Ukraine crisis: Deals brokered in a distant land are not going to satisfy protesters

 

Share

In crossfire of cross words over Ukraine, we should be careful what we read in to statements from all sides as Russian, Ukrainian and American foreign ministers, together with EU representatives, arrive in Geneva for talks on Thursday. Neither side has a good track record with accuracy or the truth.

From the Russian side, the untruths are more starkly visible and more reminiscent of the barefaced lies of the past. Brezhnev is fit and well, we assure you. Explosion at Chernobyl? Absolutely not.

Despite protestations to the contrary there is overwhelming evidence of Russia’s involvement in the violence in eastern Ukrainian cities. Russian intelligence agents and spetsnaz special forces have been identified, and the assaults on government buildings were clearly organised by Russian intelligence and the uniforms and equipment are of Russian origin. The numbers are not large, but, make no mistake, the Russians are already in.

Western liberties with the truth are more subtle… and more expedient. If the talks do not bring agreement, watch out for statements about “frank discussions” and “honest exchanges of opinion”. Deciphered, that means a wasted Easter for John Kerry, Catherine Ashton, Sergei Lavrov and Andriy Deshchytsia of Ukraine.

 

Or does it?

Diplomacy sounds good but it only really works if opposing sides are after the same thing. And yet perhaps they are. Russia wants consolidation and acceptance of its position on and in Ukraine – essentially a veto over Ukraine’s foreign policy decisions. The West, meanwhile, desperately wants the whole thing to go away. Crimea is already quietly accepted as lost. So too, perhaps, is the foreign policy element of Ukraine’s sovereignty. Acceptable collateral damage in exchange for a quiet and financially undisturbed life.

Fertile ground, then, for “diplomacy”, but also for appeasement.

In fact, there is little chance of success at any level. Brokered solutions in faraway cities may not mean much with events unfolding at a pace politicians cannot keep up with. As Russia frequently complains, the internationally overseen 21 February agreement on power-sharing between the then Ukrainian government and the opposition was not adhered to. What Russia has not understood – not surprisingly for a non-democracy – is that this is because it was conducted over and above the heads of ordinary Ukrainians and the Maidan Square protesters. The same could well happen in Geneva. There are signed pieces of paper and there are facts on the ground.

But again, “success”, if it is claimed, is not necessarily desirable. Breakthroughs will not mean meeting half-way; they will signify quiescence by the West.

Russia will not back down on its demands because it’s not really about Ukraine. It’s a more fundamental and conceptual problem – like asking an atheist to believe in God (or a Christian not to).

The West will either capitulate or the talks will collapse. Collapse may be preferable to success. Either way, an unappetising weekend lies ahead in Geneva.

James Nixey is the head of the Russia and Eurasia Programme at Chatham House

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Nicola Sturgeon could have considerable influence over David Cameron in a hung parliament  

General Election 2015: What if Cameron were to end up in hock to the SNP?

Steve Richards
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before