The original text in Russian was published in Republic
and republished here with their permission.
This winter, the topic of the Minsk agreements, which, it seemed, had irreversibly faded into oblivion, suddenly emerged again as the subject of comments by both current and former state leaders. In particular, those who took part in the talks eight years ago found it necessary to rehash the events of 2014-15. Why?
Sure, out-of-office politicians tend to reminisce: it’s nice to go back to the glorious past and give comments to the press, especially if a memoir is on the horizon. But there is another possibility. Sometimes there is a desire to explain some action or decision that looks dubious in hindsight: the Minsk agreements could not prevent the war in Ukraine, and now their crafters have decided to clarify both their own position and the meaning of the agreements.
In December 2022, Angela Merkel, in an interview with Die Zeit
, said that the Minsk agreements “bought time” for Ukraine to strengthen its army: “it was obvious to us that the conflict would only be frozen without the problem being solved,” though thanks to the agreements Ukraine won “precious time.” Later, the former chancellor was echoed
by former French President François Hollande, who noted the strength of the Ukrainian army and attributed that to the Minsk agreements. In addition, former UK PM Boris Johnson and former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko interpreted the Minsk agreements similarly.
Moscow was predictably delighted by these comments, distorting them to make it seem that Merkel and Hollande had perfidiously been preparing Ukraine for a new war with Russia, even though they had only been talking about a well-used window of opportunity by Kyiv. Vladimir Putin, with an offended look, noted the “insincerity” of Russia’s Western partners, claiming that “we were simply led by the nose
.” Other Russian officials spoke in the same vein, as did commentators on state channels. In Moscow, they once again – and not without pleasure – accused the West of hypocrisy and expressed their lack of trust in the West.
Nevertheless, the resurgent topic of the Minsk agreements demonstrates the cognitive chasm separating today’s Russia and the West, which calls into question the durability of any future peace negotiations.