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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

On the Kremlin’s scenarios of Ukraine

Lilia SHEVTSOVA: “Putin’s defeat in Ukraine will be his defeat in the fight for his own power in Russia”
26 February, 2014 - 17:52
LILIA SHEVTSOVA

The whole world is watching closely what is going on in Ukraine now. And it is no surprise, since the events are developing so rapidly in our country. But on the other side, Ukrainians and the whole world are watching Russia’s reaction, because its representative was involved in the regulation of the Ukrainian crisis.

Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev was the first one to comment on the change of the government in Ukraine. He expressed doubts in the legitimacy of this process. Moreover, the Russian ambassador was recalled from Kyiv, because according to Medvedev, there is “a threat to our interests, to lives and health of our citizens” in Ukraine. And two days ago, Russia’s Foreign Ministry called the current events in Ukraine a “forced change of government.” “After referring to basically only the ‘revolutionary necessity,’ they keep stamping decisions and laws, including the ones aimed at suppressing human rights of Russians and other ethnic minorities that live in Ukraine,” notes the Foreign Ministry’s statement. At the same time, observers point out the “golden silence” of Russian president Vladimir Putin. The Day addressed Lilia Shevtsova, senior analyst at Carnegie Moscow Center with a request to comment on the reaction of the Russian authorities to the latest events.

 

“PUTIN HAS SEVERAL SCENARIOS ON THE TABLE”

1. “What the MFA is saying proves once more that the Russian Foreign Ministry and foreign policy became the crucial instrument of the Kremlin’s internal political tasks: consolidation of the society based on restraining the West and pro-European revolutions.”

2. “Putin has several scenarios on the table. But I think that so far the artillery preparation has one main task: to force Ukraine and the West to accept Russia as the only mediator, which has the most important trump: the key to Ukraine’s unity. As a state. So far, it is blackmail, an attempt to prove that Moscow’s key role is determined by its ability to strike at the integrity. A threat with the worst scenario possible. As soon as the role of the main mediator is accepted, other conditions will be brought forth. I think when Berlin says that a triangle Europe – Ukraine – Russia is needed, it is a step towards accepting the Kremlin’s conditions.”

3. “The direct implementation of the Georgian scenario should not be viewed as the main one. The game is finer here. I think that it is not correct to look only at the things everyone warns about: the bringing of troops, etc. So far, it might be a tool in a much subtler struggle. A threat of bombing is aimed at forcing the city to surrender and accept the conditions of the attacker.

“Moscow is acting more consciously, it is more concentrated and resolute than the West. Sevastopol is more important for Moscow not as a part of Russia, but as a constant pain in Ukraine’s body.

“I believe that harsh rhetoric and even promises to issue Russian passports are a background for Putin, who is trying to say: this is a scenario we will follow. If you do not approve the scenario of us preserving our positions in a more flexible way. This is blackmail of a kind. Putin is not that type of leader who is ready to intervene openly, bring troops in and annex the territory. He will first try the flexible ways of pressurizing, hoping for the softness of the new Ukrainian government. But at the same time, we should not eliminate the option that the events will unfold too fast, and Moscow will not be able to stop the Georgian scenario. But at the moment, it is not inevitable at all. The Kremlin is full of pragmatists. But we do not know when the inertia, emotions, and inadequacy of the situation assessment may push them to cross the line of rationality. Everything depends on the position the West takes. Until now, it was perceived as a community deprived of a standpoint and political will.”

“PUTIN WILL TRY THE POSSIBILITY OF IMPLEMENTING THE 1938 ‘MUNICH’ SCENARIO IN 2014”

How should one take Medvedev’s statements and, as the Western media point out, Putin’s “golden silence”?

“As for Medvedev, he should not be taken seriously. He works in Zhirinovsky’s format. What Medvedev says is curious from the point of view which tone and sentiments prevail in the Kremlin. Basically, he is a mouthpiece who voices what the Russian ruling team is thinking. And it thinks that the Ukrainian Rada is not a legitimate body of authority in Ukraine and a riot is going on within it. The most ironic and paradoxical thing is that through Medvedev’s mouth, the Russian government says that it wants Ukraine (and it wants the West to support it) to follow the agreements of February 21, while Yanukovych is absent and the Russian side did not approve of them at all.

“Putin keeps silent openly and he acts correctly in terms of tactic. The rest have created a field for a harsh scenario, and he has an opportunity to talk to Merkel and Obama on it, leaders of the countries he recognizes as partners, and make arrangements about an even harsher scenario with them. While talking to Obama and Merkel, Putin must find out to what extent the West will oppose him and to what it can and will retreat. The Russian parliamentary delegation headed by Slutsky, chair of the Duma Committee on the CIS, has already landed in Sevastopol and is making statements on the possibility of the Crimea joining Russia, in case if the population of the Crimea asks for it, and basically talks about the issuing Russian passports in a simplified and sped up procedure. This is not even probing the ground and the degree of the West’s patience, but an admittance that the Russian side thinks that it does not have a position and retaliatory harshness, so they can go on with the pressure. To what extent can they pressurize? Basically, until the implementation of the ‘Munich’ scenario. After talking with Obama and preparing a harsher ground through the MFA’s propagandist efforts, Putin will try to repeat the ‘Munich’ scenario of 1938, when Czechoslovakia was split. To what extent will this reality be brought back to life by Russia repeating this scenario in the Crimea? Everything depends on the position of the West, which is obviously too soft. What does Putin talk to Obama and Merkel about? One can only guess. Certainly, Putin talks about Russian interests. He promotes the idea of not only protection of Russian commercial oligarchic interests in Ukraine’s industrial complex. He talks to them about who the Kremlin would like to see in the future Ukrainian government. I think Putin should have already discussed the possibility of a dialog with Tymoshenko as the main representative of the Ukrainian elite, whom the Kremlin is prepared to recognize as a partner. I suppose that the matters of maintaining the interests of the south-east Ukraine, Russian-speaking population, and perhaps, the autonomy of the Crimea are discussed too, judging by the fact that Medvedchuk is Putin’s adviser on Ukrainian issues. He tests the idea of federalization every time he comes to Moscow. Of course, Putin says to Obama and Merkel that Russia would support the idea of Ukraine’s federalization, which would provide autonomy for the south-east and the Crimea. I assume that Putin might throw in the idea of a protectorate over specific Ukrainian regions in his conversations with the Western leaders. This idea has already been introduced into the Russian political consciousness and the propagandist discourse.”

Today readiness to provide help to Ukraine is voiced by the EU and the US. What does this mean?

“So far, the West, including Europe and the United States, did not have:

a) a coordinated and unified policy on Ukraine;

b) the rhetoric of the West was limited to mere words. Besides a decision on visa restrictions for 10 to 20 Ukrainian officials, there were no specific decisions from the West.

“It is good that there are promises, but we will wait and see how they will be implemented, because the absolute readiness of the International Monetary Fund to join the process is necessary for this. Americans can convince it to join in, as Clinton did it in 1998, when emergency help for saving Boris Yeltsin’s regime was required. They can do it in regard to Ukraine as well. The question is, who will this help be addressed to? It is not only about the financial and economic assistance for keeping Ukraine afloat and the preparation of reforms. It is about whether the West is ready to guarantee the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine, independently or through negotiations with Russia, in the current conditions, when they are being threatened.

“Is the West ready to guarantee real membership in the EU for Ukraine, provided the reforms are started, is it ready to come back to a specific format [perhaps, to the NATO membership Action Plan. – Ed.], which was offered by Bush and turned down by Merkel? It is not about the economic reforms, but about the existence of Ukraine as a state in the current geographic format.”

“FINLANDIZATION FOR UKRAINE MEANS DRIFTING IN THE GRAY ZONE BETWEEN RUSSIA AND THE WEST”

What do you think about the Brzezinski’s idea, offering Russia a “Finnish plan” for Ukraine?

“Of course, we can understand Zbigniew Brzezinski’s attempt to find a peaceful way out of the conflict which is possibly growing. This is basically a conflict that might turn into a geopolitical one between Russia and the West, if the latter assumes a harsh position. But in what way can the idea of the Finlandization help prevent this conflict?

“I find this idea very naive. Firstly, because Russia is looking at Ukraine not the way the Soviet Union looked at Finland. It was not a ‘gem’ in the Russian crown. Russia gave Finland a possibility to sail away easily, even though it had some phantom pains too. Ukraine means much more for the Russian political elite. Putin’s defeat in Ukraine will be his defeat for his own power within Russia. Finlandization for Ukraine means drifting in the gray zone between Russia and the West without guarantees of real protection of its territorial integrity and sovereignty, because it does not mean being included into a military bloc. Ukraine has already been floating in this gray zone, it has been in this swamp since Kuchma’s presidency, it was his policy. And what did this lead to? It did not create security guarantees for Ukraine in the eyes of Ukrainians, it did not help Ukraine become a full-fledged state ready for reforms. So I think this is just another idea that will hardly be accepted by the Ukrainian society. At least, formally it is the continuation of the previous stagnation.”

German political analyst Ulrich Speck says that more than just association should be offered to Ukraine. Not necessarily NATO, but at least membership in the EU.

“He is right. But in this case, it is necessary to go further, the framework of the Eastern Partnership must be exceeded, and what Steinmeyer and Sikorski offered in the conversation with the opposition and the Maidan’s council, must be done. They promised to talk about the possible EU membership for Ukraine. This will be a different model of connecting Ukraine to Europe. The Baltic States connected through NATO first, and only then through the EU. Perhaps, Ukraine, due to its special role and Russia’s jealousy, will approach the EU first, and only then join specific Euro-Atlantic military and political structures.”

By Ihor SAMOKYSH, Mykola SIRUK, The Day
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