On May 17th, the US State Department’s Special Envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, returned from a trip to the Donbass frontline and Ukrainian-occupied DPR territory, and gave an interesting statement to Ukrainian media. Unlike the majority of Volker’s Russian counterparts, Volker has, in addition to his important representative functions, an appreciable media figure presence, hence the interest in his each and every word on the conflict in Donbass.
And so, what interesting things did Kurt Volker have to say this time?
Volker told Ukrainian media: “There’s no way the Ukrainians can take the territory back, which has already been taken by the Russians. Russia is just too powerful.” Volker insinuated that Russia is nurturing plans to seize new Ukrainian territory, but stressed that “the cost to Russia for a further advancement has already increased and will continue to increase.” Indeed, Volker emphasized that Russia might be beaten back from a new offensive by American lethal weapons delivered to Ukraine.
Some Russian media have, with poorly disguised joy, treated the US State Department’s envoy’s statement as an admission that the US has finally recognized Ukraine’s weakness. But Volker is an experienced and very capable demagogue and politician. What’s more, he is strict and consistent. His public admission of the Ukrainian army and state’s weakness should not be cause for rejoicing, but for alertness.
Volker’s positing of “democratic, but weak Ukraine” vs. “too strong” but “undemocratic Russia” is meant to demonize Moscow. Thus, the immediate aim of Volker’s statement is to lobby the idea of affording military and technological aid to the Poroshenko regime, only with the help of which can “Ukrainian democracy” stand up to “Russian aggression.” However, even Europe’s capitals have protested against the involvement of American lethal arms.
Moreover, this construction is completely false, even if logical on its own terms, in its own simulacrum. If Russia really harbored aggressive plans against Ukraine – whose semi-Nazi ruling regime more than deserves such – then why does “too strong” Russia not already have troops all the way up to the borders with Romania, Hungary, and Poland? Ukrainian politicians and military officers have admitted that the Ukrainian army was completely unfit and unprepared in spring 2014, and I think that it is no exaggeration to say that Russian paratroopers could have taken Kiev in two to three days if they wanted to.
Russia did not occupy Ukraine not because it could not, but because it did not want to – even in 2014, with the fresh, plausible pretext of restoring legitimate rule of law in Kiev. Why would Russia do that now? Volker’s formula does not allow for a simple answer – because it is designed to for an audience with “clip thinking.”
Another idea which Volker has persistently lobbied is the deployment of an international peacekeeping force to Donbass. Since Ukraine on its own is incapable of re-capturing territories “occupied” by “too strong Russia”, international peacekeepers are to be called to help Kiev. However, this very word should be put in quotation marks, since the “peacekeepers” will be soldiers from Western countries or countries controlled by the US. We should remember the Syrian case, in which the Americans built an “international coalition” which is operating without a UN mandate on the territory of the sovereign Syrian state, i.e., is engaged in the de-facto occupation of Syria. And, of course, the coalition’s troops are mostly Americans, hidden under the pretty veneer of a list of 70 countries supposed to be fighting ISIS under the auspices of the United States.
Volker is proposing something similar for Donbass. He wants to internationalize the war in Donbass and create an international occupation corps out of Western and pro-Western militaries. Judging by his statements, Volker clearly sees such as helping Ukraine. In other words, we are dealing with another instance of “international peacekeeping” (occupation) serving the interests of the United States.
Just as significant as Volker’s latest admission and its implications is the possibility that Volker’s Russian counterpart, Vladislav Surkov, might be removed.
Translated by Jafe Arnold