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Kremlin demand for role in Ukraine “unheard of”

Georgi Kunadze
Kremlin demand for role in Ukraine “unheard of”
Article by: Paul Goble
Paul Goble:

Moscow’s demands for a voice in the definition of the policies of the Ukrainian state are “something unheard of in the contemporary world,” Georgy Kunadze, who served as deputy foreign minister of the Russian Federation at the beginning of the Yeltsin period, says.

“It is impossible to satisfy them,” he continues in the course of a wide-ranging interview posted on yesterday. And when they are not satisfied, “when they are rejected,” everyone knows what that will mean.

Making such demands in fact is simply the latest indication that the Kremlin’s policy toward Ukraine reflects not careful calculation but rather is “improvised,” Kunadze says. As Putin himself has acknowledged, he didn’t originally intend to annex Crimea but when that became possible, he moved ahead anyway.

One can only hope, the former Russian diplomat says, that this action will not be repeated in an attempt to gain a land corridor to Crimea or to go even further to reach Transdniestria.

As to Ukraine’s future, Kunadze continues, it will be able to retain its formal status as an independent state much as Moldova has.  But at the same time, it has “a not bad future” ahead of it. It will never be a police or fascist state, and now as a result of the conflict Russia unleashed, Ukraine “will be a much more firmly consolidated state” because “for the first time after acquiring independence, tens of millions of Ukrainians have recognized themselves as a nation.”

Kunadze says he does not know whether Crimea will be returned to Ukraine. Some say this is impossible, but they would also have said a few months ago that the annexation of Crimea by Russia was impossible. Thus, at some point, “the return of Crimea is inevitable,” although that will take place only after there are serious changes in Russia itself.

The real question, he continues, is “whether the current Russian authorities will make peace with the very fact of the existence of an independent democratic Ukraine.” Given the links between them, that is far from certain as the recent actions of the Kremlin indicate, and it could become even more difficult for Russia to tolerate in the future.

‘If a country as similar to us as Ukraine is will be able earlier than we to overcome the post-Soviet syndrome and to become a successful contemporary state, its example could prove infectious for Russia. In this case, the victory of Ukraine [would be] a stimulus for changes in Russia,” Kunadze says.

The former diplomat says he hopes very much that Moscow will not try to apply its Ukrainian approach in Kazakhstan or elsewhere. Trying to do so, he suggests, would be “a catastrophe.”  But given the direction Putin has moved first in Georgia and now in Ukraine, there is reason to fear that he will not stop.

What Putin has done and is doing is against Russian interests, Kunadze says. He mentions that during perestroika, Georgy Arbatov of the Institute for the Study of the United States and Canada liked to say that Moscow was planning to do the very worst thing it could to the Americans – “deprive [them] of an enemy.”

Gorbachev and Yeltsin did a great deal to do just that.  As a result of the American “loss” of its main opponent, Russians “initiated the process of the decentralization of international relations and political globalization.”  But now Moscow is moving in exactly the opposite direction, giving the US and the West “their historic main enemy.”

And what that means, Kunadze says, is that Russia by its own actions has “initiated the process of what is in essence the anti-Russian consolidation of the West. The consequences of this process can be catastrophic for our foreign policy and with a small lag for our domestic ones.”

Russia simply doesn’t have the resources to compete, Kunadze says, except in a single area – nuclear weapons – and such weapons are “an instrument not of policy but only and uniquely of constraint.” They are “our final suicidal trump card which guarantees that no one will try to seize Moscow.”

Moreover, he continues, Russia has lost the “soft force” war by its actions. It cannot attract anyone to its banner but instead pushes people away. In the end, Russia “won’t be able to win in Ukraine. This issue instead is whether it will be able to lose in a worthy fashion” and thus escape the disastrous situation its own policies have created.


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