‘Putin will never leave Ukraine in peace,’ commentators say

Devastation in the Donbas - the product of Putin's military aggression into peaceful Ukraine. (Image: Slavyansk Delovoy)

Devastation in the Donbas - the product of Putin's military aggression into peaceful Ukraine. (Image: Slavyansk Delovoy) 

2015/10/01 • Analysis & Opinion, Politics, Russia, War in the Donbas

Vladimir Putin’s new war in Syria has driven Ukraine off the front pages of the world’s press, and his decision to extend the current lull in the fighting in the Donbas has led some to conclude hopefully that there is now a chance for a peaceful settlement of the crisis there.

But three leading commentators – Garry Kasparov, Andrey Piontkovsky, and Vitaly Portnikov – say that Putin will never leave Ukraine in peace as long as he is in office and warn that any shift in Western attention to and support for Kyiv may embolden the Kremlin leader to even more aggression in Ukraine and possibly more broadly.

Gari Kasparov (Image: kasparov.ru)

Gari Kasparov (Image: kasparov.ru)

In a comment to Ukraine’s Gordon news agency, Kasparov, a leading Russian opposition figure says that the threat of further and more serious Russian aggression “has not passed either for Ukraine or for the Baltic countries.”

“Nothing in Ukraine has ended, and the threat to the Baltic countries has not been lifted,” Kasparov continues. “As soon as Europe weakens and America finally retires, Putin will be able to renew his aggression because for him there do not exist any moral or political principles” which might restrain someone else.

“A dictator who does not show strength very quickly loses the support of the population and can expect unwelcome surprises from his own entourage,” the opposition figure says.

As far as Syria is concerned, Putin almost certainly will be able to achieve three goals:

  • raising the price of oil because of instability in the Middle East,
  • sparking a new refugee flow from the region to Europe thereby making “improbable any European coalition against him,” and as a result,
  • “untying his hands in Ukraine and even in the Baltic countries.”

In a commentary for Ukraine’s Apostrophe portal, Russian political analyst Piontkovsky makes some of the same points but comes at them from a different direction, arguing that Putin’s moves in Syria are a direct reaction to the Kremlin leader’s defeat in Ukraine.

Andrey Piontkovsky quote

His miscalculations and losses in Ukraine have put Putin the dictator in a difficult position because any foreign policy defeat raises questions about his future among his closest supporters. Consequently, Putin decided to raise the stakes by getting more deeply involved in Syria to demonstrate that he remains “a global player.”

That decision gave Russian society another large dose of “the imperial narcotic, but the fate of all players and all drug addicts is the same: an increase in the dose does not lead to anything good,” Piontkovsky says.

Putin did not get what he wanted from US President Barack Obama in New York and so has decided to raise the stakes of his conflict with the West by his actions in Syria.

“But one must not forget about Ukraine,” the Russian analyst says. “Putin will never leave it in peace: he always–to the last hour of his political life–will seek to destroy it.” As times change, he may change the instruments he employs, but his goal of destroying Ukraine as an independent actor remains in place.

“At one time [Putin] wanted to do this by seizing 12 oblasts but now he will try to destroy Ukraine by inserting in the political field of Ukraine [his agents who] will sit in the Rada and block the European vector of the development of Ukraine.” Moreover, he will continue to exploit “the so-called ‘peoples republics’ in the Donbas to pressure Kyiv.

Piontkovsky suggests that Putin’s next move in Ukraine, at the Paris meeting of the Norman Four, will be to announce that he has “with great difficulty convinced the separatists to put off elections in Donetsk and Luhansk on October 18 and November 1. This will please Merkel and Hollande,” and they will pressure Kyiv to make more concessions to the separatists.

Vitaly Portnikov, Ukrainian political analyst and writer

Vitaly Portnikov, Ukrainian political analyst and writer

Ukrainian commentator Portnikov offers a related commentary to Newsru.ua. He argues that “now Putin must minimize his participation in the Ukrainian war in order to free his hands in Syria” but that despite that, the Kremlin leader will continue to work against Ukraine.

Putin had tried to trade his involvement in the struggle against ISIS to get a free hand in Ukraine and the rest of the former Soviet space, but not having achieved that goal, Portnikov suggests, he took the decision to fight in Syria and thus made “the Ukrainian direction ‘a second front.’”

That appears to be leading him now to present himself as a peacemaker in Ukraine in order “to free his hands in the Middle East, because without mutual understanding with the West and without the weakening of sanctions, he simply will not have the strategic room for maneuver and the basic resources for further actions in Syria.”

What remains to be seen is “how far he is ready to go in Syria and how far he is prepared to withdraw from Ukraine,” things that will depend on “the intensiveness of the Syrian operation and the level of Russia’s involvement in the conflict.” If he goes for broke in Syria, he may have to make far more concessions in Ukraine.

Indeed, if Putin gets Russia fully tied down in a new war in Syria, “which by the way is not necessarily [his] last adventure,” it may even be possible “to discuss without particular emotions a [Russian] withdrawal from Crimea” but if and only if “there will be someone left to discuss it with,” a situation in Ukraine and more generally that Putin’s actions make less likely.

Edited by: A. N.

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  • Dagwood Bumstead

    One wonders why the dwarf is so desperate about forcing the Ukrainians to join his Eurasian Customs Union and be part of his Russkii Mir even though they don’t want to join and would be uncertain members at best if they did. Why doesn’t he concentrate on building his Customs Union with Belarus and the willing Stans- surely he will have his hands more than full with that? It’s not as if his Customs Union NEEDS the Ukrainians- it can function without them.
    And I’m not really convinced that the Stans need the union either, given that Peking’s influence in Astana, Tashkent etc is growing with every passing day. China is an economic giant, Dwarfstan a midget. What does the dwarf have to offer the Stans- or the Ukrainians for that matter? Most of the Stans have oil and gas of their own so they don’t need Moscow for that. As for the Ukrainians, China, India, Turkey and Egypt are now its most important trading partners and while the trade with the EU has risen to 30% of the total, trade with Dwarfstan is now down to no more than 15%. At this rate Kyiv’s trade with Dwarfstan will be irrelevant in 10 years or so.

    Moscow’s influence in Kyiv is steadily decreasing thanks to the dwarf’s stupid aggression and no amount of pressure will force Kyiv to capitulate. He’s flogging a dead horse at great cost, not least to Dwarfstan and its citizens- but they are too stupid to realise that.

    • Randolph Carter

      Good point about the Stans not needing the union, nor the Chinese. Dwarfistan has a lot of mineral resources (platinum for mechanisms like catalytic converters), but I am sure there are other countries eager to trade with China, and Dwarfistan would be at the back of the line. Any thought toward raw land? Didn’t the dwarf give China a huge chunk of land in Siberia a while ago? Any thoughts about a repeat?

      Also, your comment about trade with Dwarfstan becoming irrelevant is interesting. It’s almost as if the midget is strangling himself and saying “So there! See what I can do!”

      • Dagwood Bumstead

        China will be top dog in any relation with Dwarfstan, as it’s Dwarfstan that needs China far more than China Dwarfstan. Remember the Great Gas Deal with Peking that Pedo Putolini was boasting about two years ago? It STILL hasn’t been finalised. Experts doubted that the deal would be profitable for Moscow then, and with the sharp drop in gas price since then it definitely isn’t now.
        There was an article on (I think) informnapalm.org some time ago about how Peking is silently taking over control of Dwarfstanian territory in the Far East in what amounts to de facto annexations, if not de jure. As I recall it was only published in Russian and German, not English. The Transbaikal land deal is just one of them: Peking “leases” land long-term for a pittance ($5 per hectare if I remember correctly) and Chinese workers only are employed on it- no locals. Sooner or later Peking will send in its “little gleen men” to “plotect Chinese citizens flom Lussian agglession” and then hold a “lefelendum” whereby 99.5% will declare themselves in favour of joining China.

        As a result of the dwarf’s aggression trade between the Ukraine and Dwarfstan has declined sharply, and the longer the aggression lasts the greater that decline will be. Ukrainian companies will be forced to look for other markets and indeed are already doing so.The dwarf’s tiff with Erdogan has meant an increase in Turkish-Ukrainian trade and it remains to be seen whether the current thaw in relations between Ankara and Moscow is permanent or temporary, as their interests will lead to conflict over Syria sooner or later. And the dwarf’s alliance with the ayatollahs can hardly be seen as something Ankara will join given the lack of common interests with Teheran.

        • Randolph Carter

          No, I had never heard of the Great Gas Deal between Dwarfistan and China, but I think you’re right – it will never be consummated given the price of gas. I’ll have to research it.

          How ironic that China is using the same incursion tactics as the midget used with Crimea to take chunks of Dwarfland. I wonder what Putin’s thoughts are; he certainly wouldn’t want war with China because they’d hand him his sorry, white butt on a platter.

          I’m a lot more optimistic about Ukraine and trade, and see some pretty nice accomplishments (Mars Hopper and others) coming out of there. If Ukraine can develop winning engineering designs while being in a state of war, then it says a lot for the indefatigable Ukrainian spirit.

          • Dagwood Bumstead

            Moscow and Peking have been negotiating a gas deal for years, and the dwarf flew to Peking in 2014 to finalise it. One of the sticking points is that Peking won’t contribute to the laying of the pipeline to the Russian-Chinese border, insisting that Moscow pay for that. Another point of contention is that the dwarf got a sum of money from Peking (I don’t remember how much) and considers that an advance payment for gas to be delivered, but which Peking insists is a loan which must be paid back with interest.
            Anyway, in 2014 the dwarf made a huge amount of noise about the Great Gas Deal with Peking which would make Dwarfstan less dependent on sales to the EU. But the deal still hasn’t been finalised, the pipeline still isn’t being laid because Dwarfstan has no money (it’s in the offshore accounts of the dwarf, Medvedev, Rogozin, Lozhvrov and Co.), and it’s anybody’s guess if or when the gas will start flowing to China. Peking has alternative suppliers in the Stans and the Gulf, Dwarfstan has no alternative buyers. It’s Pedo Putolini who has to go cap in hand to Peking and the Chinese are exploiting their advantages ruthlessly. It’s no secret that they want the territories back that Aleksandr II stole from China in 1856 and 1860.

          • Randolph Carter

            Moscow can’t buy gum, let alone lay a pipeline across the Russian-Chinese border. I don’t know what the dwarf will say to China; perhaps the hat-in-hand routine will buy him something, but given that China has many other suppliers, they’ll just tell Dwarfistan to take a flying leap. The “advance payment” vs. loan question confuses matters more; what will the Chinese do if Dwarfistan just declares that they have no money to repay the loan?

            As a side issue, why is everyone so stuck on land taken hundreds of years ago? Dwarfistan whined about Crimea being illegally given (?) to Ukraine (hence infiltrating it and taking it back was “”right”), and now China wants land given a hundred years ago by Aleksandr II. China has hectares of land that they aren’t using, so why raise a fuss over more “illegally stolen” land?

          • Dagwood Bumstead

            I didn’t express myself clearly re the laying of the pipeline. Peking insists that the pipeline from the Siberian gasfield to the Russian-Chinese border be laid at Moscow’s expense, a distance of several thousand kms. Moscow, however, wants Peking to pick up at least part of the tab as it’s the customer, if not the full tab. The dwarf boasted about the Great Gas deal as if to say to the EU “See, I can sell my gas to others. I don’t need you as much as you need me!” but of course he actually has to start delivering gas and be paid for it first.

            As for the land, it was part of the Chinese Empire before Aleksandr II forced China to hand it over. It includes cities such as Vladivostok, Dwarfstan’s main harbour in the Far East and one which Moscow doesn’t want to lose. China lost face when it had to hand over the territory and losing face in the Far East is a definite no-no. Hence Peking wanting those territories back- and it will get them sooner or later. Hence too the Chinese migration, legal or otherwise, to those territories Peking considers its rightful property. Peking is creating facts on the ground and with Dwarfstanians leaving Siberia for European Dwarfstan the population is declining- whole villages have been abandoned. Demographically the situation is changing to Peking’s advantage, which is one reason why the dwarf gave Donbas refugees a one-way ticket to the Far East; see the following (in German) concerning the Donbas refugees:

            http://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/ausland/europa/fluechtlinge-aus-der-ostukraine-kostenlos-nach-sibirien-13144521.html