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One year of the Minsk Protocol: How the United States has been drawing Russia into an exhausting process

Picture: The Daily Beast

Sept 5, 2015, is the first anniversary of the Minsk Protocol. One year ago, in Minsk’s President Hotel, a trilateral contact group of Russia, Ukraine and the OSCE signed a protocol on ceasefire and peace process in Donbass. On behalf of Russia, the protocol was signed by Russian Ambassador to Ukraine Mikhail Zurabov, on behalf of Ukraine by former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, on behalf of the OSCE by Swiss diplomat Heidi TagliaviniAlexander Zakharchenko and Igor Plotnitsky was signed the protocol but their statuses were not specified.

The Minsk Protocol was preceded by a meeting of the Russian and Ukrainian presidents in Minsk. On Sept 3, the presidents contacted again by phone. By that time, Vladimir Putin already had a plan on how to stabilize the situation in Ukraine.

A year later, on Sept 4, 2015, the Russian president told journalists in Vladivostok that the key terms of the Minsk Protocol (he already meant Minsk II) were not being implemented. On Aug 29, he discussed this problem with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande. And now it has been reported that the foreign ministers of the Normandy Four are planning to meet next week. So, we can see that the key concern of the parties involved is how to guarantee the implementation of the Minsk Protocol.

Since Oct 2014, the Minsk process has been associated with the Normandy Four – Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine. Minsk II marked the involvement of Europe in the peace process. Since then certain people have begun to say that the key reason why the process is dragging on is that it does not involve the United States, particularly, US President Barack Obama and US Secretary of State John Kerry.

The problem is that few people remember that the Minsk process was initiated by the Americans. Aug 26, 2014, was critical for the Ukrainian crisis. On that day, the Ukrainian Donbass, Dnipro-1, Kherson, Svitiaz and Mirotvorec battalions were encircled near Ilovaisk. It was then that Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko gave start to the Minsk process.

And it was also on that very day that The Atlantic in the US and Kommersant in Russia published the peace proposals of the Russian-US Boisto Working Group. (1)

The plan consisted of 24 points concerning not only Donbass but also Crimea. 7 of the 12 points of the protocol signed on Sept 5, 2015, were similar to the content of the Boisto proposals. So, some Russian experts assumed that the protocol was secretly coordinated with the Americans. And the membership of the Boisto group proved that.

The US was represented by

1. Thomas Graham–Co-chair of the Boisto Group; managing director of Kissinger Associates; former special assistant to the president and senior director for Russia on the National Security Council staff (2004–2007)

2. Andrew Weiss— Co-chair of the Boisto Group; vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; former director for Russian, Ukrainian, and Eurasian affairs on the National Security Council staff (1998–2001)

3. Deana Arsenian—Vice president of the International Program and director of the Russia Program at the Carnegie Corporation of New York

4. Rajan Menon—Anne and Bernard Spitzer professor of political science in the Colin Powell School at the City College of New York/City University of New York

5. Robert Nurick—Senior fellow at the Atlantic Council

6. Jack Snyder—Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations in the Political Science Department at Columbia University

Russia was represented by

1. Alexander Dynkin—Co-chair of the Boisto Group; director of the Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO); advisor to the prime minister of Russia (1998–1999)

2. Aleksey Arbatov—Head of the Center for International Security at IMEMO; deputy chairman of the Defense Committee of the State Duma of the Russian Federation (1995–2003)

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3. Vyacheslav Trubnikov—Ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary; member of the IMEMO board of directors; director of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (1996 – 2000); first deputy minister of foreign affairs of Russia (2000–2004); four-star general, awarded with Hero of the Russian Federation medal

4. Victor Kremenyuk—Deputy director of the Institute of U.S. and Canadian Studies

5. Artem Malgin—Vice rector of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO University)

6. Feodor Voitolovsky—Deputy director of IMEMO

7. Andrey Ryabov—Editor in chief of the World Economy and International Relations monthly journal

And even though the Boisto group said that it was a group of individuals rather than representatives of certain institutions, the group still involved institutions collecting data about the other side – Carnegie Corporation of New York, and the Institute of World Economy and International Relations of Russia.

Today, diplomacy is much different from what it was in the 19th century. Today, it gives priority to preliminary nonpublic summit-level agreements presented as public initiatives. This is a kind of a rite but this is part of the game. The Boisto group acted according to the Track II Diplomacy, an approach implying nongovernmental, informal contacts of individuals or groups of individuals. The Boisto group fathered in an isolated venue – a small island under the aegis of the Foreign Ministry of Finland, the country that was often a mediator between the West and the East at the times of the Cold War. In this context, we can link this initiative with the visit of President Putin to Finland on Aug 15, 2014, and his meeting with his Finnish counterpart Sauli Niinisto.

So, no surprise that Russian and Ukrainian mass media qualified the proposals of the Boisto group as a secret US-Russian deal to divide Ukraine. Some Russian mass media called the proposals a “Putin-Kissinger plan,” a secret deal guaranteed by the Rockefeller clan, an “imperialistic plan,” etc.. They said that the Boisto group was based on informal contacts between former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov.

The western “elite public” also protested against the Boisto group. Five days after Boisto made public its plan, they published a response to it (2). It said: “There are many more problems with this initiative, but we have restricted ourselves to the most blatant ones. The bottom line is that Russia must end its invasion and aggression toward Ukraine, withdraw its forces and fighters, rescind its annexation of Crimea, and end its use of energy and economic measures to punish Ukraine and its other neighbors. Russia will never become the civilized state its citizens deserve without such a transformation.”

Here we should note that “counter-public” initiative protesting against another public initiative is also part of the “public diplomacy” game. In any case, the initiators of the Minsk process were the Americans, who have used public diplomacy for drawing Russia into a long, futile and exhausting process. They have succeeded. This is, perhaps, why we have already forgotten about the Boisto proposals.

(1) Boisto Working Group plan // http://www.kommersant.ru/doc/2553169

(2) Response to Boisto Working Group agenda // http://zn.ua/columnists/otvet-na-plan-gruppy-boysto-151975_.html

Among others the response was signed by former US Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, Former U.K. Ambassador to Ukraine Robert Brinkley, former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Europe and NATO policy Ian Brzezinski, Eurasia program director, Freedom House Susan Corke, former assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights, and labor Lorne Craner, political expert Paul Goble, former ambassador; director of the Eurasia Center, Atlantic Council John Herbst, President of Freedom House David J. Kramer,  Vice president for research of Freedom House Arch Puddington, journalist Evgeni Kiselev, Vice president, Liberal Mission Foundation Igor Klyamkin.

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