Putin’s Crimean miscalculation

Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, heads the Cabinet meeting on 5 March 2014. Photo: Alexei Druzhinin

Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, heads the Cabinet meeting on 5 March 2014. Photo: Alexei Druzhinin 

2016/09/02 • Analysis & Opinion

Article by: Vitaliy Portnikov

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande’s refusal to have a trilateral meeting with Vladimir Putin during the G20 Summit is a true diplomatic defeat for Moscow. The defeat is not only related to the summit itself but mainly to the Kremlin’s recent provocations in Crimea.

Read more: A timeline of Russia’s Crimean “terror” games | Infographics

The obvious reason for these provocations was to convince the West that Kyiv is “unconstructive” and that it is trying to escalate the situation even at a place where there is peace. How could world leaders meet with “inept” Poroshenko in such an environment? Only serious people should meet and decide how to pacify him. The fact that one of the “serious” parties is an occupier who violated international law hasn’t been factored into the Kremlin’s calculation. But it should have.

Putin’s provocations in Crimea reminded the West about the depth and breadth of the problem. Russia could destabilize the situation not only in Donbas but also in Crimea if it wishes to. Crimea is not only a sacred territory important to the Kremlin due to some emotional attachment to the land of the Crimean Tatars, but it’s also another leverage on Ukraine and other Black Sea countries. Crimea has become a military base, a camp for saboteurs, and an unsinkable missile carrier. And you thought Crimea was a resort, Frau Merkel?

No, she didn’t think so. She grew up in East Germany nonetheless. She got everything right. That’s why she immediately spoke of the need to extend sanctions. And she wasn’t alone. Hollande is saying the same thing; there are no reasons to lift sanctions. Even German Foreign Minister Steinmeier recognizes that sanctions could be eased if there is real progress on the implementation of the Minsk Agreement. He recognizes this and doesn’t believe his own words. And, Foreign Minister of Lithuania, Linas Linkevičius, called to increase sanctions on Russia all together.

Several months ago such a stance would have been excessive. Brussels was going to discuss the easing of sanctions not increasing them. In addition to the change in attitude towards sanctions, world leaders changed their attitude about the format of the peace process. Ahead of Minsk-2 summit, Merkel and Hollande went to Putin to agree on further negations, but now they are saying to the Russian president that a multilateral contact is only possible in the presence of the Ukrainian President.

There will be no revision of the Normandy format of talks, and sanctions will remain. This sends a clear signal to Putin. He can now reverse the situation only through a major war in Europe with massive destruction and thousands of casualties. However, he cannot just wage a war, he needs to win it.

Attempts to destabilize the situation within Ukraine will be met with a clear response to continue economic pressure on Russia. This is precisely what Putin is not interested in.

Translated by: Vera Zimmerman
Source: newsru.ua

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  • Volker Trauth

    The main thing is and will be: to outsmart the bully. Unfortunately, he has his ways to impress the public with his stunts, while outsmarting him is less obvious and rather invisible to the mass of people. I would wish for more success in the publicly visible field humiliating the bully, but on the long run I favor the hidden counteractions, if they provide ultimate success…

  • Oknemfrod

    Looks as though the idiotic Kremlin fabrication about the alleged “raid of a Ukrainian special forces unit to destabilize Crimea” has had an effect opposite to that intended. Putler’s “strategists” fancied it oh so clever to kill two birds with one stone: cover up a shootout between drunken Russian soldiers and sell the incident as an attempt by Ukraine to wreak havoc in Crimea.
    Guess what … a litany of previous fabrications (in particular, with regard to the Crimea takeover, “we have no troops in Ukraine”, the MH17) must have made the gullible pussy cats -who were supposed to easily buy this recent dose of snake oil – more inured to the Moscow fibs than they used to be. The lesson for the Kremlin dwellers to absorb is simple: Thou shalt not lie. The problem is, they have no organ with which to learn it.

    • On the Balcony

      You are missing the point. Every Russian intelligence officer knows that “truth” is simply the most successful fabrication: It is not that truth is relative, as is thought in the West, but that it is nonexistent. The “truth” is any and every assertion that brings you closer to your goal –whatever that goal is! Many , if not most Kremlin statements and actions are designed for Russian public consumption, to deliver a message to the people who overhear them and not to their ostensive recipients. It’s like a boss who screams loudly at his secretary, not because she has done anything wrong, but in order to make everyone else in the office work harder. Putin has to do a lot of nonsensical screaming and posturing in order to keep the Russian people believing his “truth” about Russia’s role and place in the world.

      • Oknemfrod

        Fair enough, but why in the world do you think I’m missing the point?

        • On the Balcony

          Because you appear to think that it is the Kremlin that must learn to stop lying while I believe that it is the West that must learn how to deal with the fact that for the Kremlin there are no lies and no truths; there are only assertions which are more or less successful in moving the speaker (be it the Kremlin or any one else) towards a given goal –and the goal, which is almost always opaque, may have nothing to do with the content of an assertion. The West therefore should deal with Putin and his Kremlin as one would with a child, acknowledging the truth if and when necessary but otherwise ignoring every false assertion, complaint, whine, etc by calmly and publicly asking, “What exactly does Russia want from us?”

          • Oknemfrod

            I don’t mind criticism, just was a bit baffled … methought my assertion “they have no organ with which to learn it” (pretty much the summary of what I think about it) was rather unambiguous. Thanks for having put this little miscommunication to rest.

  • LES1

    Strasbourg wants answers about Russia’s alleged ‘Ukrainian Crimea saboteur’ prisoner
    02.09.16 | Halya Coynash

    Russia is continuing to hold Ukrainian Yevhen Panov prisoner in occupied Crimea, and preventing him from seeing a lawyer. The European Court of Human Rights has responded with hard-hitting questions about the legal grounds for Panov being deprived of his liberty, whether he has a lawyer, etc. with responses required from both the Russian and Ukrainian governments.

    • Quartermaster

      Since he is being held by Russian terrorists, Ukraine gets no vote on whether the man sees a lawyer or not. But, as in Soviet Times, a Lawyer is just a chimera. The verdict is already in. They just needed a warm body to pass and execute sentence on. This is entirely on Russia and Putin.