Putin Does Not Want Neutral Ukraine

The Kremlin’s goals with respect to Ukraine almost certainly preclude any compromise even with the incoming Trump Administration: Sergey Markov, who is close to the Kremlin and Russia’s intelligence services, says that the US under Trump “is ready to leave Ukraine but on conditions that are unacceptable for Russia.”

Those conditions, the Moscow politician and commentator says, woud be Russian acceptance of “the Finlandization of Ukraine.” The Americans have already proposed that, he says, on the basis of the idea that this would be a compromise everyone could live with.

Under its terms, Markov says, “Russia wouldn’t think about reaching the Carpathians and thee Americans wouldn’t think about crossing the Dniepr.” But “we consider that this is an incorrect approach” because Moscow believes that “we must return power in Ukraine to the people” and that the people will want to be closer to Moscow than that.

That will require regime change in Ukraine, he continues, because “the Ukrainian people cannot change the powers that be because it lives under conditions of dictatorship. Earlier, there was democracy in Ukraine. Now, there is a Banderite dictatorship.” That must be changed in order to resolve the crisis.

Markov’s words suggest that the Kremlin’s goals remain far greater than any Western government can accept because they require that the West agree to or at least acquiesce in Moscow’s undermining and replacement of the current government in Kyiv and in Ukraine becoming a Russian satellite rather than a country in between in the manner of Finland.

Markov’s remarks only add to the importance of three other declarations this past week:

The first is Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s statement that “Ukraine is now fighting to bury the Soviet Union in the heads of certain people” because while it has died officially, it hasn’t died in the minds of many and Moscow continues to view Ukraine as “a colony”.

” Sanctions on Russia are already playing an essential role. Even when they are lifted Russia will be much further behind the West and thus weaker”

The second is Ukrainian commentator Vitaly Portnikov’s conclusion that “no one,” including pro-Putin politicians in Europe, “will recognize Crimea” as part of the Russian Federation because to do so would undermine the international system of which they are a part.

And despite Moscow’s continuing assertions that sanctions against it will soon be lifted, Portnikov adds, the sanctions are still in place, although they may be lifted eventually. But they are already playing an essential role and as long as they remain will continue to do so because even when they are lifted Russia will be that much further behind the West and thus weaker.

And the third is evidence that there is “new life” to the idea of a Baltic-Black Sea initiative now that the former leaders of the region have come together in the search for peace rather than a military alliance against Russia and have agreed to include in their number a Russian representative.

Irina Vereshchuk, the head of the International Center for Baltic-Black Sea Research and Consensus, tells Radio Liberty that including a Russian representative is not a retreat from the group’s purposes which are to ensure security for all in the region but a way for the countries “in between” to achieve exactly that.

“We are convinced that war which could begin at any moment would touch not only Ukraine. Today, Ukraine is suffering, but tomorrow it could be Poland and other countries, and the EU and NATO cannot ensure” that Russia will not “annex or occupy” even Latvia or Lithuania.

“Therefore,” Vereshchuk continues, “we have taken on ourselves responsibility and will try to develop common positions not against someone but for peace, for unity and for cooperation. This will be a platform on which it should be possible to listen to the opinion of this side. And this, I think, will be effective.”

“We have an action plan,” she says, “and we will propose it to the governments of the EU and the US, a plan of getting out of the global crisis which has arisen today.” She adds that Ukrainian President Poroshenko “supports our initiative and welcomes it” and says that her group will work to hold inter-parliamentary hearings in the next few weeks.

 

Paul Goble – political scientist and diplomat. He is an analyst, writer and columnist with expertise on Russia.