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

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

Test Lead - Financial Reporting - Banking - London

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: Test Lead, London, Banking, Financial Reporting, ...

Business Analyst, Retail Bank, £375-400p/d

£375 - £400 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

Embedded Software Consultant

£50000 - £60000 per annum + V. Competitive : Progressive Recruitment: Embedded...

Senior SAP HR Business Analyst

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a Global Professional Service...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Are we politely looking the other way when it comes to Kate, the ever-shrinking Duchess?

Grace Dent
 

The daily catch-up: art of the unapology, a bet on UKIP and printer ink molecules

John Rentoul
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game