Putin’s misreading of situation behind hardening of West’s position on Ukraine, Portnikov says

A fork in the road in the Russia-occupied territory of Ukraine (Image: Reuters)

A fork in the road in the Russia-occupied territory of Ukraine (Image: Reuters) 

International, More, War in the Donbas

Edited by: A. N.

The toughening of the West’s position on Ukraine, very much in evidence at the G7 meeting, reflects the fact that Vladimir Putin has fundamentally misread the situation and not taken advantage of the face-saving measures which the West had been offering him, according to Vitaly Portnikov.

Vitaly Portnikov, Ukrainian political analyst and writer

Vitaly Portnikov, Ukrainian political analyst and writer

The Kremlin leader “sincerely believed that the fact that Merkel and Hollande came to him and that negotiations in Minsk followed were connected with the West’s fear of further destabilization.” But in fact, the Ukrainian commentator says, “Merkel like all other Western leaders was concerned above all with the need to give Putin the chance to save face.”

Minsk was “a magnificent opportunity” for that, he continues. The “’peoples republics’” could continue to function but with Putin “looking not like a traitor but a peacekeeper and defender of the interests of ‘the Russian world’… And talks about Crimea in such a paradigm could continue forever.”

Everyone “must understand that there is no good outcome for Putin here, although in the case of the second, [Ukrainians] may pay for a new outburst of aggression with the lives of [Ukrainian] soldiers and civilians, with destruction, and with economic losses.”

“But all this was the case only if you viewed the situation realistically,” Portnikov says. But “if on the other hand, you are Putin, then you are certain that the West is “tired’ of Ukraine… and you are the one giving the West the opportunity to save face” by allowing talks to happen even as you solidify your control over a neighboring country.

In his vision, “Ukraine of course will remain independent, but it must feed the territories you control and adopt a constitution which will preserve for the heads of these ‘peoples’ republics’ and that means for you, a veto. Thus, you have not moved an iota from the position which you took on the day when you decided that the place of Yanukovych and Crimea is inside Russia.” And if you are Putin, Portnikov says, “you think this is a compromise.”

“But the West doesn’t think so, he continues, and it is gradually and quietly coming to the conclusion that “Putin doesn’t need to save face.” In that situation, “the only thing that the West can demand is the fulfillment to the letter of the Minsk agreements, these agreements and not what [Putin] thinks up instead of them.”

  • Putin’s misreading of situation behind hardening of West’s position on Ukraine, Portnikov says ~~
    The grave of a Russian special operations soldier who died fighting in Ukraine (Image: RBC.ua)
  • The Russian Federation have been using ethnically non-Russian troops for its aggression in Ukraine. Russian Federation servicemen from Chechnia arriving to fight in the Donbas in 2014 (Image: AFP)
    The Russian Federation have been using ethnically non-Russian troops for its aggression in Ukraine. Russian Federation servicemen from Chechnia arriving to fight in the Donbas in 2014 (Image: AFP)
  • A Russian TOS-1 "Buratino" heavy flamethrower system destroyed by the Ukrainian troops during the defense of the Donetsk airport in April 2015. (Image: Ukraine MoD)
    A Russian TOS-1 "Buratino" heavy flamethrower system destroyed by the Ukrainian troops during the defense of the Donetsk airport in April 2015. (Image: Ukraine MoD)
  • Putin’s misreading of situation behind hardening of West’s position on Ukraine, Portnikov says ~~
    Russian special operations soldier with a "Vintorez" silenced sniper rifle.
  • A wounded resident of the Ukrainian town of Maryinka showing her house destroyed as a result of the tank attack and bombardment by Russian heavy artillery and multiple launch missile systems in violation of Minsk-2 Accords, June 2015 (Image: 112.ua)
    A wounded resident of the Ukrainian town of Maryinka showing her house destroyed as a result of the tank attack and bombardment by Russian heavy artillery and multiple launch missile systems in violation of Minsk-2 Accords, June 2015 (Image: 112.ua)
  • A flag at the positions of Ukrainian troops after the bombardment by heavy Russian artillery and multiple missile launchers in the town of Maryinka. June 3, 2015. (Image: Reuters)
    A flag at the positions of Ukrainian troops after the bombardment by heavy Russian artillery and multiple missile launchers near the town of Maryinka. June 3, 2015. (Image: Reuters)
  • Putin’s misreading of situation behind hardening of West’s position on Ukraine, Portnikov says ~~
    Weapons, ammunition, and explosives seized from the members of the arrested terrorist and spy group operating in Kharkiv, which was recruited and controlled by Russian military intelligence. (Image: SBU)
  • Some of the weapons, ammunition, and explosives seized from the members of the arrested terrorist and spy group operating in Kharkiv, which was recruited and controlled by Russian military intelligence. (Image: SBU)
    Some of the weapons, ammunition, and explosives seized from the members of the arrested terrorist and spy group operating in Kharkiv, which was recruited and controlled by Russian military intelligence. (Image: SBU)
  • One of the houses in the destroyed Ukrainian town of Debaltseve, attacked and occupied by the Russian regular troops and mercenaries already after the signing of the Minsk-2 Accords by Russia (Image: vlada.io)
    A house in Debaltseve
  • Unmarked Russian tanks are seen on a freight train shortly after its arrival at a railway station in the Russian southern town of Matveev Kurgan, near the Russian-Ukrainian border in Rostov region, Russia, May 26, 2015. Picture taken with a mobile phone. REUTERS/Maria Tsvetkova
    Unmarked Russian tanks are seen on a freight train shortly after its arrival at a railway station in the Russian southern town of Matveev Kurgan
  • Russian soldiers line up to kiss an “icon” of Putin, while a Russian Orthodox priest of the Moscow Patriarchate blesses them. (Image: Social media)
    Russian soldiers line up to kiss an “icon” of Putin, while a Russian Orthodox priest of the Moscow Patriarchate blesses them. (Image: Social media)
  • A convoy of Russian subsonic anti-ship missile systems Bal-E ('Ball', SSC-6 'Sennight', GRAU 3K60) designed to attack vessels up to 5000 tonnes was observed in Crimea on May 29, 2015 (Source: LiveUAmap.com)
    A convoy of Russian subsonic anti-ship missile systems Bal-E ('Ball', SSC-6 'Sennight', GRAU 3K60) designed to attack vessels up to 5000 tonnes was observed in Crimea on May 29, 2015 (Source: LiveUAmap.com)
  • The Victory Day sign in the city of Kaluga, Russia displays historical battles with participation of Russian and Soviet armies, but it also includes the Battle of Debaltseve in Ukraine, February 2015 (Image: KP-Kaluga, May 2015)
    The Victory Day sign in the city of Kaluga, Russia displays historical battles with participation of Russian and Soviet armies, but it also includes the Battle of Debaltseve in Ukraine, February 2015 (Image: KP-Kaluga, May 2015)
  • The sign in Kaluga, Russia says "Crimea Today - Rome Tomorrow! Happy Victory Day of May 9!" (Image: KP-Kaluga, May 2015)
    The sign in Kaluga, Russia says "Crimea Today - Rome Tomorrow! Happy Victory Day of May 9!" (Image: KP-Kaluga, May 2015)
  • The Bell of Chersonesos in Sevastopol, Crimea, Ukraine with a sign reading "There was, is, and only be Kyivan Rus" in Ukrainian. The picture was taken in early 2015 while the city is still under the Russian occupation (Image credit: Anonymous author)
    The Bell of Chersonesos in Sevastopol, Crimea, Ukraine with a sign reading "There was, is, and only be Kyivan Rus" in Ukrainian. The picture was taken in early 2015 while the city is still under the Russian occupation (Image credit: Anonymous author)
  • Putin's approval polls before and after the start of Russia's war against Ukraine in February 2014. (Source: "Putin. War" Report, published May-2015 by OpenRussia.org)
    Putin's approval polls before and after the start of Russia's war against Ukraine in February 2014. (Source: "Putin. War" Report, published May-2015 by OpenRussia.org)
  • Devastation caused by the Russian aggression in Donbas, Ukraine (Image: Tim Judah | NYRblog)
    Devastation caused by the Russian aggression in Donbas, Ukraine (Image: Tim Judah | NYRblog)
  • Russian mercenary at the devasted Donetsk airport in Donbas, Ukraine (Image: LB.ua)
    Russian mercenary at the devasted Donetsk airport in Donbas, Ukraine (Image: LB.ua)
  • Russian occupation soldier at the devastated Donetsk airport in Donbas, Ukraine (Image: LB.ua)
    Russian occupation soldier at the devastated Donetsk airport in Donbas, Ukraine (Image: LB.ua)
  • Devastation at Donetsk airport after the military aggression in the Donbas, Ukraine (Image: LB.ua)
    Devastation at Donetsk airport after the military aggression in the Donbas, Ukraine (Image: LB.ua)
  • One of the groups of Russian special forces and mercenaries that started the Russian invasion in Donbas, Ukraine
    One of the groups of Russian special forces and mercenaries that started the Russian invasion in Donbas, Ukraine
  • Devastation caused by the Russian aggression in Donbas, Ukraine (Image: Tim Judah | NYRblog)
    Devastation caused by the Russian aggression in Donbas, Ukraine (Image: Tim Judah | NYRblog)

That is, the West demands that Putin pull his forces out of the Donbas, agree to honest elections with OSCE observers, and “return to Ukraine control over the borders.” In short, Putin must “do everything which [he] from the start did not intend to do.” Putin by his custom thought he had “deceived everyone.” But in the event, he deceived only himself.

Had Putin been willing to negotiate and fulfill the Minsk agreements, the hardening of the West’s position might not have happened, Portnikov suggests. But he wasn’t, and now “we are again at a fork in the road which will lead us either to peacemaking… or toward a new escalation, attempts at seizing new territories, the worsening of Russia’s relations with the West, and a new packet of sanctions much harsher than the previous ones.”

Everyone “must understand that there is no good outcome for Putin here, although in the case of the second, [Ukrainians] may pay for a new outburst of aggression with the lives of [Ukrainian] soldiers and civilians, with destruction, and with economic losses,” the Ukrainian analyst says.

It cannot be excluded that “Putin will not want to choose and will try to remain at the fork in the road as long as possible,” thus retaining his freedom of action and hoping that something will turn up. But he can’t do so for as long as he may think: he would have to continue to support the “DNR” and “LNR” and the Russian economy is not up to that at present.


More on the topic:

Ex-terrorist leader: Only an idiot will deny that “republics” in Donbas are a Kremlin creation

About 60% of enemy fighters in Donbas are former or current servicemen of the Russian Federation

Russia has betrayed not just Ukraine, but the entire civilized world, Portnikov says

Ukraine’s Security Service arrested terrorist group controlled by Russian military intelligence (PHOTOS)

Putin deciding on next state of Donbas war — Portnikov

Edited by: A. N.
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