Boisto meeting: building trust? Or mistrust?

Torsdag, 28. Augusti 2014     0 kommentti(a)
Arkady Moshes
programdirektör – forskningsprogrammet EU:s östra grannskap och Ryssland

A meeting of senior American and Russian experts on an island of Boisto, which the Finnish Foreign Ministry helped to organize some time ago, has raised a controversy both in Finland and abroad. Some people see the meeting as an honest attempt to move towards a durable ceasefire in the east of Ukraine. Others perceive it as a Yalta-type dealing behind Ukraine's back. Both have good arguments.

The problem is that people's reaction may actually depend on the version of the document they are using. As compared with the English version in the Atlantic, the Russian one, published by Kommersant is so "carefully” edited that it is hard not to get an impression that the group is, indeed, trying to impose on Ukraine a frozen conflict and the de facto loss of territorial control over Donetsk and Luhansk.

For example, point 3 of the English text speaks about the need to withdraw "regular Russian and Ukrainian army units to an agreed distance from the conflict zone”. In the Russian text the words "Russian and Ukrainian” have disappeared. But this is a small thing as compared with point 9. The American experts apparently believe that they recommend the "formation of new Ukrainian law-enforcement forces in the conflict zone” which should leave no doubt as to what they think about the sovereignty in the area. The Russian version omits "Ukrainian”, which is a day-and-night difference.

More examples could be given, if necessary, and more questions could be asked. Namely, why the experts recommend guaranteeing the free access to the Russian mass media and television in Ukraine, while failing to recommend the same for the Ukrainian Russian-language media in Russia. Possibly, if Russian citizens got access to another interpretation of the same conflict, this would also push the parties towards the settlement.

But this is not the point. The point is that if reputable people can fall victim of such "creative editing”, a question necessarily arises not only whether it is worth holding meeting like Boisto's, but how much trust can one in general expect in relations between the West and Russia.

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