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September 28, 2021
EDITORIAL

A proxy war between Russia and the West? (III)

The other possible action scenario refers mainly to an agreement between the Grand Powers, first of all Russia and the USA, to find a drastic solution that would be convenient to both parties. In an article recently published on the website of “club Valdai”, a Russian think tank close to Vladimir Putin, meaningfully entitled “A Mini-Yalta”, author Fyodor Lukianov pointed out that “Minsk 2015 won’t go down in history as Vienna 1815 or Yalta 1945 in the sense that it did not and could not give rise to a new order or rules of the game.”. The same reputable expert, who makes a comparison between Yalta in February 1945, where the reunion of the “three giants” (Roosevelt, Churchill, Stalin) established the frame of the future European and world order also writes: “What Russia wanted was to transform Ukraine so that its state institutions were limited, by design, in the decisions they could make, primarily with respect to NATO membership. The Minsk accords set the stage for this transformation by promoting constitutional reform, which is expected to delegate to Ukrainian regions – at least the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics – enough authority to make them an internal safeguard./…/Relying on the popular analogy with the Yalta Conference, as celebrations of its 70th anniversary get underway, what we got (or expected to get, to be more precise) was a mini Yalta. This is a striking illustration of how Russia’s ambitions have diminished compared to when it was a super power. Instead of divvying up Europe, which gave the USSR the security buffer zone it wanted in Eastern Europe, the soft division of Ukraine is also about creating a buffer zone in the east.” Lukianov concludes:  “If all goes as planned, the objective will have been reached, although it’s best to leave calculations of the cost and benefit for later. Russia will have achieved its objective, which it formulated and advanced on its own, proving to the West that the magical red line actually runs along its border.”

Therefore, if we were to believe Lukianov, the second post-Minsk 2 scenario was already applied. There is no further need of a mega-Yalta, as Russia cannot demand a global status. Or, in his words, Minsk-2 is a genuine proof of the catastrophic decrease of Russian power in the last 25 years, the abandon of Europe’s division and focusing only on Ukraine’s “soft division” to create a traditional security belt for Russia in Eastern Europe. Therefore, if all goes naturally, instead of dividing Eastern Europe and enforcing the Iron Curtain as it did in February 1945, Moscow was satisfied with dividing Ukraine to protect itself from the expansion of NATO and the EU. Even the “magical red line” established this way id thus revealing for the status of regional grand power, instead of a global one, that Russia enjoys today.

Nonetheless, Lukianov’s opinion is radically different than Putin’s, who – we quote his ideas from a preceding article “is attempting to save the existing order, created in the last few years after the split of the Soviet Union, with a sole leader who only wishes to maintain this position, supposing that he can do whatever he wants and other people can do what they are allowed to or what suits their interests. Russia would never accept such a world order.

Other analyses also appeared in the last few days, one of them connected to our subject. It is the Stratfor analysis, that released a few days ago “Decade Forecast” , 2015-2025. According to these predictions, “Russia will spend the 2010s seeking to secure itself before the demographic decline really hits. It will do this by trying to move from raw commodity exports to process commodity exports, /../will also seek to reintegrate the former Soviet republics into some coherent entity in order to delay its demographic problems, expand its market and above all reabsorb some territorial buffers. Russia sees itself as under the gun, and therefore is in a hurry. This will cause it to appear more aggressive and dangerous than it is in the long run. However, in the 2010s, Russia’s actions will cause substantial anxiety in its neighbors, both in terms of national security and its rapidly shifting economic policies.” Moreover, Russia’s actions will be concentrated South of the Baltic region, in Central Europe, which will accelerate the economical and military development of states in the region, aware of the danger. Yet, on the other hand, the same forecast includes a tough prediction for Russia, namely its fragmentation. Here is this prediction:  “The current confrontation with Russia over Ukraine will remain a centerpiece of the international system over the next few years, but we do not think the Russian Federation can exist in its current form for the entire decade. Its overwhelming dependence on energy exports and the unreliability of expectations on pricing make it impossible for Moscow to sustain its institutional relations across the wide swathe of the Russian federation. We expect Moscow’s authority to weaken substantially, leading to the formal and informal fragmentation of Russia. The security of Russia’s nuclear arsenal will become a prime concern as this process accelerates later in the decade.”

Therefore, as far as Russia’s future intentions are concerned, there are two opinions visibly contoured in the circles of experts. On one hand, some think that Russia realizes its weakness to the West and only intends to keep Ukraine under its sphere of influence by “freezing” the present situation in the East of this country, where separatists will have a legal right of veto regarding the foreign affairs of the country. In this case, Minsk – 2 is similar to a mini-Yalta, bringing back to the practice of international relations the old technology of spheres of influence by the great powers. On the other hand, the second opinion is that Russia, more precisely the present leaders at Kremlin, are into the recovery of the Grand World Power status and will continue actions in Eastern Europe. On one hand, Putin, quoted above, unequivocally outlines this purpose. Former Secretary General of NATO, Anders Fogh  Rasmussen, declared in an interview this months that testing NATO solidarity and re-establishing domination upon Eastern Europe is Russia’s purpose:  “This is not about Ukraine. Putin wants to restore Russia to its former position as a great power,” Rassmusen declared to the British daily The Telegraph. “There is a high probability that he will intervene in the Baltics to test Nato’s Article 5,” he continued and then added: “Putin knows that if he crosses the red line and attacks a Nato ally, he will be defeated. Let us be quite clear about that. But he is a specialist in hybrid warfare”.

If this second opinion proves valid, a mega-Yalta is necessary. And some events or proposals published on blogs or in the international press show what it might include.

 

 

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