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Sunday, 7 September 2014

Natural Allies 3

48 hours is a long time in international politics. Among the sub-plots at last week's NATO meeting in South Wales was the until-then-unthinkable possibility that Russia could provide a vital link to the Assad Regime in Iraq. This is seen as the most fruitful potential access route to NATO reaching an 'accommodation' with the Syrian tyrant to enable joint action to be taken against the latest Jihadi threat from Isis, otherwise known as IS and Isol.

In an interview published today [7 September] Henry Kissinger says that action should already have been taken to remove the threat of Isis/Isol/IS; and he joins in the chorus of those who argue that President Obama clearly has no clue of the importance or the urgency of the issue.

This morning's News also carry the unsurprising story that the Ukrainian ceasefire, barely 48 hours in existence, has been breached by both sides in the South of Ukraine. The common feature between the situation in Iraq/Syria and the Ukraine have not yet had the degree of attention that I suggest they deserve. The Presidents of Russia and Ukraine have agreed on the cease-fire; but neither of them has complete control of the forces on the ground. By definition, the 'rebel' fighters are all volunteers and are not under the command of Russian generals. Similarly, the aggressive and extremist Azov Battalion fighters are an irregular volunteer force. So just as Syria faces the problem of multiple anti-Assad forces [the 'official' rebels, Al Qaeda and Isol at least]  so there are multiple private armies in the east and south of the Ukraine.

There is a consensus opinion among commentators that provided a large degree of autonomy is given to a Russian-speaking entity within the Ukrainian Republic, and that a consequential caveat is applied on the extent to which Ukraine may enter west European institutions, President Putin's ambitions in the region will be satisfied. Then it falls to the Kiev government to establish discipline over its 'supporters' and to the Moscow government to rein in those whom it has sponsored.

Instead of bellicose and toothless talk about preparedness in the NATO alliance to 'do something' to preserve the 'territorial integrity' of Ukraine, the rhetoric from western chancelleries should be directed to a realistic acceptance of the realities on the ground; offering assistance to both Russia and Ukraine in controlling hotheads while allowing the irregulars to breath fire at each other as a long-term accommodation is negotiated.

Sanctions are hurting Russia: they are also adversely affecting EU dairy prices and exports at a time when strong growth is needed. The common interests of the powers are clear and can successfully be achieved.

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