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What is the Minsk Accord?
- The Minsk Accord/ Protocol is a 2014 agreement to end the Donbas War in Ukraine.
- The Donbas War was a part of the Ukrainian Crisis and the Russo-Ukrainian War that started in 2014.
- The parties involved in this accord:
- This agreement to implement a ceasefire was signed in Minsk, the capital of Belarus.
- The fighting continued even after the Minsk Agreement.
What is the Minsk II Agreement?
- The Minsk II Agreement is a peace agreement that helped avert an open conflict in 2015. This too was under the mediation of France and Germany.
- The agreement sought to end the fighting in region and to hand over the control of the border areas to Ukrainian troops.
- It required Ukraine to delegate more power to the rebel regions by introducing constitutional reforms and codifying their special status.
How did it turn out?
- Moscow possibly agreed to the Minsk II Agreement as it thought that it could leverage the delegation of powers to the rebels to prevent Ukraine’s integration with the West.
- However, Kiev (Ukraine) have been reluctant to implement the agreement’s provisions.
What is happening now?
- Massive mobilization of Russian troops near Ukraine.
- Sporadic outbreak of violence between the rebels (backed by Russia) and the Ukrainian troops in the Donbas region.
- Similar event happened earlier this year too. But Moscow had retreated following diplomatic intervention by the USA.
- This time, Russia’s moves are seen as more emphatic.
- Belarus is being blamed for orchestrating a migration crisis on the Polish border. Belarus is a Russian ally.
- Earlier this month, Russian bombers flew close to the Polish borders.
- Vessels have been dispatched by Russia to shadow US warships in the Black Sea.
- The US has been warning its allies of a potential Russian attack on Ukraine.
Why is this significant?
- The recent events have pushed both the countries to the brink of an outright conflict.
- The recent moves by Russia is considered as a part of a larger strategy of force-projection across its western perimeter- stretching between the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea.
- The Russian aggression is partly driven by USA’s weakening following its withdrawal from Afghanistan and its preoccupation with China in East Asia.
- This is seen as an opportunity for Russia to assert its primacy in its backyard where NATO had made significant advances.
- Also, Ukraine’s growing ties with the West– in terms of economic, political and military- has prompted Russia to change it approach i.e. putting direct military pressure on Kiev.
- Carnegie scholars have termed Ukraine as “a Western aircraft carrier parked just across southern Russia” in Russia’s eyes. This puts Ukraine at the centre of the geopolitical tussle between Russia and the West.
What is the way ahead?
- Ukraine is a tough spot as it lacks the military might to counter the Russian giant.
- Ukraine does get military supplies from the West but it (the West) couldn’t be relied upon to come to Kiev’s aid in case of a Russian invasion.
- Though Russia stands to make tactical gains from invading Ukraine (like in case of 2014 Crimean annexation), it could end up further deteriorating its ties with the West.
- A practical way ahead is to revive the Minsk peace process.
- The West needs to push the 2 sides to come to the negotiating table and to fulfill their commitments under the previous agreement.
An outright conflict between Russia and Ukraine would be deleterious for both sides though Russia may be incentivised by some tactical gains. Restoring relative peace on the border is the most desired outcome at present. The Minsk peace process can help here.