With their noses out of joint and egos bruised, the United States and its European lieutenants immediately got to work to undermine the Minsk ceasefire deal by twisting the terms of the accord and seeking to frame Russia for its imminent failure.
A Washington Post headline set the pace with this headline hours after the Minsk negotiations wrapped up in the Belarus capital. ‘Putin announces ceasefire with Ukraine,’ declared the Post, mendaciously implicating Russia as a protagonist in the year-old conflict, which, it is inferred, is now suing for a peace settlement.
US Secretary of State John Kerry, along with trusty British and Polish allies, warned Russia of more sanctions if the Minsk truce was not «fully implemented».
«The United States is prepared to consider rolling back sanctions on Russia when the Minsk agreements of September 2014, and now this agreement, are fully implemented,» Kerry said in a statement.
In other words, Washington is still peddling the hoary narrative that Moscow is an aggressor and is to blame for the conflict. Rolling back sanctions «when» Minsk is «fully implemented» is the US giving itself a licence to covertly sabotage the ceasefire at every turn and to maintain its unwarranted sanctions on Russia, as well as following up on promised supply of weapons to the Kiev regime.
There seems little doubt that the Americans are reeling from the diplomatic coup that Russian President Vladimir Putin pulled off in Minsk this week, along with German and French leaders, Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande.
Amid threats from the US last week that it was going to flood Ukraine with more heavy weapons, Putin and his European counterparts managed to broker a ceasefire to the conflict after marathon 17-hour negotiations. The truce is to be implemented this weekend and, it has to be said, constitutes only a slim prospect of bringing the civil war in Ukraine to a halt. It is fraught with many thorny issues, such as withdrawal of fighting units on both sides and the accepted definition of a demarcation line. The autonomous status of the separatist Donbas region is also far from clear, or whether Kiev is prepared to follow up with mutual negotiations with the breakaway ethnic Russian population.
Nevertheless, the mere agreement, in principle, by the Kiev regime and the pro-separatist rebels of the eastern Ukrainian region is a welcome chance for a cessation in violence that has cost nearly 5,500 lives and more than one million refugees. That Putin, along with Merkel and Hollande, managed to achieve this tentative breakthrough is something of a feat in diplomatic skills and commitment. The development also tends to negate the official Western narrative that purports to paint Russia as an aggressor and threat to European peace.
The Minsk deal properly frames the conflict as a civil war between the Kiev regime and the Donbas separatists, which Russia is trying to dampen by acting as a facilitator of negotiations between the warring sides.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was on the mark when he said after the Minsk talks that Russia is a guarantor of the peace deal, not a party obliged to fulfil its implementation. He reiterated that Moscow is not a participant in the conflict, as Western media have, and continue, to assert.
«Russia is the country that was called by the parties of the conflict,» said Peskov. «This is the country that called on the parties of the conflict to sign a complex of measures to fulfil the Minsk agreements. But Russia is not one of the parties to fulfil these measures. This is the country that is acting as the guarantor, that comes forward with a call, but, obviously, it’s not a party that needs to take any actions for [the fulfilment]. We simply can’t do this physically because Russia is not a participant in the conflict,» added the Kremlin spokesman.
It was left to the British premier David Cameron and the ex-Polish president Donald Tusk to undermine the latest Minsk chance for peace by casting aspersions on Russia and re-framing the conflict as one of external aggression on Ukraine.
Cameron talked, with typical British haughtiness, of Putin needing to change his behaviour, while Tusk added to the narrative of demonising the Russian leader by insinuating that he is not trustworthy.
Cameron, speaking at an EU summit in Brussels on Thursday, said: «If this is a genuine ceasefire, then of course that would be welcome. But what matters most of all is actually actions on the ground rather than just words on a piece of paper. I think we should be very clear that Putin needs to know that unless his behaviour changes, the sanctions we have in place won’t be altered.»
Tusk, who is now the European Council President, said: «If [the Minsk agreement] does not happen we will not hesitate to take the necessary steps. Our trust in the goodwill of President Putin is limited. This is why we have to maintain our decision on sanctions.»
Given that the Western-backed Kiev regime has serially violated past ceasefires, which led to the latest escalation of violence, it would be naive to expect that the latest peace bid will be honoured. The Kiev junta has been emboldened to prosecute its criminal war against the Donbas population because of the unswerving political, financial and military support that Washington has indulged. Massive, systematic war crimes by Kiev have been whitewashed and absolved by Washington with spurious, unfounded claims of «Russian aggression».
This is because the US-backed regime-change operation in Ukraine that brought the Kiev junta to power last February is fundamentally predicated on Washington’s long-term objective of destabilising Russia. That is why the prospects of a ceasefire being implemented are something of an oxymoron. A peace settlement in Ukraine would only be an impediment to Washington’s geopolitical objective of undermining Russia.
The criminal regime in Kiev has become something of a specialist in committing false flag terrorist atrocities, which it and its Western sponsors then duly attribute to «Russian-backed rebels». The massacre in Donetsk on January 21, in Mariupol on January 24, and this week in Kramatorsk, in which up to 17 people were killed from Smerch rockets, have all the hallmarks of false-flag operations perpetrated by the US-backed, trained and equipped Kiev regime forces.
In the Kramatorsk incident, on the eve of the Minsk summit, the Kiev regime claimed that the Smerch rockets were fired from separatist-held Gorlovka, which is 80 kilometres away, and the outer limit of the munition’s range. The separatists denied the attack, saying that they do not target civilian areas. Hours after the massacre, Kiev President Petro Poroshenko arrived in Kramatorsk for photo-opportunities with victims lying on hospital beds. That Poroshenko would hurry to a town that is under fire is doubtful if the rebel threat was real. Also speaking as if from a script, he said: «It is savages who use cluster bombs against civilians. It is a crime against humanity when civilians are killed by Russian weapons in their homes.»
The next day, the «outraged» Poroshenko was in Minsk warmly shaking hands with Putin. So much for Russia war crimes.
To say that the latest ceasefire will be easily sabotaged is an understatement, given the past conduct of the Kiev regime. All it has to do is to keep fighting and committing crimes and that will be «evidence» of Russia not implementing Minsk. That will then allow Washington and its dutiful British and Polish allies, along with the obliging Western news media propagandists, to blame Russia for the failure in «fully implementing» the ceasefire. More American weapons can then be funnelled into Ukraine and more sanctions ratcheted up.
Russian President Vladimir Putin deserves huge credit for showing statesmanlike leadership over the Ukraine crisis. The trouble is that the Americans are playing a very different and dirty game in which there are no rules to abide by.