Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the
round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're
not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify
them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change
things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the
crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that
they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Steve Jobs
US computer engineer & industrialist (1955 - 2011)

Monday, February 9, 2015

Minsk is Dead

On September 5, 2014, after six months of fighting, the powers in Europe drew up the Minsk Agreement with Russia to end fighting in the Ukraine. The plan had 12 points primarily centered around stopping the fighting, with some ink devoted to a special status for Donetsk and Luhansk within Ukraine and some economic investment to spur the republics economies. Looking back on the Minsk Agreement now, well, it seems pretty hollow.

Depending on which casualty reports you want to believe, there have been between 5-15,000 people killed in the conflict and ten times that wounded or maimed. A majority of those are civilians. The majority of those civilians killed and wounded were at the hands of Ukraine army artillery - multiple rocket artillery (GRAD) to be exact. In fact the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk have suffered indiscriminate shelling for close to a year now. Before that it was Slavyansk, Kramatorsk, Artemivsk, Gorlovka and so on. It wasn't until fairly recently that the separatist forces (NAF) got a hold of GRAD systems in any significant numbers. Now they are pounding cities too around the Debaltsevo pocket east of Gorlovka.

In short, far too much blood has been spilled too subject the people of the Donetsk and Luhansk republics to the authority of Ukraine. That time has come and gone, and any agreement that even hints at that will be worth less than the paper it's written on.

The practical implications of allowing Ukraine to rule the two republics again speak for themselves. The Ukraine army has destroyed  vast areas of the republics with primarily artillery. Bridges have been blown, water and sewer plants destroyed, electrical grids damaged, hospitals and schools destroyed, and so on. The bill to replace this mass of infrastructure alone is in the tens of billions. Ukraine doesn't have the money to fix what it has ruined. As we speak it is weeks away from a possible default, but even if that doesn't happen, the Ukraine financial position is at best Greek-like. In fact, in the last year Ukraine's currency has lost about 65% of its value. There is no up side here. So how could Ukraine rule Donetsk and Luhansk again in any case? They would be left in abstract poverty and decline for decades at least.

Many nations are formed in blood - actually most. Donetsk and Luhansk are no different, albeit they remain pawns in a larger game of geo-politics - each side spurring on their choice in one way or another. How can the woman whose man has been killed in battle by the Ukraine army live under its flag? How can the man in the NAF maimed by war do the same? How about the civilians with now tortured minds from being under shelling far too long, or seeing far too much death and destruction, ever stand and sing the Ukraine national anthem. These are not matters of geo-politics. These are matters of humanity.

As the leaders of France, Germany, Ukraine and Russia gather in Minsk to ink the latest deal on Donetsk and Luhansk they need to realize the people of Donetsk and Luhansk cannot be forcefully or diplomatically reunified with Ukraine. If that is to happen in any way it must be by the will of the people of the two republics, and that can only happen by referendum - UN supervised referendum. Demarcations lines from this town or that town are also meaningless. They do nothing but "freeze" the conflict. The only real and meaningful lines that matter are the boundaries of the republics. Those should be respected, and those must be the only demarcation lines implemented.

The Ukraine government may not like it, but it gave up the right to deal with a free hand in Donetsk and Luhansk when it turned the guns of war on what was essentially a separatist revolt. Live by the sword, die by the sword. The water has been poisoned. The dye is cast. Minsk is dead. Minsk 2.0 must reflect reality and NOT the whims of fanciful politicians smitten with the idea of territorial integrity.


  1. I agree with you almost entirely. You've touched upon the most important point: who will pay for Donbas/Luhansk? Germany at the moment tries for a frozen conflict, like Abchazia, Transnistria... Meaning that it should be Russia keeping the regions afloat. At the same time we see Russia officially asking more autonomy for the regions IN a federalized Ukraine: hence Ukraine (in reality the EU/US) should pay the bills.
    In the end I fear no one will be paying and the real victims will be the locals.

    I do disagree with your referendum idea. It's rather naïve of you. rebel territory will vote one thing, the Ukranian side the other. Besides, who should partake in this? Regional borders are a very arbitrary/historical thing in Europe (being from Belgium I know this firsthand) Regional identities are strong in cities, but become weaker/ mixed farther away. With every line you draw you create a new minority/enclave with slightly diffirent cultural or political views which might be sidelined. Nothing 's ever easy...

  2. Minsk IS dead, this is profoundly true and profoundly tragic. Yet the separation you recommend - while it is a relief to those in Donetsk and Lughansk, will only solidify an ongoing tragedy of ethnic cleansing for what remains of Ukraine. With a place to 'send' the pro-russian parts of the population, how long will it take for rampant ethnic cleansing to start in the west of Ukraine?

    The problem is not in the separatist areas. The problem is the Nazi-like ideology of Ukrainian leadership that the US and other western countries have empowered. Leadership that has re-written teext books with Hitler as the liberator. Let us not think that only Russians will be the target. Ukraine has significant minority populations of Romanians, Hungarians, Jews and Polish peoples. Syria has long warned the west that the radicals the west supported against Syria will one day head back home. So too, one day, when Ukraine has been 'cleansed' the radicals the west arms and supports in Ukraine will head back home.

    We will sow what we reap. And there will be no God listening when we ask for mercy.

  3. Mr Cabana, you're saying that "the people of Donetsk and Luhansk cannot be forcefully or diplomatically reunified with Ukraine." I think you're so wrong.

    Please do the research of the war in Bosnia. After the Dayton Agreement, Republika Srpska was diplomatically reunified with Bosnia. The same thing can happen to Donetsk and Lugansk.

  4. I dont think so. I need to visit to see if there is true. Tour to Minsk would be great idea.


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