As the US Obama Administration continues to increase sanctions against Russia for their perpetuation of the Ukraine/Crimea crisis, one world leader has been secretly working very closely with Russian President Vladimir Putin on brokering a possible peace deal; German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Revealing the secret negotiations that have been occurring between the two heads of state, UK publication The Independent reported today:
Reaching a solution to the ongoing dispute is pertinent for the Germans as Russia is their single biggest trading partner. Under Ms Merkel, the Russo-German axis has strengthened significantly and, until the plane shooting, her government had been staunchly against punitive sanctions for commercial but also diplomatic reasons.
The terms of the potential peace agreement would appear to grant Russia a victory for their six-month campaign of supporting the separatists, granting sovereignty to a pro-Russian and separate Crimea while Ukraine would maintain a non-NATO membership status:
The Independent can reveal that the peace plan, being worked on by both Angela Merkel and Vladimir Putin, hinges on two main ambitions: stabilising the borders of Ukraine and providing the financially troubled country with a strong economic boost, particularly a new energy agreement ensuring security of gas supplies.
More controversially, if Ms Merkel’s deal were to be acceptable to the Russians, the international community would need to recognise Crimea’s independence and its annexation by Russia, a move that some members of the United Nations might find difficult to stomach.
Sources close to the secret negotiations claim that the first part of the stabilisation plan requires Russia to withdraw its financial and military support for the various pro-separatist groups operating in eastern Ukraine. As part of any such agreement, the region would be allowed some devolved powers.
At the same time, the Ukrainian President would agree not to apply to join Nato. In return, President Putin would not seek to block or interfere with the Ukraine’s new trade relations with the European Union under a pact signed a few weeks ago.
Second, the Ukraine would be offered a new long-term agreement with Russia’s Gazprom, the giant gas supplier, for future gas supplies and pricing. At present, there is no gas deal in place; Ukraine’s gas supplies are running low and are likely to run out before this winter, which would spell economic and social ruin for the country.
The deal also would include a $1 billion back-payment by Russia to Ukraine for the rent of Russian military bases in Crimea prior to the crisis (to put into context the “strong economic boost” referenced above).
But the unexpected July 17th killing of 300 innocent passengers and crew members on a Malaysian Airlines flight over Ukraine by missile-fire from suspected pro-Russian Ukrainian separatists militants has caused delay for the German Chancellor’s commitment to the peace process. As described by The Daily Mail’s article today:
Talks have reportedly been put on ice since the shooting down of MH17 in eastern Ukraine which has been blamed on pro-Moscow rebels, but sources insist the deal is ‘still on the table’.
It comes as Ukraine today announced it had suspended its military offensive in the east for one day to help international experts reach the downed Malaysian airliner’s crash site.
Dutch and Australian police experts have been trying for five days to access the area where the remains of around 80 of the 298 people killed have been decomposing in sweltering temperatures since the crash on July 17.
From a #LawofSecrecy perspective, one has to wonder about the effect revealing the secret negotiations will have on their success. Secrecy can help negotiating parties reach a tentative agreement and float proposals without worrying about political backlash and nitpicking at specifics. On the other hand, this may be a strategic leak aimed at gaining support and sending the idea up the flagpole so that major objections can be addressed.