Staunton, September 1 – Even if Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko agrees to federalize Ukraine as a result of Russian military action and Western and especially German political pressure, such an agreement will not end the Ukraine crisis. Instead, Andrey Piontkovsky argues, it almost certainly will intensify.
On the one hand, the Russian analyst says, Moscow will have every reason to continue to push harder in order to ensure that Kiev will not be able to join the West, especially since the West has not imposed any serious penalties on Russia for its actions in Ukraine.
And on the other, while Poroshenko may be forced to sign, such a step “would generate serious opposition in Ukraine and provoke what is often called the third Maidan,” a development that would “intensify the destabilization of Ukraine” and quite possibly help Putin to achieve his goals of subordinating that country to Moscow.
Those in the West who see federalization as a panacea, as a way out of the crisis, are misleading themselves, Piontkovsky says. Moreover, although not mentioned in this interview, such people are allowing themselves to be deceived by the Kremlin leader in an even more fundamental way.
As some analysts have already noted, Putin has secured Western acquiescence if not recognition of his Anschluss of Crimea by sparking violence in and then invading other parts of Ukraine. Indeed, some have implicitly argued that accepting Russia’s seizure of Crimea may be the price to be paid for ending Moscow’s invasion of southeastern Ukraine.
But such arguments miss the point: Putin takes two illegal steps and then appears to pull back from the second, thus allowing his propagandists and those in the West who accept their arguments to view him as a moderate with whom they need to do business. And then, having achieved that, he takes another two illegal steps, with apparent plans to do the same.
In Soviet times, people talked about Moscow’s “salami tactics,” the process by which the USSR took parts of other countries bit by bit. Putin has updated this in ways that so far at least have allowed him to escape responsibility and even involve Western governments in ratifying some of his actions as the price of getting him to pull back elsewhere.