Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Neocon idea of conflict resolution

Few people still believe that the Minsk-2 agreement will hold. When the government in Kiev declared that it only would grant autonomy to the Donbass after elections had been held according to its laws it effectively killed the agreement.

In the Minsk-2 agreement Kiev had to make more concessions than in Minsk-1. But as neither the population of the Donbass nor Putin is enthusiastic about continuing the conflict it is still in a strong position. As long as it doesn't go too extreme it has a good chance to more or less imposing how the peace will look like. The main limitation is that it has to look like a compromise – without revenge against those who fought on the “Novorussian” side. So Kiev has very little to win from its confrontational stance while it has a lot to lose: new fighting will bring more death and more destruction.

The real push to undermine Minsk-2 comes from Washington that uses its influence as an ally of the government in Kiev to push it to these decisions. But what does Washington win by obstructing peace?

For the neocons peace is not an important value. They are always pushing for new wars. They see continuing conflicts at Russia's borders - both frozen and hot - as in their interests. They keep Russia busy, cost it a lot of money and help to turn Russia's neighbors against it. It is a familiar pattern that we have seen before in former Yugoslavia and South-Ossetia, Abkhazia and Transdniester. The only kind of conflict resolution that is acceptable to the neocons is victory.

In the early 1990 nationalist Georgian militias committed massive ethnic cleansings among the local minorities. It was against that background that Russia sent in peacekeepers. At that time it made sense and had widespread support within the Caucasus.

The logical next step would have been that Georgia made up with its minorities and some compromise was reached. But it never happened. The US often accuses Russia from obstructing solutions in order to make life hard for its former fellow Soviet Republics. But in fact it has been the Georgian side that has consistently taken extremist positions that made a solution impossible.

Expelled minorities, such as Ossetians who used to live south of Gori, have in theory the opportunity to go back. But in reality bureaucratic red tape makes it nearly impossible. And instead of dialog Georgia has concentrated on intimidation to win its lost territories back: with road blocks, economic sanctions and – in the case of Abkhazia – even terrorist attacks. Predictably this has only antagonized these areas. The political discourse in Georgia doesn't help either: it is very hostile towards Ossetians and Abkhazians.

The US often accuses Russia of maintaining their support for those secessionist provinces as a way to pressure and blackmail Georgia and other former Soviet states. More likely it is the other way around: it is the US that has encouraged Georgia to take an uncompromising and aggressive position. Here too the only acceptable solution for the neocons seems humiliation of Russia – as was tried to achieve in the 2008 war.

Recently Putin has taken some steps to integrate those provinces into Russia. It looks like he has given up on a solution that includes Georgia.

In former Yugoslavia we already saw a similar patterns. In the early 1990s Croatia was more or less forbidden to consider border changes that would do more justice to ethnic interests. After 1999 the same happened with Kosovo.

In Bosnia the Republika Srpska is held in a semi-pariah status. The logical step forward for Bosnia would be a kind of federation with regions in each of which one of the ethnic groups has a great majority. By giving veto power to those regions the explicit veto powers for ethnic groups could be removed from the constitution and a big step towards normalization could be set. This solution has some problems but it looks like these could be overcome. But here too the West – under guidance from the US – has decided that they prefer to let the situation fester. They want their preferred reform – centralization: what would mean defeat for the Serbs – or else nothing.

This brings me back to Ukraine. Just like the Georgian, Moldovan, Croat and Bosnian leaders the Ukrainian leaders have been steady encouraged by the US to take extremist positions. And just like those other leaders they have believed the propaganda and acted accordingly - to the detriment of themselves and their countries.

The pattern of rejecting dialogue and trying to impose solutions with violence that we see now in Ukraine is very familiar to what happened in Georgia.

Recently there are some signals that the EU politicians are becoming somewhat aware of the game that is being played. However, there is still a long way to go before this becomes the dominant story in the Western press.

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