Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France will meet in Minsk today to discuss a solution to the Ukraine conflict

However the contact group was unable to agree on key points on the night before the summit. In any case Moscow will lose out in the negotiations, some commentators contend. For others, concessions to the pro-Russian separatists would be a betrayal of European values.

 

Putin will lose out in the end

Whatever the outcome of the negotiations in Minsk Russia will come out the loser, political scientist Jonathan Holslag predicts in the left-leaning daily De Morgen (Belgium):

“Even a diplomatic success in Minsk will be followed by a political hangover. The curtain of propaganda cannot hide the desperate state of the Russian economy or the plight of the population.

… Putin could respond by taking the initiative and fuelling nationalism with a strong foreign policy. But the question is how long he can keep this up. Economically and militarily his means are limited. The war in Ukraine will only accelerate Russia’s decline. It not only puts domestic security at risk but could also lead to further shifts in the geopolitical dividing lines.”

 

Minsk won’t bring peace

The biggest obstacle to an agreement in Minsk is the fact that the inviolability of Europe’s borders on which the East and West agreed in 1974 in the Helsinki Final Act has repeatedly been breached, the left-liberal daily Dnevnik (Slovenia) criticises:

“To cite the rules of the Helsinki Final Act in Minsk in the Ukraine conflict is hypocritical.

… The EU is mistaken if it believes that spreading its influence beyond the Don River makes it any safer in its cocoon. The crossing of the line which US President Obama vehemently accuses Russia of has triggered events with an unpredictable outcome. But right now it looks more like war than peace. Particularly if both sides start supplying Ukraine with weapons.”

 

Even Merkel’s power has its limits

Angela Merkel is discovering the limits of her power in her struggle for a diplomatic solution to the Ukraine conflict, the liberal-conservative Neuen Zürcher Zeitung (Switzerland) writes and points to a decisive mistake in the German chancellor’s negotiating strategy:

“Merkel’s mission in Moscow is a textbook example of German power. German power is above all economic power. Germany can woo others with the prospect of close ties to the EU market and greater involvement of German companies. And it can threaten to prevent both through sanctions.

… What Germany lacks in terms of foreign policy instruments is the military aspect of power. Merkel’s position in Moscow would be much stronger if she hadn’t ruled out arms supplies to Ukraine or if she had at least left Putin in the dark about it. Her rejection of this option made it clear from the start that the Europeans wouldn’t join in even in the unlikely event of Obama deciding to go for it.”

 

German government betraying European values

Instead of supporting Ukraine the German government has been doing all it can to avoid provoking Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ire since the start of the crisis almost a year ago, Thomas Rietzschel complains in the Blog Achse des Guten (Germany):

“The government used to tell us it was defending our freedom in Afghanistan. German soldiers were deployed beyond the mountains there and lost their lives. However now that the threat has moved a lot closer to home, there is to be no talk of this kind of defensive readiness. It seems it’s far preferable to appease the aggressor with territorial gains that don’t cost us a thing. This may be a sensible approach in the short term, but it is also shameless. Those who use it, who reach out their hand, should stop citing European values in doing so. Hypocrisy doesn’t solve any problems.”