Mikhaîl Illarionovitch Kutuzov
Date de publication: 


Les tensions ravivées en Ukraine dans l'Oblast du Donbass, en leurs implications d'ordre diplomatique et militaire seront suivie dorénavant par le Général Giorgio Spagnol, alias Feld-Maréchal Mikhaîl Illarionovitch Kutuzov, pour les aspects tactiques et stratégiques et par Irnerio Seminatore, politiste, alias Wernerius von Löthringen, pour les aspects géopolitiques et systémiques. Le premier article date du 9 avril 2021 et porte le titre: “Russia e Ucraina”, le deuxième du 19 avril 2021 intitulé: “Correspondance du Donbass”, et le troisième du 21 avril 2021 : “Ukraine et Nouvelle Guerre Froide”.





With Russian troops massing on their side of the border with Ukraine, the US and its NATO allies have declared political and military backing for Ukraine. US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, has said “If Russia is going to continue to act aggressively and recklessly there will be costs and consequences”.

For years, the conflict in eastern Ukraine between government forces and Russian-backed separatists has been locked in a tense standoff. Following the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014, fighting erupted in the neighboring Donbas region, another Russian speaking area of Ukraine with local population demanding independence from Kiev. After the Minsk agreement reached in 2014, on 12 February 2015 the Minks-2 agreement was signed.

According to Ukraine's estimates 50,000 Russian troops have gathered across the Russian border and in Crimea. In addition, there are 35,000 Russia-backed separatists in eastern-held areas of Ukraine.

Zelensky, the President of Ukraine, says: “US is a good friend of Ukraine but President Biden must do more”. More weapons, more money to fight and more support to join NATO, where an attack on one member commits all to respond. But a transition of Ukraine in the “Western Orbit” would surely intensify Russia's “encirclement syndrome” and the chances of that are slim as moving Ukraine closer to NATO membership would provoke Moscow, possibly fueling a broader conflict.

The Minsk agreements

The Minsk agreements rest on two irreconcilable interpretations of Ukraine's sovereignty: is Ukraine sovereign, as Ukraine insists, or should its sovereignty be limited, as Russia demands?

After the Minsk agreement reached in 2014, on 12 February 2015 the Minsk-2 agreement was signed by representatives from the OSCE, Russia, Ukraine, the DNR and LNR.

It contains contradictory provisions and does not mention Russia: an omission that Russia has used to shirk responsibility for implementation and maintain that it is a disinterested arbiter.

Furthermore, the political sections of Minsk-2 are in Russia's favor. The DNR and LNR (People's Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk , respectively) could be reincorporated into Ukraine but as distinct political, economic and legal entities tied to Russia, thus giving a constitutional Trojan Horse to Moscow for a lasting presence in Ukraine's political system and prevent Kiev from running the country as an integrated whole. The DNR and LNR would also be able to sign agreements with other countries and perhaps establishing Russian military bases on their territories.

Historical background

The West quite too often forgets that the reunification of Germany was achieved thanks to the “gentlemen agreement” between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev. Such agreement envisaged that NATO and the European Union (EU) would never be bordering Russia's territory.

After losing the Cold War, Putin has seen NATO and the EU incorporate all of Eastern Europe that Russia had vacated, and three former republics of the USSR itself. Russia has then witnessed further attempts to bring three more former Soviet republics – Moldova, Georgia, and Ukraine – into NATO and, consequently, into the EU.

The US quite too often forget that they did not enter World War I in 1915 after the sinking of Lusitania but only in 1917, following the German proposal to Mexico to ally itself with Germany. And what if Russia were to propose today a similar agreement to Mexico, Cuba, and most of South America? So, why Putin should see NATO's inexorable eastward march as an extended “hand of partnership”?

In April 2016 NATO deployed four battalions to Eastern Europe, rotating troops through Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland. These battalions were joined by two U.S. Army tank brigades deployed to Poland in September 2017 to further bolster the alliance’s deterrence presence. That was to constitute the answer to the Russia's “provocative behavior” in conducting exercises right along its own borders. But how are Russians troops deploying inside Russia “provocative”, while US troops on Russia's borders are not?

Current situation

After six years of an uneasy truce, Moscow has retaliated for Kiev’s recent crackdown on pro-Russian media and politicians. The situation is especially volatile in Donbas, where the ceasefire between the Ukrainian army and Moscow-sponsored breakaway territories has effectively broken down. Both sides accuse each other of provocations and regularly exchange fire, with the casualties mounting among both military personnel and civilians.

Yet there are reasons to believe that neither side intends to unleash a war. From Ukraine’s standpoint, an offensive in Donbas would likely give Russia a pretext to intervene in the region: Russian officials have repeatedly stated the country’s readiness to protect the self-proclaimed republics. The ensuing losses would ruin Zelensky’s already limited public support, while prompt assistance for Ukraine from the West is by no means guaranteed.

Russia’s military movements near Ukraine have been made in a decidedly visible manner. In other words, they are intended to be seen, and are less indicative of preparation for a covert attack. Nor do they appear to be of the size commensurate with a major military operation. The most logical explanation is that the ceasefire broke down because Russia seeks to pressure Ukraine, and Western counterparts, over the lack of progress in implementing Minsk-2.

The purpose of the current military buildup, therefore, is aimed at exerting diplomatic and psychological pressure and is limited to demonstrating to Kiev and Washington that Russia is prepared to respond with force to any military attempts to change the status quo in Donbas even if the tense atmosphere and casualties suffered by both sides increase the possibility that a misstep or rogue action at a local level could drag the two countries into a new military confrontation.

Political developments

Political advisers of the Russian, German, French and Ukrainian leaders, or the so-called "Normandy Four," are working towards holding a summit on eastern Ukraine's Donbas region.

Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel held a phone conversation, calling on all parties to exercise restraint. Late last month, Putin, Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron held a video-conference, with the Donbas tensions as one of their priorities.

On Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky traveled to Istanbul to discuss the issue with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. At this stage it's up to Putin and Zelensky to talk directly to defuse the tensions.

In the view of Russian senator Alexei Pushkov, Ukraine will not start a war with Russia because Kiev is well aware of the consequences: "But Kiev could provoke Russia through shelling Donbas and other types of military activities. Provocative actions are key for Ukraine as an instrument to establish good ties with the West". The likelihood of a large-scale Russia-Ukraine war remains low, but a lot depends on whether Washington is holding back Zelensky or inciting violence.

The G-7 foreign ministers - representing Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States - and the European Union condemned Russia's buildup on Ukraine's borders in a recent statement, saying they were "deeply concerned" by the move.

Biden “reaffirmed the United States’ unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russia’s ongoing aggression in the Donbas and Crimea.

The U.S. has provided Ukraine $2 billion in security assistance since 2014, including two tranches of Javelin missiles as well as other military equipment. Biden recently approved an additional $125 million worth of lethal aid to help the country defend its borders.

Russia, Europe, America, NATO and China

While the public opinion in Germany, Italy and France oppose military action against Russia, we should try to see the world from Russia' point of view. The Soviet Union, once a global superpower at strategic parity with the US, after losing 1/3 of its territory and half its population is now divided into 15 nations. The Black Sea, once a Soviet lake, has now on its shore a pro-western Ukraine, a hostile Georgia, and 2 former Warsaw Pact allies, Bulgaria and Romania, now NATO members.

Putin wants a new Russia's global role by limiting America's world leadership role, by curbing the US attempt for a regime change in Russia, and by showing that Russia too can use military force to achieve foreign policy goals. In order to demonstrate this Moscow is ready to escalate on other fronts if on one front is not getting what it wants. Moscow has already aligned with China to support Beijing’s aspirations for dominance in the South China Sea and in the Pacific Ocean at the expense of the US.

The post-cold war era is over but a new era has begun: Cold War 2.0, different in character and founded not just on competing interests but competing values. And the West is now paying the price for an error of assessment that gave Westerners a feeling of comfort for two decades: the belief that the fall of the Berlin Wall meant the world had come to a moment of ideological resolution after seven decades of communist rule.

The West has to moderate its own ambitions by defending and protecting its own interests but avoiding telling other countries (Russia and China in particular) how they should behave.

Unfortunately Europe, a poor player sheepishly following the US, is absent in the world scenario due to the structural weakness of its depoliticized and acephalous integration thus marking the end of its moral exceptionalism. The EU is just tasked by the US to identify new sanctions possibly targeting the Russian individuals responsible for the policies designed to destabilize the EU's eastern neighbors, by going after Putin's wealth and the wealth of his country.

As a consequence, whereas in the past the Russians considered themselves European, they now realize that they are a distinct civilization subject to concerted western efforts to destroy it. The birthplace of their Orthodox Christianity is Crimea, their ancient capital is Kiev, with Moscow being the “Third Rome” after Rome and Constantinople.


If separatists divide Eastern Ukraine the West will have to resign itself to that development. If that happens, then Russia will have succeeded with its strategy for the third time since the end of the Soviet Union. Both Abkhazia and South Ossetia, breakaway republics of Georgia, are under Russia control as is the Transnistria region of Moldova. The consequences being that neither country is able to join NATO because any candidate must have previously resolved all border disputes with its neighbors prior to accession.

Russians are tired to see US, its media (sometimes referred to as presstitutes), and European vassal states using the same propagandist lies/accusations against Russia and Putin as were used against Iraq and Saddam Hussein, Libya and Qaddafi, Syria and Assad, and Iran.

Washington is fearful of the rise of Russia and China, of the leadership demonstrated by Putin, of the formation of new organizations independent of Washington such as the BRICS. Washington knows that Russia cannot be turned into a vassal state as long as Putin is in office. Therefore, the demonization of Putin and plots against him has continued until Obama's presidency. Unfortunately, after Donald Trump' s balanced approach in international relations, Joe Biden is resuming such dangerous game.

The Russian and Chinese governments both understand that their existence is threatened by US hegemonic ambitions. In order to defeat US plans to marginalize them, Russia and China, the Bear and the Dragon, are moving together on the economic and military fronts. Both are the founders of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) - also known as the Asian NATO - comprehensive , among others, of India, Pakistan and Iran. SCO, emerged as an anti-US bulwark in Central Asia, has already achieved economic cooperation, intelligence sharing, military and counter-terrorism cooperation.


Putin said Washington is responsible for the rise of Islamist terrorism as well as the conflicts in Iraq, Syria and Libya. Whereas the US cavalry intervenes around the world, Washington reproaches Russia for doing exactly that in Ukraine. Putin did quote the Latin saying “Quod licet Iovi non licet Bovi” (“What Jupiter is allowed, the Ox is not.”) , stressing the US double standard. He went on maintaining: “But the Bear will not ask for permission, he is the master of the taiga and will not cede it to anyone.” 

We are at a dangerous crossroads with the confrontation between the two major nuclear powers, namely US and Russia. The worst case scenario remains WW III which hopefully will not occur but, for planning purposes, is not an abstract concept.

Putin will push for Ukraine to drop or at least postpone any aspirations to join NATO while exploiting the insurgency in the east to stress the issue of the right of self-determination so as to achieve the maximum degree of independence/autonomy/ decentralization for the Russian-speakers.

The Ukrainian army alone cannot bring the country under control, and diplomatic efforts have not made real progress beyond a stream of telephone calls back and forth. There is the danger that instability could spread to all of Ukraine (Putin may want a weak Ukraine, but not a chaotic country divided by a civil war): there is therefore the need to resort to the potentials of the agreement on strategic partnership signed between NATO and Russia and revive the NATO-Russia Council.

Moscow wants respect and border security. The US has no reason to deny the first or challenge the second. Yet from expansion of NATO to dismemberment of Serbia to treatment of Georgia and Ukraine as allies, the US and Europe have increased Russia insecurity.

Bottom line is: the US desperately need foreign-policy leadership willing to set priorities, able to distinguish between vital and minor interests, willing to acknowledge US failures and limitations.

As for the EU, it appears at once impotent, alarmed and perplexed. Europe needs Russia more than vice versa. The question is whether the other side has not already long since bolted the door.

As for Putin, he could just consolidate his gains and wait for US initiatives (or mistakes) to exploit. He does not need to push harder: if successful he could go down as Russia's Bismarck.

The last mention is for President Biden: he has to realize that, at this stage, he cannot be considered the smartest man in the room while Putin, having a real smart and long term program, is not playing checkers but chess. President Biden may achieve some degree of success in domestic politics but he is likely to score only failures in foreign policy: it is now up to him to take stock of the joint Russia-China capabilities and avoid a possible and dangerous military confrontation.

The pervasive lack of historical knowledge in Washington is, unfortunately, feeding escalating tensions in Eastern Europe. American strategists should consider how it was that Americans were highly sympathetic to Tsarist Russia during the Crimean War when Russia faced off against perceived French and British imperialism. They should reflect on the fact that the Kremlin’s stubborn hold on Crimea in the face of Nazi aggression proved exceedingly important to the Allied victory in 1945.

Finally, there is no understanding in the American foreign policy establishment that Soviet internal borders were of little importance, so their impact on post-Soviet politics is also limited. The Crimea situation and that of Ukraine generally is much grayer, and less black and white than most Americans appreciate.

A compromise is the best outcome achievable through: the end to military actions, a peace agreement policed by outside observers, a federal system with a very high degree of autonomy, commercial relations with all countries, military relations with no one else, particularly NATO. Ukraine could thus become a true bridge between East and West.