Pandora’s Box

Berlin and Brussels escalate their power struggle against Russia with a new set of sanctions. Moscow can reference the Kosovo precedent in its policy toward Ukraine.

BERLIN/BRUSSELS/MOSCOW (Own report) – Berlin and the EU are reacting to Moscow’s recognition of the “People’s Republics” of Donetsk and Lugansk with grave accusations and a massive tightening of sanctions against Russia. Among other things, all 351 Members of the Duma, who had called on President Vladimir Putin to recognize the “People’s Republics,” are subject to EU-entry bans and a freezing of their assets. That there is no prospect of the Minsk Agreements ever being implemented is one of the explanations Moscow had given for its move. This accusation particularly concerns Berlin: The negotiations for the implementation of the agreement were largely under German direction. Even this weekend, a leading German daily called for continuing the negotiations, for the purpose of “binding” Russia, while not seriously seeking to implement the terms of the agreement. Moscow has recognized the “People’s Republics” using arguments that Berlin and NATO had used to impose Kosovo’s secession from Yugoslavia, against Belgrade’s will – setting a precedence that opened a Pandora’s box in Europe.

New Sanctions

Berlin and the EU are reacting to Moscow’s recognition of the “People’s Republics” of Donetsk and Lugansk by significantly tightening sanctions against Russia. The sanctions package agreed upon by the member countries has four parts. The first provides for an entry ban to the EU for each of the 351 Members of the Duma, who called on President Vladimir Putin to recognize the “People’s Republics,” and a freeze of assets they may have in the EU. This will be the first time that nearly an entire elected parliament is subjected to sanctions. In addition, business will no longer be allowed with 27 banks and companies accused by the EU of doing business with the separatists or Russian military forces supporting them. Thirdly, the “People’s Republics” are excluded from the terms of the EU-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement. Russian access to the EU financial market is further restricted – which pertains to Russian state bonds having a duration of less than 30 days.[1] German Chancellor Scholz announced that Germany is also halting the natural gas pipeline Nord Stream 2, at least temporarily.[2]

The Minsk Agreement

Moscow is mainly justifying its recognition of the “People’s Republics” of Donetsk and Lugansk with the argument that there are no prospects of the Minsk Agreements being implemented, thereby ending the war in East Ukraine. This accusation relates particularly to Berlin, which had always claimed a leading role in the “Normandie Format” negotiations, intended to implement the Minsk Agreements. Russia halted the negotiations in November 2021, because Ukraine had not only consistently refused to abide by the main stipulations of the agreement, but had even begun to attack Donetsk and Lugansk with Bayraktar TB2 drones. These drones had been decisive for the outcome of the war between Azerbaijan and Armenia.[3] Berlin had not only tolerated the use of these drones, even though it was in violation of the valid agreements. Berlin even covered for Ukraine’s refusal to implement the stipulations of the Minsk Agreements. Only after President Joe Biden announced bi-lateral talks with Moscow, did the German government seek to rapidly reopen the “Normandie Format” talks.[4] Recently, there seemed to have been signs of progress; Kiev had agreed to initiate the necessary laws.[5]

“Bind Russia”

However, it remains unknown, whether those laws would really be passed; it appears there is no prospect of a favorable majority in Ukraine’s parliament. Doubts persist as to whether the West is even interested in supporting the Minsk Agreements. Over the weekend, the influential Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) explained why. As the journal explains, it should be taken into consideration that Ukraine “stood under enormous military pressure,” on February 12, 2015, when the agreement was signed. This is why the document contains stipulations “that are very disadvantageous for Ukraine;” “no Ukrainian government would survive” an attempt to implement them.[6] In addition, the FAZ alleges that in Donetsk and Lugansk, “fair elections,” as stipulated in the Minsk Agreements, are “impossible.” For Berlin and Paris to seek to seriously apply “pressure” on Kiev to impose the implementation of the agreements, would be “pointless” and even “dangerous.” The Minsk Agreements should not be taken seriously, according to the journal. Officially, of course, they should not be abandoned, because they provide “a framework for limiting the conflict” and. above all, for “binding” Russia.

Quod Licet Iovi...

Whereas, for seven years, Berlin has squandered every opportunity to solve the conflict in Donetsk and Lugansk, by enforcing implementation of the Minsk Agreement, the government is now taking a tough stance. Moscow’s recognition of the “People’s Republics” is “a serious violation of International Law,” declared German Chancellor Olaf Scholz yesterday. Russia is violating “fundamental principles, as enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations for the peaceful relations among nations. These include respect for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of nations, the renouncing of the threat of and use of force and the obligation to settle disputes through peaceful means.”[7] This statement is not only revealing because the leading western powers have regularly violated these same fundamental principles, for example, with their invasions of Iraq in 2003 and Libya in 2011. None of these countries have had to worry about sanctions.

The Moment of the Hypocrites

Scholz’s statement is also revealing because Russia’s approach corresponds in key factors with the German approach to the secession of Kosovo. The recognition of the “People’s Republics” of Donetsk and Lugansk were carried out against Ukraine’s will, like Kosovo’s recognition against Serbia’s will, in February 2008. The secession of Kosovo was justified with Serbian violence against the population of Kosovo; the civil war over Donetsk and Lugansk has cost more than 14,000 lives – more than in Kosovo. Russia has not sent troops into the “People’s Republics” until after they had been officially recognized. NATO, however, first occupied Kosovo – with participation of German troops – during a war of aggression against Yugoslavia, in the spring of 1999, that cost the lives of thousands of civilians, and created conditions for the territory’s secession with comprehensive bombing campaigns. At the time, Moscow had sharply criticized what the West was doing. Today, however, anyone recognizing the secession of a region of a foreign nation, can reference the precedent set by NATO states with the secession of Kosovo – under the leadership of not only the United States, but also of Germany.


[1] Thomas Gutschker, Jochen Buchsteiner: Strafen gegen Abgeordnete, Oligarchen und Banken. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 23.02.2022.

[2] Scholz stoppt Gasleitung Nord Stream 2. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 23.02.2022.

[3] See also Weaponry for Ukraine

[4] See also Führung aus einer Hand und Führung aus einer Hand (II).

[5] See also Neue Hürden.

[6] Reinhard Veser: Kein Mittel zur Lösung des Konflikts. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 19.02.2022.

[7] Schwerwiegender Bruch des Völkerrechts – Deutschland an der Seite der Ukraine. 22.02.2022.