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February 2, 2023

Ukraine: A Russian – American deal? (I)

International press, including Romanian media, was outraged after the visit by US State Secretary  John Kerry – on May 13 – and his assistant Victoria Nuland  (on May 18, 2015) in Russia (Sochi, and respectively Moscow). Speculations exploded, from “Russia has won” to “poor Ukraine” and “why are other things on the globe more important than Ukraine”, and “what kind of Eastern Partnership do we have under these circumstances, when Russia is getting along with the USA” (a hint to the EU summit related to Eastern borders, on May 21 – 22, in Riga). Finally, what happens on the international arena, especially in the “Ukrainian file”?

In order to answer this question, we approach Russian analysts, because they provided us interesting signals / analyses. Therefore, analyst A. Piontkovsky, based in Moscow, in an analysis for the radio station “Svoboda”, shows that the West, and especially the USA, accepted the proposal cryptically made by Moscow in April this year, for the signing of a “mega-deal” in order to return to “business as usual”. The proposal made by Kremlin ( “Putin wants”, in Piontkovsky’s analysis) is referring to an article by the well-known expert F. Lukianov, quoted by us in our previous analyses (Fyodor Lukyanov’s Moscow Times article entitled “Putin Wants Peaceful Coexistence with the West,” April 19, 2015) , in which he showed that “there can be no return”, referring to Crimea, but that they will not continue Russian action in Ukraine, including Baltic states (therefore, a possible escalation and break of the red line established by the USA). Lukianov’s message was that “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.”

It is also shown that, by such deal, Occident could claim a victory, yet, the quoted analysis points out “The West can declare its victory achieved by peaceful diplomacy. And in one sense, the West did get a victory: Putin will not move into the Baltics in the near future, something which NATO would have to respond to or cease to exist”. In other words, Russia did, by this proposal, a concession to the West, by giving up in testing the solidity of NATO, to which it showed little optimism, as the fact that Russia is not putting a stress test on the Occident is presented as a victory of the latter. The result was, in Piontkovsky’s opinion, the suite of visits in Russia by American diplomats, John Kerry and his assistant, Victoria Nuland, and their discussions with President Vladimir  Putin, Foreign Affairs Minister Serghei Lavrov and the latter’s assistant V. Karazin. Therefore, the fair “proposed” by Putin to the West implies Putin giving up the topic of Crimea’s annexation to Russia in return to Russia dropping new aggressions, theoretically the strategic target mentioned some time ago by President Putin, specifically the conquering of “Novorossiya” (actually, the term “Novorossiya” was used by the Russian counterpart after the annexation of Crimea, and it gained circulation and a beginning of formalization: Parliament, other state structures and so on. The analyst evaluates Russia’s position as “a shocking recognition of the failure of the ‘Novorossiya’ project and at the same time a demand for recognition of the results of the expansion already achieved”. And, as Piontkovsky notes, the West “Not surprisingly/…/ jumped at the opportunity the Kremlin presented them with. Berlin began putting pressure on Kyiv to accept Putin’s fundamentally dishonest interpretation of the Minsk accords, and US Secretary of State John Kerry hurried to meet Putin in Sochi.” Which does not mean – the expert writes – that Ukraine is abandoned, although the dumping of the “Novorossiya” plan is appreciated as “surprising”: “but they don’t mean that the West has decided to throw over Ukraine or simply leave it to its own devices. Ukraine has enough force of its own to be a serious player, and the West has made clear that if Putin launches a new invasion, the West will oppose him”. For Piontkovsky’s analysis, the supposed Russian – American deal closed in Sochi, Moscow, during the second decade of May “leaves Ukraine much weakened in the short term. On the one hand, it does not require Putin to pull his forces out or stop his efforts to destabilize Ukraine. And on the other, it forces Kyiv to finance a region that will remain under effective Russian control, something even the Moldovan government doesn’t have to do in Transdnistria.” ( http://www.interpretermag.com/west-caving-on-crimea-but-kyiv-can-ultimately-get-it-back-piontkovsky-says/) .

Yet, Russian news reporting the visits made by American diplomats in Russia at the half of May are not referring merely to the Piontkovsky analysis, although it is a trustworthy one, as the analyst is known as a member of Putin’s opposition, with an acknowledged reputation. Another narrative of these visits and of the content of bilateral conversations – lengthy ones, especially the one between Putin and Kerry, that lasted four hours, which is unusual for such meeting, that is already uncommon from the point of view of diplomatic protocol – is provided by other Russian expert.

According to an article published in “The Moscow Times” on May 25, 2015, Andrei Kolesnikov, an analyst of Carnegie Moscow Center think tank, made the observation that the “Novorossiya” project was recently ended after John Kerry’s meeting with Vladimir Putin in Sochi, on May 12, 2015. Kolesnikov wrote in a recent article: “that it was possible that during those negotiations, U.S. neutrality or silence with regard to Russia’s annexation of Crimea was offered in exchange for Russian support for the reintegration of Ukraine’s rebellious regions.” This position corresponds with the Piontkovsky analysis: “Putin has offered the Americans a draw: They close their eyes to the Crimea issue, while Russia freezes the conflict in Ukraine’s east. This is a lucrative option for the West, but Ukraine cannot like it”.

Obviously, therefore, in the Russian community of experts, the opinion appeared that the visits of high diplomats in Sochi and Moscow mid-May revealed the hypothesis that there was already a “deal” as far as Ukraine is concerned? May it be this way?







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