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The Failure of the Ukraine De-Escalation Agreement


With no evidence of any strategic thinkers beyond the ideological  neo-con crowd that President Obama has allowed to dominate the State Department beginning with Hillary Clinton as Secretary, the US government can take total credit for the on-going turbulence in Ukraine – with its bold orchestration of an ill-considered coup that ousted democratically elected  President Viktor Yanukovych in February, the Obama Administration’s insistence on maintaining its diplomatic stance is mushrooming from a deplorable foreign policy blunder into an out-of-control situation.

Even after a de-escalation agreement aimed at reducing tensions was signed in Geneva on Friday, 48 hours later an attack in Slovyansk by the neo-Nazi Right Sector has fractured an uncertain truce and were followed by the occupation of public buildings by local residents which spread throughout eastern Ukraine.  Citizens in southeast Kramatorsk took control of civic buildings as residents in Luhansk announced a coordinated effort in southwest Ukraine to consider their own secession referendum.

From the outset in February, it seems that, from the US perspective, just about everything that could go wrong has gone wrong – as if the Apple Dumpling Gang had marched into Ukraine and tripped on a buzz-saw, setting off a hot-button situation that it was neither prepared nor qualified to manage, despite considerable hand-holding by assorted western institutions.

And the morning after the agreement was signed, even more evidence of the Apply Dumpling’s gone awry was apparent when a spokesman for the Donetsk People’s Republic announced that they would not abide by terms of the agreement, they would refuse to vacate the premises and would continue to seek an annexation referendum.

All this after a de-escalation  Communique was agreed to by a self-appointed group of movers-and-shakers, these Russian-speaking Ukrainians reiterated that they do not accept the legitimacy of the government in Kiev and are refusing to acknowledge that any of those movers- and-shakers speak for them, thereby casting doubt on earlier claims that the occupation of civic buildings was instigated by Moscow.

In a curious quirk of timing, almost immediately after it was revealed that  CIA Director John Brennan had snuck in and out of Ukraine to offer his advice and a pep –talk on how to disrupt those pesky ‘separatists;’ those same separatists and their families took to the streets – blocking tanks, disarming the Ukrainian army (some of whom surrendered to unarmed citizens, some of whom  had no intention of firing on fellow citizens and some of whom defected to Russia) and otherwise impeded the progress of a civil war.   And let’s not forget to give some credit to Brennan for the ‘registering the Jews” idea which has been so utterly discredited as to be completely transparent.

It wasn’t enough that from the beginning there was a gross miscalculation that Russian President Vladimir Putin would roll over on command and allow the historically-connected Crimea region, located in Russia’s backyard, to be usurped by NATO but the speed and efficiency with which the Crimeans organized a most impressive secession referendum and a huge majority vote in support was further evidence of a seriously flawed US strategy – or no strategy at all.

And now those recalcitrant ‘separatists’ in towns across eastern Ukraine are demanding their own secession referendum and had the audacity to seize and occupy public buildings like an old fashioned US civil rights ‘sit-in’ to prove their point.

The ink was barely dry on the agreement signed by representatives of the US, the EU, Ukraine and Russia when, within hours, President Obama expressed “skepticism” for its  success, continuing a negative, pessimistic narrative that he and Secretary Kerry have employed since February when the crisis in Kiev first caught the world’s attention.   Despite the on-going possibility of a catastrophic outbreak of a fully engaged military reaction, the President went on to state that “I don’t think, given past performance [of Russia], that we can count on that” and “we have to be prepared to potentially respond” further warning that Russia faced additional sanctions  if there is failure to comply with the agreement within days.

The agreement advocated that:

“All sides must refrain from any violence, intimidation, or provocative actions. The participants strongly condemned and rejected all expressions of extremism, racism, and religious intolerance, including anti-Semitism.   All illegal armed groups must be disarmed; all illegally seized buildings must be returned to legitimate owners; all illegally occupied streets, squares, and other public places in Ukrainian cities and towns must be vacated.”

So here’s the conundrum:   The US is demanding that the Kremlin “use its influence over the activists  in eastern Ukraine to lay down their arms and leave the buildings and if they do not, Russia will be held responsible and the crisis will be right back to where it was before the agreement. The logical follow up is how will the US ‘use its influence’ over the extremists in the Ukraine government to “lay down their arms?”

If President Obama seriously believes he can ‘isolate [Russia] and cut off economic and military” contacts as reported in Sunday’s New York Times, he has fallen prey to a ‘reality distortion field’ (see Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson) in the erroneous belief that truth can be bent by one’s sheer mental force and that to deny the obvious vulnerability of the petrodollar as the basis for international currency further represents some exceedingly deficient thinking on the part of the world’s greatest economic and military power.   As if to refute the US self-delusion of its ability to quarantine Russia, Gazprom, its government run gas company and Turkey, the second largest importer of Russian gas, met to discuss an increase of the annual capacity through the Blue Stream pipeline.

One  prediction on how the diplomatic game will play out as vice president Joe Biden arrives in Ukraine is that demands will be made on Russia that the US itself is unwilling to fulfill  –  followed by creation of a volatile incident followed by an international crisis accusing Russia of breaking the agreement.

Against the backdrop of the continued buildup of US and NATO military and naval presence in the region as events continue to escalate, the only rational conclusion is that western forces have intentionally created conditions ripe for war with Russia.

Imagine the flustered consternation in the great halls of power in Washington and the EU and NATO to discover that the Ukrainian people are willing to risk their well-being defending civic buildings from an illegitimate government and to stand in front of tanks in the pursuit of peace.

Renee Parsons was a staffer in the U.S. House of Representatives and a lobbyist on nuclear energy issues with Friends of the Earth.  in 2005, she was elected to the Durango City Council and served as Councilor and Mayor.  Currently, she is a member of the Treasure Coast ACLU Board.


Renee Parsons has been a member of the ACLU’s Florida State Board of Directors and president of the ACLU Treasure Coast Chapter. She has been an elected public official in Colorado, an environmental lobbyist and staff member of the US House of Representatives in Washington DC. She can be found on Twitter @reneedove31

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