19 October 2016 in Berlin, a meeting of the Normandy Four: Vladimir Putin, Angela Merkel, Petro Poroshenko, Francois Hollande, and their staff. (Image: EPA/UPG)
Ukraine would be far better off if it were left with a frozen conflict in which Russia openly occupied the east than with the solution Vladimir Putin wants and some in the West seem ready to accept: a reunited Ukraine in which Putin’s forces would dominate not just the east but all of Ukraine, according to Andrey Piontkovsky.
In an interview with Natalia Dvali of Kyiv’s Gordon news agency, the Russian political commentator who has been forced into exile by the Kremlin, says that Kyiv must continue to point out to the West that Putin is a war criminal and that he will never pull his forces out of the Donbas, give Ukraine control over its borders, or cease his plans to dominate all of Ukraine.
Putin’s goal, which has remained unchanged since the beginning, he continues, “is not the annexation and occupation of particular pieces of territory but control over all Ukraine, a strategic task he has pursued at various times with the use of various tactical measures.”
Now that his direct military aggression has not worked and his nuclear threats have backfired, Piontkovsky says, “Putin wants not to freeze the conflict in the Donbas but to insert a cancerous tumor inside of it which will block reforms leading to a European model of the state … [as well as] to preserve military and political control over the occupied territories.”
Piontkovsky says that the Kremlin’s goal is “to make bandits like … Motorola legal political players in Ukraine and deputies of the Verkhovna Rada. That is how [Putin] interprets the Minsk Agreements.” And as long as Putin is in power, “Russia will never pull its forces out of the Donbas and never hand over to Ukraine control over its borders.”
Were it to do so, the Russian analyst says, such a step would destroy “the Kremlin’s last hope to subordinate all of Ukraine to itself.”
Ukraine had to sign the Minsk Agreements given Russia’s military pressure and Western insistence, but it needed to do so to get a ceasefire because it was obvious to everyone even at the time that Putin had no plans to fulfill his side of the bargain on any of the other items in those accord, Piontkovsky says.
Before talking with Moscow about political issues, he continues, the West and Ukraine must demand that Moscow “fulfill the main points of the Minsk agreement,” something Putin hasn’t done and won’t do.
Given that, “the only thing that one should demand from states trying to be peacemakers – the US, Germany and France – is to insist on the ceasefire’s continuation.”
If that happens, the situation in the eastern portion of Ukraine will become a frozen conflict, something that works against Putin and for Ukraine. It highlights Putin’s failure in Ukraine, and it gives Ukraine time to make needed reforms and to further integrate itself with Europe, precisely what Putin doesn’t want to happen.
The West is beginning to understand this, Piontkovsky says, although far too many in Western capitals are frightened by the term “frozen conflict” and far too committed to the restoration of what looks like the territorial integrity of Ukraine but that in fact would be a false version of that given Russian activities in the east.
Sooner or later, Russia will give the Donbas back to Ukraine but not before Putin leaves the Kremlin. And that will happen, perhaps sooner than many think, because of his foreign policy failures, including most importantly Ukraine. Indeed, if Russia had a Politburo as the Soviet Union did, he would have been sent packing.
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