By Theodore Shoebat
Russia and Ukraine are expected to conduct prisoner exchange, although the exact list of prisoners has not yet been concluded. According to Radio Free Europe:
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has said that while a prisoner swap is “supposed to” take place on December 29, the list of individuals to be handed over between central Ukrainian authorities and Russia-backed separatists has not been finalized.
The notion of an “all-for-all” prisoner exchange gained momentum during peace talks in Paris on December 9 among the so-called Normandy Four — Ukraine, Russia, France, and Germany — trying to bring an end to the five-year conflict.
“There is supposed to be an exchange [of prisoners] tomorrow,” Zelenskiy told journalists during a visit to Ukraine’s Ivano-Frankivsk region for a bridge opening on December 28, according to his official website.
“We look forward to this. The verification of all people is not completed yet,” Zelenskiy added.
This prisoner exchange is part of the Normandy talk which is being orchestrated by France and Germany as part of the Steinmeier Formula part of which is the recognition of autonomy of two regions in eastern Ukraine, Donetsk and Luhansk. In a recent report from Ukrinform, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry believes that the Steinmeier Formula can be applied through the Ukrainian government:
Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Vasyl Bodnar said this in Ukraine’s parliament on Friday, according to an Ukrinform correspondent.
“The Steinmeier formula provides for the enactment of a special status law after elections. This should be spelled out in the text of the law [on the peculiarities of local self-governance in certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions]. That is, there should be a separate law on changes to the existing law, which states the wording when this law comes into force after the elections. Changes to the law are the way to incorporate [the Steinmeier formula] into Ukrainian legislation,” Bodnar said.
He added that these changes would be discussed and approved by the Verkhovna Rada.
“For its part, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will simply be involved in working out the technical part of implementing this arrangement [by the Normandy Four countries] into the text,” the diplomat said.
The Germans and French want to oversee a peace process between Kiev and Moscow. Hinging on this peace process is the Steinmeier Formula which Zelensky announced, on October 1st of 2019, that he had signed.
The Steinmeier Formula is a roadmap for peace, supposedly, and calls for local elections in the areas of Donbass occupied by the separatists and for these areas to be given recognition as special autonomous regions. This would be a major concession to Russia on the part of Ukraine, which is to the ire of Ukrainian nationalists of which there are legion. In fact, this is exactly what happened in the middle of October. Thousands of nationalists and Nazis gathered together in Kiev to rally against Zelensky’s signing of the Steinmeier agreement. Around 15,000 people, holding up their Ukrainian flags, assembled in one of several nationalist gatherings. “Glory to Ukraine!” they chanted. “No capitulation!”
“What price is Zelenskiy ready to pay? He’s ready to sell all of us out to make peace with Russia. And will not be silent,” said 46-year-old veteran Taras Volochko. “Withdrawing troops is a catastrophe for the country. Russia is using the situation to seize the territories we withdraw from,” Andriy Biletsky, head of the far-right group National Corps, told the Associated Press. The leader of one of the head organizations of the protests, Veterans’ Brotherhood, said that Zelensky had a closed door meeting with nationalists but noted that the president has “no plan.”
The nationalists are enraged at the idea of Zelensky capitulating to Russia and possibly allowing for Russian puppet states being carved out within Ukraine. Zelensky looks weak before the Americans, and on top of that, he looks weak in the face of the Russians. This perception of Zelensky is fanning the flames of the nationalists, and the current hysteria surrounding Ukraine could actually act as a catalyst towards a radicalization of the country.
It would not be shocking at all to find out that the Americans know this and understand that by using Zelensky as a political tool they would intensify the sparks of nationalism in Ukraine. Lets remember that when the Americans had the Shah travel to New York for medical attention they knew that it would spark an anti-American revolt amongst the masses in Tehran. Not just this, but Carter himself knew that militants would take the US embassy in Tehran if the Shah was brought to New York. Carter, pressured by Kissinger and David Rockefeller, reportedly asked the question, “What are you going to recommend that we do when they take our embassy and hold our people hostage?” Such words prove that the Americans knew the consequences of their actions. The question is, does the US understand that they are making Zelensky look weak and that this could give leverage to the nationalists?
The Steinmeier Formula goes back to the Minsk agreements which took place in September of 2014 and February of 2015, in which Russia and Ukraine held a peace meeting in Belarus, overseen by Germany and France. The Minsk agreements affirmed that both Ukraine and the Russian backed separatists would withdraw their troops and military equipment from Donbass and Kiev would grant amnesty to enemy combatants who did not commit egregious war crimes.
The Minsk agreements stipulated the pulling out of “all foreign armed formations, military equipment, as well as mercenaries” from Ukrainian territory; and they called for the restoration of Kiev’s control over its border with Russia in that area. The Minsk agreements did lower the intensity of the fighting, but it did not stop it altogether. The reason for this was how ambiguous and vague the agreements were written, allowing for each party to interpret what was said to their own advantage. But in 2016, Frank-Walter Steinmeier — then Germany’s foreign minister, currently the country’s president — proposed for a simplified version of the Minsk agreements in order to really halt the fighting (supposedly). Steinmeier’s formula specifically advances the action of elections in separatist-held territories within Donbass; the elections would be superintended by Ukrainian legislation and supervised by the OSCE (the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe). If the OSCE determines that the elections were duly done, then (in the words of Radio Free Europe) “a special self-governing status for the territories will be initiated and Ukraine will be returned control of its easternmost border.”
The agreement was signed on October 1 by representatives of Ukraine, Russia, the separatist territories of Luhansk and Donetsk, and the OSCE in Minsk. Zelensky agreed that the formula would allow for elections in Donbass but that this could only happen after Russia’s withdraws her forces and Ukraine regains control of its border with Russia. “There won’t be any elections under the barrel of a gun,” Zelenskiy said. “There won’t be any elections there if the troops are still there.” He added that “there will be no capitulation.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov,said that parties to the conflict had signed on to the Steinmeier Formula, and that the Russian government saw this as a positive sign that the peace process could actually happen. He added: “There is no doubt that this is an important step toward implementing the earlier agreements. … Hopefully, the implementation of the Minsk agreements will continue, since this is the only way to resolve the Ukrainian conflict in the country’s east”. What Moscow likes about the Steinmeier agreement is that it allows for elections in the areas occupied by forces backed by Russia which would then lead to a recognition of autonomous states within Donbass. In fact, Putin refused to meet with Zelensky unless he agreed to allow elections in Donbass. A person briefed on Zelensky’s thinking told Foreign Policy that the Ukrainian president signed on to the Steinmeier Formula as a political concession to France and Germany. Now, if Zelensky is willing to compromise with Germany, it makes sense that this is why Trump was trying to dissuade him from the Germans.
Berlin is on board to have the peace process commence. Now that Zelensky has signed for the Steinmeier agreement, Germany’s Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas sees a path for “further stages in the implementation of the Minsk Agreement”. This is the same Heiko Maas who wants Germany to become independent from American hegemony. Maas once said: “It is therefore essential that we strengthen European autonomy by setting up payment channels independent of the U.S., creating a European Monetary Fund and building an independent SWIFT system.” Maas has explicitly called for the formation of a European “New World Order” “In which we form a counterweight when the US crosses the line.” Maas also called for a Germany militarily independent from the US, writing: “Now it is important to build a European security and defense union step by step — as part of trans-Atlantic security and as a separate European project for the future.”
The Germans want to use Ukraine for their own geopolitical advantage, thus their own interests go counter to those of the Americans. Hence why Trump told Zelensky: “Germany does almost nothing for you”. The Americans want to control Ukraine, but the Germans are working to bypass American hegemony to control Ukraine themselves. The Steinmeier agreement would give Russia a further footing into Ukraine, thus if Germany gets its peace process it would be an advantage to Russia and a disaster for the American empire. We are currently seeing the attempt to crumble the American Empire.
If the Steinmeier Formula is actually implemented, it would allow for the creation of an autonomous regions consisting of mostly ethnic Russians that would be a puppet for Moscow. It would essentially become a Russian territory. Now that Russia controls Crimea which borders with the Black Sea, a Steinmeier situation would give Russia further leverage over the Sea of Azov, and it would shut off the other main route into the Volga Basin, which is by way of Krasnodar Krai and it would shut off the main transportation rout to Volgograd, once known as Stalingrad where that infamous battle in which over a million Russians died fighting the Germans during the Second World War.
But here lies another thing to think about in regards to this Russo-Germanic deal over Ukraine: if the Steinmeier agreement gets actually carried out, and a new Russian puppet state is formed in Eastern Ukraine, the Germans and Russians would essentially be carving out Ukraine, kind of like how the Soviet Union and Germany carved out Poland. What is currently taking place in Eastern Europe is really presaging another ruthlessly dark era in that part of the world — we are talking about war within Europe, a third world war. But this is not only our estimation. In Poland, officials have in fact been warning about how Germany’s and Russia’s deal to have a natural gas pipeline between Russia and Europe could lead to a potential revival of the Third Reich’s and the Soviet Union’s agreement to control Poland.
In 2006, Poland’s Defense Minister, Radek Sikorski, compared a pipeline deal between Germany and Russia to the Molotov-Ribbentrop deal in which the Third Reich and the Soviet Union agreed on controlling and annihilating Poland:
“Poland has a particular sensitivity to corridors and deals above our head. That was the Locarno tradition, that was the Molotov-Ribbentrop tradition. That was the 20th century. We don’t want any repetition of that”
In 2017, Poland’s former Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki warned:
“Once Nord Stream 2 is built, Putin can do with Ukraine whatever he wants, and then we have potentially his army on the eastern border of the EU.”
If Germany and Russia can agree on a peace treaty in Ukraine, it would deepen the relationship between the two countries and it could, down the line, better economic ties between Moscow and Berlin, which could better guarantee the creation of the Nord Stream 2 Pipeline, which would bring natural gas from Russia to the European Union (ran by Germany). For decades the United States has been worried about European independence on Russia for energy.
Berlin has been pushing for pipeline deals with Moscow going all the way back to the 1970s. This consternation over a pipeline between Russia and Germany continued in both the Bush and Obama administrations. In the words of Jon Perr:
“While the Carter and Reagan administrations fretted then about the prospect of Soviet leverage over Bonn, Presidents Bush and Obama worried about a Russian economic stranglehold over Germany with the building of the first Nord Stream pipeline project which became operational in 2011.”
The Trump administration has also expressed worry about the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. President Trump himself said that “it really makes Germany a hostage to Russia.”
Just recently the Danish government gave its approval for the construction of the pipeline on her territory, which means that pipeline is months away from completion. With the pipeline fully established and running it would provide an economic security for Russia that would empower her. With Russia controlling Crimea and advancing on the Black Sea, and with her having expedient transport of her natural gas into the EU, Russia would have the confident position to further advance into Ukraine; and if the Steinmeier agreement is carried out, she would have eastern Ukraine under control. The geopolitical consequences of a gas pipeline between Russia and Germany, and the repercussions of a Steinmeier agreement would lead to only a violently moribund situation for Europe, and thus the whole world.
Alexandros Petersen wrote in the Wall Street Journal that the ultimate purpose of the pipeline is to detour around countries that Russia believes are within her geopolitical sphere influence: “the goal of the North Pipeline from the very beginning was to bypass countries that Moscow still considers part of its sphere of influence.”
Lets not forget that Ukraine was once part of Russia and so the Russians believe that they have a historical right to control that country. If they still hold Ukraine as being within their “sphere of influence” then they still deem the country as belonging to them. And since the Russians are using the pipeline to bypass Poland as well, and they once controlled Poland, then that means that the Poles are also under the Russian crosshairs.
This is not just about gas or money, but power and control. The hidden message “is that the North Pipeline will allow the Kremlin to cut gas supplies to Eastern Europe through existing pipelines without reducing energy supplies to Germany,” writes Peterson. Thus its about strangling the Eastern European countries while helping Germany. And since Germany once controlled half of Poland then that means that history could just repeat itself with a Russo-Germanic advancement into Poland.
The confident position to, if the Steinmeier agreement is carried out, either advance a physical Russian presence into eastern Ukraine or control her as a proxy state, forming a physical barrier between her and US attempts to interfere with the flow of petroleum from the Volga region. The geopolitical consequences of a gas pipeline between Russia and Germany, and the repercussions of the successful implementation of the Steinmeier agreement would lead to a radical strengthening of Russo-Germanic ties and to the direct detriment of US interests and investments into the region.