In Ceasefire in Ukraine; Description of the Negotiations I asked a number of questions.

Will This Hold?

I don’t know. This sounds like the limited autonomy arrangement in the last failed Minsk accord. But what’s in the footnote? Does this mean a limited Federation without using those words? Is everyone tired enough of war to make this stick?

Let’s take a look at what Colonel Cassad and Stratfor have to say.

Colonel Cassad on Results of Minsk

Here is a link to a Google Translation of Colonel Cassad on Results of Minsk.

A skeptical Cassad calls the results a half-hearted solution which on the one hand outlines the terms of the cease-fire, and on the other, a series of questions hanging in the air.

The Truce on February 15 (if it takes place), will mean that the fighting will continue for 2 days where changes will mark the frontline border

Cassad notes the “incomprehensible situation of the Debaltsevskim boiler [cauldron]. Poroshenko argues that there is no boiler, and Putin argues that trapped forces must lay down their arms.”

“With regard to the remaining items, there is more wishful thinking than concrete solutions. France and Germany do not accept any responsibility for the implementation of these agreements, it is solely the responsibility of Russia, and of the junta [Ukraine] with the People’s Republic. The threat of escalation of the confrontation was not removed, but simply postponed.”

Autonomy

The critical question of autonomy will likely make or break this accord. Here is an unedited translation of Cassad.

Leaders of the DNI and LC actually publicly disown Declaration of State Sovereignty of People’s Republic and gave their consent to the actual stay within Ukraine. The idea of federalization and autonomy of Ukraine were publicly buried that Poroshenko has already declared his major success. At the same reservation had been made ​​in the case of violation of the agreements more talks will follow. This is probably one of the required Russian guarantees. Of course, if hypothetically assume that all points of the agreement are met and the Donbass will remain a part of Ukraine, proposals laid with new agreements that do not allow us to say that the Donbass stub can be used as a lever to correct the Kremlin Ukraine in the desired way. At the same time official Kiev is still evading the Kremlin’s attempts to seat Poroshenko and managers DNR and LC for the negotiation table. That is the direct contacts between the junta and the People’s Republic is still there, and the next “truce” is pushed under the verbal assurances of the Russian Federation, Germany and France.

Cassad Conclusion

A full-fledged document on the settlement did not happen, the question hung in the air of the Crimea. In general, in my opinion, if the truce will not be torpedoed right now, we will have another respite and renewal of intense fighting. From what discussed and what was signed and that in my opinion can be done – a truce, divorce and heavy weapons exchange of prisoners. Everything else at this stage malovypolnimo, even without taking into account the expected action by the US escalation of the conflict.

The above translation is also unedited.

Ambiguities of Ceasefire

Stratfor, like Cassad discusses various ambiguities in Terms of Ukraine’s Ceasefire.

Following marathon talks in Minsk that lasted more than 17 hours, the leaders of Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine reached an agreement that appears to align with the Kremlin’s demands. The document calls for a cease-fire to begin Feb. 15, the withdrawal of weapons and the enactment of constitutional reforms in Ukraine. Though Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has denied that the agreement includes provisions for the creation of autonomous regions or the federalization of Ukraine, the document on the whole does fulfill several of the Kremlin’s long-standing demands with regards to the status of Donbas.

The new cease-fire agreement is based largely on the original one that went into effect Sept. 5. It focuses on the withdrawal of heavy artillery systems, which have been prominent throughout the conflict, within 14 days of the cease-fire’s implementation. The new cease-fire requires these artillery systems to be withdrawn far beyond their maximum effective ranges, a move that will create a buffer to prevent escalation and heavy artillery fire on the demarcation line. Missing from the agreement, however, is a decision on the fate of the still heavily contested Ukrainian positions in Debaltseve. Because both sides will have to withdraw their artillery systems, the result will be a very deep area without artillery cover in the center of the demarcation line.

The signing of the new Minsk agreement, as well as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s direct participation in the negotiations, points to the Kremlin’s willingness to at least partially de-escalate the conflict at this time. The agreement includes some vague measures and conditions that all sides may ultimately chose not to implement. Several key points of contention remain unaddressed, and there are still many opportunities for the agreement to break down if they are not resolved. Therefore, political will, rather than the actual terms of the agreement, will determine whether a significant de-escalation is to take place.

“Russia Comes Out Ahead”

In a second writeup, Stratfor says In Minsk Talks, Russia Comes Out Ahead

Following marathon talks in Minsk that lasted more than 17 hours, the leaders of Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine reached an agreement that appears to align with the Kremlin’s demands. The agreement reflects Ukraine’s increasingly weak negotiating position as well as Germany’s wish to avoid confrontation with Russia while trying to save the eurozone. Though the deal includes some notable provisions regarding a cease-fire and the withdrawal of arms, it also contains several points, most importantly constitutional changes, that will challenge Kiev and give the Kremlin control over key parts of the agreement.

Ambiguity and Political Will

The political provisions of the agreement largely favor the Kremlin. The agreement prescribes constitutional reforms in Ukraine that would transition the country to a more decentralized system of governance — although it offers few details as to what that decentralization would entail. The accord also outlines a requirement for the Ukrainian government to enshrine into law a special status for Donetsk and Luhansk provinces that would allow them to form local militias and work with the central government to appointment local prosecutors and formulate economic and social policies for the regions.

Nevertheless, local elections and plans for Ukrainian forces to take control of the border areas between Donbas and Russia will not happen under the terms of the agreement unless Ukraine first conducts constitutional reforms. This leaves much room for ambiguity regarding the types of reforms and the extent of decentralization that would be deemed acceptable to the separatist and Russian sides before other elements of the deal could be implemented.

The ambiguity of constitutional changes gives the Kremlin options and allows Russian troops to continue controlling parts of the border, giving them access to Donbas. Moreover, the participation and cooperation of top-level separatist leaders at Minsk highlighted the Kremlin’s continued influence over separatist groups, signaling that Russia will likely maintain a strong hold over the local leadership if Donbas receives its special status.

The German and French leaders who negotiated the deal have highlighted the fact that the agreement does not completely resolve the conflict. Following the talks, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said there is much work left to do, but she did note that the negotiations offered hope for a solution.

Notably, the United States was not formally represented during the nightlong negotiations in Minsk, but its reaction and willingness to support the agreement will be crucial.

Several key points of contention remain unaddressed from a military and political perspective, and there are still many opportunities for the agreement to break down if they are not resolved. Therefore, political will, rather than the actual terms of the agreement, will determine whether a significant de-escalation is to take place.

Current Cauldron Map

Poroshenko’s claim “there is no boiler” is preposterous. Map from LiveJournal.

Ceasefire Problem Area

Above map from Stratfor, I added purple highlights. Clearly, key questions remain. If the ceasefire does hold, it is not clear who “won”. It all depends on how numerous ambiguities are resolved.

Addendum:

Cassad concluded with “A full-fledged document on the settlement did not happen, the question hung in the air of the Crimea. In general, in my opinion, if the truce will not be torpedoed right now, we will have another respite and renewal of intense fighting. From what discussed and what was signed and that in my opinion can be done – a truce, divorce and heavy weapons exchange of prisoners. Everything else at this stage malovypolnimo, even without taking into account the expected action by the US escalation of the conflict.”

Jacob Dreizin informs me that “malovypolnimo” translates as “not realistically fulfillable

Mike “Mish” Shedlock