Did Mr. Putin retreat?

On June 24, 2014 the long lasting Ukraine story took a new turn. Mr. Putin, the President of Russian Federation submitted a letter to the Council of Federation (Sovet Federatsii) urging the deputies of the Upper- Chamber to repeal the resolution allowing the use of military forces on the territory of Ukraine. The Council of Federation obeyed his will immediately and canceled the decision taken earlier.

Mr. Putin explained his move in the following way: he claimed that he submitted the request for use of military on the 1st of March, in other words, at the height of Crimea crisis, when nobody was sure if military troops would be required in Ukraine. To date this decision lost its urgency. Mr. Putin also noted that official power representatives in Kiev and South East resumed consultations. At the same time, Mr. Putin said that Moscow will continue to «defend ethnic Russians in Ukraine, and those who consider themselves as the part of the larger Russian world». He also highlighted that «we hope that military won’t be needed for accomplishment of this goal».

Last move of Russia surprised international observers. They, in contrary, expected Russia was getting prepared for implementation of harsher measures in Ukraine. For instance, two weeks earlier Central Military Command conducted large scale training in the regions bordering Ukraine, and Russian troops were again sent towards Ukrainian borders.

Radical voices sounded intense in Russia. Sergey Glaziev, the President Advisor said that it would be necessary to plan a first strike aimed at Ukraine army prior to its reorganization. Alexander Dugin, the renowned Eurasian scholar said that the clocks are ticking and in case Russia rejects to send its troops to Ukraine, it would mean catastrophe and political death for Russia and Putin. Meanwhile, Ukrainian officials claimed that the flow of weapons, including tanks and people across its borders increased. Pro-Russian activists adhered to the same line and told that the tanks were seized by the local rebels on the territory of Ukraine.

These moves made the world believe that Moscow was ready to introduce quite draconian measures and embrace tough political line. There were many variants of this scenario, apart from direct intervention of Russian troops into Ukraine. Russia could reinforce the army or rebels to the extent required for creation of the second Transdniestria. Contrary to this gloomy forecast, the Putin’s response followed.

It is noteworthy that the resolution of the Council of Federation to cancel military presence in Ukraine is not required by the Russian President. As a President, he has authority to use military forces. It is unlikely that by his decision dated back to the 1st of March Putin wanted to shoulder the blame with the Council of Federation for possible military conflict. Decision taken in March looked like an attempt to exert pressure on Ukraine and the West. Putin demonstrated Russia’s resolution to respond immediately to any provocations and implement decisive measures. At that moment, such a tough stance helped Russia to annex Crimea. Ukrainian officials were shocked and demoralized, and decided not to counter «little green men », which were later on recognized as Russian soldiers by Putin.

It appears that Putin’s letter to the Council of Federation is another show staged for the West. Russia demonstrates its readiness to negotiations and search for compromise. It is interesting, that Putin declared the shift in Russian stance toward Ukraine during his visit to Austria. Austria is a neutral country, it has not joined the NATO, and this country suited very well for Putin’s expression of good will to the West. Moscow seeks to save face and it wants to prove that any shift in its position is not perceived as retreat or weakness.

The meeting of Kiev administration representatives and leaders of self-proclaimed republics in Donetsk gave such a possibility to Moscow. Negotiations in Donetsk became possible upon the declaration of the seven days cease-fire and plan of conflict settlement proposed by Mr. Poroshenko, the President of Ukraine.

All the parties are interested in dialog and settlement of the conflict. Each party wants to minimize its losses.  The problem is that politicians in Ukraine and Russia are losing control. Radicals of all camps raised their heads and gain influence. Ukraine has to deal with the Maidan (city square in Kiev) heritage, but Russia, on its own will, released «the djinni from the bottle». Today, Russian radicals are bold enough to criticize policies of Russian leadership and Putin, in particular.

It is obvious, that Russian authorities won’t bend under pressure of their home grown radicals. In case official Moscow listens to radicals, Russia might be involved in long devastating war with uncertain future prospects, especially for its economy, and even for the state itself. It seems, nevertheless, Moscow is aware of this gloomy scenario and is able to foresee the consequences of its tough policies and draconian measures implemented against Ukraine. Moscow establishment has to think about national interests, and not about ideological ambitions of some radical Russian intellectuals dreaming of resurrection of Russian imperial power. 

Official Moscow is more concerned about future prospects. It wants to save its face, and at the same time, legalize its political and economic gains such as annexation of Crimea. As for the South East of Ukraine, it appears that consultations of official Kiev with the self-proclaimed republics leaders, and some of them are Russian citizens, can be regarded as the step forward to conflict settlement. There are two possible variants for conflict regulation: a-la Trasndniestria status of those republics, or their autonomy status within Ukraine. There are other possibilities as well, as stakes are high.

Problem is aggravated by the lack of trust among parties. This concerns not only Russia and Ukraine relations, but Russia and the West relations too. Moscow believes that it was deceived by the West, when the agreements reached on 21st of February were violated. The West reckons that Russia cheated everybody when it annexed Crimea, deploying its military forces and playing its muscles. Nevertheless, there is only one way for all parties involved  -  that is to seek compromise. That is why, declaration of Mr. Putin made in Austria can potentially play crucial role in conflict resolution. Discontent of Russian radicals is just a temporary difficulty that can be easily dealt with.

Рубрики:  Россия, Казахстан и мир