Germany and OSCE support an east-west dialogue in Ukraine without exclusions

Visit of Frank-Walter Steinmeier, German Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs, to the European Commission in Brussels, where he was received by President José Manuel Barroso. (EC Audiovisual Services).

Visit of Frank-Walter Steinmeier, German Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs, to the European Commission in Brussels, where he was received by President José Manuel Barroso. (EC Audiovisual Services).

The West has lost the ball in Ukraine, while the Kremlin ruler tries to make the most out of it. What happened in Mariupol and Sloviansk cannot be justified. West’s allies in the country, that is the extreme right-wing groups and the mercenaries also working for the local oligarchs, proved uncontrollable and untrustworthy. At the same time, the western official propaganda and the main stream media unconvincingly call some tens of millions of Russian speaking people ‘separatists’, ‘rebels’ and ‘terrorists’. However, Germany doesn’t seem to agree with the West and Kiev’s hard liners. Let’s take one thing at a time.

In the face of it, western Europe and the US literally pay their tributes to the ‘interim’ President Olexandr Turchynov and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk. Those two though, despite the dark conditions around their appointment, don’t hesitate to bond the future of their country and actually push Ukraine to a devastating civil war, by provoking the entire eastern half of Ukraine.

Kiev’s hardliners

The new Kiev authorities, after being appointed by the Maidan ‘regiments’, begun provoking the east by outlawing the Russian language in Ukraine, a political act which reminded us all that the Russian speaking population in the Baltic states was reduced to 1,052,520 ethnic Russians from 1,726,000 in 1989. Still today Russian is outlawed in Estonia, despite the fact that more than a quarter of the population there are Russians. As for Moscow, the Kremlin ruler doesn’t hesitate to use all those millions of his compatriots living in the neighboring countries to secure his clout on the future of Russia.

Now, commenting on the double ‘referendums’ in Donetsk and Luhansk, giving results of around 90% in favour of a weak federation or independence from Kiev, an impartial judge has to accept that despite the huge democratic deficiencies of the procedure, the solid fact remains that people participated massively. Putin, following his policy of maximizing the gains from the civil war torn Ukraine, didn’t rush to comment on the results. Already last week he had hypocritically suggested that the two referendums should be deferred for after the Presidential elections in Ukraine set for 25 May.

Moscow is expected to follow in Donetsk and Luhansk the same strategy as in Crimea, applying a day to day tactic of continuous weighing of gains, losses and risks, always extracting the largest possible long term political profit for Putin and Russia. Moscow doesn’t seem to mind much about short term developments and the Kremlin appears ready to make tactical retreats in order to secure longer term interests, ultimately aiming to retain its influence at least in the east of Ukraine, which once Russia completely controlled.

The fight of 8 o’clock news

Of course the war is fought also on TV screens and again the West and Russia are emitting in different frequencies, addressing only their own audiences. This fact permits to both sides to be scruples. This kind of partisan news coverage though, being expected from Russian media, was a revelation for this side of the fence. Even main stream Western media with long tradition of impartiality (Vietnam War, Falklands War) are currently bowing to the imperatives of their governments.

Calling entire populations ‘separatists’ and ‘rebels’ is beyond imagination. The government-media collusion in the West is not unchallenged though. This may even be felt in the European elections of 22-25 May. It’s a bit awkward to hear Marine Le Pen or Greek extreme right and extreme left groups siding with Putin’s Russia.

It seems that those groups while paying very little attention to democratic credentials feel attracted not only by Putin’s autocratic political practice and ideology but also sense political gains in their own countries from ‘Putinism’. It’s true that a small but growing number of west European voters are attracted to what Moscow emits, being pushed to this direction by their disenchantment even resentment for main stream politics in their countries. The huge subsidies to banks have not passed unnoticed by the citizens.

Germany supports full dialogue

Last but not least, Germany’s foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is heading for Ukraine today. It is even more interesting though to notice that the German Foreign Ministry ahead of Steinmeier trip, yesterday issued a statement saying that Germany supports OSCE efforts to mediate in a “national dialogue” between the interim government and pro-Russian groups. The ministry’s spokesman also said that the minister has decided to travel to the eastern regions of the country.

This German proposal is in direct contradiction with the hard policy line followed by other western policy makers in Washington, London and Brussels. Proposing a “national dialogue” between the two fighting sides in Donetsk and Luhansk surpasses by far the prevailing western narrative about ‘separatists’ and ‘armed rebels’ organized by Moscow.

Actually, Steinmeier reminded everybody that, in reality, over the past few days, Kiev’s tanks attacked a number of eastern Ukrainian cities. In this way he effectively defamed the prevailing narrative, that the ‘armed rebels’ shoot to kill the impartial soldiers sent by Kiev to protect the citizens in the east. It was rather hard yesterday to find those lines in the main stream English language media. In any case, Germany is not alone in rejecting the positions of Kiev’s hard liners. An OSCE representative said that dialogue without representatives of the eastern regions is completely meaningless.

All in all, after the bloodsheds in Mariupole and Luhansk and the double ‘referendums’, nothing can return to the situation ex ante. This is the only certainty in this already crippled country.

 

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