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An analysis of U.S.-Japan trade relations and of the impact of China policy on relations . that assessment of the importance of the Japan alliance. The evidence so far is that to the extent that a careful reassessment has been made, it has led to the .. at Western Europe should also prohibit their redeployment to East Asia. 42, EU external relations and systems of governance: the CFSP, The EU -Japan relationship: from mutual ignorance to meaningful partnership?. Strategic Partnerships with China and Japan, free trade agreements, or ASEM, from a broad range of and the EU can obtain significant international gains. Historical constraints: the US factor and mutual ignorance. After the end of the .
It has almost completely taken over the mainstream American media. That something had gone very wrong with the convergence of several domestic political developments in the United States was, by the end of George W.
The strong hope and general expectation that President Obama would reverse some of these developments was proof enough of that. That Obama has not put a brake on undesirable developments, and in fact has allowed some of them to deteriorate further, ought to be seen as evidence of factors that have created an even worse condition than the rightwing revolution. The United States has become deeper involved in unnecessary war, has spread it to Pakistan and Yemen, and has failed to create preventive measures against further financial crises.
American investment banks have, through Obama's inaction, been allowed to become bigger, more centralized and dominant, and even less stable than when they created the credit crisis with the ensuing recession from which much of the world is still suffering. The biggest change in the United States today, overlooked by Japan's policymakers and broader political culture, is that the fundamental elements of the American state, such as its financial system and its defense apparatus, are no longer under political control.
Or under any control. It is clear that Obama has no grip over the country that he is supposed to be leading, and neither has anyone else. This metamorphosis the United States has undergone is nothing less than a national tragedy. This is compounded by the fact that it has not yet been sufficiently understood by the rest of the world.
It is particularly tragic for Japan for the obvious reason of Japan's peculiar dependency relationship with the United States. This tragedy was partially predicted, or rather warned against, by President Eisenhower.
In his Farewell address broadcast to the American nation on TV he introduced the famous concept of the Military-Industrial Complex - militarist thinking, coupled with huge industrial interests, intertwined with the re-election interests of the politicians in America's Congress.
Developments since then have gone far beyond what then existed and what Eisenhower feared. Especially from onward, pushed by the administration of George W. Bush, they have greatly accelerated. When the original purposes of institutions are no longer remembered or re-examined for relevance, they inevitably begin to live lives of their own. When they are small, like the passport control after you descend from the train at Narita airport, they can be harmless.
But when they are powerful they can change the world. We must understand that the American military-industrial complex is totally out of control, and has turned the United States into a militaristic nation. Hence America's diplomatic resources shriveled. The State Department became increasingly less important in the last decade of the 20th century.
Some of its functions simply vanished, others were taken over by the Pentagon. We clearly see the effect of the switch from State Department to Pentagon as the main determiner of foreign policy in the way that Washington has treated the first prime minister of Japan's government formed by the Minshuto. US-Japan relations had for quite some time not been under an American scrutiny that was guided by the old-style diplomats and the traditional Japan hands.
For a while the most significant diplomatic link between the two countries reached from the American Treasury Department to the Japanese Ministry of Finance. But today it is simply the Pentagon that is in charge. Most of the American officials dealing with Japan, also those in the State Department, are alumni of the Pentagon.
Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, has set the tone in dealing with Japan under its new government, with President Obama showing not the least interest. In the old days, when diplomats still had influence on America's foreign policy, they would have been interested in exploring new possibilities of cooperation.
As it is, the American president has simply not been willing to meet the Japanese Prime Minister for the expressed purpose of a serious contemplation of how the two countries should proceed in dealing with regional problems in East Asia. His advisers on Japan, again mostly Pentagon alumni, told him literally not to give Hatoyama more than 10 minutes of his time, in case they ran into each other at an international meeting.
It is popularly believed that the current relationship between the United States and Japan must remain as it is because of mutual concerns about the security situation in East Asia. But looking closely at the security situation in the region, and the contribution of this bilateral relationship to it, one may quickly detect a huge central fantasy element in it. Farsighted concern would command that the two new heads of government take a fresh look at how to adjust to changed circumstances.
Instead, Washington turned something as trivial as the relocation of a Marine base, something that the LDP did not wish to burn its fingers on, into a test of the loyalty of the new government the Japanese had voted into power. The American State Department has done nothing to divert the attention of the Pentagon, or rather of the Marines in the Pentagon, away from the rights they believe they have to make themselves as comfortable as possible on Okinawa.
It is no longer in the business of helping to develop farsighted policies. The United States used to have a strategy when the Soviet Union was still around, but that strategy is obviously no longer valid. Nothing has taken its place. Establishing the United States as the dominant and unchallenged political force on the planet forever and ever is a fantasy and not a strategy.
Both perversely encourage the proliferation of what they seek to eliminate. The end of the Cold War gave an impulse to fantasies like the End of History, a Clash of Civilizations, and of the Iraq invasion as a first step to spread democracy all over the Middle East. The American response to the upheaval in Egypt is a perfect recent example. We can connect this with what I said earlier about the loss of control.
This also means loss of intelligent purpose.
There is no intelligent purpose behind wasting a fortune on two unwinnable wars, tax money that should have gone to rebuilding the crumbling American domestic infrastructure.
All over the world political observers are puzzled by America's strategic intentions. The key to the puzzle is that it has no meaningful strategy. This has probably been the most important development in the world's geopolitical reality since the end of the Cold War. The Cold War allies have not kept up with this development. The heads of government of the European Union member states are themselves not capable of dealing with geopolitical change.
All one has to do is to imagine the current ones standing next to those in the early post-World-War-II years: Sarkozy next to de Gaulle, Merkel next to Adenauer, Cameron next to Churchill, to perceive the collapse of caliber. The European political elites are not really driven by anxiety about terrorists based in Afghanistan, or other fantasies with which they explain to European populations why we must all stay in the backwash of America's military adventures.
They just cannot shake old habits. For Japan the problem is more acute. Considerable anxiety prevails concerning the dangers that lurk on the Asian continent. Much of it is artificial, purposely encouraged by Washington and Japan's bureaucrats as well as politicians in thrall to a Pentagon view of the world. I have heard gaimusho officials say that whereas for Europe the Cold War is finished for Japan it is still continuing. It is a view nurtured by ignorance, one shared by the broader Japanese political culture.
There exists a big lie at the center of this ignorance: The threat of North Korea. As a focus of national fear it has created a totally unrealistic perspective. Of course North Korea is a problem. Its nuclear ambitions and missiles constitute a threat of some kind. But not a virulent one. The continued existence of North Korea is not really an extension of Cold War conditions in our present world, as parts of the Japanese bureaucracy and those they have been able to convince of it, continue to believe.
Any North Korean aggression, were the rulers of Pyonyang so suicidal to indulge in it, would not be supported by either China or Russia. The headlessness of Japan has been much on display in this context. Prime Minister Koizumi's ill-fated initiatives were backed up with insufficient preparations, and a dismal lack of understanding of the medium term effects that might result. Indignation about the abductees, stirred up in waves by the media, took over from rational decision-making.
As a result Japan became marginalized in the so-called Six Party Talks. A Japan with a functioning head, and a center capable of strategic thought, would be able to place in perspective the North Korean nuclear weapons ambition more accurately. North Korea is a unique case, its hostility has on its own become a separate political reality, demanding an entirely new diplomatic approach. North Korea is the only country in the world that has had atomic weapons, ready to go, directly pointed at it ever since the Korean War.
What it has wanted from Washington is some kind of nonaggression guarantee. It is not a crazy wish. Any kind of conflict on the Korean Peninsula, any kind of violence triggered by developments in Pyongyang, will have to be dealt with in the first place by the South Koreans and China. The idea that one runs into in Japan a lot, that an American initiative will become crucial in this context, is downright silly. A Japan that is serious about the potential threat from North Korea should work on deepening relevant diplomacy with South Korea and China.
And it would also very much help to try to make Washington see an obvious fact: But here Tokyo will run into a knot of convoluted arguments that will follow from its pathologcal relationship with the United States. If the North Korea problem disappeared, Washington would have to find other excuse, and cultivate another lie, to maintain as much military might in Japan as it does now.
The supposed threat from North Korea certainly does not justify the huge American military presence in Japan, much less the fact that about 70 percent of the costs of running the bases, are born by the Japanese tax payer.
One of the biggest lies connected with the nichibei relationship perpetuated on the diplomatic level, and even on the academic level, as well as among mainstream journalism is that all that American military might on Japanese soil exists to defend Japan in case its neighbors want to conquer the islands. The American marines on Okinawa, whose controversial base was made a silly and entirely damaging test case for relations with the Japanese government by Obama's Pentagon, are actually part of an attack force for action in the Middle East and other far-away places.
Much of the rest of America's military in Japan is part of an encirclement of China scheme. A problem that the European Cold War allies do not have to contend with is Washington's tone of voice when it addresses Japan. This is much of the time imperious and condescending. There is a psychological aspect to Japan's dependency relationship that is rarely discussed. But it is important, because the response of the Japanese involved has tended to fall into a pattern decreed by Washington, and as the responses of the Kan Naoto cabinet confirm, this has become automatic.
When in the United States a prisoner is released from prison before his sentence has been fully served someone is assigned to him to keep an eye on him and make sure that there is not a relapse in his behavior. Such a person is called a parole officer. Over the 40 years that I have been observing American attitudes toward Japan, on the part of officials but also scholars and assorted Japan hands, I frequently had the impression that they were treating Japan is if they were parole officers.
It is an attitude often copied by journalists. Both Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, when visiting Japan just before and just after the election that brought the Minshuto to power, came with strong messages that fitted the pattern.
High up on the list of Americans who visiting Japanese officials and politicians wish to see in Washington are Richard Armitage and Joseph Nye. Taking into account how much the discussion about US-Japan relations has become focussed on the military bases on Japanese soil, and how frequently Japanese people are asked about this by opinion pollsters, one should not quarrel with the idea that the Japanese public ought to be enlightened about the details of America's military.
I should embroider on two points I have already made. A straight conclusion following from what I have said about America's military not being under effective political control is that it is no longer a tool of the American state.
It now lives a life of its own. If that were otherwise, president Obama would not have had to be afraid of what the generals might do to him, or might make their Republican supporters do to him, when toward the end of he had to give in to their demand to send more soldiers to Afghanistan, and escalate that unwinnable war.
Japanese versed in the history of their country in the first half of the 20th century may see interesting parallels there. The Imperial Army in China was not under effective civilian control from Tokyo. And, as many scholars who studied that period have since acknowledged, while the Japanese military could often boast of superior tactics, that did not add up to a credible, all-over, strategy.
Tokyo ruling the Asian part of the planet plus Oceania was not an achievable goal. The second point I should say more about is that while America's military is no longer a controlled tool of the state, it has radically altered the foreign policy vision of the state.
These are probably interdependent conditions, with the latter ensuring that the former may continue undisturbed to live a life of its own. America's foreign-policy vision used to center on the notion of effective diplomacy. After victory inthe United States labored to bring into being a relatively peaceful and relatively stable world order, using the United Nations and other international organizations as its tools, and encapsulating the communist nations of the Second World as much as possible in a universe of its own, so as to limit the damage it could do to that world order.
Diplomacy was a key concept in all of this, and was connected with ideals like liberty, believed by Americans to be specifically American. This gradually changed after the Soviet Union disappeared. The mistake that some on the left make when they aver that American aggression today is merely an intensification of what has come before and that, therefore, there is nothing new under the sun is to miss the status of warmaking in the minds of American policymakers then and now.
The much invoked Vietnam War in their comparisons actually serves as a good guide for what I want to say. Military thinkers of course must always pay some attention to the kind of war they might be asked to fight in the future, but they were, until recently - until the presidency of George W. Warmaking in Washington is no longer a final resort when diplomacy has failed; it is now in many cases thought of as a valid substitute for diplomacy. This could hardly be more different from the general Japanese perspective concerning war and peace, which I have come to know over the years.
In the s one would get an overwhelming impression of that mindset. Middle and high school students, trying out their English, would approach foreigners like me with lines like: And I remember an official statement by the Foreign Ministry in response to criticisms about Japan's inactivity in the world, which took foreign critics to task for not appreciating how much Japan had done and was doing for the "cause of world peace".
Now that those countries are themselves EU members they are able to share best practice with Ukrainian interlocutors.
The EU has been particularly helpful on regulatory issues, rural development, and energy-sector reform. Despite some teething issues, support from the EU and member states has, on the whole, been a success to date. It has helped to bring about more change and reform than Ukraine has seen since its independence. Indeed, Ukraine has passed more laws in the years since Maidan than any other European country. Transparency has increased, and more controls have been put in place to stifle corruption.
The lack of progress in this area hampers reform efforts in other areas. Instead, much diplomatic energy has been wasted on the Minsk process, which is locked in a stalemate. Ukraine fatigue and defeatism is taking hold in some European countries. It just requires effective support and guidance — some of which can be provided by the EU. Sometimes that support and guidance has missed the mark, but there are things the EU should be focusing on now to help Ukraine reform.
There is also a regional divide in the willingness of EU member states to assist Ukraine. While northern and eastern member states actively support Ukraine's transition, there is a lack of engagement by many western and southern member states. This imbalance undermines the idea of European solidarity and cohesion, and ultimately the effectiveness of the EU as a political player. Italy, for example, provides less assistance to Ukraine than Slovenia.
France, Spain, and Italy together provide less than any of the individual Baltic states. The EU needs to help win the hearts and minds of Ukrainians by keeping their communications consistent and clear. The absence of such communications will bring on further disillusionment with the protracted reform process. This is the area most in need of reform. This will allow for the transfer of advice and experience, but also give some control over the reform process.
When Ukraine achieves the requisite reforms to receive benefits — such as visa liberalisation, the EU must make good on its promises, otherwise it risks alienating Ukrainians from the reform process. One of the key factors holding back reform efforts in Ukraine is the lack of specialised task forces to implement reforms. This will help to ensure that reform is treated as a priority in government ministries. The EU should make sure that it is also supporting Ukraine in this fight.
Local economies in Ukraine are weak and there is a high degree of financial uncertainty. Ukraine has one of the largest agricultural sectors in Europe, and by offering increased support to reforms in this sector it can ensure that the transition to European standards is as smooth as possible.
The EU has at times been too soft on Ukraine. European diplomats should be as straightforward as possible when pointing the finger at those responsible for delaying reforms. Only by doing this can real progress be made.
The reform of Ukraine will by its very nature be a long and drawn out process. Even if the government in Kyiv was more committed to reforms, the effort would take years to bear fruit. The EU should understand this. The Minsk process focuses too much effort on transforming the war in the Donbas from a full-scale armoured manoeuvre war into a sitting-war. The Minsk format is still useful to deal with practical issues on the front line, and to keep up dialogue between the warring parties, but the Minsk agreement does not provide a proper roadmap to peace nor is progress on implementation a precondition for military de-escalation.
However, particularly France and Germany, but also the US and the EU, have invested a lot of diplomatic leverage and pressure to push the political agenda elections, special-status law of Minsk. If the same effort had been devoted to pushing Ukraine on reforms — especially on reforming the judiciary as described above — there would have been much more progress in Ukraine by now, and the Donbas would be in more or less the same situation.
Communicate Minsk progress with the Ukrainian public. The Minsk II implementation process was diplomatically well-coordinated, but represented a communication failure of the first order — both on the part of the West above all by France and Germany, but also the US to some extent and that of the Ukrainian government, particularly President Petro Poroshenko.
The West failed to explain the agreement to a wider audience in Ukraine — particularly lawmakers and reformers — or to engage with those who shape public opinion about its merits and shortfalls. The discrepancy between public statements from the French and German foreign ministers, and contradictions between their respective negotiation teams in the Minsk implementation groups, has created unnecessary confusion. If Europe wants to pressure Ukraine on Minsk, it first needs to reassure Ukrainian society — not just diplomats — that the separatists will neither gain influence in Kyiv, nor be able to use the process to gain military advantage.
Without this, there will be no public support for the agreement. Focus on reform of the judiciary. All other reforms on domestic issues, including the fight against corruption, will be unsustainable if the judiciary remains in its current state.
The top priorities should be abolishing the influence of political affiliation on promotions within the judiciary, removing the strict hierarchical structure of the judiciary, paying competitive salaries, and introducing independent disciplinary commissions to deal with complaints of corruption against judges. Push harder for specialised reform-implementation bodies in each Ukrainian ministry. Deputy-ministers and high-level officials in the ministries are too busy with their other duties to effectively dedicate time to pushing through reforms.
Instead, there should be special bodies focusing on this task — particularly on core reforms such as reform of the judiciary, decentralisation, and administrative reform. This would be an important step forward; however, the current deadlock over financial oversight of the programme needs to be overcome.
Embed European diplomats and experts into Ukrainian administrative structures. On the expert-level, EU-Twinning — sending administrative personnel to a partner country to assists the practical implementation of EU laws and regulation — is a first step. For the time being, such experts are only provided by a handful of member states, but this should be a much more common phenomenon.
Continue to support rural development. Public services and administrative structures will be closed as decentralisation reform gets underway, and the new business regulations and product certification procedures — particularly European food-safety standards for agriculture-products — will be more difficult for small- and medium-sized farms and enterprises to implement.
Hence, programmes for rural development are crucial to support the transition of businesses in these regions and to keep up public support for the reform process. This is especially true for Ukraine's eastern regions, which are hit hard by Russia's economic sanctions. The programmes on rural development and agricultural transition that the EU currently has in place are one of the unsung success stories of EU support for Ukraine, and the expansion and reinforcement of these efforts should be encouraged.
Support small and medium enterprises. To aid Ukraine's economic transition and the process of de-oligarchisation, support for SMEs is essential. In a time of financial uncertainty, loan-guarantee funds are one measure that the EU could easily and effectively implement. Supporting SMEs is a way that donors could provide assistance without becoming involved in Ukrainian politics.
Step up efforts to reform the Ukrainian armed forces. The Ukrainian armed forces have already been the subject of reform, and progress made in this field exceeds that of all other state-agencies. Still, there are areas that need improvement and the country is still at war. There is room for improvement in operational and tactical planning, leadership-techniques, tactical training, and CIMIC.
Contrary to the opinion held in Europe, Minsk is not the guarantee of relative peace in Ukraine: Be open to lethal aid, if conditions are met. If the EU agrees to deliver Ukraine certain benefits in exchange for progress on reforms, it must stick to its promises once Ukraine fulfils the relevant criteria.
The postponement of the visa liberalisation process due to difficulties in Europe such as the refugee crisis, Brexit, and the rise of populism, despite the fact that Ukraine had met the requirements, was one of the biggest blunders the EU has made since Maidan. European diplomats should take Ambassador Jan Tombinski as their example and be as straightforward as possible when pointing the finger at those responsible for delaying reforms. Only by doing this can real progress can be made.
The protests triggered a national uprising that deposed the government and paved the way for elections. The core demands of the protesters were intensive reform of the economy, government, and institutions, and to place Ukraine on the path towards European integration. Sincethe EU and its member states have vowed to support Eastern European countries in their attempts to reform and strengthen democracy, the rule of law, market economies, and open societies.
However, while Europe welcomed Ukraine's choice to move closer to Europe, there was confusion over how to react to its consequences: Instead of a smooth transition, Ukraine's struggle for a new future turned out to be a messy and prolonged battle. In the two years since Maidan Ukraine has made progress, but much less than expected. Corruption, graft, and nepotism are still ubiquitous in political and administrative life. Informal relations, personal ties and dependencies shape politics, and formal institutions are weak.
There is growing suspicion among civil society regarding the will and ability of the Ukrainian government to carry out meaningful reform.
It will be the litmus test for whether the EU — weakened by internal crisis and strategic divisions — is still able to project stability into its neighbourhood. A failure in Ukraine would play into the hands of extreme forces in the Kremlin, bolstering its claim that Eastern-Slavic societies are unable to build a state based on the rule of law and democracy.
Keeping up appearances: How Europe is supporting Ukraine’s transformation
This would push internal developments in Russia even more worrisome directions. At the same time, a collapse of the Ukrainian state would cause major economic instability in Central Europe.
The EU was a key player in facilitating the post-Communist transition across Eastern Europe, and has a variety of tools to facilitate reform in Ukraine. Additionally, many EU member states have successfully been through a similar transition after The EU institutions and several member states have expressed their support and provided assistance.
It considers bilateral assistance by member states, and sets out the gaps, the success stories, and the lessons learnt from efforts to lend assistance to Ukraine so far.
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Finally, it makes recommendations for how the EU should step up its support, and ways in which it can encourage greater commitment to Ukraine among member states. Interviewees include officials from the EU, selected member states, and non-EU international donors, as well as representatives of the Ukrainian government, civil society, political parties, and think-tanks.
All interviews were conducted on the condition of anonymity. The annex of this publication, which outlines the bilateral support by EU member states to Ukraine's transformation is based on reports recieved through ECFR's network of national researchers.
The declaration guaranteed every European state the freedom to freely choose its alliance. The declaration was an important pillar of the post-Cold War order.
However, since the declaration, Moscow has used domestic and territorial conflicts to impose its preferences on neighbouring states. The case of Moldova illustrates this: It declared that, according to the Moscow Memorandum and the Kosak Memorandum, Moldova was to be transformed into a federation, in which the Russian-controlled breakaway regions were to be granted veto power on all major laws.
The then-President of Moldova, Vladimir Voronin, thought that Russian security concerns had been addressed through a constitution that declared Moldova a permanently neutral state and banned foreign troops from its soil. Knowing that he would have transformed Moldova into another failed state, the allegedly pro-Russian leader of the Communist Party of Moldova rejected Moscow's deal.
Ten years later, the then-Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych fell into the same trap. Having declared Ukraine a neutral state by law, he prolonged the contract to host the Russian Black Sea Fleet until at leastand granted Russian intelligence services unprecedented powers to work in Ukraine. As the likelihood of Yanukovych signing the Association agreement with the EU grew, Russia threatened to cut economic ties and impose punitive measures such as sanctions, product bans, and travel bans, among other things, against Ukraine.
The pressure was not just economic. Since Russia had stepped up preparations for military and paramilitary campaigns on the Crimean peninsula and in eastern Ukraine.
Ultimately Yanukovych bowed to Russian pressure, and in doing so, lost power. The EU Association Agreement would have included passages to strengthen rule of law, reform the judiciary, increase press freedom, and reform the security sector.
With corruption spiralling out of control, a government arbitrarily taking its opponents to court, and lucrative economic opportunities marked off for kleptocratic elites only, it was no wonder that Ukrainians staked their desire for a better life on the EU.
Facilitating the transition from weak states with oligarch-run economies to functioning democracies with free market economies has always been a core aim of European foreign policy. However, in Ukraine, the issue was larger; Russia's quest to claim sovereignty over other states and people without their consent was unprecedented in Europe, and if accepted by the EU, would have meant the end of the European order as we know it.
It became clear that self-serving local elites could easily manipulate the geopolitical context to demand European support on their own terms. Even before Maidan, Yanukovych had tried to rally European support for Ukraine by placing its quest for the Association Agreement in the frame of a geopolitical contest with Moscow. The EU was rightly sceptical of Yanukovych, and insisted that any assistance was contingent on structural reforms being pushed through and an end to politically motivated prosecutions.
It was the first time since that a European power had used force to annex the territory of another European country. And it was the first time in modern history that the possibility of a state signing a free trade agreement was used as a pretext for armed aggression by another country.
The annexation happened so quickly and took the West by such surprise that no effective strategy was developed for countering it, even if the will was there. Only a week passed between the abdication of Yanukovych and an influx of some 25, armed men. Moreover, the increasing military build-up on Ukraine's borders pointed to an all-out invasion. Russia created a fait accompli that Europe could not recognise, but could not reverse. Military roll-back was out of the question  and Putin never even considered putting Crimea on the negotiating table.
After two years, this diplomatic impasse is still in place. The EU's sanctions regime remains static. It has not reacted to administrative changes in the Russian occupation regime, nor to the increasing repression of ethnic and religious minorities on the peninsula — particularly the Tartars. Russia followed up the annexation of Crimea with war in the Donbas. The West — the United States and Europe — was a passive bystander. Until summerthe challenge was subversion rather than a substantial military threat and could have been dealt with by even a modest EU mission.
However, at the time this seemed too risky. As the Ukrainian military machinery slowly started its engines, Russia was forced to send in the regular army, including heavy surface-to-air missiles SAM to save its proxies from defeat.
The Ukrainian defeat at Ilovaisk and the shooting down of the MH17 civilian airliner on 17 July  transformed the war from a hybrid campaign to an undeclared inter-state war and an international crisis. The developments prompted the West to impose tougher sanctions on Russia — above all, sanctions against the financial sector, a prohibition on selling arms and dual-use goods, and a restriction on the access of Russian state-owned enterprises to Western capital — by 12 September.
The agreement included a ceasefire, withdrawal of heavy weapons, an amnesty law, a law on self-governance for the rebel-held territories, and provisions for OSCE control of the Russian-Ukrainian border. The diplomatic battle for Ukraine: However, the Minsk I agreement did not bring an end to the fighting.
On the contrary, Ukraine witnessed the most intense and destructive phase of the war after the deal. The deterioration of the conflict was the main incentive for German Chancellor Angela Merkel to try to use her leverage to bring Putin to the negotiating table on a ceasefire agreement and end the fighting in the Donbas.
The attempts to bring an end to the fighting in Donbas culminated in a marathon negotiation in Minsk in February The agreement signed on 12 February resembled the first Minsk agreement, but it contained some points that would make it more difficult for Ukraine to push through the agreement domestically.
First, that the law on self-governance of the separatist areas should be supplemented by a constitutional amendment. Third, the agreement postponed the control of the Russian-Ukrainian border to the very end of the entire implementation process.
However, the agreement included some timelines and conditions relating to points from Minsk I, including the ceasefire, withdrawal of heavy weapons, and prisoner exchange. Linking these basic provisions to the maintaining of a ceasefire should have provided incentive for both sides to comply with the package — because each party had an interest in at least one of the provisions. It is worth recalling that the prime objective of the French and German governments at that time was de-escalation.
There was a lot of doubt as to whether the agreement would actually hold, or whether it could be developed into a comprehensive peace plan. Immediately after the negotiations, diplomats around Merkel were highly sceptical about whether the agreement would hold at all. However, the Minsk II agreement was later elevated to the status of dogma in European diplomatic circles. Any scepticism about the accords vanished once the implementation process was passed from heads of state to foreign ministries.
Still, the terms of the Minsk agreement were so vague that they were not implementable for either side. As a result, an agenda of clear points and timelines for the security-related and political aspects of the agreement had to be established in subsequent negotiations in Paris in March But in Kyiv, the agreement was contested domestically.
For many Ukrainians, Poroshenko went too far, providing giving Russia a de-facto role in Ukraine's domestic politics. In the domestic debate, the Ukrainian president portrayed himself as the victim, and Ukraine as being forced to accept the deal. However, the contrary was true, as Minsk is nothing but the evolution of Poroshenko's own peace plan and the result of his negotiations. Hence, at the time, the Ukrainian government continued to negotiate in Paris, whilst denying any active role in the process at home.
The vote was accompanied by clashes in front of parliament, killing two policemen and injuring over people. The confrontation was a shock to Ukrainians. To most people, the amendment was seen as a concession to the enemy, and the Ukrainian government seemed willing to sacrifice Ukrainians for the sake of its reputation abroad.
But in fact, Poroshenko had offered this concession as early as summer The amendment polarised the Ukrainian political spectrum, and split the reformist camp.
Even pro-Western and pro-reformist parties such as Samopomich Self-Reliance expelled key lawmakers who supported the bill. Furthermore, it was difficult to convince the Ukrainian audience that the special status law — granting the separatist-controlled areas more autonomy — should be passed.
The continuing Russian aggression and the deteriorating economic situation were causing bitterness. At times when gas prices soared for home consumers and pensions had to be cut, it was almost impossible to convince the public that Ukraine should make concessions to the separatists.
Part of the Minsk II agreement called for the election of new representatives in the occupied territories under Ukrainian law. The provision offered the chance to pitch two conflicting Russian interests against each other: Achieving both was difficult. If there were free and fair elections in the proxy-held areas — which included the votes of those displaced from the region — the current proxies would lose the elections as they were not particularly popular.
The original idea was to pass the special-status law only on a preliminary basis. If not, Kyiv would have had the right to scrap the special-status law altogether and pin the blame for the failure of Minsk on Russia. If, on the other hand, Russia allowed fair and free elections, including withdrawal of its troops, this would have meant a huge leap forward on Minsk, though the chance of this happening was remote.
Instead of explaining the logic of the Morel plan to the public, Poroshenko denied having agreed to it and dismissed the plan as Pierre Morel's private opinion. However, for Poroshenko, it was easier to portray himself as a victim of foreign pressure than to engage in a difficult domestic debate that he was at the centre of. For German and French diplomats, who had to fight to maintain sanctions on Russia in an increasingly difficult diplomatic environment in Brussels, this double game in Kyiv was a bitter disappointment.
But they too share some blame for the diplomatic failure. Even worse, after the Minsk agreement and the Morel-plan hit a dead end, European diplomats kept pressing Ukraine to hold elections in the Donbas without making any reference to Russia's obligations on troop withdrawal or security. Particularly disturbing was the announcement after the 3 March Normandy-format meeting in Paris, which essentially advocated local elections in the Donbas in summer without making any reference to preconditions.
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Lacking the leverage to insist on holding elections according to Ukrainian law, the move would have been a mere rubber-stamp exercise legitimising the Russian occupation. The reformists feared that international rhetoric, which was almost exclusively focused on Minsk and the special-status law, might destroy the legitimacy of the reform project and shake international support. Western rhetoric is confusing for Ukrainians: Ukraine is constantly criticised for not implementing Minsk, while Russia, the main culprit for the war, is spared.
To add insult to injury, possible rewards, like the easing of sanctions on Russia, are discussed in Europe. This is further eroding public support for Minsk. There is a fear in Kyiv that Europeans are looking for an excuse to normalise ties with Russia, which creates a great deal of suspicion when it comes to taking further steps in the Minsk process. Domestically, the weak Western rhetoric on Moscow has helped the cause of nationalists, who seek to denounce those Ukrainian actors in favour of passing the special-status law, as traitors.
There have been many attempts by reform-minded Ukrainian politicians to reach out to Western diplomats and ask them to change how they discuss Minsk in order to give them more domestic freedom to defend the agreement.
But neither Washington, Paris nor Berlin have changed their rhetoric. Neither have they achieved any tangible improvement in Ukraine's security situation, which would make it easier to legitimise concessions. Since then, OSCE access to the separatist areas has not improved. Prisoner-swaps take place only occasionally, and Ukraine has not received any security benefits outside of the Minsk framework, such as lethal military assistance, that could reassure Kyiv.
There is no provision that could be granted to assure Ukrainians that the separatists will not gain influence over Kyiv or use their position to prepare a new offensive. These two issues are central for Ukrainians — the others are mere formalities.
In Kyiv, foreign policy is devised by a narrow circle of elites; the president, the prime minister, the Foreign Ministry, and few members of parliament are frequently consulted. Most actors in Ukraine's domestic politics are not involved and do not follow the diplomatic battles and manoeuvres. But foreign policy continues to play an immense role in Ukraine's day-to-day politics and its political discourse. Therefore, many politicians immediately denounced the Morel plan from the beginning without considering the diplomatic logic behind it.
Christoph Heusgen, Merkel's chief advisor on foreign and security policy, tried to meet wider groups of political stakeholders to explain German intentions. Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Jean-Marc Ayrault tried to do the same in springbut their attempts were soon overshadowed by events taking place closer to home.Poised for Partnership: Deepening India-Japan Relations in the Asian Century
Military assistance and defence sector reform: Can Ukraine stand its ground? Western, particularly European, governments see the Minsk deal as the main reason for the de-escalation of the war in the Donbas in autumnand, as a result, they have put the deal at the heart of their Ukraine policy.
Yet they have overestimated its impact. Despite the Minsk implementation agreement being signed on 12 February, the ceasefire did not come to effect until the 15th. However, Russian forces needed until 19 February to fully occupy the city of Debaltseve.
Only then did the fighting wind down slightly. The Battle of Debaltseve saw intensive use of regular Russian military formations. In March and April, the front was relatively quiet again. The conflict followed the pattern of rotation of the regular Russian troops deployed in the Donbas.
For this reason, one battalion from each brigade within the Russian armed forces is deployed to the war zone at any given time — to be relieved by another after a few months.
Intensive troop movements in Rostov-on-Don and a calm front indicated that the rotation was ongoing. By the end of May the Russian army was again ready to strike. Fresh troops, re-supplied and re-trained to fight together, carried out the first attacks on 5 June.
But the Ukrainian army proved stronger and better coordinated than anticipated. Russia chose the latter, switching to a phoney war with phases of relative calm — similar to the period after the September ceasefire — and relatively active phases of shelling from the Russian side, as in spring But key to the relative decrease in hostilities was that the Ukrainian Army gained strength, and was, for the first time, a serious obstacle to Russian regular military forces in the Donbas.
The problems in the defence sector were the same as those in all other branches of Ukraine's public services — and sometimes worse. Years of corruption and neglect had ruined the army. Stocks of arms and ammunition, supplies, fuel, medical equipment, and the stock of entire field hospitals had been illegally sold off.
Russian spies and subversive forces were ubiquitous, as Russia tried to gain a hold on Ukraine's defence sector under Yanukovych. Clearing up this mess was no easy task, as the president only trusted those with ties to him and his circle.
The first reshuffle in the defence apparatus in summer and autumn had little effect. After Minsk II, however, it was clear that there would neither be an internationalisation of the conflict — in the form of a serious peacekeeping mission — nor would Russia stop the fighting. The pressure to do something substantial was enormous, and the next round of defence reforms, conducted in April-Maypropelled many front-line commanders, who had distinguished themselves in combat, to posts within the Defence Ministry, the general staff, and other key positions that dealt with the war effort.
A steep learning curve The war itself imposed a steep and bloody learning curve on Ukraine's armed forces. With little training or preparation for such a war, they learned many tactical and operational leadership skills and combat procedures under live-fire conditions. Evaluations of how each commander performed were behind the first systematic meritocratic promotions in the Ukrainian bureaucracy since Maidan, and the effects were clearly visible.
Furthermore, in December six top-level generals within the Defence Ministry — equivalent to heads of department in the civil administration — were sacked due to incompetence. This was a new development, too: Between and the Ukrainian armed forces had no combat exercises at brigade-level, but now they have 12 such exercises per year.
This means it will be more adaptable, versatile and have better combat performance. Voluntary organisations The other main reason for the success of Ukraine's army was the tremendous effort of voluntary organisations. While in early voluntary battalions had to substitute the army in many combat roles, by late summer the army was able to take over most combat operations.
However, without the support of NGOs, the army could not have prevailed. They were crucial in supplying the armed forces, performing medical evaluation and medical services, repairing vehicles and combat systems, and developing secure communications. As the army's inherited supply apparatus was plagued with corruption and mismanagement, these voluntary organisations were also responsible for storing and distributing non-lethal goods supplied by Western nations to the troops at the front.
Not only were they more efficient, but they had expertise in bookkeeping to Western standardsand documentation of the use of assets, verification, etc. As most independent civil society organisations were dependent on Western programmes and project funding for survival during the Yanukovych era, their accumulated knowledge about Western requirements on documentation and transparency were crucial. Combat brigades in the east still request some night-vision devices and soldiers' gear directly from NGOs, because, although formal logistics are getting better, it is still slow to react to specific needs.
Inconfusing or contradicting reports on the situation in Donbas increased the public sense of uncertainty. Russian propaganda on the war was strong and professionally produced, and inadequately countered by the Ukrainian authorities.
A new, professional information policy was set up in autumn with the help of the Ukrainian Crisis Media Centre and other volunteer groups. This effort has been expanded, and these groups are currently working on an army radio station to entertain troops in the Anti-Terrorist Operation ATO zone: During the spring defence reforms, the Defence Ministry took several key personnel from NGOs and incorporated them into the formal structures.
No other ministry in Ukraine saw such a large influx of civil activists and new faces into its structure as the Defence Ministry. These two factors — the learning curve and the voluntary effort — are regarded as the key factors that enabled the Ukrainian military to stand its ground. But there are other interesting features of the defence sector that are worth mentioning. Integrating voluntary battalions In the field, the regular army took over most combat tasks in the autumn and winter of leading into Some of the battalions were initially supported by local oligarchs — particularly in the east — stoking fears that they might develop into private armies.
But in they were integrated into the regular army as a territorial reserve force, or into the Interior Ministry as a national guard. This meant that professional officers were put in command; they were integrated in regular command and control structures; and the disciplinary law of the armed forces applied to them. These troops now receive a state salary, rather than one from private donors. This transition within the armed forces was smoother than media reports made it seem. Only Pravy Sektor and Azov — two of the 40 Ukrainian paramilitary battalions — refused to be integrated.
Some arrangements were made with Azov on the tighter control of their forces by the state, but Pravy Sektor is less willing to cooperate.
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Many in the West also overestimate the role of the voluntary forces due to the level of media coverage they have received. Some Ukrainian politicians, who were part of voluntary battalions for some time, have tried to draw attention to their role in the war and claim they were responsible for preventing Russia marching on Kyiv.