Staunton, December 19 – While some in Moscow and the West hope for a restoration of an east-west partnership, Vladimir Putin made clear in his press conference December 18 that he now views the West as an enemy rather than a partner, a vision that does not preclude specific agreements but makes any broader understanding impossible, according to Aleksey Makarkin.
Putin’s press conference showed, the deputy director of the Moscow Center for Political Technologies says, that the Kremlin leader now has a very different vision of the international environment than he had earlier and that this change will affect all of his contacts with Western leaders however much they believe that he will change back.
Specifically, Makarkin says in a comment in Yezhednevny Zhurnal, Putin “does not see any prospects for ‘partnership’ with the West. Certain agreements, compromises and telephone negotiations are possible, but no serious mutual interaction. He considers that the West is a threat.”
Moreover, the Moscow analyst continues, in Putin’s mental map, “there is America which wants to change the Russian regime and humiliate the country, and there is Europe which is not sovereign and is subordinating itself to Washington.”
“Such a picture of the world,” Markarkin points out, “does not exclude the possibility of reaching an agreement, for example, on the East of Ukraine, but it will be an agreement with an enemy as was the case in Soviet times,” not an accord with those Putin sees as his partners however much Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and others employ that term.
At the same time, he continues, Putin’s view does not represent the start of a new cold war “in a pure form” because it is based on national hostility rather than on the conflict of two “real ideologies,” however much some on the extremes of the Russian political spectrum would like to believe otherwise.
What does this mean regarding Ukraine? According to Makarkin, that is still not clear, and he suggests that it will be the subject of intense negotiations. “The West considers that Russia must make concessions. But Putin thinks historically, and he has the sense that we have already made a mass of them: we’ve left Poland, Hungary and ‘our’ Baltics.” Now, the West wants Russia to leave Ukraine as well.
For Putin, that is unthinkable. Therefore, he will see some kind of joint supervision of Ukraine under which the eastern portion of Ukraine will “remain Ukrainian only in a nominal sense.” That is suggested by the fact that “Putin uses not so much the term ‘a united Ukraine’ as the term ‘a common political space.’”
Under that term, all kinds of things are possible: a federation or “even a confederation. But one thing is very clear: Putin is not going to be satisfied as some think to pull out of eastern Ukraine in exchange for recognition of the Russian annexation of Crimea. “He is not prepared to lose influence in Kharkiv, Donetsk and Lugansk,” Makarkin says.
Putin undoubtedly understands, the Moscow analyst adds, that he cannot hope to sweep the board in Ukraine and subsume all of it under Russian control as he hoped to do when Viktor Yanukovych was in office. But at the very least, he “would like to receive a firm right of veto over the possible entrance of Ukraine into NATO.”