December 10, 2017

Putin's Russia and the “conflict in Ukraine”: a view from a very distant Europe

Talk abstracts for the conference “Ukraine — Conflict in Europe” to be held at the Danish Folketing on December 13, 2017 at the initiative of the Danish Helsinki Committee

Valeriy Ivashchenko,
member of the Danish Helsinki Committee

The Russian military aggression committed against Ukraine by the criminal Putin regime in early 2014, without the least exaggeration, produced an irreversible rift in the then existing world order, established in international relations after 1975 (the Helsinki Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe).

This rift hasn't just gone literally on the territory of one of the largest countries of Europe — Ukraine, but it also goes through the destinies of individuals, families and entire nations that have been living on Ukrainian land for decades and centuries.

The horror of this rift (as a consequence of Russian aggression) is also in the fact that it had split the consciousness, will and conscience of millions of people:

  • both those whom was cruely touched by the war, unleashed by Russia (by killing their relatives and friends, depriving them of decent living conditions), and those who lives safely and peacefully far from the war;
  • both the simplest, ordinary citizens, and influential politicians, leaders of world states (many of whom, stubbornly, cowardly refuse to recognize the war as a war, military aggression as military aggression, war crimes as war crimes, despite the more than 10,000 human victims of war).

I'm not going to hint at the incorrectness of some political formulations in the materials of this conference — such as “the conflict in Ukraine.” This is an insignificant trifles for me, compared with the feelings and emotions that I have to experience, when I listen on the one hand, the opinions and reasonings of politicians, official state officials (including Ukrainian ones), and on the other hand, for example, the point of view of young (but intellegent!) cadets of the Danish Royal College of Defense, with whom I have repeatedly communicated, regarding the assessment of the events in Ukraine in the last 4 years.

This is a real cognitive dissonance!

Influential, respected politicians get lost among the false notions and formulations (speaking: “Ukrainian internal armed conflict”, “anti-terrorist operation”, “the civil war in Ukraine”…), while the young Danish military accurately correctly know both the date of the official announcement of Russian war to Ukraine (March 1, 2014), and the time of its actual commencement, and its real consequences — the capture and occupation by Russia of a part of the Ukrainian sovereign territory.

Russia has committed an open, flagrant violation of the norms of international law, trampling not only the fundamental principles of peaceful coexistence and cooperation of the states of Europe, the inviolability of their borders, enshrined in the already mentioned Helsinki Final Act of 1975, but also other international treaties to which it was a party. (Those are the Budapest Memorandum of 1994, and the so-called “Big” Ukrainian-Russian Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership of 1997, and the Agreement on the Status and Conditions of the Black Sea Fleet's Stay in Ukraine of 1997, etc.)

Everyone in the world understands (including those of politicians, who “are ashamed” to call the war a war), that Putin threw a very impudent, cheeky challenge to the international world community. At the same time — a very risky (for him) challenge. Therefore, for such an act, there must be very important reasons, stronger than the risk of getting a cruel retribution for aggression against the peace, for bloodshed, for killing people.

What reasons of it could there be, what driving forces for the Putin regime at the turn of 2013–2014 years could there be?

All who closely watched and analyzed the history of Putin's coming to power, as well as changes in recent years in the economic and political life of Russia, must have noticed that during Putin's time at the top of power Russia's economy and national wealth were rapidly depleting, and there were the following main reasons of it:

  • the general scientific, technical and technological backwardness of national production assets, compared with the advanced countries — world leaders, and therefore — the orientation to the raw nature of the economy; attempts at “breakthroughs” in high-tech, knowledge-intensive industries had not had success, and still do not have;
  • the rupture (destruction) of the former Soviet industrial cooperation in the most important, capital-intensive sectors of the economy, the critical part of theese remained in the newly independent states — former Soviet republics (and the most significant part — in Ukraine);
  • total corruption and plundering of resources left after the former USSR;
  • the refusal and abolition of the political course of liberal economic reforms that were started during the rule of the “early” Yeltsin; as a result of this — the “death” of medium and small businesses as the economic basis of social and political changes during the transition from totalitarianism to democracy;
  • polarization of the society in terms of property and financial status, impoverishment and demoralization of the majority of the population of Russia; mass emigration and reduction of life expectancy (extinction) of the educated and able-bodied part of the population; as a result — the rapid degradation of the quality of the workforce and, consequently, — the worsening in the quality of products.

Even this list, far from being complete, provides grounds to believe that Putin's KGB-criminal “team” had not in the near future any prospects to preserve power (and thus remain to be able to dispose unlimitedly with resources of the world's largest state territory). As well as, accordingly, to be able to keep in personal possession huge wealth of criminal origin. At the best, this “team” was waited for the departure into oblivion and the loss of its former omnipotence. And at the worst — …

Obviously, for them — for Putin's KGB-criminal regime — these reasons became quite enough to go “va banque” (”all-in”) in their fight for staying in power.

And Ukraine just turned out at the intersection of three Putin's “target designations”:

  1. not to let, prevent Ukraine from “moving to Europe”, tearing it, weakening it in an armed conflict, and further preserving it under the “Russian protectorate”; in the future — to turn it into a subordinate quasi-state, like Belarus or Armenia (involving it in the Russian economic space, and then, completely — into the “Russian world”);
  2. to divert the public consciousness of the Russian population from internal (economic and political) problems to the external enemy — the “fascist” Ukraine; “with the help” of a foreign enemy to revive bellicose Russian patriotism, which should become the main content of national public consciousness; in order to solve this task (the revival of patriotism) to use a state Orthodoxy, giving the “second” part of the national consciousness to the archaic, obscurant Russian Orthodox church.
  3. to test the Western democracy institutions for strength: to find out how far it is possible to go in violation of international law and the destruction of the established world order — until getting a worthy rebuff from the West (determination “the boundary of the permitted” with the help of “battle reconnaissance”).

Best of all, Putin has succeeded in implementing the second point of his plan for today.

A little worse — because the process of achieving the goal is still ongoing — in the implementation of the third task. (But anyway, better than the first one.)

The West is also “in the process” — on the counter course, it develops response solutions, but it “plays” by its own more civilized rules (unlike Putin's ones). Where and when the stop will occur in the “game” is difficult to guess. One thing is clear: Ukraine is not a player in this game and not even a chess figure, but solely a chessboard on which Western leaders are still playing chess, while Putin — from the very beginning — has been playing golf. Or cricket. The so-called “Minsk process” is proof of this.

The “Minsk agreements” are The Big Lies. Therefore Putin is most of all comfortable with these big lies.

The West (represented by the European Union, first of all) unfortunately is still “in the process”; it develops its attitude: to consider them a boon (the real, valid and effective international treaties) or — not. Ukraine is not satisfied with them at all. (And if to some extent they satisfy Ukraine, then no more than the Munich agreement of 1938 satisfied Czechoslovakia at the time.)

Today, playing golf on a chessboard with the “Minsk agreements”, Putin's Russia is trying to develop its success in resolving the issue of introducing UN peacekeeping forces into Ukraine, dictating its own conditions and rules. And it does not feel the slightest complex of guilt for the unleashed military aggression against Ukraine and the huge human sacrifices incurred as a result of this aggression.

Russia, wrongfully proclaiming itself the legal successor to the USSR, and (even more illegitimately) taking its seat in the UN Security Council, abuses the veto of a permanent member of the Security Council, blocks the adoption of decisions of the international community that would undoubtedly contribute to the speedy cessation of bloody military actions in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions of Ukraine.

Conversely, where the situation in the territory of the Donbas occupied by Russia is getting out from under Russian henchmen's absolute control, additional Russian troops are immediately redeployed to these areas through Ukraine's uncontrolled part of the Ukrainian-Russian border, and the Russian military behave in the occupied territory like realy bandits. (The latest example is deploying Russian troops to Lugansk on 21.11.2017 to suppress the conflict between local pro-Russian militants appointed to power by Russia. And of course, as always, “by Russian tradition”: military vehicles — without car number plates, armed people — without insignia).

The international (and, first of all, European) community must finally face the truth:

Putin's Russia has committed an act of military aggression against one of the European states. The aggressor must be punished. Just as the USSR was punished in 1939 for an attack on sovereign Finland. But while at that time the world community was only able to exclude the aggressor from the League of Nations, in today's global, interconnected world, there are many more opportunities and tools for influencing people and states committing crimes that kill people. The financial and economic sanctions against Russia for the war against Ukraine are very far from a commensurate, adequate response to its criminal actions. And they are not the only possible.

In addition, it is important for democratic Europe to realize that the aggressor, befuddled with impunity, is not able to stop until it gets a worthy adequate rebuff and just retribution.

In Ukraine, the Russian aggressor is still not stopped, and he has not been punished for his criminal actions yet.

Should Europe wait for whom Putin's horde will choose the next victim of its aggression?