WASHINGTON – The net outcome of the Minsk (Belarus) negotiations about the future of Eastern Ukraine is that Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (with much delay that unnecessarily added to Ukraine’s misery) finally acquiesced to give up the Eastern Provinces. Assuming no major trouble in implementing the cease-fire or other problems, when the dust will finally settle, for all practical purposes, the East is gone.
Of course, the agreement says no such thing. But it does say that the Kiev government agrees to grant large autonomies to the rebel-controlled territories, including the ability to conduct business with Russia through their own channels. There are also face-saving provisions including the indication that Ukraine will once again control its external border. (I am not so sure how).
Leaving all the details aside, the substance of this deal is that Petro Poroshenko has agreed to grant de facto independence to the East. This is what “autonomy” means in this context. This is a defeat for Kiev.
However, as I wrote in previous pieces on this matter, there is no reasonable alternative outcome for this crisis. The rebels have an “issue”. They are ethnic Russians. They do not like the Kiev government. They get help, money, arms and more from the Russians who are close by, on the other side of the border.
Ukraine gets almost nothing from Europe or America, unless you want to mention meals ready to eat, blankets, and socks (yes, socks, this is not a joke) from the US Government.
The truly sad thing in all this is that this inevitable end could have been arrived at months ago. In fact, the proverbial “writing” was on “the wall” from the very beginning of this crisis in the East of Ukraine that followed the Russian annexation of Crimea.
The East is gone
Going forward, even if this agreement fails, (if there are major problems in implementing the cease-fire and what not), the scenario is still the same.
Ukraine is outgunned and outspent. The Russians in the East want to secede. And Putin intends to assist them. There is nothing that Poroshenko can do –all by himself– to reverse this.
Focus on the economy
Let me repeat what I sad before. This “amputation” is painful. But it is in the end unavoidable. And Kiev needs to move on. If this civil war has been costly and messy, fixing the national economy of an impoverished country will be much harder.
Therefore, better start now!