Richard Balls, New Yorker Special Correspondent
Hearing the word “protracted” enough times in one council session makes you almost wonder why that cheap plastic half-disc they made you pack in grammar school was called a “protractor”, anyway.
Status quo ante bellum’s far away as Kamchatka, and we’re not gonna see a nice end to the war where both sides’ generals stand and hand out medals to each other. So, the gang’s gotten back together to bang out another chummy resolution wherein we’re gonna ignore the spilled Ukrainian blood and airdrop a few crates of freeze-dried rations.
Still, frozen peas and rice is better than steppe grass, and maybe having a couple peacekeeper BMPs on the horizon will keep a few troops from being quite as rash. I’m all for anything, but forgive my skepticism. Maybe bashing something out like in the Congo is better than having Rwanda II, ‘cause ceasefires don’t enforce themselves.
“Nothing has been agreed upon”, you hear over and over again, and from the brackish waters of the Black Sea last December I could well tell you how people there maybe just have learnt to live with the desperate, chilling uncertainty; goes well with the icy wind.
Euromaidan’s been a real bummer, huh? Zelensky’s a right old chap, he is, but standing up to Putin’s like swinging your fists at the old canteen regent when you’re fresh in the school. Russia’s little green men, all shopped up in Ratnik camo, have accumulated plenty of experience mopping up journos like me over there, so I’m over here in dress shirt and pajama shorts watching a bunch of faces on screens vaguely say “ceasefire” in repeated tones.
Blank velcro patches where their insignia should be is a surefire way to know you’re gonna get shot at or take an AK butt to the face, but I digress.
Given how Kiev’s citizens think Donetsk is a Soviet cesspool, backward and thuggish (their words, not mine), and considering the long and coloured history of Donetsk miner strikes, one wonders how much this is simply a conflict of peoples, a cultural conflict less overtly imperialist than the annexation of Crimea and more…messy.
The sanctions are pretty nice as a way to whack Russia in the shins, but both small babushka shops and Gazprom would be much happier once it ended, and the stubborn ol’ Kremlin just flatly refuses to give up the ghost. Just don’t mention the ceasefire violations or trucks of ball ammunition you see from time to time.
Sitting here, one highlight was “This delegate would like to discuss the discussion”, or so it goes. Indeed, the discussion itself is suspect to the cardboard sign’s oft-encountered partner, “why don’t you just do something already!” Then again, I suppose realpolitik starts from the meeting rooms and delicately worded noncommittal resolutions of the world.
The fat old Donbass with its aged DShKs and BTRs chugging along with full loads of insurgents is a good afternoon tour, if NIJ-IV bulletproof plate carriers don’t weigh on you too much. Maybe, you think standing on the quiet sea of grass, things can be better. The world will make a change.
Still, the Minsk agreements are a fun little ditty, though it’s interesting to note that not one of its clauses have been fully implemented. Ever seen those LiveLeak clips of female snipers with massive 14.5mm rifles that weigh almost as much as them potshotting at trench lines? You ain’t getting the guns out, not while the memory of BM-21s like hail still bites deep in the hearts of civilian militias. Wonder where they got those anti-aircraft missiles from? They’re not giving them back.
Blue helmets, blue helmets. Did you know that the poor African and South Asian boys and girls who gotta stand out there returning fire on marsh foxholes don’t even get medical insurance? I doubt the refugees are getting much, either, since bankers generally don’t like plunking down offices in active war zones.
Recompense? Russia’s battered enough as is from account-skimming defense ministers and new Sukhois, so the money’s not coming from there. But it’s gotta come from somewhere, and asking it of Zelensky’s Ukraine is too close to shooting the dog.
I remember the Vietnamese delegation talked of the difficulty of enforcing a ceasefire. Maybe you should pop over to the West with the People’s Army and drag out your full warehouses of Type 56s like you did with Cambodia, as long as that much larger People’s Republic keeps its old watchful eye shut. No, seriously, it’s worth a shot, though I suspect great misfortune will come your way for the effort.
Hear that? Russia’s got its cool new 3K series hypersonic cruise missiles and plenty of Borei-class subs, and from the banks of the Azov Sea all the way to the old Tatar settlements turned opposing trench lines here in the DPR, I can’t see that us suits will make much difference.
But we have to have a voice, for the world of international relations runs on poorly-greased gears turned in the words of head-scratching delegates. For all one might see the Security Council as a worn, fattened relic of an old world order, for all that the decadence of it all makes you want to take an AK and handle the job yourself, someone’s gotta make the rules.
I just hope they do actually make something of it, a narrow hope buffered on all sides by five oft-recoursed-to vetoes.