If there is any such thing as sacrilege in international relations, it is disregard for another state’s territorial integrity. Since Monday, Vladimir Putin has done exactly that: the Russian President denies Ukraine’s right to sovereignty by recognizing the “People’s Republics” of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent states, i.e. granting them sovereignty.
The gentleman in the Kremlin gives. The gentleman in the Kremlin takes. And the gentleman in the Kremlin is about to send troops to the so-called People’s Republics. He calls it a “peace mission.” It’s a war mission.
The Minsk process has been dead since Monday at the latest, as has the Normandy format, as has the belief that there can still be a peaceful solution to this Ukraine conflict. All the diplomatic efforts of the past few weeks, all the state visits to Moscow, all the benevolent appeals from the West to continue negotiations – in vain.
Legal legitimation of a military invasion
The West, and above all the Europeans with their efforts to save the Minsk process, are disavowed. Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron and even US President Joe Biden have all invested their political capital in the negotiations. Putin played with them: conciliatory signals on Mondays, escalation on Tuesdays, only to send a peaceful signal again on Wednesday. It’s a confusing game.
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From the Russian point of view, the recognition of the eastern Ukrainian areas is nothing other than legal legitimacy for military intervention – initially in Donetsk and Luhansk, and soon possibly in the whole of Ukraine. No one knows, but the West should be prepared. Putin had prepared the step, had spoken of the “genocide” of the Russian-speaking population there.
The picture is coming together, and the West must now decide whether Putin’s latest act is the trigger for the “ultimate sanctions” that the US and the European Union have been talking about for weeks.
This is how the Handelsblatt reports on the developments in the Ukraine crisis:
It is not yet the start of the dreaded invasion of the now more than 150,000 soldiers on the Ukrainian border. The Russian President knows that discussions are now beginning in the West about which sanctions are the right ones. There will have to be a reaction. The USA and Europe have already announced this.
Georgia 2008, Crimea 2014, the war in Syria – Putin is gradually expanding his zones of influence – tactically clever, fearless, determined and mostly without scruples.
The West hasn’t figured out a way to deal with it yet. He seems overwhelmed. In any case, the special role in relations with Russia that Berlin is so fond of claiming for itself is now passé. The order of the day is unity.
Now at the latest, even the last Nord Stream 2 propagandists should begin to have doubts. A clear signal must now also come from Berlin in the direction of Moscow.
Monday could go down as a turning point in the history of relations between the West and Russia. Refraining from using force to alter borders, the right of peoples to self-determination and the right of sovereign states to freely choose their alliance – these are fundamental values of the international community, and not only the West has committed to them. Russia, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, has also committed itself to them.
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