The Kremlin decided to take revenge for Putin’s diplomatic debacle in Australia with an ultimatum to Ukraine.
The Decree of President Poroshenko of November 15 on evacuation of state-funded organizations from the territories controlled by the separatists and the termination of servicing bank accounts put Russian government in a very difficult position. Since Ukraine de facto recognized these territories as occupied and declined its responsibility for their financing, Moscow faces a choice: it can either recognize DNR, LNR and a bunch of smaller groups, taking responsibility for the financial support of the region with several million people, or it can scrap its “New Russia” project and declare local residents Ukrainians leaving them to weather the winter alone.
The Kremlin got into a situation of a classic “double whammy,” when both options available are worse than the initial situation. The first one is fraught with new sanctions, the final dismantling of relations with the West, as well as huge costs for pensions, salaries and infrastructure of Donbas. Combined with falling oil prices, growing budget deficit and existing sanctions – it will result in the collapse of the Russian economy.
The second one, given the oncoming freezing temperatures and even the lack of food in East Ukraine, threatens with an enormous humanitarian catastrophe that Moscow will not be able to “ping” on Ukraine: Kyiv is ready to help and rescue those, who raise the blue and yellow flag. Moreover, the second option – is the “betrayal of New Russia”, about which “imperial” web sites and discussion forums are already hissing, albeit quietly now. The implementation of this scenario will turn the core of the Russian government support – the mass consumer of TV propaganda away from the Russian regime.
Faced with a choice between the economic collapse and a political defeat, Russian diplomats rushed to attack. Last week, a representative of the Russian Federation to the UN Security Council said that Kyiv should reinstate the law on the special status and self-governance for some areas of Donbas. This law envisaged the continuation of Ukrainian funding for the occupied territories and even envisaged the allocation of funds for its restoration.
The next one to make a statement on the same topic was Vladimir Putin himself. On November 13th, before visiting the G20 summit in Brisbane, he said that Ukraine “certainly has a future,” but only on condition that it will be federalized – in Putin’s sense of the word of course.
The Russian President, who considered himself a master of foreign policy, apparently, was going to push this idea of federalization at the summit in Australia. However, as you may know, it did not play out all that well. Despised and ignored by all, he angrily left the forum early, and since then has never appeared in public.
So, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov did it instead of him. After a crushing foreign policy debacle of his boss in Brisbane, he played an all-or-nothing card. The Minister claimed that by the decision to cut off the funding of separatists Kyiv headed for a “socio-economic strangulation of the south-east, which threatens to reignite the military solution of the conflict.” Separatist leaders sang along with Lavrov and accused the hateful Kyiv junta of the “genocide of the people of Novorossiya “.
In fact, the performance of the Russian foreign minister and his choir is an ultimatum: “Either you give us the money or we’ll organize the war – If you are up to a genocide, why should we care about the people?”
Many observers wondered what would be Putin’s response to the cool reception at the G20. This, in fact, is the answer. Kremlin’s boss does not want to take responsibility for Donbas, but he also does not want to lose control over it or disband his thugs. Now, according to his logic, Ukraine will either finally do the federalization of which he dreams since April, or a pay terrible, bloody price for Putin’s worldwide humiliation. The fact that Russian people will die to pay for his personal resentment does not bother the Russian President at all – he has long left the habit of counting them.
Because many people that know Putin well find him to be extremely touchy and vindictive, it seems that Ukraine must prepare for a very serious escalation of the conflict in the East.