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The Ukrainian deal between Moscow and Washington: what Surkov and Volcker talked about

Despite the fact that the meeting between the special representatives of the Russian and US presidents, Vladislav Surkov and Kurt Volker, was held in a closed mode for the press, it is possible to assume with a high degree of certainty what the agreed representatives of Moscow and Washington agreed on-or rather, what was not agreed upon.

I think that the main positive result – they had to form a good personal relationship.

First, both are experienced enough negotiators not to irritate the opponent. Secondly, they will have a long work together. In such a situation it is better, at least, to enjoy meeting with a pleasant interlocutor than flying for every meeting as hard labor.

Thirdly, the establishment of normal relations between the negotiators is an indispensable condition for any progress in the negotiations.

People who can not stand each other, will never agree on anything.

As for the prospects for rapprochement of Russian and American positions, the interests of Moscow and Washington are too different here, the possibilities for influencing the situation are too limited, and the strategic importance of the Ukrainian crisis, in comparison with the Syrian or Korean, is too obvious to count on a quick and effective solution of problems , Created by decades.

In addition, Trump’s team is extremely limited in the possibility of foreign policy maneuvering. Restrictions are imposed both by the existence of a bipartisan anti-Russian consensus in Congress and by the general domestic political situation in the United States, where the opponents of Trump are willing to risk a civil war in order to remove the president from power ahead of schedule.

In such conditions, even the agreements reached are threatened with blocking or disavowing.

But the main problem is the different vision of the prospects of the Minsk process in applying to its strategic interests.

To the United States in order to freely bargain with Russia about the fate of Ukraine, Minsk absolutely does not need anything. They need a free negotiation platform on which they can start from scratch, without France, Germany, Kiev and Donbass, in order to agree on two with Russia. The fewer participants in a transaction, the fewer interests need to be considered, the easier it is to file a deal.

The US does not need to somehow take into account the positions of its European allies or Ukraine. If under the terms of the transaction they will need to completely curtail their activity in Kiev, they will easily do so, but at the same time they will lose all responsibility for the fate and behavior of their Ukrainian vassals, as well as for the position of the EU.

That is, the US would be ready to sell Russia its way out of the game in Ukraine, while the general situation for the Kremlin would remain unresolved, and the Minsk world would be annulled.

Russia would arrange the format of the deal, in which the US could effectively put pressure on Kiev to force the latter to implement the Minsk agreements. However, the US, even if promised, is not in a position to do so.

Of course, Washington has leverage over Kiev, as Russia has leverage over the Donbas. But this influence is not absolute.

In Moscow, they understand perfectly well that they will never be able to convince the NDP, the LNR will return to the unitary Ukraine.

The maximum that can be achieved (even with great difficulty) is the nominal recognition of Donetsk and Lugansk’s sovereignty of Kyiv, while preserving not only cultural and economic, but also military, and informally – and foreign-policy freedom.

And even such virtual independence without international legal consolidation could not be arranged by Donetsk and Lugansk. At the same time, the tradition of Russian relations with unrecognized states (Abkhazia and South Ossetia before the war on 08/08/08, as well as Transnistria) shows that the Kremlin never uses force pressure on its partners if they refuse to fulfill the terms of agreements that do not suit them.

The US, in turn, is not in a position to force Kiev to abandon the tactics of sabotaging Minsk.

You can change Poroshenko to a more or less radical politics, you can reformat the parliament and the government beyond recognition. But in Ukraine there is an intra-elite consensus on the impossibility of carrying out Minsk, and it can not be broken.

Firstly, property interests of Ukrainian financial and political groups play an important role, and they would like to restore their full control over the assets left in the NDP / LNR.

And they are not going to share power, influence and property with Donbass elites who were newly formed during the civil war. And the new elites are not at all delighted with the possible claims of the “old masters” even on the part of the authorities in the region, not to mention the full restoration of their rights.

All Ukrainian political forces – from extreme nationalist radicals to a seemingly moderate “Opposition block” – want to restore the same system of power in the Donbas that existed before the Civil War.

Their positions differ only in relation to the ways to achieve this goal. The new Donbass elites are ready to talk about something only after Kiev recognizes the actual state of affairs.

Change – do not change the Ukrainian presidents, and this problem can not be solved. The entire US political elite of the United States simply can not be replaced. The other is not.

Secondly, Kiev is well aware that any agreement with the Donbas on condition of full or partial recognition of the existing state of things will cause a domino effect.

Regional elites of all (and Bandera and anti-Bandera) regions will want to obtain similar powers, and Kiev will simply lose the remnants of even formal control over the situation.

The departure of the Crimea did not become a catalyst for the process of disintegration, since the Crimea left for Russia (and did not receive independence), in addition, in the Crimea, Kiev’s opportunities to somehow resist were blocked by Russian troops officially on the peninsula.

In the case of the recognition of the Donbass as a self-governing territory within Ukraine, this will be an example of a successful uprising aimed at expanding the rights of the region.

Since Kiev has long nothing to redistribute within the country, it, in fact, only takes away part of the surplus product in its favor from the regional elites. While the Donbass fighting for its rights bears losses, but has not achieved official recognition of its status, its example restrains the centrifugal processes in other parts of Ukraine.

Once his rights are secured by constitutional and international agreements, all will want to go along this path.

Thus, both the interests of Russia and the US, and the interests of Kiev and the Donbass are too different to build an efficient compromise construction in the current situation. In order for someone to show willingness to make concessions, his situation must further deteriorate.

Russia has every opportunity to wait, repeating the thesis about the non-alternative nature of the Minsk agreements, which France and Germany are compelled to agree with, co-organizers and guarantors of the process, and the United States, which can not destroy Minsk while it arranges their European allies (and it suits, because Nothing better they will not get, but worse – completely). It is clear that in such conditions Washington will not abandon the thesis about Russia’s responsibility for the implementation of the Minsk agreements, since it somehow legitimizes American participation in the process of settling the Ukrainian crisis.

So the long and exhausting marathon of the positional diplomatic game of Surkov and Volcker (with the expectation of a possible unintentional mistake of the opponent) can be interrupted only by a dramatic change in the situation (from the category, for example, further internal destabilization of Ukraine or the United States), which will have a sharp negative impact on the position of one Or several participants in the process.