The parliamentary majority that new Ukrainian President Zelensky’s “Servant of the People” party just obtained in the country’s latest legislative elections means that peace in Donbas has never been closer, but only so long as Kiev is willing to make a politically difficult compromise with Moscow that’s sure to undoubtedly unsettle its Western patrons, unless the “New Detente” ends up saving the day.
The Obama-Trump Hybrid
New Ukrainian President Zelensky has been compared to US President Trump in many respects since both leaders are politically inexperienced populists who entered office on a wave of anti-elite discontent from the masses, but he might also have a little bit of former President Obama in him too if he forgoes his country’s traditional foreign policy in order to focus more on internal matters. His “Servant of the People” party just obtained a parliamentary majority in the country’s latest legislative elections, which is the first time in Ukraine’s post-independence history that something of the sort has happened. This speaks to the people’s desire to fundamentally restructure their state, hence the unprecedented mandate that they gave Zelensky despite the fake news fearmongering campaign backed by Ukraine’s oligarchs and their foreign supporters alleging that such a scenario will lead to Ukraine “selling out” to Russia.
Putin’s Anti-Fascist “Exist Strategy” For Donbas
Such hysteria is driven by the concerns that Kiev’s Western patrons have of Zelensky making a politically difficult compromise with President Putin over the interconnected Crimean and Donbas issues, something that Moscow has signaled in recent months it might seriously be interested in. Unlike how many in the Alt-Media Community interpreted it at the time, Putin’s earlier decree facilitating the acquisition of Russian citizenship by Donbas’ residents wasn’t intended to serve as a pretext for a more muscular “Democratic Security” intervention there to uphold the will of the region’s people, but to function as an anti-fascist “exit strategy” for the locals who fear the consequences of remaining in the area in the event that Moscow cuts a deal with Kiev to peacefully reintegrate the area into Ukraine. Had Russia really wanted Donbas to be independent or unify with the Federation like Crimea did, then such an outcome would have already materialized years ago, but it never did because Moscow lacked the political will to do so.
This was a Machiavellian calculation that remains controversial among “Non-Russians Pro-Russians” (NRPR) to this day, to say nothing of the feelings that actual Russians have towards it as well. The guiding vision seems to have been to use the Donbas Conflict as the gateway to advancing the scenario of Ukraine’s full-fledged federalization, which Kiev considered to have been a shadowy plot to weaken national unity while Moscow implied that it might be the only way to retain the aforementioned amidst the Pandora’s Box of identity conflicts that erupted in the country since EuroMaidan resulted in the rise to power of fascist radicals. Whatever the truth may be, the fact remains that Russia refused to throw its full military weight into liberating Donbas despite the reported low-level support that it provided the two republics throughout the years, suggesting that Moscow always wanted to reach a deal on this region unlike its approach to much more geostrategically and militarily significant Crimea.
Time To Talk
The time has now come for Ukraine to decide whether it ever wants to reintegrate with Donbas as compensation for cutting its losses with Crimea or if it would prefer for the former to indefinitely remain a frozen conflict. Although Zelensky has said that he’ll never agree to recognizing Crimea’s reunification with Russia, that doesn’t mean that he couldn’t be convinced to turn a blind eye to it and pragmatically decide to let the region remain a “frozen conflict” in Ukrainians’ minds as long as he restores Kiev’s control over Donbas. His parliamentary majority could conceivably embolden him to make the politically difficult compromise of de-facto “trading” Crimea for Donbas, or in other words, ignoring his people’s demands to “return” Crimea to Ukraine by distracting with them a “victory” in Donbas instead, which would be the implementation of most (but probably not all) of the Minsk Accords’ stipulations in exchange for Russia reducing and ultimately withdrawing all of its so-called “agents of influence” there.
Will The “New Detente” Save The Day?
This is the most realistic scenario for finally bringing peace to Donbas, but it would undoubtedly unsettle Ukraine’s Western patrons who might not want to see Kiev and Moscow back on the same page again. Their relations will never return to what they were before EuroMaidan, at least not anytime soon, but the best that can happen is for them to use the proposed pragmatic settlement in Donbas as a means towards catalyzing a more comprehensive rapprochement, though one that will never reach the level of an actual “reconciliation” since Crimea will always uncomfortably remain in the background. It’s impossible for Ukraine to ever regain control of the peninsula, and there’s no way that Russia would tolerate any aggression against its citizens who democratically voted to reunite with the Federation, but it’s also equally impossible for Kiev to ever drop its claims on Crimea. Thus, the best-case scenario is the aforementioned, one that might even be subtly encouraged by the US as a “reward” to Russia for any progress that Moscow makes on reaching a “New Detente” in the near future.
DISCLAIMER: The author writes for this publication in a private capacity which is unrepresentative of anyone or any organization except for his own personal views. Nothing written by the author should ever be conflated with the editorial views or official positions of any other media outlet or institution.