Putin’s misreading of situation behind hardening of West’s position on Ukraine, Portnikov says

A fork in the road in the Russia-occupied territory of Ukraine (Image: Reuters)

A fork in the road in the Russia-occupied territory of Ukraine (Image: Reuters) 

2015/06/13 • Analysis & Opinion, Russia, War in the Donbas

The toughening of the West’s position on Ukraine, very much in evidence at the G7 meeting, reflects the fact that Vladimir Putin has fundamentally misread the situation and not taken advantage of the face-saving measures which the West had been offering him, according to Vitaly Portnikov.

Vitaly Portnikov, Ukrainian political analyst and writer

Vitaly Portnikov, Ukrainian political analyst and writer

The Kremlin leader “sincerely believed that the fact that Merkel and Hollande came to him and that negotiations in Minsk followed were connected with the West’s fear of further destabilization.” But in fact, the Ukrainian commentator says, “Merkel like all other Western leaders was concerned above all with the need to give Putin the chance to save face.”

Minsk was “a magnificent opportunity” for that, he continues. The “’peoples republics’” could continue to function but with Putin “looking not like a traitor but a peacekeeper and defender of the interests of ‘the Russian world’… And talks about Crimea in such a paradigm could continue forever.”

Everyone “must understand that there is no good outcome for Putin here, although in the case of the second, [Ukrainians] may pay for a new outburst of aggression with the lives of [Ukrainian] soldiers and civilians, with destruction, and with economic losses.”

“But all this was the case only if you viewed the situation realistically,” Portnikov says. But “if on the other hand, you are Putin, then you are certain that the West is “tired’ of Ukraine… and you are the one giving the West the opportunity to save face” by allowing talks to happen even as you solidify your control over a neighboring country.

In his vision, “Ukraine of course will remain independent, but it must feed the territories you control and adopt a constitution which will preserve for the heads of these ‘peoples’ republics’ and that means for you, a veto. Thus, you have not moved an iota from the position which you took on the day when you decided that the place of Yanukovych and Crimea is inside Russia.” And if you are Putin, Portnikov says, “you think this is a compromise.”

“But the West doesn’t think so, he continues, and it is gradually and quietly coming to the conclusion that “Putin doesn’t need to save face.” In that situation, “the only thing that the West can demand is the fulfillment to the letter of the Minsk agreements, these agreements and not what [Putin] thinks up instead of them.”

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That is, the West demands that Putin pull his forces out of the Donbas, agree to honest elections with OSCE observers, and “return to Ukraine control over the borders.” In short, Putin must “do everything which [he] from the start did not intend to do.” Putin by his custom thought he had “deceived everyone.” But in the event, he deceived only himself.

Had Putin been willing to negotiate and fulfill the Minsk agreements, the hardening of the West’s position might not have happened, Portnikov suggests. But he wasn’t, and now “we are again at a fork in the road which will lead us either to peacemaking… or toward a new escalation, attempts at seizing new territories, the worsening of Russia’s relations with the West, and a new packet of sanctions much harsher than the previous ones.”

Everyone “must understand that there is no good outcome for Putin here, although in the case of the second, [Ukrainians] may pay for a new outburst of aggression with the lives of [Ukrainian] soldiers and civilians, with destruction, and with economic losses,” the Ukrainian analyst says.

It cannot be excluded that “Putin will not want to choose and will try to remain at the fork in the road as long as possible,” thus retaining his freedom of action and hoping that something will turn up. But he can’t do so for as long as he may think: he would have to continue to support the “DNR” and “LNR” and the Russian economy is not up to that at present.


More on the topic:

Ex-terrorist leader: Only an idiot will deny that “republics” in Donbas are a Kremlin creation

About 60% of enemy fighters in Donbas are former or current servicemen of the Russian Federation

Russia has betrayed not just Ukraine, but the entire civilized world, Portnikov says

Ukraine’s Security Service arrested terrorist group controlled by Russian military intelligence (PHOTOS)

Putin deciding on next state of Donbas war — Portnikov

Edited by: A. N.

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  • Dagwood Bumstead

    I fail to see why Merlande were so eager to save Putin’s face in the first place. He was and is the aggressor so he should pay the price including full compensation for all the damage he has caused to the Ukraine, including life pensions for the Ukrainian widows and orphans his aggression has created. And the territories of the so-called DNR and LNR and the Crimea should be returned to Kyiv. There can be no compromise on that. Who cares about him losing face???

    I’m not sure that the Russian economy can even support its colonies Transnistria, S. Ossetia, Abkhazia and the Crimea for very much longer, never mind supporting the LNR and DNR. The Crimea is already turning into a replica of Transnistria: run by criminals and the economy in tatters and isolated, recognised by no sane country as Russian, not even by Lukashenko. The subsidies the Kremlin sent to Transnistria have been slashed and the same most probably also applies to the subsidies for the others. Funds are prioritised for the armed forces and security services, other govt. services including education and health care have to accept cuts. In 2012 Kudrin said that Russia could not afford Putin’s military ambitions and was sacked- and that was when the oil price was over $100. Now, with the oil price down to around $50-60, they are even less affordable.
    As for the DNR/LNR economy, WHAT economy????

  • danram

    Crawl back under your rock, Kremlin troll. Everyone knows who the real aggressors are here. They are your paymasters in Moscow.

    As tough as things are in Ukraine right now, Ukraine is still reforming and moving forward. Ten years from now, Ukraine will be a full member in both the EU and NATO.

    Russia, on the other hand, is on a bullet train back to the Stalinist dictatorship of the 1950s.

    Face it, troll. You’ve lost Ukraine forever. They’re breaking away and moving on to better things.

    • canuke

      I really enjoy reading the rebuttals to the meaningless garbage spewed out by the Kremlin troll army. What a joke they are, trying to hide behind avatars such as British flags. No one is fooled. Anyone notice that the volume and intensity appears to be on the wane? Let’s hope that Putler is running low on his petrodollars to pay such sorry individuals.

      • Dean Venture

        Yes, you’re the master debater. We all thrill to the tune of your incisive logic. Nobody here cares, and most will assume that since you hide your activity, you are almost certainly a Russian troll.

      • canuke

        You are a prize, aren’t you! I speak from actually being in Ukraine, countless times. North to south, including Crimea, west to east, including Luhansk and Donetsk. Were you on the Maidan? Have you been or lived in Ukraine? If you did, you would know that what you spew is nonsense. No point even arguing with morons like yourself.

        • canuke

          Hogwash. Either you are blind, or a dimwit. Knowing Ukraine, like I do, and knowing the Ukrainian soul would tell you that live and let live is our modus operandi. Lviv, for example, could pass for any city in western Europe. We Ukrainians will take our chances with Europe. 350 years with our “big brother” in Moscow has given us nothing but death, destruction and hardship. You know nothing of Ukraine, nor I suggest about the EU, despite your avatar. You stoop so low for what? To collect some worthless rubles? A sad commentary.

      • John Shirley

        If you are really on the “UP n UP”, why don’t you start by unblocking your Disqus comments, so we can judge for ourselves who and what you really are. And please don’t humiliate yourself by saying you do it for “Privacy” issues, when you post your opinions here for a billion people to read.
        So, to be fair, I will give you the “benefit of the doubt” until you post again and are still “blocked”, then you will be a troll.

        • canuke

          John. Have a look at my comment back to “VeeNarian” when he wrote, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” (sic). Sometimes it’s little things like that which expose our troll community who claim to be Brits, or Americans, or whatever!

          • John Shirley

            Sorry it took so long to get back to you..sleep time in US.
            Yeah I read your comment, good job, and you are right about him.
            I like to taunt people like him as you probably noticed.
            I was stationed in the UK for 3 yrs. and he does not write like he is from there. Just a small thing like we in US say color, they say colour, we say flavor, they say flavour and many more differences. He is like all the St. Pete trolls, he probably has dozens of accounts so next time you see him he may seem to be someone entirely different
            If you haven’t done so already Google “Russian Troll Factory” and read about them and their classic tactics.

          • canuke

            John, yes, I’m fully aware of the Troll factory. I, too, have a lot of fun rooting out these frauds by the same means! Like our bogus Brit “VeeNarian”!

          • canuke

            Gotcha? No idea what you are talking about. You inflate your Importance, OM. Face it, things must be desperate to waste your time for a few measly kopecks. As John Shirley said, unblock your Disquis comments, and you might have a bit more credibility.

          • John Shirley

            Hi my name is VEENARIAN.
            Yes you are all correct, I am a Russian and I am compensated by the Kremlin for posting on this Web site.
            I have been well trained by my employer, the Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg as you can already see by the content of my posts. I have been taught many tactics including the art of ridicule and harrasement. I really mean no one any harm, but am only doing this to provoke a reaction and thus I will be able to continue to fulfill my daily posting quota.
            I have to leave now, because I have numerous other Web sites and to visit abd aliases to use.
            I look forward to returning to this site in the near future, when I can provide you more details concerning my job. I may however be using another user name, but look for the key word “commie” and you will know that it’s me.
            Again my apologies.

          • John Shirley

            Hello again everyone, it’s your old buddy VEENARIAN again.
            I’ve got a few minutes while I’m waiting for the “factory” mainframe to download my topics and posts for today, so I thought I would spend a minute telling you a little more about my job here in St. Petersburg.
            First, if you have been following Trool Posts for awhile you should already know that one of the most grieves infractions is to allow anyone that you are in a discussion with to have the “last word”. This is considered an admission that the other commenter has a more reasonable and logical point. This can get you a verbal reprimand at a minimum and terminated if it happens more than once.
            I know that a lot of you hate people like me who are compensated for our posts, but please try and see it from my point of view. Even though the wages are only about 1/2 the minimum wage in the US, and these 12 hour shifts can be grueling, for a lot of us uneducated and untrained Russians, it’s not bad money.
            Opps, gotta run, my computer is almost finished downloading my posts for tonight.
            Later, and don’t forget the secret password. “Commie”

          • John Shirley

            Hi VEENARIAN here,
            I was tempted to not make any more posts on this article, since it is 5 days old now and it’s doubtful many people are reading any of these posts.
            However I couldn’t just disappear and leave people wondering if they would ever hear any more revealing information about the everyday life of a St.Pete. “paid poster.”
            Therefore I have decided to continue my “Confessions” on more recent articles.
            I do have one last thing to do though. As I mentioned when discussing “mandatory factory policies” I am obliged to have the last word. So here it is………..

      • canuke

        Do you know what you are talking about? Please show us where there are such hate filled items in textbooks. You are very quick to rattle off tired Kremlin inspired propaganda without any basis in fact. Your continued reference to “European values” means nothing to me, OM. Of course, if life is so bad in the EU, I suggest that you pack your bags for Moscow. The way you come across, life must be WAY better there. Can’t quite understand, though, if that’s the case, why so many of your fellow ruskies leave for the west. Not so many going the other way.

    • Dean Venture

      Russia has taken on more refugees, but only because they are ethnic Russians, and only because they need serfs to populate the far east.

      As for who is or isn’t making an effort towards peace, it’s the Russian side that is constantly taking new territory, it is the Russians that refuse to allow OSCE monitoring of their heavy weapons, it is the Russians that refuse to seal the border with Ukraine or to allow monitoring, and it is the Russians sending more hardware over the border than many NATO countries have in their entire armed forces.

      If you’re not a Russian troll, you’ve bought into Russian propaganda. If you have such contempt for European values, what are you doing in Europe?

  • Vol Ya

    Putin is not as smart as most people think. He understands nothing about Ukraine even though Ukraine and Russia are neighbors. putin thought that the people of Ukraine would welcome him and his russian invaders. WRONG!!! Putin has united the people of Ukraine like never before. Now all of the people of Ukraine detest putin and russia. putin’s stupidity has actually made Ukraine a stronger and more independent and self sufficient country. Ukraine is now cutting it ties to Russia, at last.

  • Vol Ya

    More lies from a russian troll. putin would like to see Ukraine destroyed. But just the opposite will happen. Ukraine has definitely lost Crimea and possibly the Donbas but Ukraine will emerge from this war stronger and more united. Finally Ukraine can ditch its Soviet past and bureaucracy and become a modern European nation. I hope putin enjoys subsidizing the Crimea and the Donbas, it will cost him a fortune.

    • Dagwood Bumstead

      Whether the Crimea has been definitely lost remains to be seen. The Crimean Tatars never were in favour of Russian annexation, and with ever-increassing oppression of the ethnic Ukrainians they won’t be either, if they ever were in the first place. Together they are nearly 40% of the population.

      As for the ethnic Russians, are they be happy to see criminals take over, converting the peninsula into a haven for money laundering and other illegal activities? Are they happy now that the economy is in tatters with tourism, their main source of income, ruined, the Crimea isolated? Possibly, but I doubt it. The future is bleak, economically and politicallly.

      • Brent

        Eventually the Russians in Crimea who supported secession will either die off (many are war veterans or their widows), end up tired of “Goblin” Aksyonov’s thugs taking whatever they want for themselves, or end up in jail themselves. In fact many never supported secession anyway. Here’s a 2013 Gallup poll showing only 23% wanted secession. A large number (53%) wanted more autonomy, but to remain in Ukraine. But look at how there wasn’t even a question in the actual referendum for the status quo. There was no objective referendum. It was a sham. With supposedly 127% of the residents of Sevastopol casing votes. Even back in 2010, only 4% voted for Aksyonov’s separatist Russian Unity party.

        http://www.ibtimes.com/gallup-poll-shows-crimeans-had-very-different-ideas-about-russia-last-year-1561821

        One more year of failed tourism (how many Russians will even go through again what they did waiting days at the Kerch ferry), one more year of Russian subsidizing Crimea with the pension funds of Russian citizens, and there will be changes. Russia and Putin will never willingly give it up, but they may not have a choice if there is a real civil war in Russia which I think could be very likely. Too many power players in the Kremlin, billionaire oligarch’s clubs, military and other sources of power are all going to start asking why the Ukraine invasion was botched so badly and why Russia is hurting economically so badly.

    • Dagwood Bumstead

      Igor Girkin himself, leader of the Russian invasion and annexation, openly admitted on Russian TV in January that the referendum was a farce. Are you going to contradict one of the referendum’s organisers??? HE was there- were YOU? The Crimean parliament was forced at gunpoint to declare a referendum, without the quorum being present- only 47 of the 100 members. It therefore has no legal basis.
      The REAL result of the referendum was briefly posted on the website of the Russian presidential Ombudsman for Human Rights, but quickly removed: about 30% of the population took part, with about half voting for immediate accession to the RF. This despite vote padding with anybody with a Russian passport being allowed to vote, inhabitant of the Crimea or not. Even the sailors of the Russian Black Sea Fleet were ordered to vote, although NOT Crimeans.

      • canuke

        I’m so sure that you are a Brit! Well, for starters, It’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Anyone who is remotely an English speaker would know that. Tells me that you’re not who you say you are. “Dwarves”? What the heck is that. Love exposing trolls for who they are!

        • canuke

          You missed my point. For an English speaker, it’s rather easy to tell when someone (such as yourself) is trying to pretend to be someone they are not. My point was, to make it clear to you, was that any true English speaker would know that the name was “Dwarfs”. You, sir, are a fraud.

          • Dagwood Bumstead

            You can call for all you like, old boy, but ONLY the Ukrainians have the right to decide on their country’s form of government, nobody else and most certainly not the dwarf and his sidekick Liarvrov. And there’s no majority for federalisation in the Ukraine, as polls have shown. So, it won’t happen. That’s called democracy, something the dwarf knows sod all about.
            And you should really direct your wild acusations at the dwarf, old boy. HE is the one who invaded the Ukraine, seized part of its territory despite Russia’s prior guarantees of its territorial integrity INCLUDING the Crimea and is waging war against the country. Moscow is clearly the aggressor here and Kyiv is defending its territory against Russian aggression, as it is allowed to do by the UN Charter. Look it up, you might actually learn something for once.
            The war can be ended as soon as the dwarf withdraws ALL Russian army forces and mercenaries and hands control of the border back to Kyiv, which can be done in a few days. He has steadfastedly to do so, so he is responsible for prolonging the war- which he can’t win.

          • Eddy Verhaeghe

            Ever heard of the fact that Russian is the lingua franca in Ukraine? Ever heard of the fact that 80% of the Ukrainian media use Russian?
            Ever heard of the fact that in the Crimea the rights of the Tatars are trampled upon?
            Ever heard of the fact that one of the first things that the Goblin and the ‘rulers’ of the DPR and LPR did, was to close schools where Ukrainian was used as the teaching language?

          • canuke

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2zssIFN2mso&app=desktop I suggest you watch Vice News. Simon Ostrovsky does a wonderful job with this investigative journalism. He’s no friend of Kyiv, but rather a superb impartial journalist. Your suggestion that there are no Russian soldiers is laughable. Only Putin still continues to promulgate such nonsense.

          • Eddy Verhaeghe

            BEATEN…

        • Eddy Verhaeghe

          English spelling…

      • Dagwood Bumstead

        Get your facts straight, old boy. First, Khrushchev was born in Russia: in Kalinovka, Kursk Gubernate to be precise. Ergo, he is NOT Ukrainian by any stretch of the imagination.
        Second, the Crimea was transferred to the Ukrainian SSR by Georgi Malenkov, NOT Khrushchev, according to a decision taken by Stalin but not implemented until January 1954 due to Stalin’s death in March 1953. Malenkov succeeded Stalin as both 1st Secretary of the CPSU and Chairman of the Council of Ministers and Prime Minister, relinquishing the position of 1st Secretary of the CPSU to Khrushchev in September 1953. The decree concerning the transfer was signed by Voroshilov as Head of State on 19/2/1954- again, NOT by Khrushchev.

        The Russian Federation recognised that the Crimea was and is part of the Ukraine following the breakup of the USSR. Both Yeltsin and Putin explicitly recognised this by signing various treaties and agreements with Kyiv, including:
        1: the treaties concerning the breakupof the USSR, 1991-92.
        2: the agreement concerning the use of the base at Sevastopol by the Russian Black Sea Fleet for 25 years of 1992 and its extension for a further 25 years in 2011.
        3: the Budapest memorandum of 1994.
        4: the Russian-Ukrainian treaty of friendship and cooperation, 1997.
        5: the Helsinki agreements of 1975 to which the RF, as successor to the USSR, is still bound.

        As to why the Crimeans would want to return, how about the return of law and order for starters? They are increasingly fed up with the criminal activities of prime minister Aksyonov and his thugs, illegal property seizures by armed gangs for instance. See also the recent article in “Novaya Gazeta” about how the Crimea’s banking system is increasingly being used for money laundering and other illegal activities.
        Then there are the human rights abuses. Human Rights Watch rates the Crimea even lower than Russia itself on that score.
        Next, the collapsed economy. Tourism, its mainstay, is all but dead. Russian misrule isn’t going to change that.
        The list is endless.
        Now jao.

        • canuke

          I suggest you quit with the fantasies about supposed ethnic cleansing against the poor Russians in Ukraine. You might want to read what former Russian prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov said about this: ““Supposedly, Russians in Ukraine and in Crimea in particular were being discriminated against. [But] there was nothing of the kind. Over the course of the entire 25 years of the existence of Ukraine, there was not one registered case or complaint to any organization Ukrainian, Russian or international about discrimination against Russians and Russian-speaking citizens,” Now please go and crawl back under a rock and cease your mindless rants.

          • canuke

            Buddy, you clearly have never been to Donbas. If you had, you wouldn’t spout such garbage. I have. Many times. I have lot’s of family there. If you knew anything, you would know that Ukrainian is rarely heard in the cities. I have never seen anyone discriminated against for speaking Russian. On the other hand, I’ve been sneered at in Ukraine for speaking Ukrainian. Something wrong with this picture, wouldn’t you agree? You obviously are not watching the same feeds from Donbas. What I see is that most of the Ukrainian patriots fighting against the Russian invaders and their banana republic stooges, are speaking Russian. Hmm, kind of dismisses your arguments. The hatred I see, rather, is on the DNR/LNR side….recall the woman last summer who was tied to a pole with a Ukrainian flag, being beaten by locals. Ukrainian POW’s being paraded followed by trucks washing the road, against all norms of humanity, not to mention the Geneva Convention. The savagery of your hero, Motorola. Enough said.

        • Dagwood Bumstead

          Governments sign treaties, old boy, but parliaments ratify them- people’s elected representatives and all that. In the case of the Ukraine and Dwarfstan, they have all been ratified by the Verkovna Rada and the Duma, the dwarf’s rubber-stamp “parliament”.
          And do try to watch something other than Russia Today, old boy, you might actually learn something- the truth, for instance. Assuming, of course, that the trollmasters at ulitsa Savushkina 55 let you watch anything else.

  • Brent

    Baaah baaah Baah goes the bleating sheeple spewing the same tired nonsense he spewed for the last year…

    Keep dreaming your little sheeple dreams and worshipping at your Putin poster and cheering on the likes of the murderous Nazi’s from Russian like Alexei Milchakov and all the other Russian terrorists…

  • Roza Nikolova

    Russia didn’t betray anyone. Ukraine war should stop but I don’t
    think that America and Europe should be involved in this. America knows that if
    send their troops in Ukraine that mean 3 rd World War. If America hates so much Slavian people and
    find a reason for attack all the time that does not mean that Russia will not
    attack back, same with Europe. I don’t understand
    why one Country should be agents Russia for to take place in NATO. All fact showing to BIG ENVY. It’s disgusting.
    Look at 1st World War, Second World War, now they are poshing on to
    3rd World War. They build up
    so much weapons and now they believe they will attack with their hates against
    Slavian Russia and destroy it and America and Europe will come to Russian land
    and explore it and will rule Slavian people and kill it with games there and
    there.

    I do advise Russia to prepare for contra attack. Do not accept
    uninvited guest like American and Europeans troops. I don’t think American can
    rule us.

    • Dagwood Bumstead

      Study your history books, old girl….. REAL history books, that is and not the rubbish passed off as history by the Kremlin. WW1 was caused by Serbia’s assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife. WW2 was started by Adolf and Stalin when the Molotov-Ribbentrop was signed. The US wasn’t involved in the start of either.

      And who in his/her right mind would be jealous of the cesspool called Russia? It doesn’t produce anything of value. It can’t even build a half-decent car- heck, not even Russians buy Ladas, unless they are desperate and can’t afford anything else.There’s no need for anybody to destroy Russia, Dwarf/Karlik 2 is doing a pretty good job of that by himself. It’s a matter of time before Dwarfstan or if you prefer Karlikstan will implode and Kyiv will claim the Kuban and other territories historically Ukrainian from the wreckage, and kick the katsaps out.
      Let the dwarf spend all the money on an army, by all means. The more he spends on his army, the sooner Russia will collapse, just as the USSR collapsed. Kudrin was right when he said that Russia could not afford the dwarf’s plans for the armed forces.

      • Roza Nikolova

        May Your History book laying.

    • Murf

      The only thing disgusting is your notions of how the West sees Russia.
      Envy?
      Yeah, not so much.
      Russia under Putin is like watching a Shakespearean tragedy playing out of the international stage.

  • Murf

    So far I am trying to find out if Putin read anything right about this situation.
    He is an old Cold Warrior. Russia pushes the west pushes back until an equilibrium is achieved.
    That was the rules, that is how the game was played.
    But the world changed even if he didn’t.
    The West does not want a new Cold War and never did, they have struggled to avoid it al along. On the other hand that doesn’t mean they will give in to his demands.
    Putin sees any attempt at discussion as weakness and there fore giving him an advantage.
    What we see as a face saving gesture he sees as a step closer to his goal.
    The answer to the crisis is simple in painful;
    Meet him with the force he expects.
    The US is going to foreword position an armored Brigade in eastern Europe. this is a step in the right direction. The NATO should step up the training of the UA Army.
    Covertly(ie obviously with just enough “plausible denighablity.) supplying weapons to the UA Army. Poland and Romania have tons of equipment they are phasing out the US should pay them for it and ship it to UA.
    Until the body count starts going up, Putin will think he can win no matter the cost.
    Disabuse him of the notion.