Many commentators are speculating that Moscow wants to provoke “a third Maidan” in order to return Ukraine to the Russian fold, but in fact, Leonid Radzikhovsky says, Moscow is constrained from going too far in that direction because it “at one and the same time” fears and welcomes and fears such a popular movement.
That is because, he suggests, Vladimir Putin is happy to use popular movements to press for Moscow’s goals but is frightened by the possibility that any such mobilization will quickly create an unpredictable and uncontrolled situation or have a demonstration effect in Russia itself.
Moscow’s position about further unrest in Ukraine is ambiguous.[quote style=”boxed”]“On the one hand, officials are pleased: everything that works against the Ukrainian authorities is good. But on the other hand, they aren’t completely pleased” because any popular movement, especially next door to Russia and in the year of Duma elections and an economic crisis is potentially a horror.[/quote]
The attitude of the Kremlin now, the Russian journalist continues, is thus “approximately like that of the government of Nicholas I who with horror viewed the 1848 revolutions in Europe.” But the horror now is greater because the events are much closer to home.
The position the Kremlin wants to maintain as far as propaganda is concerned is thus “no sympathy for the Ukrainian authorities” but also not much for its opponents because Moscow wants to stress that “however horrible things are in Ukraine, it would be horrible to change the powers. Any powers, even such a ‘demonic’ and ‘American-spy’ power as there is now” in Kyiv.
That suggests, Radzikhovsky says, that Moscow won’t step up military actions in the Donbas to support such risings. Also arguing for at least temporary restraint is that Putin is tied down in Syria, although he may find his way free to launch new attacks in Ukraine as a result of the Kerry-Lavrov ceasefire accord.
And perhaps the most important argument against a new intervention is that the Russian people are tired of the war and would find it difficult to accept the need to spend more bodies and treasure on a conflict that they have already given so much to. In short, “Putin does not have any sensible plans regarding Ukraine now.”