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June 26, 2022

Heading towards a Mega-Yalta? (II)

The matter of the USA’s attendance to the “Normandy format” (the leaders of Germany, France, Ukraine and Russia) was immediately quoted on socializing sites, where internationally acknowledged personalities are very active as well. A Twitter post by former US Ambassador Michael McFaul, on April 26, 2015, posted while he attended a forum regarding security in Estonia (“Lennart Marti Conference”), is worthy of full attention. He wonders: “Russia’s decision to exit global system does not mean rest will follow. China strategy very different.” After a few correspondents from Russia protested, Michael  McFaul replied “ Russia breaking rules of international system, no longer in G8, Russia-NATO council suspended”. When the same correspondents (some of them Russians) explain that, without Russia, there is no global system, McFaul replied: “China has money to lend to Russia but seems uninterested. Why?”

The opinion shared by McFaul is important for understanding the present international situation. We are in a global order Russia has subscribed to, assuming obligations and rights, an order it now contests, and it is the only grand power to act this way. The replies of the West were quite obvious, McFaul showed, so that Kremlin has to meditate thoroughly on the situation it is presently in. Especially that, in McFaul’s opinion, China could have supported Moscow’s actions, if it wanted to. So, what the Kremlin hopes for now – a fact explained in detail by experts close to Moscow – that Russia has the support of the “emerging world” that opposes the hegemony of the US (more, precisely, BRICS ) is not happening. Russia is all alone in her attempt to deny the global order and, sooner or later, it will have to reconsider this fact. And, under these circumstances, McFaul agrees with the suggestions of his Twitter partners and states that “lots of people in Ukraine want the Americans to be at the table – Geneva format, not Minsk”. He thus expresses his agreement to the Tefft strategy. And there’s one more thing to add. The “Minsk format” does not include the United Kingdom, traditionally a great power of priority interests in Europe. Recent analyses mentioned its absence in the “Minsk format” as proof of the loss of its global status, and the void of power resulting thereof was immediately filled by other grand powers, such as Germany in Europe and, partially, France in Mideast and Africa.

The economical situation in Russia is not at all optimistic. This fact had to be admitted by Russian PM Dmitri Medvedev in front of the Duma, in his report regarding the activity of the Government for 2014, launched on April 21. In this report, the Russian Prime Minister mentioned that “2014 carried Russia into a new epoch- it is surely the year of Crimea” and compared the annexation of Crimea with the returning of Hong-Kong and Macao to China by Great Britain after 100 years of domination or with the reunion of Germany. Moreover, Medvedev presented the annexation of Crimea as an expression of a national will: “The present unprecedented foreign economic and political pressure is the result of our collective decision—we all understood we could not do otherwise, no matter the cost”. Yet, this position was not shared by the entire Duma, and, therefore, during discussions related to the document, the representative of the Yabloko Party, Boris Vishnevsky, “accused Medvedev of being wrong about the total unanimity of Russian popular support for the Crimean annexation. A significant minority of Russians (10–15 percent of the population) has not succumbed to the vicious state propaganda and does not support the Kremlin. The Yabloko deputies in the St. Petersburg legislature publicly denounced Crimea’s seizure as illegal and invalid.” There is, therefore, another Russia as well, the Russia that does not accept the information bombing by the Government and the resulting manipulation, and that thinks that the present direction is against national interests. The present political leadership, headed by V. Putin, cannot omit taking into account its existence. Versions of action in order not to increase the percentage of Russians opposed to the present politics of Kremlin are undoubtedly necessary for the stability of the regime, especially under the circumstances that the economical situation is worsening due to the economical sanctions imposed by the West.

President Putin himself has reconsidered his position about the crisis in Ukraine, after April 2. On April 16, at the encounter with citizens all over Russia, he launched his well-known speech against the global domination of the USA, stating that Washington only accepts vassals; nonetheless, two days later, his speech was radically different. In a speech broadcasted on television, he outlined that Russia and the USA shared common interests and must cooperate on a common agenda. Even if the United States and Russia disagreed on certain international matters, Putin said, “at the same time there is something that unites us, that forces us to work together”. The common Russian-American agenda was defined by Putin as “general efforts directed at making the world economy more democratic, measured and balanced, so that the world order is more democratic”. In the same interview, Putin mentioned that he was interested in the ceasing of fights in Ukraine and the identification of a solution to the crisis in this country, that he was “interested in rebuilding damaged ties with the United States and other Western nations”. Even if his position of April 18 was more soft, compared to previous ones, including also the usual attacks towards the West, it is obvious that it represents a change to the past.

Under a title that may “send” the reader” to other conclusions –   -“Putin wants peaceful coexistence with the West”- Fyodor Lukianov, the editor of the reputed magazine “Russia in Global Affairs”, writes on April 19 in “The Moscow Times” that the position of the Russian President is still unchanged, It is true, Lukianov shows nonetheless, that Putin “almost completely refrained from his usual accusations and recriminations against the United States, not because he had a change of heart, but because his position is so clear that it requires no further explanation or repetition.” Yet, the Head of Kremlin is conscious that “Turning back is impossible. The Crimean decision is irreversible, without putting the entire political model at risk. Any backtracking on support for eastern Ukraine would lead to serious political repercussions at home and would generally be perceived as a clear defeat for the Kremlin. Moscow cannot restore its former relations with the West. Regardless of whether sanctions are lifted, the basis for cooperation that was rooted in the balance of powers of the 1990s has been lost. And Russia has no analogous relations left with other partners. Its only choice now is to look for such opportunities elsewhere, with no guarantee it will find them.” Yet, what suits Putin at this time is the negotiation of a status quo because he has no other option. Or, as the Russian expert puts it: “That is why Moscow prefers the status quo that developed between Russia and the West following the acute phase of the war in Ukraine. To use a term that is once again in vogue, Russia is entering into a ‘frozen conflict’ with Europe and the United States that none of the parties like, but that they all prefer to open conflict.”

Will the West accept Russia’s new position? Will it accede to the eventual compromise proposed by Russia, in which the matter of Crimea’s annexation is evaluated by Moscow as irreversible, because otherwise it would jeopardize Putin’s entire political model?




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