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German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande flew to Moscow on Friday for an emergency meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin to try to put an end to the spiraling bloodshed in East Ukraine. The negotiations lasted five hours and were held “without the presence of aides and officials” to ensure confidentiality and to prevent leaks to the media. The striking absence of a US representative at the confab, when US Secretary of State John Kerry was less than an hour away in nearby Kiev, suggests that there may be a split between leaders in the EU and Washington on their approach to the crisis in Ukraine. While US politicians and diplomats are nearly unanimous in their support for providing so called “defensive” weapons to Ukraine, leaders in Europe oppose the idea. Merkel has been particularly outspoken on the topic, saying on Monday:

“I am firmly convinced this conflict cannot be solved with military means. I cannot imagine any situation in which improved equipment for the Ukrainian army leads to President Putin being so impressed that he believes he will lose militarily. I have to put it that bluntly.”

That’s a good call on Merkel’s part. Sending weapons to Ukraine will only add fuel to the fire. There’s also reason to believe that if Washington is allowed to move forward with its plan, the fighting will intensify and spread, the US will gradually increase its military and logistical support to Kiev, and a strategically-located state on Europe’s easternmost perimeter will descend into Somalia-like anarchy. While this scenario may be beneficial for the world’s only superpower, it’s hard to see the upside for Berlin or Paris both of who believe that their future prosperity depends on better relations with emerging markets in Asia. If Washington is allowed to take the lead and set policy, then Putin and Merkel’s shared dream of a free trade area “from Lisbon to Vladivostok” will be doomed, mainly because the US will position itself between the two continents where it will extort tribute on the transfer of energy, demand that business transactions be denominated in dollars, and maintain a lock on regional security. Europe does not need a rent-seeking hegemon –skimming dimes off every barrel of oil and meddling in regional security issues–to act as mediator with its business partners. Europe and Asia are quite capable of handling their own affairs, thank you very much. Here’s a little more background on Friday’s emergency meeting in Moscow:

“All the talk in the Western media yesterday and this morning is of a split between Europe and the US. That is going much too far. However for the first time there is public disagreement in Europe with Washington on the Ukrainian question. Whether that crystallizes into an actual break with Washington leading to a serious and sustained European attempt to reach a diplomatic solution to the Ukrainian crisis against Washington’s wishes is an altogether different question. I have to say that for the moment I very much doubt it.

I remain deeply pessimistic about this whole process. The best opportunity to settle this conflict diplomatically was last spring. I cannot help but feel that … the train has now left the station…

The besetting problem of this whole crisis is that the Europeans have never shown either the resolve or the realism to face the hardliners down though it is certainly within their power to do so. In Merkel’s case one has to wonder whether her heart is in it anyway. My view remains that this situation will only be resolved by war, and that the negotiations in Moscow will prove just another footnote to that.” (Talks in Moscow – a two-part analysis, Alexander Mercouris, The Vineyard of the Saker)

While it’s clear that Merkel is inflexible on the weapons issue, she is still solidly in the US camp. On Saturday, at the annual Munich Security Conference, Merkel expressed pessimism about her negotiations with Putin and proceeded to blast Moscow for alleged violations to “the foundations of our living together in Europe”… “first in Crimea, then in eastern Ukraine.” She also added that the “territorial integrity of Ukraine as well as its sovereignty have been flouted.” So, while the rhetoric might be a bit less incendiary than, let’s say, John McCain’s; there’s only the slightest difference in content.

On Wednesday, a meeting of the ‘Normandy Four’ (Putin, Merkel, Hollande, and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko) will take place in the Belarus capital of Minsk if–as Putin says, “we manage to agree on our positions.” This could turn out to be a sticking point since the terms of the original Minsk agreement will need to be altered to reflect changes on the ground. The Novorussian Armed Forces (NAF) have recently captured territory that they have no intention of giving up since it was seized after Poroshenko broke the terms of the original truce by launching an attack on the Donetsk airport in mid-January. Kiev will dispute this point, but probably not as vigorously as another provision introduced by Putin (which was leaked on Sunday by Hollande) for “a 50km-70km demilitarised zone along the front line.” Putin will probably insist that Russian troops maintain the DMZ between East and West Ukraine to discourage Kiev from future adventurism and to prevent further NATO expansion. The fact that neither Obama nor Merkel mentioned this key point in their press briefing on Monday suggests that both sides are miles apart on the issue. While Obama will probably veto the proposal on the grounds that it is a violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, Merkel might see the idea as the only reasonable way to separate the warring parties and bring the conflict to a swift end. (Although she would surely push for international peacekeepers to monitor the DMZ.) In any event, the issue is bound to be a bone of contention at Wednesday’s meeting which means that the Obama team will have tell their puppet Poroshenko what to say when the proposal comes up.

The question is whether, on this particular point, Merkel and Hollande will deviate from the US position and offer their reluctant support for Putin’s demilitarized zone?

Why would they do that?

Because the Ukrainian economy is collapsing, (The country needs $50 billion in emergency funding.) the currency is in freefall (The hryvnia lost half its value just last week) and the Ukrainian army is at the brink of annihilation. At present, a small army of 7,000 Ukrainian regulars is holed-up in a strategic railway-hub called Debaltsevo in east Ukraine. The troops have been cut off from their supply-lines and are surrounded by heavily-armed battle-hardened veterans of the NAF who are tightening the loose by the day. The impending bloodbath could take place at any time.. According to the Financial Times, a defeat in Debaltsevo could be a “breaking point” in the war in Ukraine. “At stake is control over regional railway shipments of coal mined in rebel-held territory on which Ukraine’s electricity generators and export-oriented steel sector depend.” The situation is desperate and likely to get worse. Kiev is very close to losing the war in the east. The losses to the army, the economy and to morale are bound to be devastating.

So time is running out for Poroshenko and his crew. If Merkel doesn’t push through a peace agreement on Wednesday–even one she doesn’t like or that may be politically unpopular–then hostilities will resume, the hawks will get the upper hand, the Obama administration will sends weapons and trainers to the theatre, and the US will use the deepening crisis as an excuse to seize the initiative and take things to the next level, a level that will inflict so much damage on the Donbass, that Putin will be forced to deploy troops to protect Russian-speaking people in the conflict area. That will transform a manageable proxy war on the eastern perimeter into a full-blown confrontation between nuclear-armed adversaries.

Merkel must see the danger or she wouldn’t have rushed off to Moscow last Friday. But seeing isn’t enough. Something has to be done. What’s she going to do about it? Will she use her influence to muscle through a peace deal that will keep events from spinning out of control or will she sit on her hands and let the opportunity pass her bye?

Carpe diem, Angela. Carpe diem.

MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at [email protected].

(Republished from Counterpunch by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Merkel, Russia, Ukraine 
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  1. Will she use her influence to muscle through a peace deal that will keep events from spinning out of control or will she sit on her hands and let the opportunity pass her bye

    Firstly, Merkel is dumber than a box of rocks; going along with putting the squeeze on the Russian economy and issuing ultimatums to Putin. Secondly, Merkel is a coward who dare not stand up to the USA and has made that clear on multiple occasions, including this one; when she’d exited her meeting with Obama and stated Americans supplying weapons to Ukraine would not fundamentally alter Germany’s relationship with the USA. Thirdly, Merkel doesn’t have the necessary ‘muscle’ to insure any peace deal; where the Americans have shown time and again they will push Kiev into further provocations and sabotage of any agreements. What a worthless article.

    http://ronaldthomaswest.com/2014/08/17/ukraine-for-dummies/

    ^

    • Replies: @reiner Tor
  2. They had farms and factories and now with $50 billion in new debt they can be a welfare client state and host economic conferences and be another socialist basket case.

  3. Well, you know, to quote Queen Victoria, “F— the E.U.”

  4. While I’m sickened by Slav killing Slav, I would dearly love to know how many Yankee “advisors” there might be trapped in the cauldron, although I suspect they left in the civilian evacuation, dressed as babushkas.

  5. @Ronald Thomas West

    If only Merkel were dumb. She stands for things quite diametrically opposed to my views. She’s also extremely smart and able. Being a smart enemy is quite bad, much worse than being a dumb friend, or even a dumb enemy.

    • Replies: @Ronald Thomas West
  6. Hail says: • Website

    Article: “Putin will be forced to deploy troops to protect Russian-speaking people in the conflict area

    No. Putin has already deployed many / donated countless millions’ worth of equipment. Think. How can “local militia” get access to tanks, sophisticated missile systems?

    Furthermore, the Azov Regiment recently retook several villages near the Black Sea coast after a long “rebel” occupation — The local pro-Ukrainians welcomed them (Azov’s reputation as Ukrainian nationalists precede them; the unit was formed by Right Sector) and spoke of “East Asian looking” occupying forces with Russian accents who had retreated following the attack.

    See here: http://t.co/xG7j9j7gfi
    And here (photos of East Asian looking “rebels”) fighting in Ukraine.

    There are no people who look anything close to this in Ukraine. These are Russians (by state, not ethnicity) from the Far East.

    • Replies: @annamaria
  7. bob sykes says:

    The most important part of the Minsk conference is that both the US and UK were excluded. The UK has not been excluded from a European security conference since the Napoleonic wars, and the US since WW II.

    What this means is that US domination of western Europe has been replaced by German domination of western Europe. NATO is a dead letter, and the EU is, as it always has been, a German colony, from which Germany extracts wealth.

    Europe as a whole is now run by the German-Russian entente. Putin’s dream of a Eurasian community reaching from Lisbon to Vladisvostok is alive and well.

    The UK is thoroughly marginalized and has no future in Europe. Whatever future it does have lies in the Anglosphere.

    • Replies: @Hail
    , @fnn
  8. Hail says: • Website
    @bob sykes

    US domination of western Europe has been replaced by German domination

    Interesting comment. Looking at some GDP numbers may help for comparison of the world of the 2010s.

    2013 GDP Totals (CIA)
    Germany: $3.23 trillion
    Rest of EU: $12.62 trillion
    Russia: $2.55 trillion
    Ukraine: $0.34 trillion
    ___________________
    USA: $16.72 trillion
    China: $13.39 trillion
    Japan: $4.73 trillion
    South Korea: $1.66 trillion

    Germany’s economy alone is comfortably bigger than Russia’s. Russia’s is only 150% as large as little South Korea’s. But Russia packs a punch and has resources. Ukraine’s paltry 0.34 trillion will be insignificant to the big players who think at this level.

  9. fnn says:
    @bob sykes

    EU/Germany has the temporary illusion of sovereignty because the current POTUS is feckless. Unfortunately, this will change when the next occupant of the WH takes over.

  10. unit472 says:

    A thinking person has to wonder what is the point of the combat operations still going on in Eastern Ukraine. The area has been depopulated and the infrastructure and economy destroyed. There isn’t a whole lot left to ‘govern’ in the Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics and Russia with its economy forecast to contract by more than 5% this year certainly doesn’t have the wherewithal to rebuild them even if the fighting were to end today. Crimea, if not physically destroyed, is economically moribund and until Putin’s $5 billion dollar bridge to the mainland built, physically and economically isolated from its new ‘motherland’. Putin has awarded a contract to build the bridge to one of his cronies and wants it done by 2018 but this guy has never built a bridge before and to make your first effort one of the world’s biggest audacious to say the least.

    Given the cost to Russia’s reputation, international relations and its economy Putin’s gamble in Ukraine seems to have had a pitiful return. Its doubtful Crimea’s tourist industry will ever return to its antebellum level as Russian sovereignty is not recognized by anyone and airlines and cruise ships don’t schedule flights or make port calls into disputed territories. Even a land route carved out by military conquest would do little to ease Crimea’s isolation as only Russian trade would take advantage of such a route and were such a conquest to take place Russia would face even tighter sanctions and international opprobrium.

    Like I said, one has to wonder.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
    , @annamaria
  11. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @unit472

    One does. One is suspicious like that. Good looking out Unit472, if that is your real name…

  12. annamaria says:
    @Hail

    “Azov battalion is one of several volunteer battalions funded in part by Ukraine oligarch Ihor Kolomoyskyi… The battalion’s commander is Andriy Biletsky is also the head of two neo-Nazi political groups, Patriot of Ukraine and Social-National Assembly.”
    Kolomoysky has a triple Ukrainian-Israeli-Cyprus citizenship.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Azov_Battalion

    • Replies: @Hail
  13. annamaria says:
    @unit472

    Think about the Federal Reserve’ desire to maintain the US dollar supremacy by any cost.
    You may also want to ponder on the immense losses that Russia suffered during the WWII: Russians have strong memories of foreign invasions.
    Russian diplomats say again and again that Russia is not interested in Ukrainian territories. Recall that the crisis started with the active involvement of the State Department representatives (the infamous Nuland’s cookies) and with arrival of the CIA Director Brennan to Kiev with instructions to begin military actions against East Ukrainians that were asking for federalization.

    • Replies: @unit472
  14. Andrei Martyanov [AKA "SmothieX12"] says: • Website

    Europe in general, and Germany in particular, are not serious global players anymore.

    http://smoothiex12.blogspot.com/2015/02/how-west-was-lost-on-visit-of-merkel.html

  15. unit472 says:
    @annamaria

    The ‘crisis’ , as you call it, began when Putin sent in his ‘little green men’ to annex the territory of another nation or maybe some years earlier when a Ukrainian presidential candidate was poisoned by parties unknown but consistent with methods used by Russian secret agents.

    The fate of Yanukovich was no ‘crisis’. The same year the democratically elected leader of Egypt was chased from power by mobs in Tahrir Square and Thailands democratically elected prime minister was also chased from office after large scale protests over corruption in that large nation. It isn’t an uncommon political event and foreign nations use their influence to affect the outcome. Its called diplomacy. Look it up if you unfamiliar with the term. Russia, for example, has arranged funding for Marine Le Pen’s National Front in France, Libya is said to have financed French president Sarkozy and Bill Clinton received funding from Asian nations laundered through Charlie Tree, Buddhist monks and other people and groups to cite just a few well known examples. This is how nations in the modern world try to gain influence with other governments.

    Putin however decided he has a veto over the foreign policy decisions of countries on his borders. He will decide which international organizations they can and cannot belong to. That is the ‘crisis’ not who the president of Ukraine is.

    • Replies: @Kiza
    , @Seamus Padraig
  16. Kiza says:
    @unit472

    You do not really deserve a response, because you are an amateur (unpaid) troll who tried to pass himself off before under at least two different nicks on unz.com. You deliver to this website the “established government truths” from Western propaganda MSM, whilst the mission of this website is to provide counter-versions. Yet I will bother to debunk a few of your statements easily by showing how your arguments, which are your government’s arguments, are always one-sided.

    First, spending $5B on a regime change in Ukraine was “diplomacy” as you call it? Why does the US political system have a strict set of rules and reporting requirements regarding foreign donations into the US political system and requirements for registration of “foreign agents” in the US? Why is there an outcry when a US politician is caught with a minute amount of Chinese money? It is well known that the US spends almost $1B each year on the political system in Russia (through NED etc), which until recently did not have a law requiring registration of Russian politicians and organizations receiving money from the outside. I guess, your point is that influencing/changing government is “diplomacy” when the US does it, but it is “little green men” when someone else does it.

    Second, the US and its servant, the EU, are terribly keen for Russia to respect a transfer of a part of its territory and an internal USSR border drawn by a Ukrainian Communist Khrushchev in 1953, but not keen to respect the democratically elected Ukrainian government of Yanukovych, where it organized and managed a military coup. It is actually funny how your and MSM’s history of Ukraine starts from the Crimean referendum which is called annexation and Russian defense of its military base is referred to as “Russian aggression”. Because you and the Western MSM are peddling the version of events fit for people with an attention span of a dog and the knowledge of history of a real-estate agent. Also, bully always calls his victim’s defense “an aggression”.

    I do not think that anyone here really craves to read your version of events, because we all have a TV, can visit media websites and can buy Western newspapers. You are just repeating the official version, which we all know.

    • Replies: @Seamus Padraig
    , @Hail
    , @unit472
  17. @unit472

    The fate of Yanukovich was no ‘crisis’.

    Those who voted for him (Russian-speaking Ukrainians, for example) might beg to differ with you. Within 48 hours of the coup, the rump-Rada (packed with ultra-nationalist delegates) decided to revoke Yanukovych’s language law–the one that protected Russian’s official status in Ukraine. That’s what triggered the secession motion in the Crimean parliament.

  18. @Kiza

    Kiza’s right. It would be illegal under US electoral law for a foreign country or lobby to do in America, what America routinely does in so many other countries. In fact, some of us want AIPAC to be declared a foreign lobby, too.

  19. Hail says: • Website
    @annamaria

    I will thank you for not citing Wiki, which is at its most hysterically unreliable on precisely issues like these. It is at least as likely to be wrong (or slanted enough to be called so) as right on this kind of matter.

  20. Hail says: • Website
    @Kiza

    the mission of this website is to provide counter-versions

    So Unz is a “conspiracy only” website? I think this is quite wrong. Plausible “conspiratorial” views are entertained, but “conspiracy theory for its own sake” is not the purpose. The purpose is finding the truth, surely. Sometimes MSM actually is wrong. Sometimes right.

    • Replies: @Kiza
  21. unit472 says:
    @Kiza

    I realize you are not very bright and thus your obvious anger and hatred towards me ( and the US ) as well as your totalitarian mindset in which you believe you are the arbiter of what others on this website are interested in. I might even agree with you that the majority here support Russia. Russia always seems to have an assortment of front groups and useful idiots abroad much as does Israel.

    As I pointed out foreign leaders are driven from office all the time by popular demonstrations and uprisings. I mentioned the leaders of Egypt and Thailand who were also driven from office last year. I don’t see any great effort being mounted on their behalf in the US media though. There is something peculiar though about the fate of the clearly corrupt Mr. Yanukovich being driven from power that I have not seen since Salvador Allende. Obviously both were supported by the Kremlin and could expect to be the beneficiaries of Kremlin propaganda organs and disinformation campaigns unlike say, Ferdinand Marcos, the Shah or more recently Mohammed Morsi. The why of this is what I find interesting. I’m sorry you don’t even though you seem to be a part of it. What is especially puzzling is that neither the Kremlin or Mr. Yanukovich himself, who is alive and, hopefully, well in Russia seem eager to have him restored to power or even to allow him to speak publicly on his own behalf. Instead we have you.

    • Replies: @Kiza
    , @annamaria
  22. Kiza says:
    @unit472

    I will ignore the personal insults, but the topic of “popular uprisings” is an interesting one. Anyone with the most basic political education and even a cursory knowledge of history laughs at the term created for the Western brainwashing of its own population. Simply, never in recent history ever was there any “uprising” without a system, organization, highly trained individuals and lots and lost of money. This applied to Lenin’s communist revolution as much as it applies today to any “popular revolution” organised by the CIA and the State Department, including two in Ukraine and one in Georgia. The modern revolutionary know-how has been summarized by Gene Sharp, the founder of the so called Albert Einstein Institution. This “professor emeritus” has created a rule-book of the regime change for the US Government, popularly referred to as color revolutions (that is, color branded revolutions). Most of North African and Middle Eastern revolutions, including Egypt’s have followed Gene’s rule-book.

    A color revolution in Russia is the ultimate goal of the Ukraine crisis: weaken Russia through a war on its border, sanctions, military pressure (NATO forces on Russian borders and US military inside Ukraine), economic and financial pressure (Saudi attack on oil price) and then finally a paid color revolution inside Russia (if the Ukrainian one cost US $5B, then the Russian one would cost US probably around $30B). Yet, Russia’s resources are worth at least 1000 time that much. The color chosen for the previous attempt at color revolution in Russia was white, but it turned out a total fizzer when it was attempted a few years ago.

    Russia is by far the largest and the most difficult target for a color revolution. So far, Gene’s book has been applied only on much smaller and weaker countries. I could never imagine it succeeding on Russia but the US is desperately trying to prepare the conditions. But, even the Western financed public opinion research in Russia shows Putin’s popularity at 80-90%. Thus, a nuclear war is more likely than a “government change” in Russia by the US.

  23. a German says:

    Merkel? Forget her. She always “hängt ihre Fahne nach dem Wind” literally to hang her flag in the wind or to float with the tide or to to trim her sails to the wind or whatever speech in your country describes an mega-opportunist.

    Current action is made to fathom what will be her next turn (possible your deja vué targeting another person i will call the pi.. price president). Siblings in bad spirit, but that’s how it is.

    Putin and her didn’t need other people, he’s speaking German she Russian, which she’s learned in the GDR (the communist part of the divided “Old Germany”. There she was an FDJ – the communist party youth organization) official- Later, in the former UdssR on apprentice or so, for a few years.

    She nows that the USofA gets nervous if she only makes one step in direction to Russia. So she pretend to avoid. But due to the stupid irrational policy Washington made in the Ukraine the options flows to her. The USA drifts in a loose lose position again she has only to wait and she – like all the GDR people- learned to wait.

    That is easy to see and Berlin has a lot of first class analyzers hidden to the public. The buy the cream of the cream over here.

    This opens a lot of bad opportunities. US is on decline, Berlin is always perfect in one dimensional power opportunities, but silly in statesmanship and the rest has no clue.

    At this very moment Russia is the best gamer on the “Grad chessboard” and in need for peace. Crazy enough we have to hope that they will win.

    My2cts.

  24. Kiza says:
    @Hail

    Who can argue with your monologue? You call it a “conspiracy” and then draw all your own conclusions from this.

    I have written before that in the political domain the Western MSM lie 99.9%. Therefore, those who really want to find the “truth” do need a counterpoint of view that this site provides. But if one ventures outside of the domain of the permitted “official truths”, he is immediately disparagingly labeled by the US Government, the regime’s MSM and some nonappointed defenders like you as “conspiracy theorist“. This is the same as the communist regimes used to call anyone digressing from their “established truths” as “morally and politically warped“, to quickly and effectively disqualify them from participation in any public discourse. Put a label on and kill the discussion – you win. It is amazing how all semi-totalitarian and totalitarian regimes use the same techniques, isn’t it?

  25. annamaria says:
    @unit472

    “obvious anger and hatred towards me ( and the US ) as well as your totalitarian mindset…”
    So you identify yourself as a sole representative of the US and imply that you have the superbly independent ways of thinking.. Interesting. But your posts show no difference with MSM propaganda. The MSM is of course owned by a handful of mega-corporations and MSM functions strictly in the interests of the “haves.” You are a dream come true for the big-time propagandists of mainstream media.
    Just out of curiosity: Do you believe that we should trust Cheney that Saudis had nothing to do with 9/11 and that we should stop demanding declassification of the 9/11 report, particularly certain 28 pages? Do you believe that Dick Cheney is the greatest patriot of the US?

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