Events that have been occurring in recent months in Eastern Europe have brought this region back to the international agenda. The Belarusian migrants blackmail of Poland and Latvia, the Russian gas blackmail to ramNord Stream-2 down the EU’s throat on their own termsalong with an augmentation of 90,000 Russian troopsnear the eastern border of Ukraine should be considered with a comprehensive approach applied. In experts’ opinion, actions of the Belarusian and Russian regimes, which are headed by Bonnie and Clyde of post-Soviet politics, are clearly aimed at fixing the presence of the Kremlin’s interests in the region and claiming its turf in relations with the West. Concurrently, tensions that Russia creates in Eastern Europe have been taking place against the background of the ongoing aggression against Ukraine, which in itself is a prerequisite for a sharp increase in the boiling region.
Moscow’s actions give the idea that the logic of Russia’s foreign policy is to link supranational ambitions with its own potential to fulfil them. The Kremlin tries to countervail the power insufficiency by hybrid tools and concealment or distortion its own role in geopolitical adventures. It seems that without the latter, Moscow would risk to end up in an open confrontation with the West with corresponding consequences of it and, ultimately, the unequivocal marginalization of its position. It is notorious that Eastern Europe, and especially Ukraine, is a key region for Russia’s geopolitical positioning in terms of geographical, historical, cultural and economic factors. Therefore, to maintain the predominant influence is the Kremlin’s main task. The impression is that the strategy chosen to achieve this is not an export of “soft power”, but the”multiplicity of conflicts” providing creation of a belt of controlled chaos (Nagorno-Karabakh – Abkhazia and South Ossetia – LDNR – Transnistria). This is designated to form a buffer zone between Russian and Euro-Atlantic spheres of influence and precedes the former Soviet republics from Euro-Atlantic integration by definition.
Identification of these algorithms underlying inRussia’s foreign policy provokes thought that the Kremlin is not interested in a peaceful settlement of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, inasmuch as puppet “Luhansk People’s Republic” and “Donetsk People’s Republic” are considered only as levers of pressure on Kyiv. In the same context, Minsk-1 and Minsk-2 were only a platform where Russia have tried to squeeze as much concessions as possible from demoralized Ukraine. Meanwhile, Ukraine has utilized it to stop the Russia`s and its pickpocket militants offensive in Donbas. The imposition of the Minsk Agreements on Kyiv and the coercion to fulfill obviously unacceptable demands, which could destroy pillars of its statehood, were accompanied with significant military pressure from Russia. Noteworthy is that the so-called “Debaltseveboiler” occurred after the signing of Minsk-2 in February 2015.
That fact that the Kremlin strives for keepingDonbass as a spot of controlled chaos, by analogy with Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Transnistria, is logically corresponded to Russia’s line not to incorporate these entities into the federation, as it did with Crimea. The Kremlin officially considers the occupied regions of Donbass as the Ukrainian territory, and misrepresents the war in Eastern Ukraine as an internal conflict. It would appear that Moscow`s motivation is to push the LDPR back into the federalized Ukraine under special conditions and to determine the domestic political agenda there, including its Euro-Atlantic course. Under such circumstances, Kyiv’s control over these territories would be nominal, for the Kremlin has significantly exhausted the possibility of returning Ukrainian identity to the occupied regions after 7 years of the aggressive anti-Ukrainian propaganda, demonization, administration from Moscow, and most importantly the LDPR passportization. In view of this, Putin will have almost unlimited opportunities to curb the sovereignty of Ukraine.
It is impossible to ignore Russia’s intention to maximize its geopolitical efficiency through hidden orchestration and distortion of its role in the Russian-Ukrainian war in the diplomatic sphere. According to the Geneva Conventions, the Minsk process itself cannot be construed a negotiation process, since any conflict ends with the signing of an agreement. That is why, the Minsk agreements, from an international legal point of view, are the result of armistice negotiations, both in terms of records and the context, namely the use or threat of use of force (Article 52 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties). Moreover, Russia has signed them along with Ukraine as a party to the conflict; therefore, it hascommitted itself to them. Attempts by top leaders of the Russian Federation to disown the record on paper by putting forward the DNR and LNR convince in aforementioned. The ambivalence of Moscow’s position is, by claiming that the LDPR and Ukraine, but not Russia and Ukraine, are parties to the conflict, the Kremlin also acknowledges that it has a direct influence on the militants. Since unrecognized “people’s republics” are not parties to the Geneva Conventions, nor are they represented in the Trilateral Contact Group, which isestablished in result of Minsk agreements, much less in the Normandy format, Russia is considered as the party to the conflict under international law.
Numerous international documents anticipatesRussia as a belligerent party in Donbas. On December 30, 2020, the same PACE, where the Kremlin triumphantly returned its delegation after blackmail bymembership fees on June 25, 2019, adopted Resolution №2325 on the state of the monitoring procedure, in which Russia is clearly called the party to the Minsk agreements and the party to the conflict in Donbass. Thus, it is obliged to cease the annexation of Crimea (paragraph 3.8) together with military intervention in eastern Ukraine and backup of the local paramilitary formations in any form (paragraph 4.9).
The rhetoric and diplomatic actions of the Russian authority suggest that the Kremlin stubbornly neglectsinternationally recognized rules and is not going to abide by the agreements, as this would probably mean curbing its interests. And Putin, in fact, has made it clear having established the primacy of national law over international one by amending Art. 79 of the Constitution. It seemsthat, Russia is trying to escape liability for its actions, in particular, for crashing MH17 performed by militants in the occupied territory. Evidently, the ongoing trial in this case will not end in favor of Russia. For these reasons, the Kremlin will continue the streak and control the escalation in eastern Ukraine through the LDPR. There is full of revelations that Moscow provides the “people`s republics” with appropriate weapons, ammunition and military equipment for this purpose. “Weapons of the War in Ukraine”, a three-year research performed byConflict Armament Research, provides profoundevidence that rifles, MANPADS, grenade launchers, ammunition and equipment have appropriate serial numbers pointing at Russian origin of them. Tracking Russian-made UAV components used by militants has revealed that their supply channels are independent Russian distributors of electronics and components serving Russian law enforcement and security entities.
The fact is that Russia’s destabilization in Ukraine and Eastern Europe is generally accompanied by political pressure and the imposition of its own will. As mentioned earlier, Russia hides behind LDPR to relinquish its role as the party to the conflict, and calls for a direct dialogue between Ukraine and “people`s republics.” Thus, the Kremlin is trying to legitimize pseudo-state formations and encapsulate them in Ukraine. Interestingly, the situation is similar in Belaruswith its rapidly fading subjectivity. Without exaggerationto say, Russia has been masterminding the currentmigration crisis in the eastern EU`s boarder throughMinsk. Applying Erdogan’s methods of pressure on the EU, the Kremlin is creating a new point of controlled chaos, but hiding behind Belarus this time. As for now,the Lukashenko regime has lost the last vestiges of legitimacy in the eyes of the civilized world after witch-hunt because of protests, and subsequently is falling pray of upcoming anschluss with Russia. It is therefore not surprising that Russia again calls on the EU to engage indirect dialogue with Minsk, and even offers to pay the latter for deterring migrants that Belavia purposefully transports from the poorer countries of the Middle East and North Africa through Russia. Needless to say thatafter the Protasevich case, European countries closed their airspace for this brainchild of Lukashenko.
It is not unreasonable to assume that the current destabilization of Ukraine and the EU’s eastern border is the Kremlin`s approbated modus operandi. Russia has been using time-tested methods of pressure to achieve its foreign policy goals. And the most important thing in the use of hybrid tools is the concealment or distortion of itsrole in destructive actions, ie the so-called “confrontational without being competitive” approach. Such Russia’s approaches to foreign policy obviously strengthen belief that there would be no reconciliation or stabilization of relations between the West and Russia on a consensual or compromise basis, given the fact that the Russian geopolitics is based on confrontation, not development through cooperation. The Ukrainian case examplifies it clearly.