Kerry-Sotchi, ou la confusion entre le mieux et le pire

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Kerry-Sotchi, ou la confusion entre le mieux et le pire

Il y a, dans Russia Insider, ce 18 mai 2015, un excellent article d’Alexander Mercouris qui reprend l’ensemble de la situation de la crise ukrainienne après la visite de Kerry à Sotchi. Il s’agit de la situation des relations entre les USA (accessoirement le reste du bloc BAO) et la Russie d’une part, de la situation en Ukraine et dans les rapports de l’Ukraine avec la Russie d’autre part.

Sa longue et précise analyse dégage deux points principaux. Mercouris ne dénie pas une seconde que cette visite marque une certaine amélioration des relations entre les USA et la Russie, – performance en soi assez aisée, si l’on considère le point near zero où l’on se trouve. Pour autant, cela ne signifie pas l’apaisement de la crise ukrainienne, mais peut-être le contraire, c’est-à-dire la guerre à nouveau entre Kiev et le Donbass, peut-être assez rapidement sinon très rapidement (Mercouris parle de fin mai-début juin) à l’initiative de Kiev, avec cette fois le risque d’une extension dramatique.

• Sur le premier point, Mercouris estime que l’“aile réaliste” de la direction américaniste est arrivée depuis janvier à la conclusion que l’action conduite contre la Russie par l’intermédiaire de l’Ukraine, et autour de l’Ukraine (sanctions économiques, guerre monétaire, pressions de communication, démonstrations bellicistes de l’OTAN, etc.) est un échec complet. La rhétorique de l’“isolement de la Russie” est aujourd’hui un objet de plaisanterie, et le régime Poutine est si solidement implanté qu’on a l’impression qu’il ne fait qu’un bloc avec la population russe. Ce n’est pas dans ces conditions qu’on peut envisager un regime change. Alors, autant tenter de s’arranger avec la Russie d’autant que les USA ont besoin d’elle pour nombre d’autres crises (l’Iran et le reste), en laissant de côté l’Ukraine enrobée dans Minsk2.

• Mais on ne laisse pas aisément de côté l’Ukraine, parce que c’est d’abord le cœur de la crise. Les “marionnettes” clownesques placées par leurs tuteurs aux postes de direction de Kiev savent que leur seule chance de rester au pouvoir, c’est-à-dire leur seule chance de survie, est de se lancer dans une action extrême de leur maximalisme courant, en théorie contre la volonté US, pour forcer la partie US (le bloc BAO) à revenir à un soutien sans condition, au moins rhétorique, – dans tous les cas d’abord, mais avec conséquences concrètes probables tant est puissant le système de la communication qui dicte les décisions politiques. (Cet aspect du raisonnement renvoie au désordre général du monde où les puissants mettent en place des “marionnettes” dont ils deviennent très vite les prisonniers à cause de leur propre rhétorique de soutien vertueux à ces “marionnettes” colorées d’appréciations et d’embrassades hyper-vertueuses. C’est ce qu’Immanuel Wallerstein exprimait de cette façon [voir le 24 mai 2015], selon notre adaptation en français où nous nous sommes permis d’introduire le terme sympathique de “mationnettes” : «Cela me paraît un fantastique contresens de la perception des réalité de notre situation actuelle, qui est celle de l’extension du chaos résultant la crise structurelle de notre système. Je ne crois pas que les élites aient aujourd’hui la moindre capacité de manipuler leurs “marionnettes”. Je crois que les “marionnettes” défient les élites qui les ont placées où elles sont, faisant ce qui leur plaît, et essayant de manipuler les élites à leur avantage. C’est une politique du-bas-vers-le-haut plutôt qu’une politique du-haut-vers-le-bas.»)

Ce dernier point de la réaction probable de Kiev permet à Mercouris d’observer paradoxalement : «Les entretiens entre Poutine et Kerry sont en fait bien plus susceptibles d'accélérer le redémarrage de la guerre que de le freiner.» Cette conclusion paradoxale a de fortes chances d’être renforcée par un aspect du problème général que Mercouris ne traite pas en tant que tel, qui est le rôle et l’effet du système de la communication déjà évoqué. La rencontre Kerry-Poutine a été “couverte” par la presse-Système du bout des lèvres, comme l’on dirait “du bout de la plume”, tant elle va à l’encontre de la narrative et des obligations qu’impose celle-ci (ce que nous nommons déterminisme-narrativiste). On observera d’ailleurs que ce système de la communication dans le chef de la presse-Système accorde plus d’importance, par exemple, au pseudo-“rapport Nemtsov” sur la révélation enfin apportée des preuves des multiples invasions russes de l’Ukraine, que sur la rencontre de Sotchi. (Sur ce rapport, voir RT le 12 mai 2015 et notamment le DVD d’un résumé de l’émission In the Now, qui analyse la façon désormais assez classique dont les diverses “sources” citées pour substantiver la thèse sont essentiellement des affirmations propres d’organes antirusses, voire des affirmations du groupe Nemtsov lui-même, se citant lui-même comme “source” de ce qu’il avance.) Manifestement, le système de la communication dans la presse-Système, tel qu’il est intervenu jusqu’ici, est massivement favorable à la partie ukrainienne et soutiendra on dirait “d’instinct” toute poussée belliciste antirusse.

Un autre point, non officiel, doit être rapporté ici qui introduit un autre point de vue compliquant singulièrement l’évaluation générale. Des sources indépendantes rapportent que, dans les briefings donnés par les divers contacts du gouvernement US à leurs homologues des pays du bloc BAO dans lesquels les Européens figurent en bonne place, la version américaniste officielle, de l’administration Obama, est qu’il ne faut pas “croire ce que la presse rapporte” (pauvre presse-Système, pourtant si aimable par sa discrétion !), que la partie US a été d’une “dureté extraordinaire” vis-à-vis des Russes, sur tous les sujets, y compris l’Ukraine bien entendu, qu’elle est donc sortie complètement victorieuse de cette confrontation qu’elle avait elle-même suscitée sans que personne ne lui ait rien demandé. Cette version est martelée partout dans les réseaux officiels du bloc BAO, d’une façon officieuse comme il se doit ; et l’on dirait alors, assez classiquement, qu’il importe que les amis du bloc BAO (et les républicains à Washington) ne se trompent pas sur le point de savoir qui est la patron ici et là, à Sotchi et à Bruxelles, comme à Washington, et qui dirige la musique... Paradoxalement, ces mêmes délégations US disent qu’à côté de cette dureté exemplaire ils ont demandé (“exigé”, puisqu’on y est ?) des Russes une coopération dans divers dossiers où ils ont justement besoin de ces Russes-là ; autrement dit, les redresseurs de tort qui font valoir toute leur puissance et ne cèdent sur rien quémandent sur un ton sans réplique l’aide russe dont ils ont absolument besoin parce qu’ils sont dans une situation de faiblesse manifeste dans un nombre respectable d’occurrences. Nul ne craint le paradoxe (mot aimable dans la circonstance) chez ces gens-là... Un détail exemplaire du susdit paradoxe cultivé comme un des beaux-arts de ces confidences, c’est l’assurance absolue que ces délégations US ont donné à leurs interlocuteurs d’avoir exigé et obtenu de Poutine, sur un sujet précis, un engagement à ne pas faire ce qu’il s’était publiquement engagé à faire il y a quelques semaines ; pendant que, dans sa conférence de presse très publique et officielle, Lavrov affirmait, en réponse à une question innocente et sans rapport avec cette intrigue, que le sujet auquel il est fait allusion ici n’avait pas été abordé dans les entretiens... Il y a donc quelqu’un, quelque part, qui prend de sacrées libertés avec la vérité de la situation, et la question évoquée porte sur un cas trop concret pour que l’on n’en ait pas très vite le cœur net.

... A ce dernier écho ajoutant tout de même à la confusion générale pour tenter d’exactement fixer l’état de la question et pouvant indiquer que le système de la communication réagit instantanément sur les dirigeants-Système (avec leur nouvelle version officieuse) de la même façon qu’il fait sur la presse-Système, nous en ajouterons un autre qui ne fait rien pour éclaircir la chose mais qui donne tout de même une indication réelle du climat. Il s’agit de la nouvelle que la Russie a décidé d’interrompre l’avantage stratégique important qu’elle avait accordé il y a quelques années à l’OTAN de faire transiter par son territoire du matériel militaire de renforcement pour les forces US et de l’OTAN en Afghanistan. (Voir Russia Insider ce 19 mai 2015.) Il semble que, sur ce point, l’absolue et victorieuse “dureté” US de Sotchi n’ait pas influencé les psychologies dans le sens qu’il faut ; et peut-être certains jugeraient-ils avec bien des arguments qu’il s’agit de l’immédiate réponse russe à la version “officielle” de la rencontre de Sotchi que la partie américaniste colporte officieusement et à qui veut l’entendre chez ses interlocuteurs officiels du bloc BAO. Dans tous les cas, il s’agit, avec cette route vers l’Afghanistan, d’un des derniers liens concrets officiels entre la Russie et l’OTAN qui est rompu, et un pas de plus de la Russie dans sa réorientation géostratégique de l’Ouest vers l’Est et hors du bloc BAO. C’est une dimension essentielle qui est absente des échos qu’on a eus de la rencontre de Sotchi, et dont on sentira tout le poids en juillet, lors des sommets conjoints des BRICS et de l’Organisation de Coopération de Shanghai, en Russie même.

Voici donc ci-dessous l’article d’Alexander Mercouris du 18 mai 2014, sur Russia Insider. Le titre original («Kerry in Sochi: Better relations between Moscow and Washington but no peace in Ukraine») a été raccourci pour des raisons graphiques de présentations.

dedefensa.org


Kerry in Sochi: Better relations but no peace in Ukraine

Kerry’s recent meeting with Putin has provoked talk that the Ukrainian conflict is drawing to a close. According to this view, the U.S. now realises that its attempt to isolate Russia and to engineer the victory of its Ukrainian proxies has failed, and it is now drawing down. There is some truth to this view, provided it is clearly understood that this understanding extends to just the “realist” wing of the U.S. foreign policy establishment, and that it does not mean that the conflict in Ukraine itself is anywhere close to being over.

That the US’s foreign policy realists were looking for a way to draw the crisis down became clear in January from an article planted in Bloomberg (see US Wants End to Standoff, but for Russia to Make All the Concessions. Moscow Stays Cool, Russia Insider, 13th January 2015) and from a follow-up editorial in the New York Times (see Ukraine: An Editorial in The New York Times Suggests US Is Looking for a Face-Saving Way Out, Russia Insider, 4th February 2015).

The Bloomberg article said: “This month, Obama’s National Security Council finished an extensive and comprehensive review of U.S policy toward Russia that included dozens of meetings and input from the State Department, Defense Department and several other agencies, according to three senior administration officials. At the end of the sometimes-contentious process, Obama made a decision to continue to look for ways to work with Russia on a host of bilateral and international issues while also offering Putin a way out of the stalemate over the crisis in Ukraine.”

The article identified Kerry as leading the realists within the Obama administration seeking to end the confrontation with Russia. The article set out the terms the U.S. was offering Russia: “Kerry has floated an offer to Russia that would pave the way for a partial release of some of the most onerous economic sanctions. Kerry’s conditions included Russia adhering to September’s Minsk agreement and ceasing direct military support for the Ukrainian separatists. The issue of Crimea would be set aside for the time being, and some of the initial sanctions that were put in place after Crimea’s annexation would be kept in place.”

As we discussed in our 13th January 2015 article, the Russians at the time were unreceptive to such a vague and one-sided offer. The U.S. realists accordingly followed up with a more concrete offer for autonomy for the Donbass, which they floated in February in an editorial in the New York Times: “Russian officials have suggested that Moscow has no interest in annexing eastern Ukraine, the way it grabbed Crimea, but rather seeks a Ukrainian federation in which the pro-Russian provinces would have relative autonomy, along with assurances that Ukraine will not move to join NATO.

“There is definitely potential for negotiations there...

“Tempting as it is to focus on punishing Mr. Putin, the greater objective must be to end the fighting so that Ukraine can finally undertake the arduous task of reforming and reviving its economy. Toward that end, the West must make clear to Mr. Putin that if a federation is his goal, the United States and its allies will actively use their good offices with Kiev to seek a workable arrangement.”

That appears to be in essence the outline proposal that Kerry took with him to Sochi.

As we discussed in our 4th February 2015 article, the Russians have insisted on going much further, in effect replacing the federalisation plan they floated back in Spring 2014, with a much more radical proposal. What is being proposed now is not a “federal” solution at all (at least not in the sense of what “federation” is commonly understood to mean in federal states such as the US), but a constitutional structure that would reduce Ukraine to the loosest possible confederation, kept permanently outside NATO and the EU (see Ukraine: Confederal Solution Looms, Russia Insider, 14th May 2015; see also the important discussion by Paul Robinson, Stuffing the Rebels Back Into Ukraine?, Russia Insider, 14th May 2015).

The two People’s Republics would not only control their own governance, but would be able to establish economic relations with other countries, control their borders, run their own military, and have a say over the formation of the Ukrainian government’s budget. They would in effect be independent countries, only nominally part of Ukraine, but exercising a high level of influence or even control over Ukraine’s foreign and economic policies.

The tone of Kerry’s statements since his meeting with Putin in Sochi, and that of other U.S. officials, suggests that at least in private, the U.S. has grudgingly accepted this idea.

As we have also discussed previously, this idea is also exactly in line with what Der Spiegel says Putin and Merkel agreed in February in Moscow and Minsk (see Merkel in Moscow and Minsk: Der Spiegel Says Putin Has Won, Russia Insider, 18th February 2015). Indeed, the proposal for a confederation that has now been published conclusively confirms the truth of what Der Spiegel says Putin and Merkel agreed with each other in February in Moscow and Minsk.

However, it is important to maintain a sense of proportion and to understand clearly what has been agreed, and with whom, and what has not been agreed, and what remains in contention.

The realists in Washington have accepted what we have always said, that in Ukraine Russia holds the high cards and that the geopolitical objectives of the Washington hardliners who were behind the Maidan coup are unachievable. The resilience of the Russian economy in the face of the oil price fall and the sanctions (with the first quarter contraction now confirmed at just 1.9% – far better than even the most optimistic predictions of a few weeks ago), Putin’s determination to stick to his guns on Ukraine (on full display at the summits in Milan and Brisbane and during the February negotiations with Merkel in Moscow and Minsk), and the surge in Putin’s popularity, now at unprecedented levels, have forced the U.S. foreign policy realists to accept that there is no prospect of forcing a change in Russian policy on Ukraine, or of putting the Russian government under serious domestic pressure, or of effecting the Russian government’s overthrow.

Since the policy followed throughout 2014 has clearly failed, it is no surprise that as realists they are now pragmatically looking for a way out, that will limit the damage to the U.S. and help it avoid a humiliating outcome in Ukraine. However, this has limits. Though the realists are for the moment in the ascendant in Washington, they are not the only voice there.

The hardliners have not gone away. They remain entrenched in the foreign policy establishment, the media and Congress. They continue to press for further confrontation and for more escalation in Ukraine. Given how volatile the situation is in Washington, it is by no means unlikely or impossible that the pendulum could swing back in their favour.

It is anyway important to stress that even the realists do not seek a genuine reconciliation with Moscow. At most, they want to put the Ukrainian conflict to one side, to allow the U.S. to work with Moscow on other issues, in the U.S.’s own interest. However, they continue to see the relationship with Moscow as adversarial.

That this is so is confirmed by a passage in the Bloomberg article. It quotes an administration official (quite possibly Kerry himself) saying: “I don’t think that anybody at this point is under the impression that a wholesale reset of our relationship is possible at this time, but we might as well test out what they are actually willing to do. Our theory of this all along has been, let’s see what’s there. Regardless of the likelihood of success.”

That what we are seeing is at most a tactical retreat, limited purely to Ukraine and caused by the failure of U.S. policy there, is confirmed by Bloomberg’s final paragraph, which however also identifies the obvious risk of the policy falling between two stools and failing to satisfy anybody: “The administration’s cautious engagement with Moscow is logical: Why not seek a balance in a complicated and important bilateral relationship? But by choosing a middle ground between conciliation and confrontation – not being generous enough to entice Russia’s cooperation yet not being tough enough to stop Putin’s aggression in Eastern Europe – Obama’s policy risks failing on both fronts.”

Beyond that, no one should harbour any illusions this means peace in Ukraine. As we have said many times, peace in Ukraine is impossible whilst the present government remains in power in Kiev (see again our detailed discussion, Ukraine Goes to War – and Always Will as Long as Maidan Holds Power, Russia Insider, 20th January 2015). The only way that would change is if the Western powers were to put overwhelming pressure on Ukraine to compromise.

Nothing Kerry did in Sochi suggests the U.S. is ready to do this. As we have discussed many times, Merkel and the Germans are also for the moment unwilling to do it, and the probability is they will never do it.

Given the vocal public support the Western powers have given to the Ukrainian government, it is now probably too late politically for the Western powers to undertake the sort of public volte face that would be needed to enable them to put pressure on it. In the absence of such pressure, war is all but inevitable.

Ukraine’s failure to implement the February Minsk Memorandum shows that this is so. The shelling of parts of the Donbass, including Donetsk airport, shows Ukraine has not abided by its commitment to withdraw its heavy weapons from the conflict zone. Ukraine has utterly failed to implement any part of the Minsk Memorandum’s political provisions. Ukraine refuses to negotiate directly with the leaders of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics as the Minsk Memorandum required it to do. It continues to call them “separatists” and “terrorists”.

The terms of the law on Special Status for the territories covered by the two People’s Republics were not agreed with their representatives as the Minsk Memorandum required. The law itself, which the Ukrainian parliament passed, was hedged around with conditions reaffirming Kiev’s suzerainty over the territories of the two People’s Republics in a way that was not envisaged by the Minsk Memorandum, and which is unacceptable to the People’s Republics.

The terms of the elections that were supposed to follow the law on Special Status have not been agreed, and the elections themselves have not taken place. There is no sign of the constitutional negotiations which by the terms of the Minsk Memorandum Ukraine committed itself to. Instead, rather than move ahead with the political provisions of the Minsk Memorandum, we see more moves towards confrontation and war

• Ukraine has passed laws outlawing the use of Communist symbols (including the Soviet flag).

• Ukraine has declared the followers of the World War II Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera “freedom fighters”.

• Ukraine is trying to replace the St. George ribbon, the symbol throughout the former USSR of the country’s wartime victory, with the West’s red poppy.

• Ukraine wants to stop calling the war “the Great Patriotic War”, and wants to replace the term with the more neutral sounding and more Western “Second World War”.

• Monuments to Lenin, and other monuments relating to Ukraine’s historic connection to the USSR and to Russia, continue to be attacked and demolished.

• There has been a string of unsolved deaths and murders of opposition figures and activists, including journalists, with Ukrainian officials and media indulging in personal attacks on some of those killed, after their deaths.

• Laws are proposed for the indefinite detention of Russians without trial, for the seizure without compensation or due process of property belonging to Russian citizens, and for the establishment of martial law.

• The Ukrainian government continues to rule out any concessions on Ukraine’s unitary structure or on the language issue.

• The Ukrainian government is pressing ahead with its construction of a wall along those parts of the border with Russia it controls.

• President Poroshenko meanwhile talks publicly of his plans to retake Donetsk airport, which continues to be shelled by his forces.

These actions are not the actions of a government interested in peace or reconciliation. They are the actions of a government that seeks confrontation and which is preparing for war. Given its make-up and ideology, one can expect nothing else.

The discussions between Putin and Kerry in Sochi do not change this situation. It is unlikely either Putin or Kerry harbour any illusions that they do. Rather, they are an attempt by the realists on both sides to limit the damage to the U.S.-Russia relationship of the war when it resumes, as it inevitably will, whilst preparing the ground for the confederal solution, which is now looming, and which the Russians now see as the eventual solution to the conflict.

The Putin Kerry talks are in fact far more likely to accelerate the resumption of the war than to end it.

Given that for the Ukrainian government retreat is impossible, the almost irresistible temptation, if it senses U.S. and Western support is weakening, will be to double down and renew the war so as to try to rally Western support by blaming Russia. That, after all, is what the Ukrainian government did in January, when rumours of the diplomatic initiatives launched by the realists first began to circulate in Bloomberg and the New York Times. There is no reason to think the pattern this time will be any different, in which case we are likely to see more fighting, probably in late May or June.

If that happens, Putin made it clear in an interview he gave to the German media – published just after the Brisbane summit – what will happen: Russia will not allow the two People’s Republics to be overrun, which means it will do whatever is necessary short of direct intervention to ensure a Ukrainian attack on the two People’s Republics is defeated.

By contrast, following Putin’s meetings in Merkel in February and now with Kerry, we can now say with a fair measure of certainty that the West will do nothing to help the Ukrainians, and any support the Ukrainians get from the West in such a situation will be only rhetorical. That all but guarantees another Ukrainian defeat.

The sequel will most likely be more negotiations in Minsk, where the terms imposed on the Ukrainians will be harsher than those that were imposed on the Ukrainians in February, just as those terms were harsher than those imposed on the Ukrainians previously in September. In the process, the Russians will move step by step closer to the confederal solution that is their objective.

Even that will not mean the end of the Ukrainian conflict. That will only come when the position of the present Ukrainian government finally becomes untenable so that it collapses. Even allowing for the increasingly disastrous economic situation, that point is probably still some way off.

However, following the talks with Kerry, it does increasingly seem that what we said following Putin’s talks with Merkel in February is true: the international part of this crisis – the part that affects Russia’s relations with the West – has passed its peak. Unless the hardliners in Washington manage to reassert themselves, we are likely to see more moves from now on towards a gradual de-escalation.

Alexander Mercouris