By Theodore Shoebat
While the focus of the whole world has been covid-19, there has been another geopolitical occurrence taking place under the viral headlines, and that is the Russian effort to make east Ukraine into a Russian satellite,a subject on which we have written extensively on (also click here to read more).
For example, on March 11th, there was the meeting of the Trilateral Contact Group, consisting of Ukraine (represented by Andriy Yermak, the Head of the Office of the President), Russia (represented by Dmitry Kozak, Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration of the Russian Federation) and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. In this meeting, Ukraine’s envoy, Yermak, agreed to create a Consultative Council comprised of representatives from Ukraine and the Donetsk People’s Republics, which are Russian-backed governments that the Kremlin wants to use as their own puppet states. The purpose of the Council is to be a platform for discourse on the future elections in the Donbas, which is in accordance to the Steinmeier Formula, an idea of the German government that, if implemented, will lead to Donetsk and Luhansk becoming autonomous states controlled by Russian backed officials. The agreement was made after consultations with the governments of France and Germany. Polish politician and EU parliamentarian Witold Waszczykowski, wrote an article in which he affirmed that if this agreement comes to fruition and Russian-backed states are acknowledged by Germany and France, it
“would result in the recognition of the Donbas separatist authorities, as well as giving them a status equal to Kyiv’s. In consequence, it would rebrand Russia’s aggression on Ukraine into an internal Ukrainian ordeal that Moscow had nothing to do with. Russia would no longer be the invader. Instead, it would be able to assume the position of a mediator.
Such a scenario would obviously lead to Ukraine’s federalization, and it would marginalize its central government. Russia would welcome such developments, as they would essentially subjugate Ukraine. Years ago, Moscow managed to achieve similar results in Moldova, slicing out Transnistria in the process.”
Through the Consultative Council, the Ukrainian side and Russia’s proxies in Donetsk-Luhansk would be coequal parties of a Ukrainian conflict, while Russia would be deemed as a mere impartial observer, thus placing Russia in a neutral position as opposed to an outside force with proxies in the war. The platform will also remove the current rule prohibiting talks between Kiev and the separatists, thus empowering the “people’s republics” with a voice in the negotiating table. The fact that Zelensky’s government made this agreement with Russia was not suppose to be known to the public. But, documents leaked out to the Ukrainian media, sparking opposition politicians to call Zelensky and Yermak traitors.
A major player behind the move to give autonomy to the Russian-backed states is Viktor Medvedchuk, a pro-Russian Ukrainian business oligarch with close ties to Putin. On March 10th, Medvedchuk had a meeting with Vladimir Putin and other leaders of the Duma on adding an “inter-parliamentary dimension” to the Normandy forum (which consists of Russia, Germany, France and Ukraine). The parliamentary dimension would be an inter-governmental process and would allow the Ukrainian parliament to support the processes giving autonomy and allowing elections in Ukraine’s Russian-controlled Donbas, thus accelerating the Steinmeier Formula which came from the German government.
This plan was being conspired in Europe in the summer of 2019. For example, on July 17th, Medvedchuk visited the EU Parliament building in Strasbourg, France, where he made a presentation called “Concept Plan to Resolve the Crisis in the South-East of Ukraine” in which he advocated for autonomy in Donbas.
Medvedchuk stated in his presentation that he came up with his project after consultations with the leaders of the “unrecognized Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics” and with Russian leaders (who he did not name, but they were obviously people in Putin’s camp). Medvedchuk’s plan is to merge the Donetsk and Luhansk “people’s republics” into one “autonomous region of the Donbas,” nominally within Ukraine. If this plan materializes, there will be an autonomous, Kremlin satellite within Ukraine, causing only more conflict, more strife, and more hatred between neighbors.
Donbas’ autonomy would be placed in Ukraine’s constitution where Crimea’s autonomy is already recognized. Thus, in the words of Vladimir Socor, “the Constitution would henceforth provide for two autonomies within Ukraine: the Donbas and Crimea, “conferring all of Crimea’s [pre-2014] prerogatives and rights, already stipulated in that section, onto the autonomous region of Donbas as well.” While Medvedchuk uses legalism — arguing that even with two autonomous regions Ukraine will still be “a unitary state” — the reality is that Russia now controls the constitutionally recognized region in Ukraine, Crimea. Russia invaded Crimea under the pretext of helping ethnic Russians and taking back territory that was once under czardom. In May of 2014, Putin, during a five hour long conference, mentioned “Novorossiya” or “New Russia”, an historical term of the Russian Empire that meant a region north of the Black Sea (now part of Ukraine), including Crimea. Putin said something that truly indicates the Russian goal for Donbas.
“I would like to remind you that what was called Novorossiya back in the tsarist days,” said Putin, listing what are now the Ukrainian regions of Kharkiv, Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson, Mykolayiv, and Odesa—”were not part of Ukraine back then.” He added, “Russia lost these territories for various reasons, but the people remained.” If Putin invaded Crimea with the goal of empire, and it was autonomous, and pointed to Donbas as a territory once under the Russian Empire, and currently Donbas is being controlled by Russian backed separatists, and Russia is working with Medvedchuk to make Donbas autonomous, it becomes obvious as to what Moscow’s goal is: to revive the empire. There was another empire that once controlled Novorossiya, and that was the Ottoman Empire which Erdogan wishes to revive. So it is inevitable to suggest that Turkey and Russia may be at war again to control territory around the Black Sea and also around the Caspian Sea, since the Ottomans and Russians fought over Azerbaijan in the First World War.
The process to make Donbas autonomous will include Moscow at the center. In the first stage of negotiations, Kiev must negotiate directly with Donetsk-Luhansk and Moscow. This would, in the words of Socor, “clearly point toward a contractual arrangement of a federal type, under Russian mediation and consequently under Russian guarantees in this project’s intent.” Making it even more obvious that this is a Russian scheme for power, the autonomous Donbas would still keep its existing “People’s Militia” (a Russia-led military force), intelligence service, police and judiciary. Germany is also behind this situation. The German government, in 2014 and 2015, alongside the US, pressured the Ukrainian government to adopt certain legislative acts such as a law on the special status of the Russian-controlled Donbas. But the Ukrainian parliament and the then-President Petro Poroshenko resisted this process in 2016. But currently, Medvedchuk and his ilk, alongside Germany and France, want to make an autonomous Donbas a reality, regardless of the fact that in 2018 Ukraine passed a law blocking any special status for Donbas.
In his March 10th meeting with Putin, Medvedchuk told the leader of Russia:
“We understand that you can handle it perfectly well, but I believe that the parliamentary potential, especially considering that the Verkhovna Rada is supposed to adopt laws stipulated in the Minsk agreements with regard to elections, amnesty, the special status and constitutional amendments, I believe that assistance from our colleagues in the State Duma and the French and German parliaments would be not only appropriate but very useful. We need to convince our deputies that there is no alternative to the Minsk agreements, as it has been said, in order to implement them in full through legislative work and in this way to bring us closer to peace in Ukraine.” To this Putin replied: “This is highly desirable.”
So we can see here, Russia, Germany, France and political forces within Ukraine — Medvedchuk and his ilk, alongside Zelensky who signed onto the Steinmeier Formula and the Head of the Office of the President, Andriy Yermak, who agreed with Russia on creating the platform through which Donbas separatists will have a voice in the negotiating table — are working to fragment Ukraine. If this continues and Donbas is made autonomous, Russia will make more claims on the region because it is inhabited by so many ethnic Russians and it could be annexed like Crimea. With a rising Russia, we will see several things happen in the midst of the situation: the rise of Germany, Turkey and Japan, all three of which have been historical enemies of Russia. Since Russia and Germany collaborated in the splitting up of Poland — as they are today working to split up Ukraine — its possible the two will be allies initially only to go to war again. Turkey and Russia both controlled Crimea at one point in history, and since Russia controls Crimea today and has an historical Muslim presence by way of the Crimean Turks, Turkey will want Russia out of there and to take control of the Black Sea region. Japan and Russia are still disputing over the Sakhalin and fought each other in two wars (Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05 and the Second World War). The attempt to rise by Russia means the rise of other world powers. We will also see the inevitable intensification of Ukrainian nationalism which has been growing with great fury since 2014. With Germany backing Ukrainian nationalists, and with Germany currently backing making Donbas autonomous — which will help Russian expansion — it appears that the Germans are trying to exasperate both sides in a grand strategy of tension.
Brace yourselves, we are about to enter a new atmosphere of empire.