Following up on Putin’s phone call to Obama, Kerry is making a detour to Paris to negotiate with Lavrov over the fate of Ukraine.
Lavrov has laid out Russia’s terms, and intimates that Obama and Kerry have accepted the principles underlying these terms.
First, Russia demands that Ukraine adopt a new constitution that establishes a federal structure that gives each region considerable autonomy. Translate this to mean that these regions would be able to pull a Crimea. Or, more accurately, that Russia would be able to pull a Crimea, slicing off pieces of Ukraine and splicing them onto Russia.
Crucially, Lavrov said: “I can say that ‘federation’ is no longer a taboo word in our negotiations.” Meaning that if he is telling the truth (always a big if) Obama has conceded that Ukraine’s constitutional order is up for negotiation, on Moscow’s terms.
Second, Russia demands that Ukraine’s new constitution incorporate guarantees that Ukraine will not join Nato or any other alliance.
In brief: the Secretary of State of the United States is traveling to Paris to negotiate the constitution of a sovereign country, without the presence of that country. The end state of this negotiation would be to turn Ukraine into a Russian satrapy, to be gobbled up piecemeal, and with no ability to conduct an independent foreign policy.
Lavrov’s teaser is that Russia has no intention of invading Ukraine. But if you read his words closely, you will understand that he means Russia has no intention of invading if its terms are accepted. Otherwise, Ukraine is a fascist, Nazi threat to Russia and to Russian “compatriots.” And we know what Putin believes such a threat justifies.
The 1930s analogies keep coming, fast and furious. Here the analogy is Munich, where France and Germany negotiated Czechoslovakia’s fate with Hitler, without the Czechs being present. The Czechs called the agreement the Munich Diktat. Will the Ukrainians call this the Paris Diktat?
There are other similarities. The pretext of the Germans in 1938 was and Russia in 2014 is the necessity of protecting co-ethnics allegedly threatened by independent nations not invited to the negotiations. Munich resulted in the handover of the major industrial region of Czechoslovakia to Germany: the likely outcome of an agreement on Putin’s terms would be to handover Ukraine’s main industrial region to Russia. The Munich negotiations took place under the threat of a German invasion of Czechoslovakia if Hitler’s terms were not accepted, and German troops were massed on the border to carry out that threat. The Paris negotiations are taking place under the threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine if Putin’s terms are not accepted, and Russian troops are massed on the border with the capability to carry out that threat.
Once upon a time “No More Munichs!” was a catchphrase in US foreign policy. No longer, apparently. Obama and Kerry seem to be saying “Why Not Munich?”
Even if no agreement comes of these talks, or talks that follows, it is deeply shameful that the United States would even engage in such a negotiation on such terms with such a nation. Deeply shameful.