Ukraine: the mouse that roared

One week before Russian president Vladimir Putin announced his country’s armies will conduct a “special military operation” in Ukraine, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy refused a peace offering that he’s going to have to accept nevertheless, only so many dead people later.

According to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), German chancellor Olaf Scholz had made what the paper termed as “one last push for a settlement between Moscow and Kiev.”

And Zelenskyy rejected it.

Ukraine should renounce its NATO aspirations, the German chancellor told the Ukrainian president, adding that it should declare neutrality as part of a wider European security deal between the West and Russia.

In talks in Munich, during the Munich Security Conference, February 19, Scholz told Zelenskyy that Putin and U.S. president Joe Biden would sign the pact and jointly guarantee Ukraine’s security.

Whether this was intentional or not remains to be seen, but there’s a world of difference between security and neutrality.

Still, several analysts agree that the specific wording could and should have been part of negotiations that would have forestalled the armed conflict.

Lack of faith

Zelenskyy rejected the offer out of hand, the WSJ said.

In a quote that did not include any sources, Zelenskyy was supposed to claim that “Putin couldn’t be trusted to uphold such an agreement and that most Ukrainians wanted to join NATO.”

That reply convinced German officials familiar with the debate that the chances of peaceful resolution to the argument between Russia and Ukraine were closing in on one fat zero.

Russia claims that Ukraine hasn’t lived up to her commitments made under the terms of the Minsk agreements of 2014. It was this reason why Russia would recognise the Donbass republics in Donetsk and Lugansk.

The so-called Minsk agreements of 2014 and 2015, brokered by diplomats from France and Germany, were supposed to regularise the status of those regions within Ukraine.

In peace parleys, Russia has made it a conditio sine qua non that Ukraine officially declare herself a neutral country that will never join NATO. While mum on this indispensable condition, Ukrainian government, in return, described the Russian offensive as completely unprovoked. Ukraine has also denied Russia’s claims she was planning to retake the rebel regions by force.

NATO: a lost case

Not only has German chancellor signalled that there’s no way Ukraine would be accepted into NATO any time soon, Germany military’s Inspector General has also told the respected and respectable German newsmagazine Die Welt that NATO won’t be sending their forces to Ukraine.

Answering a specific question about such option, General Eberhard Zorn said that “what the German federal chancellor as well as U.S. President Joe Biden have said” still applied.

What did they say?

As General Zorn quoted them, “under no circumstances will we deploy our own forces to Ukrainian territory.”

General Zorn then proceeded on the thin ice of predictions, explaining that Russian military planners made several major logistical errors.

So far as General Zorn is concerned, the conflict in Ukraine will develop into guerrilla-style fighting. After all, Ukrainians have had some extensive experience in this kind of warfare during the Second World War, when they fought the Germans.

It makes no sense to speculate on what’s going to happen, General Zorn stressed, jumping to his conclusions right then and there: Ukraine will end up being split into several polities, leading to a stalemate situation.

Controversy deepens

Meanwhile, an officer in the German Army reserve has been charged with spying for Moscow.

Described only as Ralph G, he was accused of passing sensitive military and financial information to Russia for nearly a decade.

The state court in Düsseldorf charged Ralph G, saying that he “worked for a foreign secret service against the Federal Republic of Germany and against a NATO state party.”

The alleged spy was supposedly involved in several German economy sectors. The charge alleges that he was informing Russia about the impact of German sanctions on Russia in 2014, and the more recent penalties against the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project. Ralph G also stands accused of sharing unspecified information about the reservists of the Bundeswehr, as well as its military-civilian cooperation.

It seems spymania is now in full swing: a former employee of Great Britain’s embassy in Berlin was picked up on similar charges in August, also accused of providing documents to Russian intelligence.

Another German national received a two-year sentence in 2021. He was convicted for giving copies of floor plans for parliamentary buildings to spies.

And Ilnur Nagaev, a Russian doctoral candidate at the University of Augsburg, faces trial, accused of sharing sensitive details on the European Union’s Ariane space program with Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service.

The plot thickens.

Confession: one part of the headline above is stolen from the title of a 1959 British movie, a satire against Cold War, starring Peter Sellers in three main roles.

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