see my passport.”

        • Racquel

          Love that!

        • Brent

          It’s bad enough the French have a history of surrendering their own country, but between Sarkozy selling out Georgia and now Hollande selling out Ukraine, it’s one of their largest export opportunities….other than ‘arming the enemy’…..

          Sadly, the only solace for me now is mocking the French….

          • evanlarkspur

            If they hadn’t stood with us (for their own reasons of course) during our Revolution, is have no use for them at all. This business with the Mistral is simply beyond belief. We should just sink that thing right at its dock since they can’t seem to make the non-self-destructive move regarding its sale.

      • Charles J. Kollman

        my email address is [email protected]

    • sandy miller

      So right I’ve been saying all along Germany and France have no interest in helping Ukraine. They may throw a few bucks at them but otherwise it is business as usual with Russia. Ukraine has had no choice in this and America nor the UK have stepped up to the plate to help Ukraine. The entire affire makes me sick. As far as I’m concerned any friend of Putlers Russia I will boycott and recommend everyone else does to everyting that these countries try to sell to us. They should hang their heads in shame.

      • Charles J. Kollman

        As Americans we should have a long time ago demonstrated against The Tyrants in Washington. People should be doing this in front of The Peoples White House. There should be work stoppages for day across America first demanding the Impeachment of Obama. Then for other matters Congress does not hear. People are now TV. tubes and sit on a sofa and are lazy soft fat naive and gullible. We won our Independence and then framed The Bill of Rights. This did not come easy, because you must work every day to keep your freedom.If there is no pain there is no gain. When people fear their government that’s Tyranny and when the government fears the people that’s Liberty. We first must clean our house before others.

        • Alex Stepanyk

          Man, are you ever STUPID. If not for the Obama administration’s support and covert aid for the Maidan, it’s very unlikely they would have prevailed in getting rid of Yanukovich. I do wish Obama would hurry up and send us weapons so we can defend ourselves (difficult when Europe is opposing it and stabbing us in the back!), but to hear Right Wing American MORONS like you try to bring your Obama Derangement Syndrome over here is laughable. Obama has been a FRIEND TO UKRAINE. Unlike your hero George Bush who sat there while Putin CRUSHED GEORGIA.

          • Charles J. Kollman

            Sorry friend, but i am not the American to have my ass on a sofa. I am not your stupid American that is soft fat lazy naive and gullible.I am not a fucking progressive liberal socialist. I am a veteran, so i have been labeled by my Anti American Government as a domestic terrorist. Obama is no friend to the Ukraine he is only a friend to Muslim savage animals. The only thing you are correct about is George Bush. Bush is a Tyrant and those in his cabinet and in his circle were all Fascist Tyrants. My Country can thank him for The Patriot Act. that has taken much of our Liberty from us. I love my Flag and Constitution and i defend support and preserve it. I do not love or support people in my government that looks to collapse it Bush his father and grandfather were all Nazi supporters. You need to know the next time American politicians try to blow smoke up your ass about Democracy that they don’t know what they are talking about, because they have their head in their ass. The USA is not a Democracy now and it never was. The framers of The Constitution made sure this word was not use or that The USA. be a Democracy, because they knew it never works. The USA. is a Representative Constitutional Republic. I would love it for my Country to get out of The UN. and move the fucking building to a great Country like France Germany Russia or China. I would love for my Country to get out of NATO. Fuck Europe let them defend them selves and clean their own back yard. Russia now before the Soviet Union has always fucked The Ukraine what is new. This problem in The Ukraine started in 1924 when the Soviet was formed. It only got worse in 1991 when the fucking mighty Soviet came apart and they did not protect Russian people living in firmer SSR. They should have then opened the door and let the Russians to return to Russia. The only true reason Putin has not invaded The Ukraine is, because his fucking military is not The Red Army. Their weapons and equipment for the most part are 30 years behind The US.The soldiers are poorly trained while American military has much experience, because of the wars we are always in. Do not trust Obama for he like others now are controlled by the wealthy bankers and the American Industrial complex They will only act if they think there is money to make on the cause then the solution and Red Flag.

  • Charles J. Kollman
  • Guest

    Hitler is a great insipristion to the USA backed nazists that pro-USA oligarch that overtrhew the Ukrainian democracy and started the war against the Donbas civilian population – and example of these heroic new pro-USA Ukrainians are police chief and Rada memeber Andriy Biletsky, who believes Ukraine is in a struggle against jew lead subhumans for white aryan survivial.

    “Biletsky set forth the ideology of the Social-National Assembly. “From the mass of individuals must arise the Nation; and from weak modern man, Superman… The historic mission of our Nation in this watershed century is to lead the White Races of the world in the final crusade for their survival: a crusade against semite-led subhumanity… The task of the present generation is to create a Third Empire — Great Ukraine…”

    The parliament also contains a number of far-right figures, including Dmytro Yarosh, leader of the Right Sector movement, and Andriy Biletsky, who leads the Azov battalion,–war-east-mps

    “Ukraine crisis: the neo-Nazi brigade fighting pro-Russian separatists”

    • Bohdan Wynnycky

      Get lost you disgusting and degenerate Russian troll.

    • evanlarkspur

      As Bandera was forced to decide during the Second World War, even Nazis are preferable to Russians, much as we all hate Nazis. Just shows where you guys have placed yourselves in the grand scheme of things. Is it any wonder all your neighbors want to join alliances against you? Isn’t it time to grow up? We no longer have any patience for your brutal, desperate flailing for the respect you think is due you (despite all the evidence).

      • Mykola Potytorsky

        Didn’t Stalin sign the Molotov-Ribbentropp Non-Agression Pact with Nazi Germany? This signing triggered World War Two in Europe, this alliance between the soviets and the nazis lasted until Operation Barbarossa in June 1941.So effectively Stalin and the ussr were allies and collaborators with nazi Germany. That my friend is historical fact

        • evanlarkspur

          I believe you do have your facts right. I’m not sure how those facts have anything to do with my comment though, nor how my comment is thus out to lunch.


  • Cees Boogaart

    I just came here thru artcile

    “Chancellor Merkel announced that “Germany does not intend to sell arms to Ukraine since it considers that the conflict does not have a military solution and that diplomatic efforts must continue.”

    Thats true, BUT on Janyary 15, 2015, ALL EU-states signed a agreement to not sell
    but on lend-lease basis GIVE Ukraine weapons and instructors they want.

    The EU parliament gave the Ukrainian army potentially billions in military aid. It seems nobody really noticed but the EU parliament has voted that EU member states can deliver defensive weapons to Ukraine. The term defensive weapon leaves a lot of interpretation space. According to the US before they themselves entered WWII the term defensive weapons allowed delivery of combat planes, submarines and aircraft carriers to the UK But far more important they allow the exact same formula the US used for the UK at the time. The resolution reads “there are now no objections, including legal restrictions, for Member States to provide defensive arms to Ukraine, which could be based on a ‘lend-lease scheme,” Put simply Ukraine can borrow the equipment and should return it after the war is over. In theory they only have to pay for what they lose. EU armies can just take it out of stock or say order surveillance equipment to secure their own military installations and deliver it for now to Ukraine to protect its borders. The biggest benefit is that it no longer requires the special budgets which were hard to get.