Moscow commentator: Kremlin believes Ukraine is about to surrender



Op-ed, Russian Aggression

Valery Solovey, the former MGIMO professor and current Moscow commentator, says there are seven reasons why the Kremlin almost certainly believes that its policy toward Ukraine is close to achieving strategic success now that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has signed off on the “Steinmeier formula.”

Valery Solovey

But far from all members of the Ukrainian elite or Ukrainian population are prepared to roll over and accept this new deal, one that many of them believe is not a compromise but a capitulation. Consequently, despite the accord’s closeness to Putin’s desires, it is possible that it will never be fully implemented, at least in all the ways the Kremlin wants.

Many people are writing about the Ukrainian acceptance of the Steinmeier formula today. Solovey provides perhaps the most succinct list of reasons why it cannot be described other than a triumph for Moscow and a defeat for Kyiv, one that even if not completely fulfilled, will have a negative impact on the future.

Here are Solovey’s seven points:

  1. “There is no reason to doubt that the OSCE will confirm the legality of the future elections to the local organs of power, and as a result, the pro-Russian [occupation] administrations will be completely preserved in the DNR and LNR and order will be maintained by their local police.
  2. “The protection of the Ukrainian-Russian border from the side of the DNR and LNR will be carried out by ‘a volunteer corps’ formed in the DNR and LNR [military units composed of local collaborators and Russian citizens controlled by commanders from the Russian military and special forces serving under cover of locals] and not by the Ukrainian border service.
  3. “At the meeting in the Normandy format, Zelenskyy will repeat his agreement with ‘the Steinmeier formula.’ After this, he will not be able to retreat. And if he begins to waffle, the Kremlin will say to the West: we did warn you that Ukraine is a failing state and that one must not have any dealings with the Ukrainian leadership.
  4. “If Zelenskyy begins to sabotage the implementation of the agreement, steps will then be taken which will quickly sober up Kyiv.
  5. “Massed actions of Ukrainians against the agreement are impossible in view of their tiredness from the war. And individual acts of protest will be neutralized by Avakov [Arsen Avakov is Ukraine’s Minister of the Interior and in charge of all police and military units attached to the ministry].
  6. “Zelenskyy will try to ‘sell’ Ukrainian society on this deal as ‘peace in exchange for reforms and accelerated economic development.’ This is a fair argument (to a degree), but it would also increase Russian influence over the Ukrainian economy.
  7. “Russia will obtain a softening of [Western] sanctions and the possibility of influencing in a decisive way the foreign policy course of Ukraine through ‘the integration of a fuse’ [that could be lit at any time] – the Donbas.”

Solovey’s argument is compelling but not everyone in Ukraine or elsewhere is going to accept it without a struggle. A new poll of Ukrainians finds only 18 percent of them support the Steinmeier formula, while 23 percent are opposed, and the rest – 59 percent – haven’t yet taken a position.

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Edited by: A. N.

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