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Munich Security Conference: Talking Peace, Russian Style

When Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev took to the theatre at the Munich certainty conference, he left no doubt as to who had sent him.

“Before entrance to this conference, we met with President Putin,” he said, looking down at his notes. With a nervous brush of his arm he continued: “We talked about his debate in 2007 … [about] ideological stereotypes, double standards and unilateral actions.”

The hall fell silent. Those who had come to see the soft side of Russian tact satisfied they competence have been given the wrong lecture notes.

Putin’s family with the West have been diligent with tragedy ever given Russia’s expel of Crimea in March 2014. But in the month before Munich, there had been wish that Russia was looking to compromise with the West — forced to the negotiating list on the behind of plunging oil prices and a stalling domestic economy.

There were some earnest signs. On Jan. 11, Putin suddenly sent his attach� Boris Gryzlov to Kiev to meet with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. Four days later, his special confidant on Ukraine, Vladislav Surkov met with the U.S. State Department’s tip European hand, Victoria Nuland. The subject of Ukraine had also prolonged left from the conflict agendas of Russian state television.

The West offering transparent prospects for a decrease of the sanctions regime in July 2016. Speaking at the Davos limit on Jan. 22, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry pronounced it was “possible” that “in the next months … [we will] get to a place where sanctions can be reasonably … removed.” French Prime Minister Manuel Valls even trafficked to Moscow to discuss transformation on sanctions.

Most onlookers insincere that the Russians were critical about demonstrating a “soft” side in exchange for sanctions relief. Putin’s preference to send Medvedev to Munich, rather than some-more hawkish members of the Kremlin elite, was seen in this light.

In Munich, Medvedev released a clear and contrary message. Russia would not be reason warrant to the West’s demands, he said: If sanctions were lifted, it would be since the West satisfied their mistake, not since Russia had stooped to its demands.

Kerry responded in kind, by reiterating there could be no speak of easing sanctions until Russia and its proxies played ball. “Russia has a simple choice: Fully exercise Minsk or continue to face economically deleterious sanctions,” he said.

The situation on the belligerent suggests full doing of the Minsk agreement will not occur soon. Since the new year, general monitors have available the regular use of heavy artillery by both sides, including “grad” barb systems.

Meanwhile, in an talk to the Russian “Profile” repository on Feb. 15, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin expel doubt on the awaiting of returning Ukrainian control to its eastern border — another pivotal condition of agreement.

Speaking to The Moscow Times, domestic researcher and Kremlin fan Alexei Chesnakov pronounced that doing of Minsk was already of the sequence of “complete fantasy.”

Chesnakov claimed that Moscow’s position on Ukraine had not, in fact, changed: “All the signals that Moscow has sent in recent times have been not about any softening of its position, though about widening the field for dialogue. Moscow has not signaled a readiness to make compromises, and its final have remained unchanged. What we need are changes to the Constitution, legislation on the special standing of Donetsk and Luhansk, and legislation on elections. And we’re at a passed finish on all of these.”

With Ukraine teetering on the margin of political collapse, President Petro Poroshenko is indeed doubtful to be means to deliver on any of these fronts.

The issue of constitutional changes, quite argumentative in Kiev, is for the time being a no-go. The last time it was discussed, 4 inhabitant guardsmen were killed outward council when a live grenade was thrown during disturbances. In January, Kiev introduced a thinly potential holding tactic, referring the timing of the joining to the country’s Constitutional Court.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry pronounced in Munich that the cease-fire agreement for Syria was “ambitious” and the genuine exam would be actions on the ground.

Fool Me Once

Any illusions about an accommodating opinion of Russian unfamiliar process were also shot down by assertive positions on Syria.

While The Moscow Times has schooled that Medvedev altered the wording of Syria sections of his debate following the Munich agreement, there is small pointer Russia is prepared to change the troops operation in Syria.

In the weeks heading adult to Munich, Russian bombers helped the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad launch an onslaught on the city of Aleppo and its suburbs, a former insurgent stronghold. Panic widespread as tens of thousands of civilians fled Syria’s largest city towards the Turkish border.

Western leaders denounced the strikes amid regard it would intensify the humanitarian predicament and refugee flows to Europe. The deal brokered between the United States, Russia, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and other countries on the eve of the Munich discussion was hailed by Kerry as “ambitious.” Others, such as U.S. Senator John McCain, suggested it was delusional.

For Russian general affairs consultant Vladimir Frolov, the timing of the equal understanding was no accident, and came at a time when Moscow’s negotiate position on Syria was strong.

Russian aerial army had helped the forces of Assad broach a crushing blow to the opposition, weakening their negotiate energy forward of the talks. It also increasing vigour on the West to accept Assad as partial of the solution, rather than the problem.

Frolov says the Russian negotiating strategy simulate a “fight as we talk” arrangement. This proceed shares many similarities with Ukraine, where Russia and its allies went into discussions from a position of military strength: initial in September 2014, following abrasive reverses for the Ukrainian side in Ilovaisk and elsewhere; and again in February 2015, when Ukrainian soldiers were radically encircled in Debaltseve.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his German reflection Frank-Walter Steinmeier vocalization on a row at the certainty discussion in Munich.

A Flawed Agreement

Critics have remarkable the amount of wriggle room contained within the Munich declaration, which, they argue, undermines the value of any “ceasefire.” The agreement, for example, exempts any movement taken opposite “terrorists.” But if the West targets militant groups — such as Islamic State and al-Nusra — Russia’s clarification of terrorists is most some-more flexible. It includes some-more assuage antithesis groups that accept U.S. backing.

Further complicating matters, many of the warring factions have intermingled on the battlefield. That provides Russia with cover to continue the atmosphere campaigns, even underneath a cease-fire deal.

“They are all bandits and terrorists,” Medvedev told Time repository a day after the deal was announced. Those “who run around with involuntary weapons” are satisfactory targets, he added.

Few of those vocalization at the Munich discussion voiced certainty that the Syria understanding would hold. Even before the officials left German soil, discreet confidence had given approach to further distrust.

Lavrov pronounced he suspicion there was a “49 percent” possibility the Munich understanding would be successful. His German reflection Frank-Walter Steinmeier put the odds at 51 percent. Britain’s Philip Hammond quipped that, deliberation Lavrov’s remarks, the success rate was some-more expected to be zero.

From Russia’s perspective, what matters is not either the cease-fire holds, though who is seen to be the bad man if it fails.

“If Moscow is seen as the aggressor and antagonist, afterwards there is some domestic cost,” says certainty researcher Mark Galeotti. “If, however, the blame can be pinned on Turkey, or IS, afterwards Moscow can feign dismay and resume the bombardments.” It stays to be seen either Russia’s Syrian operations will continue to come at little cost to the Russian regime.

French domestic consultant Marie Mendras says that the Syrian debate is inherently most riskier than any prior operations in Ukraine. “There are some-more nasty players concerned and the conditions is most some-more wild and unpredictable than in eastern Ukraine,” she said.

Galeotti concluded that there are few givens when it comes to Syria. Despite Russia’s success in helping Assad recover some of his fighting power, undisguised troops feat remained unlikely, he said.

At the same time, Russia has shown that it will follow what it sees as the military need, regardless of the domestic or mercantile cost. How prolonged this can continue given the nosediving economy is another question.  

Article source: http://www.themoscowtimes.com/article/559917.html