“We are facing a total war”–Hollande

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2/5/2015

Facing a Total War

By Russkiy Malchik [Russian Boy]

Translated from Russian by J.Hawk

“We have two choices. We can adopt the logic that the
participants ought to be armed. Since Russia is arming the separatists, we will
do the same for Ukrainians so that they can defend themselves. But can you draw
the line between defensive and offensive weaponry?”—asked Hollande. “The other
option is to try and find a compromise and convince both sides to cease fire.
Diplomacy, negotiations, but they ought not continue endlessly…Because we are
dealing with a war—war which can become total.”

These are the words of Hollande, very straightforward and
direct which is very uncharacteristic for contemporary European politicians,
and they are a reflection of the high level of fear in continental Europe. And,
what’s important, it’s fear that appeared suddenly, unexpectedly, forcing the
leaders of the two biggest European countries to hurry to Kiev and Moscow. What did just happen?

Judging by the State Department announcements and the
arrival of Kerry to Kiev, the catalyst of such a pained European reaction are
the US intentions to start openly arming the Ukrainian army, which would
guarantee a Russian response that would transform the conflict on the Donbass
into something entirely different, which Hollande referred to as “total war”.
Keeping in mind that both the junta and the Donbass announced a mobilization of
up to 100 thousand recruits, and that Poroshenko said he is ready to introduce martial
law and use new NATO-provided weapons, all of this can lead to the biggest
regional conflict since WW2.

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It’s possible that the unprecedented French and German
diplomatic initiative is the last attempt to restrain the US from taking this
step by proposing Kerry a new variant of peace negotiations. Perhaps this is
why there will be an unscheduled meeting between Merkel and Kerry, after which
both Merkel and Hollande will fly to Moscow. Kommersant writes that the “core
of the French-German initiative may be a ceasefire along a new line of
demarcation which will not be the same one as what was agreed on in September
of last year, with the traditional condition that the Donbass remains in
Ukraine with special conditions. It also cannot be ruled out that the two
traveled to Kiev with more radical proposals, for example, introducing
peacekeeping troosp into the Donbass (something like that was discussed at the
UN a long time ago, and Pushilin already expressed his consent). Then there is definitely
a need for the principals to talk face to face.

One way or the other, Europe is seriously alarmed. This was
evident at the press conference where Hollande suddenly realized that “every
day there are men, women, civilians dying on the eastern borders of Europe.” He
also said that both France and Germany have a “special responsibility” because
both are closely tied to Russia and Ukraine. In other words, the Europeans
suddenly realized that America is far away but they are close, and that the “total
war” will hit their part of the “Western World” the hardest. One can’t say that
they did not understand this before, but were always hoping that Russia would
retreat at the last moment. However, it is now finally clear that Russia will
not retreat. While Moscow is trying to put out the fire of war, it will not be
intimidated by the prospect of it becomes large-scale.

P.S. Hollande has followed in Merkel’s footsteps by saying
that he does not even intend to consider the issue of arming Ukraine. This is
directly opposed to Washington’s wishes. It does not speak to a split within
the West, since as before different Western countries accept the burden of the
military component in different conflicts, but it is another indication of the
sentiments in continental Europe.

J.Hawk’s Comment: We don’t yet know what Merkel and Hollande
discussed with Poroshenko (though, apparently, not with Yatsenyuk who once
again is making the rounds making hysterical pronouncements and unbelievable
demands) or what they will discuss with Putin. One possibility is that there is
no split within the West, and that the Mellande (Horkel?) dynamic duo are the “good
cop” to Obama’s (or, rather, Biden’s) “bad cop.” But then Kerry seems to have
suddenly remembered (after all these months!) that the Minsk Protocol also
makes Ukraine responsible for providing the Donbass with a special status,
something that Kiev has conspicuously failed to do (not that it took seriously
any other requirements of the Minsk Protocol). Moreover, the three leaders in
question don’t get their knowledge about the situation in Ukraine from NPR or
Fox News. No, that’s propaganda for the masses. They know everything that the
readers of this blog know: the Ukrainian economy is a shambles, the Ukrainian
military is facing a massive desertion and discipline problem (one does not
empower commanders to shoot their own soldiers on the spot if there is not a
compelling need to do so), and any transfers of weapons to the Ukrainian side
would have no perceptible impact except to make Russia exceptionally angry and
to accelerate the collapse of the Ukrainian state. Historically, Russia has
shown little willingness to appease. It’s preferred approach is to exert
maximum pressure, political, economic, and, if need be, military, in the
direction of the threat. To the point of marching into Paris and Berlin, if the
circumstances require it. The greater the threat, the stronger the Russian
push-back. Any Western overt military support would only increase the Russian
pressure on Ukraine long before these weapons would even reach the
battlefield.  So what would NATO have to
respond with? More sanctions? I think the message has sunk in that Russia will
not be “brought to heel” by sanctions? Direct military involvement? Even if the
whole of Bundeswehr were to be deployed to Ukraine, it would last maybe two
weeks. Merkel and Hollande know this. Moreover, both Merkel and Hollande have flatly ruled out supplying Ukraine with weapons. For the Obama administration to proceed to arm Ukraine would mean a very visible breach between the US and the EU. 

It is more likely that, as Cassad points out, the hurried if varied reaction (Obama threatens to arm the junta, while Merkel and Hollande fly to Kiev and Moscow) has to do with the battlefield successes of Novorossia’s army which is threatening to inflict a major and humiliating defeat on UAF. It is entirely possible that Novorossia forces held back precisely in order to give Merkel and Hollande time to formulate their peace proposals and to fly with them to Kiev, rather than to face them with a fait accompli. Though should Merkel and Hollande fail rise to the occasion, there is always time for the UAF grouping at Debaltsevo to be salutorily finished off. Pour encourager les autres. 

The problem is, once again, located in Kiev, because for
Poroshenko it’s a lose-lose proposition, and it’s not even clear which of the
two losing options is the worse one. In fact, he probably has a better chance
of physically surviving if the whole country goes down in flames as a result of
the escalating conflict (escalating not because of Russia’s intervention but
because of internal unrest and repression) then if he makes peace with
Novorossia. Because it’s then that the knives will come out–somebody has to be the scapegoat, and it ain’t gonna be the “war party”. It’s not clear
what, if anything, Merkel and Hollande can do to change that calculation for
him.

As to Yatsenyuk and Turchinov, they probably prefer a
continued war because they are too incompetent to govern under any other
circumstances. War makes it possible to shift the responsibility for every
mishap onto the conflict itself and away from oneself. Plus, of course, the war suits their “arsonist firefighter” temperaments just fine. And this can continue
until…it can’t. Until the country breaks down. It still looks like the “doomsday” scenario is the most
plausible one.

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