For Angela Merkel, read Neville Chamberlain. For François Hollande, read Edouard Daladier. For Moscow 2015, read Munich 1938.
For the Munich Agreement, read… Well, there’s the snag.
So far Angie, today’s answer to Chamberlain, has no piece of paper to wave in the air. She and her liege-swain François spent five hours talking to Putin until the wee hours this morning – and nichts, rien, nichego. Nothing. A big fat zero.
All we can read for the Munich agreement is the official statement released by Putin’s poodle Dmitry Peskov. He described the negotiations conducted by the threesome as “constructive, meaningful and substantive.” For the English translation of this standard Russian formula, see the end of the previous paragraph.
That, however, doesn’t mean that no Munich-type surrender has taken place. Surely such busy people didn’t spend five hours talking about the weather and the latest football scores.
Yet no details have been released to the public. In the good spirit of both Russia and the EU we are deemed too lowly to be vouchsafed such information.
However, Angie did say a few things worth noting. The aim of the negotiations, she said, is to protect the European Friedenordnung, which is peace and order rolled into one composite word, as is the Germans’ wont.
Furthermore, she regards neither François nor herself as “neutral intermediaries”, she added. They represent “German, French, general European interests”.
That at least has a ring of honesty to it. This is the first time Angie publicly admitted that, as far as she is concerned, Europe is made up of Germany and France only. Das ist alles. No one else matters, and especially not those Britische Sweine. Gott strafe England, and all that.
Peskov didn’t limit himself to diplomatic platitudes either. He dropped a hint that an accord will soon be reached for implementing the Minsk ceasefire agreement of last September, something Russia wishes to build on.
But Putin has already built on that agreement – by equipping and encouraging his proxy troops to grab another 200 square miles of Ukrainian territory. Continuing implementation means he now wants his bandits to retrench at their new border, catch their breath and then resume their westward thrust.
At which point another agreement will be necessary, and so forth, until the Ukraine happily and voluntarily rejoins the ‘former’ Soviet Union.
The whole process is so densely enveloped in fog that no sense of reality is any longer possible. For example, Putin continues to deny that Russia has anything to do with the spontaneous uprising by ‘separatist rebels’. Arm them? Certainly not.
If Russia hasn’t armed the ‘rebels’, who has? They are armed, aren’t they? Considering that their arsenal includes multiple missile launchers, field artillery, tanks and other armour, AA batteries and SU-25 fighter-bombers, East Ukrainian hardware shops must boast rather peculiar product lines.
Such bold-faced lying alone should be sufficient grounds for refusing to talk to Putin at all, never mind conducting unauthorised, underhanded negotiations whose only possible outcome for the Ukraine will be the same as Munich was for Czechoslovakia.
In any case, a treaty, whatever its terms, must be based on trust. The parties to the agreement must believe that they both will abide by its terms. Exactly what in the record of communist or post-communist Russia inspires such confidence?
Russia, whether led by the Party, as it was under the Soviets, or by the KGB, as it is under Putin, has unfailingly used every treaty it has ever signed as a way of pulling a fast one on the West.
Hence the SALT treaties of the 1970s resulted in an unprecedented build-up of Soviet armed forces and their invasion of Afghanistan. Going back a little further, towards the end of the Second World War, the Soviets undertook not to impose their rule on Eastern Europe by force of arms, which they promptly proceeded to do.
Putin’s cynical disregard for the terms of the Minsk Agreement (not to mention the Budapest Memorandum – no one does any longer) shows that he upholds this fine tradition, along with all others he inherited from the Soviets and especially his idol Stalin.
Even US Vice President Joe Biden realises this. “[Putin] absolutely ignores every agreement that his country has signed,” he said, and this is one line Joe didn’t steal from Neil Kinnock.
The only language the Russians (I mean those who determine policy) understand is that of force. Angie and François know this of course, but confronting evil with force calls for the kind of qualities they lack, courage being the primary one.
The Americans at least are trying to make some tentative moves in that direction, by intending (or rather saying they intend) to arm the Ukrainian army to a point of parity with the bandits Putin lies he doesn’t arm.
That’s where Angie draws the line. She is opposed to supplying the Ukrainians with “lethal weapons” because, in the words of her spokesman, “there are already too many weapons in the region”. Yes, and most of them are in the hands of Putin’s bandits.
The term ‘lethal weapons’ sounds odd. Since few weapons one is aware of fall into the non-lethal category, the adjective is clearly used here merely for dramatic and emotional effect.
‘Lethal’ means capable of killing. Can’t have that. Who has ever heard of people trying to kill one another in a war?
Actually, inasmuch as it’s possible to distinguish between offensive and defensive weapons, those the Americans are talking about clearly belong to the second type.
Anti-armour missiles, reconnaissance drones, armoured Humvees and radars designed to spot the location of enemy rocket and artillery fire are all systems mainly used to repel rather than launch aggression. And this happens to be the Ukrainian shopping list the Americans are planning to fill, but only after Angie does her negotiations bit.
If Europe were led by statesmen rather than spivs, no negotiations with Putin would be conducted until he stopped his bandits in their tracks and withdrew his regular and proxy troops from the Ukraine and the Crimea. Failure to do so would put a whole raft of measures into effect.
These would include every manner of assistance to the Ukraine; expansion of economic sanctions, escalating to a blanket boycott of Russian goods; impounding of all Russian assets in the West; expulsion of Russia from every international organisation. In short, turning Putin’s Russia into the pariah state it richly deserves to be.
In the process the West would embark on a massive rearmament programme, similar to that America enacted in the 1980s to counteract the Soviet post-SALT build-up. Except that this time Europe would pull its weight.
The Asperger sufferer is expanding an aggressive war in Europe, and Europe’s response must be resolute and full-blooded.
What we are getting instead is a rehash of Munich, 1938. Appeasement, feigned trust in the dictator’s good intentions, a show of weakness.
The only thing missing is Angie, piece of paper in hand, descending an airplane gangplank and shouting “Peace in our time!” After that… well, you know what has to happen after that.