I would like to recommend you an article of Yaroslav Mendus, my Ukrainian adviser and a former deputy to Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine. The text was published in the online Ukrainian newspaper “Obozrevatel” – Marek Siwiec.
If it is forbidden, but you want it very much –
then you can do it.
As the heroine of Somerset Maugham’s novel “Theater” said: “The main thing – is the ability to keep a pause, the greater the artist – the longer he pauses”.
Vladimir Putin has been avoiding any comments to the press for two weeks, but in the last few days he has actually put the world on the brink of World War III.
And then, finally, the President of Russia gathered a group of journalists for an hour conversation, which confirmed the worst assumptions of politicians and experts who analyzed the invasion of Russian forces on the sovereign territory of Ukraine.
Such concerns were outlined most accurately by Angela Merkel in a telephone conversation with the President of the United States. According to the reputable “The New York Times”, the Chancellor said something like this: “Putin lives in another world and I’m not sure that he is in touch with reality.”
Similar characteristics with respect to even an average person will inevitably lead to relatives’ and neighbors’ reasoned concern, then guess what, when that is said about actually exclusive master of the country, who has the second nuclear strength in the world.
First impression of Putin’s press conference is the following – he still has not recovered from the shock caused by Ukrainian Maidan and complete destruction of Putin’s model of Russian-Ukrainian relations: instead of continuing relations with Yanukovych who is now devoid of any geopolitical maneuver, Putin needs to build a strategy of relations with politicians who are subordinated to Maidan and are strictly oriented to close partnership with the West.
Second, despite the traditional for the Russian leaders propaganda rhetoric about “neo nazi, nationalists and antisemite” in Kyiv authorities, he had to actually admit anticriminal nature of Ukrainian revolution, and therefore agree with the Ukrainian right to protest. It will just suffice to mention his phrase: “I understand, however, those people on Maidan, who still call not for some sort of repair of the facade of the government, but for fundamental change”.
Vladimir Putin has repeated several times like a mantra that “… corruption, enrichment and stratification” take place in Russia too, but no such turmoil will happen here. Well, blessed are those who believe – as Russians like to say.
If you try to summarize what the President of Russia has said in the light of the war initiated de facto against Ukraine, then main messages would be limited to the following:
• unconstitutional and armed seizure of power has happened in Ukraine;
• Ukrainian Parliament is partly legitimate, Government and Acting President are not legitimate at all;
• the President of Russia has a request of the current [in his opinion] President of Ukraine Yanukovych regarding engagement of armed forces of the Russian Federation to protect life, liberty and health of Ukrainian citizens. There is no such need now, but it may be and then Putin will take “a legitimate decision”;
• Russia does not recognize its obligations to ensure security and inviolability of borders in view of revolution in Ukraine and as a result a new country with which Russian Federation did not sign any agreements;
• citizens who live in a particular area should determine their own future themselves on the basis of the right of nations to self-determination.
Let’s look at the emphases placed by Putin from the international perspective that is slightly greater than the Russian one:
1. Legitimacy of Ukrainian authorities. It may be liked or not, but most decisions vital for the country are voted for in the Ukrainian Parliament by a constitutional majority. Horror stories about militants standing with guns held to temples of the intimidated deputies is an obvious exaggeration drawn from “five minutes of hatred” by Russian television luminaries.
As for the legitimacy of the government and acting President – it is confirmed by all major political players in the world except for Russia. Under these conditions the position of non-recognition looks at least counterproductive.
2. As for the appeal of Yanukovych and Putin’s right to bring troops into the territory of Ukraine: Verkhovna Rada promptly responded to the information about the availability of that letter, in particular it explained that according to Ukrainian Constitution (both current and previous version) the permit for stay of or bringing in foreign troops falls within the exclusive domain of the Parliament. Therefore, the international and legal weight of the appeal of the citizen Yanukovych is not more than of any other Putin’s supporter.
The right to ignore the Budapest memorandum is a more complicated matter. Probably the Russian President overestimated his role as an indispensable factor in resolution of acute international games. By the way, this role can indeed be seen in many cases. It is sufficient to recall Iran, Syria and North Korea. In the context of withdrawal of the troops from Afghanistan Putin’s permit to create a transit base in Ulyanovsk is very important for the United States. But … the Western world could not ignore Russia’s aggression because it was Ukraine who voluntarily gave up one of the largest arsenals of nuclear weapons, and members of the nuclear club guaranteed its security and inviolability of borders. By his actions Putin actually trenched upon the post-war security model of the world and tried to depreciate the value of international arrangements of the highest importance.
Against the background of the aspirations of the West to persuade the governments of Iran and North Korea to voluntarily give up the nuclear ambitions, this step of the Russian President caused resentment and a desire to prove that in the XXI century international law remains in force.
It was a real Putin’s blunder that, considering the intentions of the U.S. and EU, will have tangible effects for Russia in the form of political and economic sanctions.
3. Putin’s thesis on the right of citizens living in a particular area to act on their own is dangerous for Russia first of all given the multinational structure of its population.
Vladimir Putin himself has recently anxiously said: “If in the near future we do not implement practical steps for the development of the Far East, within several decades the Russian population will speak Chinese, Korean and Japanese”. And what if it does not just speak but also requires accession to the parent land?
One more Russian proverb is worth mentioning in this context: “Don’t trouble trouble till trouble troubles you”.
And another material theme which was covered by the President of Russia – Tymoshenko’s theme. He remembered with nostalgia their joint constructive work and concluded: “If she wants to come to Russia, let her come.” What lies behind these words of Putin – could be, perhaps, the subject of another press conference.
In summary, impression of the Russian President’s press conference is twofold: on the one hand we can talk about de-escalation of the conflict, on the other – Russian military with and without identification marks continues to block highways and Ukrainian military units, quasi-self-defense of Crimea prepares illegal referendum, and quasi-citizens of Ukraine with Moscow residence, storm government buildings in the South and East of Ukraine.
When will Kremlin dreamer calm down? Not only developments in Ukraine, but also safety in the world depends on this.