Staunton, June 9 – Russian actions in Crimea and the Donbas “have weakened Russian arguments about the change of power in Kyiv” at the time of the Maidan and thus cost Moscow support in European and other Western capitals, according to a lead article in Nezavisimaya Gazeta today.
In his interview with Corriere della Sera, Vladimir Putin repeated his longstanding views about the Maidan and the subsequent change of power in Ukraine, arguing that the change in power in Kyiv was unconstitutional and that the West should not be supporting those who came to power as a result.
Moreover, in the same interview, Putin suggested that the reason the Maidan happened was because then incumbent president Viktor Yanukovich did not immediately sign an agreement with the European Union. “But the new authorities also put off its signing. So why should the former have been overthrown if they behaved reasonably?” in Putin’s view.
Many would dispute Putin’s version of events and suggest that Yanukovich “delegitimized himself” as a result of a whole range of actions. But Putin’s argument “is not without an internal logic” and might have been accepted by Europe as significant “if it were not for two ‘buts’ – Crimea and the Donbass.”
Most of the European political establishment and society, the Moscow paper’s editors say, “consider that Russia seized and continues to occupy the territory of a sovereign state,” something that for them is “completely unacceptable.” And consequently, they are not interested in what Putin has to say about the Maidan even while they are convinced that Kyiv’s effort to join the West and “defend itself from an aggressive neighbor” is completely reasonable.
“Putin cannot present the annexation of Crimea in a way that the Europeans will consider it as well-based,” the paper says. The Kosovo argument “doesn’t work,” given that Milosevich was, in the eyes of the Europeans, carrying out a genocide against the Albanians, something for which there was no analogy in Ukraine.
Nor does his argument that Crimea became part of Russia as the result of an expression of the popular will, the editors continue. Europeans believe that for such a referendum to be valid, it has to be procedurally correct, correspond to Constitutional norms, and involve more time for free debate about its outcome.
Consequently, “if Russia criticizes the change in power in Kyiv as procedural arbitrariness, then does this mean that [the world] must welcome such arbitrary actions in Crimea? How do new mistakes with far-reaching consequences assist in the correction of previous mistakes?”
At the same time, the paper points out, “few in Europe believe that Russia is not providing active support to the militants in the Donbass, not supplying them with arms, not consulting with them, and not sending into the region its own soldiers.” Given that, few Europeans are willing to listen to Putin’s argument about anything else.
And that includes Putin’s arguments about Eurasian integration. He insists it is like European integration and thus is upset that Europeans do not support it. After all, why should they have anything against Moscow when Russia is only doing what they are? But for Europeans, Putin’s analogy in this regard is not convincing either.
“The European Union is an historically unprecedented project,” the Moscow paper says. “But the integration processes which have Moscow as their center recall to Western Europe the Soviet Union which for decades was conceived as an opponent. Any movement toward the reintegration of the post-Soviet space generates among Europeans distrust and fear.”
Moreover, the paper continues, “Russia is not doing anything to dispel this fear. On the contrary, to take pride in the Soviet past and ‘the times when they feared us’ are considered correct in the Russian Federation.”
European integration is “super-national” and based on “blurring” the borders of member states, Nezavisimaya Gazeta says. “If Russia asserts that its project is analogous, then why does its ruling elite talk so often about some kind of Russian world? And why has it annexed Crimea if integration processes are objective and Ukraine has nowhere to escape from them?”