Russian political analyst Andrey Piontkovsky in EspresoTV program Studio West with Antin Borkovskyi, September 7, 2019 (Photo: screen capture)

Russian political analyst Andrey Piontkovsky in EspresoTV program Studio West with Antin Borkovskyi, September 7, 2019 (Photo: screen capture) 

International, Opinion, Russian Aggression

Article by: Antin Borkovskyi
Translated by: A. N.
In the September 7, 2019 interview on EspresoTV‘s program Studio West with Antin Borkovskyi, Russian political scientist Andrey Piontkovsky (Washington, DC) discusses Russian strategies for expanding the territory of “LNR/DNR” in Ukraine and the selfish political game of the West.

Q: Perhaps one of the most significant international events of the autumn was the statement of the French President Macron, who repeated the vile mantra about Europe from Lisbon to Vladivostok. In fact, we understand that we are talking about Russia from Vladivostok to Lisbon. And we also understand that the Ukrainian question in this matter is one of the central ones, because, perhaps, Ukraine will be used by certain circles in the West as a bargaining chip and there is a feeling that this process is already in full swing.

A: Yes, all these hypocritical discussions about Europe from Lisbon to Vladivostok mask a completely different process, which is in full swing – building [Putin’s] Asia from Vladivostok to Kaliningrad, including all of Ukraine. Macron gives Putin sanction to do this. But I would not limit it only to Macron. Ukraine has recently, literally before our eyes, suffered a very serious foreign policy defeat, the positions of its allies are radically changing. [German Chancellor Angela] Merkel is silent. “Grandma” is already retiring. Macron took the initiative to voice the position of Europe with the eternal French vanity, a kind of “grandeur français“, playing on the greatness of France, which plays a large role in world affairs. But the American position has also changed. How has it changed? It was always clear that [US President Donald] Trump is an extremely desirable person for Putin, but he is practically removed from the Ukrainian agenda by the American establishment. Ukraine was very firmly supported by the whole Congress, the position was voiced by a great friend of Ukraine [Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations Kurt] Volker, but Trump has recently revived. He passed the responsibility to [now ex-National Security Advisor John] Bolton, who was here in Kyiv, and who even more energetically than Macron advocates the return of Putin to the G8. This collapse of Western policy is the result of the irresponsible demagogy of the collective Zelenskyy during his election campaign and after coming to power, the rhetoric about his fight against the so-called “party of war.” After all, the entire political strategy of his election campaign was based on the fact that “there is a wonderful peace party that is fighting the ruling party of war, which has ruled [Ukraine] for five years and is to blame for everything.” And what position are the Western allies of Ukraine put into with this rhetoric? Its target was not [Ukrainian ex-President Petro] Poroshenko’s personality, but the Ukrainian state. If the Ukrainian state pursued a policy of war for five years, and it seems to be to blamed for this “conflict,” then, correspondingly, the Western allies who supported Ukraine were accomplices to this “crime.” The West will never be more pro-Ukrainian than the Ukrainian leadership itself.Piontkovsky: Ukraine is being prepared for disguised surrender to Russia ~~

Q: Where, in your opinion, will the boundaries of compromise be established, where will they surrender us, and in which sectors?

A: Mutual understanding between Russia’s Western partners on the contours of their next meeting in the Normandy format has been practically achieved, if not fixed on paper. It is an agreement with Putin’s interpretation of the Minsk Agreements. That is, we are talking about the establishing of a special status for [the Russia-occupied part of] the Donbas and the pushing of this cancerous tumor into Ukraine, without changing anything in the “LNR/DNR,” keeping the same bandits in charge of it, and while maintaining its complete control by the Russian military and Russian special services. This “special status” is to legitimize the [occupied] territory from the point of view of Ukrainian legislation and thereby open the way to the dismemberment of Ukraine. At the same time, there will be demands for this special status for the territory to be formally enshrined in the Ukrainian Constitution. The “damned party of war” successfully resisted such demands through all prior years. We remember that the hardest time was in 2015-2016, when [German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter] Steinmeier came to Kyiv and, practically at a meeting of the Rada, demanded the amendments to the Ukrainian Constitution. Somehow the Ukrainian state withstood it back then. Now [Russia and its Western partners’] task for the next meeting is to document this serious surrender, that is to turn Ukraine into a state without state borders. While the [occupied Donbas] territory is to “return” to Ukraine, its size can be increased arbitrarily. For example, it is obvious that, as its next step, [Russia’s] demand will be to expand this “LNR/DNR” with the special status to the formal borders of the Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts. These plans have been betrayed by Putin’s decree about Russian passports which are to be issued throughout the entire territory of these oblasts. This is the surrender of Ukraine.

Q: I am afraid that the recent discussions and promises of the adoption of the law on the referendum and on the so-called direct democracy are evidence in favor of the scenario you described. We know how simple it is to manipulate ordinary people with the help of various television propagandists and the huge television and Internet system of brainwashing.

A: In modern society, direct democracy translates into power of oligarchs who own TV media. What they broadcast from the screens becomes public opinion. During the election campaign, we watched [in Ukrainian TV media] this essentially pro-Russian Kremlin discourse: “On both sides are Ukrainians. This is an internal Ukrainian conflict. We should lend [the Russians] a hand of friendship.” It was broadcast by almost all of the TV channels, some of which belong to [openly pro-Putin Ukrainian oligarch Viktor] Medvedchuk, and the other part, to [Ukrainian oligarch Ihor] Kolomoyskyi, who decided that the capitulation to Moscow is in his financial interests.

Q: On the other hand, we see a very serious attack on Ukrainian parliamentarism. The point is that the Verkhovna Rada became virtually in the pocket of President Zelenskyy, and the deputies were forced to vote to strip themselves of their parliamentary immunity.

A: As you see, both the foreign and domestic political projects are coordinated, they pursue the same result – the transformation of Ukraine into Malorossiya, into a part of “one people” [with Russia and Belarus], something that Putin again mentioned today in the presence of Medvedchuk, who was specially brought to Vladivostok for this. The flashpoint of this activity will be, firstly, this new Normandy-format meeting. Can you mentally picture its participants and which of them will oppose President Zelenskyy? Macron, who is already dancing hand in hand with Putin. Retiring Merkel, who is indifferent to everything. Aggressive Putin. And even [the head of the Ukrainian Presidential Administration Andrii] Bohdan, who constantly whispers in Zelenskyy’s ear. The picture is extremely unpleasant. It is unfolding precisely along the patterns we spoke of. I believe in the human factor of two people: Putin and Zelenskyy. Putin, in his euphoria and sense of impunity, might go so far in his demands so they would simply cause an explosion of all Ukrainian public thought and Zelenskyy will not be able to agree to them. And finally, the factor of Zelenskyy himself. When a person leads a country, even if he was a puppet of certain groups, his psychology somehow changes. Moreover, Zelenskyy is not a poor achiever in his personal life and career. He must have some kind of human dignity. So I hope for two factors: Putin’s exorbitant demands and the rebellion of the physical Zelenskyy against the collective Zelenskyy. This can prevent the well-planned and detailed operation to force Ukraine into surrender.

Q: Can Russian domestic events weaken Putin’s power? Mass protests in connection with Putin’s “lawlessness” took place in Moscow and many large Russian cities and we got the impression that, indeed, perhaps the government has staggered there and political games began to replay behind the scenes under the political Kremlin carpet.

A: [In Russia] there is the so-called “mobilization party,” as it was defined by a well-known visitor to the Kremlin peaks, [Russian propagandist Aleksey] Venediktov. For a long time he was a very valuable observer, I called him “our mole at the top,” and now he has practically taken the side of one of the Kremlin towers – the so-called “moderates” who are fighting this “mobilization party,” but they are “moderate” only in Kremlin context. By the way, all this strategy of forcing the surrender of Ukraine by leveraging the Minsk agreements and [Ukrainian] constitutional amendments is authored by this particular “party of the moderates.” Nevertheless, any struggle inside shakes up the system and the problems of the Putin regime are growing, and mass discontent is growing, and the struggle is increasingly breaking out from under the Kremlin carpet. All the more tragic — and this is not the first time I say this — for Ukraine, which has been opposing aggression for five years, to capitulate precisely on the verge of the collapse of the Russian Empire. This is an incredibly tragic mistake.

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Translated by: A. N.

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