First published at NewCatallaxy blog, December 10, 2022.
News Reports and Analysis
Daily Mail, 30th November, 2021
The Daily Mail reported that three gatherings of some Downing Street staff had taken place during November and December of 2020. This was the lifting of the lid on the cesspool of cynicism that characterised the political response to Covid-19 all over the Western world, with the notable exception of Sweden.
In January and February of 2022, the lid was completely unseated. Up to twenty events involving Government staffers, most frequently Downing Street staffers, were investigated. These included two parties in Downing Street on the eve of the funeral of Prince Philip.
24th February, 2022
Russian commences “Special Military Operation” in Ukraine.
The White House 16th March, 2022
President Biden today announced an additional $800 million in security assistance to Ukraine, bringing the total U.S. security assistance committed to Ukraine to $1 billion in just the past week, and a total of $2 billion since the start of the Biden Administration.
Reuters, 30th March, 2022
In the most tangible sign yet of progress towards ending the war, Russia emerged from the talks promising to scale down military operations around Kyiv and the country’s north, and Ukraine proposed adopting a neutral status.
Wall Street Journal, 31st March, 2022
President Erdoğan announces that Turkey has hosted two rounds of Russian-Ukrainian peace talks. These talks had progressed to the point that Erdo?an offered to host a meeting between the two leaders. “Western officials have been hesitant to endorse Ukraine’s proposal to have its security guaranteed by outside powers…”
NPR 2nd April, 2022
“…around Kyiv and in northern Ukraine, Russian forces are withdrawing. …we don’t know yet where these Russian troops are going to be redirected to. The Pentagon says they aren’t going home…
“…there is an attack on a fuel depot in the Russian city of Belgorod, which is near the Ukrainian border.
“Russia has said that the attacks came from low-flying Ukrainian helicopters, but Ukraine’s top security officials deny it. … And Russia has said that this attack could also impact peace talks, which are ongoing.” [my emphasis]
Forbes 6th April, 2022
“A Pentagon official told reporters Wednesday all Russian troops had left the areas of Kyiv and Chernihiv to regroup and resupply in Belarus and Russia…”
BBC 9th April, 2022
‘Prime Minister Boris Johnson has held talks in Kyiv with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky. No 10 said the visit was a “show of solidarity” with the Ukrainian people. Following the meeting, Downing Street said the UK would send 120 armoured vehicles and anti-ship missile systems to support Ukraine…
‘Mr Johnson paid tribute to “President Zelensky’s resolute leadership and the invincible heroism and courage of the Ukrainian people”, saying: “Ukraine has defied the odds and pushed back Russian forces from the gates of Kyiv“…[my emphasis] Speaking…alongside President Zelensky…Mr Johnson said Ukrainians “have shown the courage of a lion but you, Volodymyr, have given the roar of that lion”…
‘Mr Johnson’s visit to Kyiv came the day after the UK announced £100m of weapons for the country.’
12th April, 2022
Boris Johnson announces that he had received a Fixed Penalty Notice for violations of his own Government’s lockdown regulations.
New York Times 14th April, 2022
Biden Announces $800 Million in Military Assistance for Ukraine.
U.S. Department of Defense 21st April, 2022
President Joe Biden announced today that the United States will send another $800 million in equipment to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia’s two-month-long invasion. Today’s announcement comes on the heels of an $800 million military aid package the president signed last week.
7th July, 2022
Boris Johnson announces his intention to resign when the Conservative Party has selected a new leader.
6th September, 2022
Boris Johnson resigns the Prime Ministership.
New York Post 4th October, 2022
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky seemingly shut the door on the prospect of having any peace talks with Vladimir Putin — but not with Russia under a different leadership. Zelensky signed a decree on Tuesday formally declaring negotiations with the Kremlin autocrat to be “impossible.”
Vladimir Putin Astana press conference 14th October, 2022
“But we are also aware of Kiev’s position – they kept saying they wanted talks, and even sort of asked for them, but have now passed an official decision that bans such talks. Well, what is there to discuss?
“As you may be aware, speaking at the Kremlin when announcing the decision on the constituent entities of the Russian Federation, I said we are open. We have always said that we are open. We reached certain agreements in Istanbul, after all. These agreements were almost initialled. But as soon as our troops withdrew from Kiev, the Kiev authorities lost any interest in the talks. That is all there is to it.”
Foreign Affairs September/October 2022
Foreign Affairs is the house journal of the Council on Foreign Relations, the most influential foreign affairs think tank in the U.S. In the 2022 September/October was an article written by Fiona Hill and Angela Stent, titled The World Putin Wants: How Distortions About The Past Feed Delusions About The Future. If you’re looking for a summary of every article written since February about Putin’s real motives and Putin’s real objectives in the “Special Military Operation” in Ukraine and Donbas, this is a good place to start.
Buried on page eleven is this passing acknowledgement, which is the most comprehensive description of the conditions for peace that had been agreed between Russian and Ukrainian negotiators 5 weeks after the commencement of the Russian “Special Military Operation”:
According to multiple former senior U.S. officials we spoke with, in April 2022, Russian and Ukrainian negotiators appeared to have tentatively agreed on the outlines of a negotiated interim settlement: Russia would withdraw to its position on February 23, when it controlled part of the Donbas region and all of Crimea, and in exchange, Ukraine would promise not to seek NATO membership and instead receive security guarantees from a number of countries.
Die Zeit 7th December, 2022
Angela Merkel’s interview with Die Zeit magazine is published. Merkel is tidying up her legacy. Among other things, she discusses her contradictory and poll-driven energy policies, including the shutdown of Germany’s nuclear industry, and her push, taken up personally with Vladimir Putin, for the building of Nord Stream 2. Most revealing though, in the current context, are her comments about policy towards Donbas, which require a little background.
After the US-engineered Maidan coup of 2014, which overthrew the elected government of Ukraine, the Russian-speaking Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts – the Donbas – refused to recognise the newly installed government, and broke away. Ukrainian armed forces immediately occupied Donetsk airport and from there launched attacks on Donetsk city and surrounds. This led to very heavy and bitter fighting between the Ukrainian military and the separatist militias (with covert Russian support.) The first Minsk agreement, signed on the 14th of September, 2014, failed to stop the fighting. The second Minsk agreement, signed on the 12th of February, 2015, was more successful, but it was never fully implemented.
Now back to Merkel’s comments:
I thought the initiation of NATO accession for Ukraine and Georgia discussed in 2008 to be wrong. The contries neither had the necessary prerequisites for this, nor had the consequences of such a decision been fully considered, both with regard to Russia’s actions against Georgia and Ukraine and to NATO and its rules of assistance. And Minsk agreement was an attempt to give Ukraine time.
Ukraine used this time to get stronger, as you can see today. The Ukraine of 2014/15 is not the Ukraine of today. As you saw in the battle for Debaltsevo in early 2015, Putin could have easily overrun them at the time. And I very much doubt that the NATO countries could have done as much then as they do now to help Ukraine. [My emphasis.]
The Ukrainian defeat at Debaltsevo led to the signing of the second Minsk agreement. According to Merkel, it was “clear to all of us that the conflict was frozen, that the problem had not been solved, but that gave Ukraine valuable time.” Merkel also revealed that, in her view and presumably that of other Western leaders, “the Cold War never really ended because Russia was basically not at peace.” Another translation renders that as “…basically not satisfied.” NATO, she said “should have reacted more quickly to Russia’s aggressiveness” in 2014, contradicting her previous remarks. It was a long interview.
So Merkel, and no doubt her Western partners, cynically manipulated her interlocutors in the Minsk negotiations, but according to her, it was not Germany, the US and the UK that were “basically not satisfied” at the end of the Cold War, but Russia. Western powers never accept any opprobrium for cynical deceit and treachery, because the other side – in this case Russia – is always the underlying source of such destructive behaviour, and Merkel and Co are regrettably forced to respond in kind. Remember that Merkel was 35 in the year the Berlin Wall came down. She learned her trades in the world of The Lives of Others, but she found soul siblings in the foreign affairs organisations of the USA, the UK and the EU.
* * * *
All of the lives lost, the buildings and infrastructure destroyed, the refugees displaced, and the massive cost to the Ukrainian, Russian and Western economies since April flow from the sabotage of those peace talks. It is well to remember this now that negotiations are once again being proposed, this time by the USA, directly with Russia. The fact that these talks have been proposed by the US, and that Zelensky, who only a month ago declared that Ukraine would not negotiate with Russia until Putin was overthrown, turns the spotlight on the real real Western protagonist of this war. But that merely reasserts the lesson of Zelensky’s reneging on the April agreement.