Posted 16 февраля 2022, 07:19
Published 16 февраля 2022, 07:19
Modified 24 декабря 2022, 22:38
Updated 24 декабря 2022, 22:38
Novye Izvestia spoke with historian Alexei Makarkin about the Minsk agreements, Donbass, Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin. And the very first question was about war and peace.
- I don't think there will be a war. Confrontation, ambiguity and tension are fraught with the possibility of sliding into a military option. But this is the least likely scenario. This is an option in which the situation gets out of control. This whole crisis is developing in a controlled mode, only the parties are raising the stakes. In fact, the main problem, in my opinion, is the following. What happened?
Russia's December demands were based on the fact that the West would most likely reject two main points, but would put heavy pressure on Ukraine over the Minsk agreements. Accordingly, if we take the question of the third requirement, that is, the requirement to regulate military activities, one could get a format that could suit Russia at the moment. It was understood that Russia made it clear that the Minsk agreements continue to be important for it.
Two meetings of political advisers took place. In Paris and Berlin. The first meeting, as far as I understand, gave Russia some hope, and the second meeting greatly disappointed Russia. These were many hours of closed discussions, not just formal meetings. It was discussed there that neither France, nor Germany, nor America, which directly participates in these meetings, since it is not part of the Normandy format, but has the ability to put pressure on Ukraine, is not going to put pressure on Ukraine. That is, they can offer it to comply with the Minsk agreements, but without pressure.
- Why is the West not putting pressure on Ukraine, and why is Ukraine in no hurry to fulfill the agreements?
- If there is no pressure, then Ukraine continues its policy, because the implementation of the Minsk agreements by any Ukrainian government is a very strong internal political risk. These agreements are highly unpopular. In addition, there is one more point: if today Zelensky says that he is taking political responsibility and implementing the Minsk agreements, no one will give him a guarantee that tomorrow the question will not arise: now let's talk about NATO. And then the question of the government may arise, the requirement that persons from Donetsk and Lugansk be represented in it for greater inclusiveness.
Thus, even if we abstract from the position of Ukraine, which clearly proceeds from the fact that the Minsk agreements are a big risk for them, the West is not really going to put pressure on Ukraine at the moment.
In addition, if we take the second concern of Russia - NATO's military activities in new countries, then it is defiantly intensifying. New troops are being transferred. There are not very many of them yet, these are rather symbolic steps that show that no one is going to concede on this point. On the contrary, the process is reversed. Was such an option considered?
There is one more thing: there was a very tough propaganda war that accompanied the Cold War. If we are talking about the administration of Barack Obama, and, apparently, the perception of the Biden administration in Russia is connected with the experience of communicating with the Obama administration, then the Obama administration proceeded from the fact that Russia cannot be driven into a corner, so it is necessary to be quite careful in the information space. At least not organized campaigns. What the media say is up to them, but there were no organized campaigns. The campaign is now underway.
- What could Russia do, besides pulling troops to the border with Ukraine?
- Russia would be satisfied with a reaction that would say that it is engaged in ensuring its own security, that it is threatened by the expansion of NATO to the East. Under this cause, you can try to mobilize those people in the West who are Euroskeptics. Today the situation is such that in Finland, when the chairman of the committee on international affairs of the parliament, representing the True Finns party, these are just Eurosceptics, in a public statement he sided with the Russian position, he had to immediately resign. He was condemned by his own party. Here the exact opposite happened. Therefore, now it has happened that the two sides are going against each other, and it is not easy to find some acceptable option.
Macron came, after whose visit to Moscow there were leaks that during the negotiations the “Finlandization” of Ukraine could be discussed in some form, which means a neutral status. “Finlandization” is elements of dependence on Russia. If we talk about the precedent, then Finland in the era of "Finlandization" could not join the European Economic Community, because the USSR was against it.
As soon as a leak appeared that this term itself was somehow mentioned, a wave immediately rose and the French side explained that it was not at all a supporter of “Finlandization” and the president was not a supporter of such an approach.
Now any serious concessions to Russia are perceived as "appeasement". For Europe, it is very bad, this is a memory of Munich in 1938. The Munich allusions were directly updated by British Defense Minister Ben Wallis, then his cabinet colleagues had to soften the situation so as not to compare Russia and Nazi Germany, so that there would be no direct analogy. Therefore, it is very difficult to agree on something.
Macron will take over the baton Scholz, who is on a tour to Kiev and Moscow. But the chances are not very good.
- What is a "military-technical solution" when Russia says that if its requirements are not met, it can take military-technical solutions?
- If we talk about the countries of Latin America, they are not in a hurry to host Russian missiles. This is not 1962 Cuba. Fidel Castro really wanted to get Soviet missiles. His attitude was very close to that of Zelensky, no matter how paradoxical it may sound. He was very afraid of an attack from America, and when Khrushchev removed the missiles without consulting him, Fidel Castro was very unhappy. He had fears that Moscow would not surrender him, in order to soften this reaction, the next year he had to organize a big visit to the USSR and show that he remains a great friend and the USSR will not leave him.
And now no one wants to place missiles on their territory. All have their own domestic and foreign policy features. If we talk about Belarus, then it really removes the provision on a nuclear-free status from the Constitution, but on the other hand, Lukashenka clearly does not want to be too much dependent on Russia. He continues to play, maneuver, despite the fact that Russia saved him in 2020. Last year, he wrapped up the issue of the Russian military base and says nothing about the fact that he is now going to start it at home. It is important that the Belarusian side says that after the end of the exercises, which should end on February 20, the Russian troops will leave. This also shows that Lukashenka is not going to leave them.
Naval exercises in the Black Sea should also end in a few days. If we talk about troops near the Ukrainian border, then it is infinitely impossible to keep them there. There are elementary time limits.
- We need to make some decisions. What can be realistically accepted?
- Now the situation is increasingly beginning to shift towards some kind of action in Donetsk and Lugansk. There is some room for manoeuvre. They are indicated in the initiatives of United Russia and the Communist Party in the State Duma. One option is support with weapons, but without official recognition.
The second option is official recognition. Recognition of the DLNR is the end of the Minsk agreements. This is an acknowledgment that nothing happened with the Minsk agreements.
Initially, when the communists introduced it. Initially, this requirement was in the form of some kind of pressure, so it was attributed to the Communist Party. But events are moving fast enough. Various options are now possible, including the option of partial or even full recognition. But this is in the event that Russia understands that the West will not put any real pressure on Ukraine. And if he does not put real pressure on Ukraine, then the Minsk agreements in the contact group can be discussed in the next hundred years.
- Some of your colleagues say that it is possible to use the VKS as in the Syrian campaign. To do this, you do not need to build a base in the DPR, but you can conduct shelling across the border. Is such an option possible?
- The problem here is simple. Syria is Syria. She is away. I am not an expert in military matters, probably everything is possible. But there is an important point: Russia and Ukraine will still have to live side by side. When strikes are carried out in Syria, they are carried out either against terrorists, who are recognized as such by everyone in the world. Or it is opposition to Assad. In any case, these are people who are absolutely alien to Russia. It could be terrorists, it could be an armed radical opposition. It seems that it is difficult to distinguish one from the other. In any case, Russia proceeds from the fact that Syria is far away. This is the same as America attacked Iraq. In any case, no integration processes between America and Iraq or Russia and Syria are considered.
And Ukraine is a country with which, in any case, it is necessary to build relations, with which it is necessary to interact and which is perceived as one's own.
- Judging by the latest rhetoric, and especially by Russian TV programs, this is not at all the case.
- There has been a change in the concept of "Ukrainian people" in the Russian authorities. If earlier the Ukrainian people were perceived as a positive factor, which itself should deal with Bandera, journalists, Russophobes, should bring to power constructive, from the point of view of Russia, forces, now there is great disappointment in the Ukrainian people. He is already perceived as incapable of changing something on his own, in Kiev, because of the naming of streets after Bandera and Shukhevych, no one takes to the streets, it is believed that the people have either been intimidated or brainwashed - such assessments are given. Therefore, the idea that the Ukrainian people will do everything themselves, you just need to wait and help a little, such an idea is now gone.
But the idea that Ukraine is next to it and in any case it is necessary to build relations with it, certainly remains. Building relationships with the help of the military space forces will mean that you set against yourself those people who are now more or less neutral.
- How does this correlate with numerous statements that there is no Ukrainian people, there is no Ukrainian language? Wasserman compares the Ukrainian language and "fenya"... If the Ukrainian people are the Russian people, is it a civil war?
- It's such a show. It is not said that there is no Ukrainian people. This was not talked about in Soviet times, but in tsarist Russia they said: there is Little Russia and Little Russians, there is Great, Little and White Russia. There is a Little Russian culture. Another thing is that there was a rejection of the concept of Ukraine, but there was Little Russia. In some cases they were synonyms. There was a rejection of Ukraine as a concept with which separatist tendencies are associated. The very term "Ukraine" existed, and if without distancing from Russia, it was perceived neutrally. We are talking about the fact that the Ukrainian people are perceived as part of the community of peoples.
And Mr. Wasserman sits in the Duma in order to be able to say that there are such sentiments in Russia, but in fact, the opinion of the Russian authorities is more moderate. Mr. Zhirinovsky still performs this function for us. This is a specific function that allows the Russian authorities to center themselves, to say that we are more moderate, we recognize the Ukrainian state, we only want it to be friendly. And we consider the concept of the people in the Slavophile sense. In the Slavophile tradition that Putin continues, indeed, Great Russians and Little Russians are part of the Russian people, but parts that have their own cultural identity. Putin's article, published last year, said that Ukraine can be a state, but it must be friendly towards Russia. But, if you want to achieve friendliness, then air raids are a very bad way. It is one thing - some kind of pressure to force concessions, another thing - bombing. I think that such forecasts take into account the military-technical possibility, but do not take into account political psychology.
- Is there a chance that on February 20, when the exercises end, all Russian troops will be withdrawn from the borders of Ukraine?
- There is. Another thing is that even the scenario for the DPR/LPR from arms supplies to recognition will not mean fixing the situation. The Georgian analogy cannot work here. In 2008, Russian troops reached the territorial borders of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and thus there was recognition within the borders that are fixed in the Constitutions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. And here it is recorded that this is the recognition of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions. According to the terminology of Ukraine, the DPR and LPR are separate regions of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, and in the legislation of the LPR they define themselves within the boundaries of the regions.
- They want more Mariupol and Slavyansk?
- Certainly. This is where the concept of “ORDLO” arose - separate areas, because this is the Ukrainian position, fixed in the Minsk agreements. Ukraine would never agree, even in the deplorable situation at the beginning of 2015, to recognize them within the borders of the regions.
- That is, if we allow the recognition of the DLNR, whose constitutions say that they define themselves within the boundaries of the regions, we must wait for military operations to seize Mariupol and Slavyansk?
- Absolutely optional. If Russia recognizes someone, this does not mean that it should fight for them to receive territories in accordance with their constitutions.
- And in case of inclusion in Russia? Then we will talk about "Russian lands"?
- This is a more difficult moment. This will already become Russia's territorial claims. But at the moment, this is only talked about on television shows. Yes, if you join, then there will be a very difficult situation in this matter. The recognition of "republics" is not accompanied by the recognition of their territorial claims. But there is another problem. Ukrainian troops are standing in the suburbs of Donetsk. Consequently, the borders of the DNR and LNR are extremely vulnerable. Here recognition will not mean that the issue is closed. The fact that Russia stops here fixes the situation, as in 2008, and the conflict is frozen. Ukrainian troops in the suburbs of Donetsk increase the risk of local military action.
I think that Russia is now thinking not only because this is a rejection of the Minsk agreements, which are a form of influence on Ukraine, but also that this will not be a fixation. Therefore, Russia does not make a decision. But if the West rejects the two points of the ultimatum, if no one expects Russian missiles on its territory, then some solution is needed that would show Russian society that we have achieved victory, that we have done something.
Now the situation has been brought to maximum tension, and just saying, oh, they didn’t listen to us, let them be ashamed, is already extremely difficult. Compared to 2008, then the recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia became such a symbol of victory for Russian society.
It was possible to enter Tbilisi. What's next? How to keep this victory? For example, the Americans carried out a brilliant operation in Iraq. But the Iraq war is now seen as a strategic defeat for America.
You can endlessly draw plans from the scheme for capturing Kiev. This is part of the propaganda war that is going on right now. But, from the point of view of political psychology, from the point of view of political decisions, all this is much more complicated. Therefore, I think, if we talk about realistic options, then they are in the East of Ukraine.