Does Putin look happy in this picture meeting with Poroshenko. Not surprising given that Putin has basically won everything he wanted in this round.
To take a break from the coverage of Scottish independence lets go a little further abroad to another ongoing independence campaign that is well on the way to success.
Despite frantic efforts on the part of Kiev to get the EU and NATO to save them from the rampaging Russian beast no one was willing to directly help. So faced with a resurgent independence army or armies along with Russian troops now doing to the Ukraine what the US/UK/NATO have been doing to others for years Kiev has now waved the white flag and surrendered.
The two primary independence regions, Lugansk and Donetsk have been granted greater autonomy in many fields as the new semi autonomous region of Donbas (Donetsk Basin).
This is what I was expecting, the areas that were actively separatist being granted a significant degree of autonomy and devolution of power.
Kiev accepting that this area was no longer under their control and unable to do anything to regain control over this area due to the the Russians having involved themselves directly in a major way for the first time.
I was expecting Russia to want some sort of land access to the Crimea with its Russian population and more importantly the Russian Naval and military bases and facilities along with Russia's only fleet access to the Black Sea and from there to the Mediterranean.
What the separatists have actually gained is this.
The entire Lugansk and Donetsk regions, collectively called Donbas.
This is vastly more than the area controlled by the separatists at any point during this civil war and includes large areas that were never involved in the fighting.
This region includes a population of roughly 7 million people out of the entire Ukrainian population of 45 million. That is 15% of the entire population, a far bigger split than Scotland.
No land connection to the Crimea peninsula. YET.
But this is just the first bite. and its a big one. imagine what the next bite is going to look like.
Demographically the Donblas is predominantly Russian speakers as showed above. All three of the dark blue regions are now autonomous or as good as such and all but allied to Russia. How long before the mid blue regions come under Putin's eye?
What does this agreement actually mean:
Lugansk and Donetsk regions granted "special status", giving them broad autonomy and increased local powers. Treaty stipulates a three-year period.
So autonomy, significant self rule but remaining part of a larger Ukraine. Pretty much the Crimean deal then. Oh and three year limit, just how exactly does anyone think Kiev is going to take back these powers in three years given the whole deal is because the separatists with Russian backing were winning the civil war.
Regional councils will have the power to appoint local judges and prosecutors.
Yet more autonomous powers, the separatists could do this anyway in the areas they controlled but this now covers the entire Donbas region.
Russian language use guaranteed in regional institutions.
Again given that the regions in question are heavily Russian speaking and now all but autonomous this is a nothing promise to the winners.
Local authorities in Donetsk and Lugansk can "strengthen good neighbourly relations" with their counterparts across the border in Russia.
This one is a biggy and basically recognises the de facto situation on the ground. The borders between the separatist regions and Russia have not been under Kiev control since the civil war started. "Strengthen good neighbourly relations" means what, open borders and Russian military units securing the separatist regions as they are doing right now.
This one all but declares that these regions are now no longer under Kiev control and there is nothing Kiev can do about it.
Amnesty protects from criminal prosecution "participants of events in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions"
No investigation or prosecution for war crimes or attacks on civilians on either side. This lets both sides off the hook given the reports that both sides have been committing brutal attacks on the other and on civilians. In particular Kiev has been bombing civilian areas with regular and inaccurate attacks.
This also means any Russians who were over the border in the Ukraine illegally as it refers to ‘Participants’, a broad term that covers everyone involved. Given that this was signed by Ukraine and the separatists and Russia it will make any action by the EU or international legal bodies against Russia very difficult.
Now the good news for Putin and the bad news for the Ukraine and the EU.
Donbas (Donetsk and Luhansk) between then represent 15% of the Ukraine’s entire population. Add in the over 2 million from the Crimea and 20% of the population of the Ukraine is now effectively autonomous from Kiev and allied to Russia.
Even worse than the population numbers is the economics.
This deal includes the port of Mariupol which was surrounded by Separatists but not captured. This is the largest port in the Azov sea and one of only four major Ukrainian ports, combined with the Crimea this gives Russia significant naval and civilian access to the black sea and to the Mediterranean and beyond while reducing Ukrainian port space by a significant amount.
The Donbas region combined with the Crimea contains roughly half of all coal, iron and steel. Aluminium, chemicals, oil and salt come from this region. Over half of the gas in the Ukraine is under this region, most of the Ukraine’s oil is produced in these regions.
A significant majority of light and heavy industry, three quarters of the Ukraine’s military production in terms of completed units or parts comes from Donbas. Russia is dependent on exports from this region for a large part of its military build ups.
At least half the resources, 75% of the heavy industry, 25% of the total GDP. That’s a big chunk of value and given the example of the Crimea there will be elections followed by a parliamentary vote for closer ties to mother Russia.
A year from now if the entire Donbas is all but Russia all of those EU sanctions will have been nothing more than pin pricks against the vast wealth and resources that Russia gains.
The remainder of the Ukraine and the remaining population have lost most of their heavy industry, most of their non agricultural exports, as much as 25% of the nations GDP and there is no guarantee that this will be the last they lose.
The nation that remains under Kiev is far less economically capable that it was a few months ago when it went cap in hand to the IMF and the EU for money to keep the government afloat. Giving the Remains of the Ukraine EU membership will create a money pit that will draw in hundreds of billions of Euros over the years and bring very little in return.
Poroshenko’s headlong charge for closer EU integration is not to create a market for Ukrainian exports, he doesn't have much to offer. Instead it is a desperate plea for a lifeline, to keep what remains of his nation solvent and to protect him from Putin coming back next year and taking another bite out of the south and east of the country. That land corridor to the Crimea that I was expecting, that will be most of the south gone simply because Kiev has demonstrated that it cannot resist and will give Putin whatever he wants.
Like any bully Putin will be back for more and like any helpless victim Kiev will crawl to any hope of safety no matter how humiliating.
The West did nothing, could do nothing and so Putin has fed well. When he gets hungry he will be back and there will still be nothing the west can do to stop him.