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)

Friday, February 3, 2017

Russia's duty in Eastern Ukraine

As far as civil wars go, the war in Eastern Ukraine is as ugly and hateful as any. It started with a popular revolt in the republics of Lugansk and Donetsk against the removal of the Ukrainian president by popular revolt in Western Ukraine - during the Sochi Olympics. Back then unarmed civilians were standing in front of tanks and armoured personnel carriers to stop Ukrainian troops from entering their cities and towns. People took over government buildings and protested against the government in Kiev. We're a long way from those days now.

With backing from the United States, the Ukrainian government turned its army on the rebels in both Republics. In response, Russia assisted the rebels with arms, intelligence and some allege men. In any case, the popular unrest against the coup in Kiev turned into a war for the two republics independence. Shockingly, and brutally, the Ukrainian government ordered its own military forces to attack the towns and cities of Donetsk and Lugansk, and the death toll of civilians ran into the thousands. The Ukrainian government never seriously looked to negotiate with the people of Eastern Ukraine. They simply tried to put them down. That's were anger over the coup turned into pure hatred. A blood hatred. Too many lives were touched by death and destruction at the hands of their own government to ever forgive.

Today, as I write this, the guns of war have shattered what was always a shaky ceasefire known as the Minsk Accord. Minsk was always destined to failure as it never fully took into account the blood hate in Ukraine. I wrote about it back then here . The truth is neither side wants a thing to do with the other. The Ukrainian government is acting as though the people in Eastern Ukraine are trying to steal their territory, and the people who reside there have no right to self-determination. Not a very European view, which the new government there claims to be.

The Ukrainian army has been conducting a "creeping" offensive almost since Minsk was signed, but in recent days that has accelerated dramatically. They have been moving into small towns and areas that were agreed to be no man's land, or left alone by both sides. They were in the de-militarized zone that divided the two sides along the complete front lines. The forces of Donetsk and Lugansk, I call them NAF or Novorossiya Armed Forces, after the name the Lugansk and Donetsk Republics gave their new political entity (Novorossiya = New Russia), are responding to these incursions now. Massive artillery duels between the two sides have escalated dramatically. Civilian areas are being leveled once again, and Ukrainian tanks have been filmed in the "de-militarized" zone near the city of Donetsk.

It appears that a freshly rearmed Ukraine, with masses of new military recruits, is again planning on asserting itself on the two republics. That being the case, where are the guarantor nations of the Minsk Agreement? Russia, Germany and France brokered the deal, but they aren't forcing the Ukrainian government to restrain itself. In fact, they haven't been able to get Ukraine to live up to any of the required steps outlined in the Minsk Agreement. Instead, Minsk has served as a shaky truce at best - often violated over the last three years, but not to the degree it has been today.

Russia, Germany and France have the responsibility to enforce Minsk. Not just the truce aspect of Minsk, but also the structural requirements that the Ukraine government was meant to do under the agreement. While Russia would not have much influence to bring to bare on the government in Kiev, Germany and France certainly could. The United States certainly could. Instead, these governments, including my own in Canada, have turned this into a rearming and retraining exercise of the Ukrainian military - essentially treating Ukraine as a member of the NATO alliance. In other words, there has been no good faith given to the Minsk Agreement, and the sole focus has been meeting force with force.

Russia has a role to play in all this that it has refused, and that is to occupy the two republics. The Ukrainian government feels it has a free hand in attacking when and how it chooses, and most of the casualties that result are civilians. This has to stop. The only way to stop the Ukrainian government from attacking its own civilians in the republics is to place a barrier in front of them that will deliver a much more serious blow to them that they could inflict on the other side. The Russian army would and should constitute such a barrier. I say that not to wave the Russian flag, but in serious reflection on reality. Russia will not, understandably, allow foreign armies enmasse on its border. Nobody would. It would take an army to stop the two sides from killing each other. The majority of both republics either identify themselves as Russian or are Russian speakers. The Russians in these circumstances would be trusted by the people of Donetsk and Lugansk.

Russian military intervention in the republics is necessary, pragmatic, and humane. The Western world needs to come to this conclusion, and support it before all out carnage raises its ugly head there again. The stupid, outdated ideas of Russian imperialism and all that nonsense need to be put to the side. The Russian government must also wake up and smell the coffee. Russia claims to be a source of major influence in the world, and a leader in a new multi-polar world. If that is to be the case, then Russia must exert itself correspondingly if it wants to be taken seriously.

Of course, Russia itself is in the middle of a rearmament program, and in that sense it may not want to bite off more than it can chew - which in a sense is understandable. However, when mass slaughter is happening on your won border, and people of your decent are the victims of a government that shells its own people, then it is incumbent on you to act decisively. By way of example, the Turkish incursion into Syria to establish a "safe zone". Russia could, and should do the same in Donetsk and Lugansk. A safe zone that protects those people from being slaughtered at random by their own government. That isn't being imperialistic or ambitious. It is being humane and showing leadership. It is plain and obvious, that after three years of Minsk, the Ukraine government simply can't resist the temptation to put down the people of Donetsk and Lugansk by force. No further evidence is required. Russia sitting on its hands makes Russia look weak on its own border, and with its fellow Slavs. So, Mr. Putin, show the leadership a leader of the multi-polar world must, and make Donetsk and Lugansk a "safe zone" for the people that live there. Don't they deserve that much?

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