The US Secretary of State John Kerry has spoken about the possible lifting of sanctions against Russia in the next several months if there is full and comprehensive implementation of the Minsk agreements.
This statement by John Kerry has given rise to numerous interpretations, even speculation that the sanctions against Russia will be lifted. However, the wishes of the US administration are not sufficient reason to believe that the Minsk agreements will be implemented.
Of course, Barack Obama would love to finish his term in office as a successful president. The politician who began his White House tenure with a Nobel Peace Prize simply cannot leave unresolved conflicts for his successor. This is why it is so important for Obama to stabilize relations with Iran and to lift sanctions against that country. For him, that kind of resolution is proof that complex security problems can be resolved without war.
In this manner Obama is demonstrating a different approach from that of his predecessor, George W. Bush. And if a “hot” conflict with Iran takes place after all it will be seen as the result of the short-sighted policies of future US presidents. Obama would never admit that this conflict could result from his own mistakes. Obama would like to use a similar approach with Russia. To use only sanctions — “soft power” — to force Russia to give up further expansion in Ukraine and to leave the Donbas. Even if it is only a formality. But Obama would be able to demonstrate once again that it is possible to negotiate even with such people as Putin. That it is even possible to influence them.
This, of course, implies more pressure on Ukraine to fulfill the Minsk agreements. But it does not mean that we have to give in to this pressure. Because I am convinced that Putin will not give Obama any opportunities. Putin will never agree to leave the Donbas on US terms. Only on his own. And for Obama to agree to these terms would mean to lose face instead of demonstrating success. The most recent negotiations between Vladislav Surkov and Victoria Nuland have demonstrated that once again.
This would be true even if the Europeans end up demonstrating “absence of unity” and remove sanctions against Russia and even in the event that the Minsk agreements are conditionally implemented without returning control of the border to Ukraine. The Americans will be able to agree to lift sanctions only when Ukraine really does regain control of the Donbas. John Kerri knows this very well and understands that lifting sanctions is not that simple.