Cuba and Putin. Political cartoon by Yelkin
The first impulse of Western leaders whenever there is a crisis is to seek negotiations on the principle that it is better to talk than to fight, but sometimes in their rush to find common ground, these leaders make the problem worse because their willingness to talk about a conflict has the effect of reinforcing the mistaken view of the other side.
That is what is happening with Ukraine, Russian journalist Kseniya Kirillova says, because Vladimir Putin does not view Ukraine as an independent actor and believes Moscow and the West can reach and impose an agreement on it because he and they are the real players and Ukraine is “an object.”
To say this is not to argue against talking with Moscow at all but rather to insist that the way in which those conversations proceed must recognize that Putin “does not understand” what is actually happening and that the West must not take steps that reinforce “’the parallel reality’” in which he lives as they are sometimes doing now.
That fundamental misconception about reality, she continues, reflects the fact that “Putin in principle does not understand what processes are and how they occur.” For him, “there are no processes as such; there are only objects” which in his Chekist mind “can be bought off, frightened and in the end administered.”
With such a view, “other people, countries and entire peoples automatically disappear: they are transformed into faceless entities which one can play with as in a mythical casino.” Thus, it is “no accident” that Putin is doing everything to have the US and “especially the EU ‘hand over’ Ukraine to him.”
And how can anyone encourage him to think that is possible?
That is or should be impossible because to do that would mean that “from now on, the entire world order has been irretrievably destroyed and that any country now can without risk of punishment begin to divide it up, invading the territory of a foreign country and threatening all the rest with nuclear weapons,” Kirillova says.
Too much blood has been shed and the hatred of Ukraine to “Russia as a state” is so large that there is no possibility of talking about “a rapprochement with the aggressor.” Otherwise, as she points out, “Ukrainians will feel that the death of those near them was for naught.”
Figuring out how to proceed and deal with someone as inadequate in his understanding of the world as Putin has shown himself to be is “a very important question, on which the future of contemporary Europe can depend.” At the very least, no one must do anything that reinforces his view that Ukraine is simply an object to be traded among the great powers.