Staunton, December 16 – Mikhail Budaragin, the editor of the pro-Kremlin United Russia Party’s official website, says that Moscow’s relations with the West “will not last forever” and that Moscow can look forward to a return to normal as long as it remains committed to capitalism and does shift to another “economic model.”
Budaragin’s comment is intriguing in at least two respects. On the one hand, it suggests that there is a real debate going on at the highest levels in Moscow about whether Russia should break with the capitalist model it has adopted and that he feels compelled to weigh in on the side of those who do not want to see any retreat from that model.
And on the other, his words suggest that the Russian leadership around Vladimir Putin continues to analyze the world in economic rather than political terms, assuming that it will be the interests of the market that will drive the decisions of Western governments rather than the other way round – even though the Kremlin itself has acted in exactly the opposite way.
As long as Russia remains “part of the global market” and avoids “isolationism,” there will be no final break between Moscow and the West, however much suffering sanctions are imposing now on both sides of the line, Budaragin says. Ultimately, the power of the market will overwhelm the politicians.
For that to happen soon, he says, the West needs to make only “one step” and recognize that Crimea belongs to Russia and will always be part of it. Russia “will never give it up” whatever Ukraine or the West says.
“Russia is a sovereign state” and thus can make that choice. Ukraine in contrast, Budaragin says, is “a semi-colony” where unknown foreigners can become ministers. Moreover, the West is anything but united about the Crimean case as is shown by the statements of Marine Le Pen, the head of the French National Front.
Those backing Ukraine on this issue, the Russian commentator insists, are doing so not because they care about Ukraine but because they see Ukraine as “an anti-Russian” project they can exploit to promote their own interests. Thus, their support is both shallow and likely to be short-lived.
Moreover, Budaragin says, Russia has four weighty arguments on its side. First, “Ukraine as such is a product of the disintegration of the USSR and the borders of the post-Soviet (and more broadly the world after the disintegration of the Warsaw Pact) have changed in quite significant ways.” Crimea is part of a pattern, not the exception many say.
Second, he insists, “Ukraine has lost the chance to be restored to unity having unleashed a war in the southeast.” By fighting there and in Budaragin’s view with its own people, Kyiv has provided “the best argument for Crimea to belong to Russia.”
Third, in Crimea, no one except for a few Crimean Tatars, is talking about flight or the pursuit of independence, something would expect on the basis of what happened in Abkhazia and South Osetia. Even Mustafa Cemilev, the leader of the Crimean Tatars, has promises that he won’t fight for independence now.
And fourth, Russia has Israel as an ally on this point. Since the Six Day War in 1967, Israel has ignored the UN call for the return of the Golan Heights. It “considers the Golan Heights its own, Syria considers them its own, but de facto they belong it would appear to the Jews and not to the Syrians.”
Vladimir Putin’s words “about the sacred nature of Crimea for Russia” and his comparison of that peninsula to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount represent “a very true example of the quiet appeal to the obvious nature of the fait accompli.” As Dmitry Medvedev put it, the decision about Crimea has been taken “and we consider this issue closed.”
According to Budaragin, the world will eventually come to terms with this new reality and back off from its current hostility to Moscow as long as Moscow doesn’t do something with its economic system that cuts Russia off from the markets and their power in the West.