The West does not seem to see a way other than supplication. The proof of this is a recent telephone conversation between US President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, in which the former called on the current occupant of the Kremlin to pressure eastern Ukraine separatists into observing the ceasefire declared by Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko. News agency Reuters quotes the White House spokesman Josh Earnest as saying that “the president spoke to President Putin and once again urged him to support peace instead of allowing the provision of arms and materiel across the border and continuing support for militants and separatists who are further destabilizing the situation in Ukraine.”
Besides, as the White House statement says, Obama “emphasized that words must be accompanied by actions and that the United States remains prepared to impose additional sanctions should circumstances warrant, in coordination with our allies and partners.”
Shortly before, the European Union had also threatened Moscow with new sanctions if it took no steps to discontinue the face-off in Ukraine. In a joint statement, EU foreign ministers urged Moscow to stem the tide of militants and weapons across the Russian-Ukrainian border and use its influence to force separatists to stop violence and lay down arms. In addition, the EU demands that Russia withdraw its troops from the border with Ukraine.
The Day has requested Doctor of Political Sciences Hryhorii PEREPELYTSIA, a professor of conflict resolution studies at the Kyiv National Taras Shevchenko University, to comment on the latest statements of Western leaders and forecast the outcome of the war Russia is waging against Ukraine.
“PUTIN TEACHES THE WESTERN COMMUNITY THAT WAR IS A NORMAL STATE OF RELATIONS”
“This can be called the 100th Chinese warning. I do not think these calls will produce any tangible effect. Putin has already got accustomed to this kind of rhetoric and is sure that it will not be followed by any actions to the detriment of Russia. And the more statements they make, the less impression this will make on Putin and Russia as such. Russian society is laughing at these threats and sanctions because the Russians feel no negative impact. In reality, the West never imposed any sanctions that affect the economy and, hence, the social life of Russia.”
Incidentally, would you comment on the fact that Putin is today going to be on a visit to Austria and explain his position on the Ukraine crisis?
“This means there is no isolation of Russia in response to its military aggression. So Putin is just teaching the Western community that war is a normal state of affairs. They are in fact getting used to this situation because the war rages not in their countries but elsewhere. Therefore, it is not Putin who begins to be afraid of threats but it is the West that begins to be afraid of Russia as such. And so we can see the West pursue an appeasement policy toward Putin, as it did toward Hitler before World War Two.”
“KUCHMA IS AS MUCH A ‘GASKET’ FOR POROSHENKO IN THE TALKS AS MEDVEDCHUK IS FOR PUTIN”
What is your attitude to Kuchma being Poroshenko’s representative in the trilateral diplomatic group of Russia, Ukraine, and the OSCE, which is trying to settle the situation in the Donbas, as well as to the presence of Putin’s bosom friend Medvedchuk at the negotiations with terrorists?
“Medvedchuk represents Putin’s interests in Ukraine. And the inclusion of Medvedchuk, a certain provider and unofficial diplomatic representative of the separatists’ interests, which are in fact interests of Russia, is also part of the diplomatic war that accompanies Russia’s military intervention in the Donbas. Through Medvedchuk, Putin is taking a timeout to allow terrorists to voice their demands and press the Ukrainian side for certain compromises. The objective is that the Ukrainian government will gradually concede its positions and interests, which will mean a victory of separatists in eastern Ukraine and mark a new stage in the Russian military intervention against Ukraine.”
And what benefit will Poroshenko reap from the participation of Kuchma in this trilateral group?
“This is of no benefit for Poroshenko. This only makes it possible to show the West that Ukraine and its president are interested in reaching peace in the Donbas (which is true) and are open to negotiations. But, undoubtedly, the president will never hold any direct talks with the terrorists. In this sense, Kuchma is as much a ‘gasket’ for Poroshenko in the talks as Medvedchuk is for Putin. In other words, it is an unofficial channel of negotiations represented by Medvedchuk on behalf of Putin and by Kuchma on behalf of Poroshenko.”
“AS LONG AS THE UKRAINIAN MILITARY HAVE NO SUPERIORITY OVER THE SEPARATISTS, THE LATTER WILL MAKE NO CONCESSIONS”
But we can see that the contact group has produced no results so far. Although a ceasefire was declared, the terrorists go on shooting at the Ukrainian army positions.
“Indeed, there is no result. We saw this in many conflicts, including those in the Balkans. In particular, there was also a contact group in the Bosnian conflict, where the interests of separatists were represented by Milosevic and, no matter how many decisions the contact group was making, they were not accepted until NATO used military force and in fact destroyed the bulk of the military potential of Bosnian Serbs who lost half the territory they controlled. This radically changed the ratio of military forces from a full superiority of the Bosnian Serbs to a military parity between the Bosnian Serbs and the Bosnian Muslims. Only then did the contact group begin to produce effect, which after all resulted in the Dayton Accords.”
What conclusions should we draw from the Bosnian conflict?
“We must be aware of an ongoing war with Russia. It is a classical 21st-century war – the so-called hybrid war. Like in any war, the ultimate goal is a military victory or at least a military superiority. As long as the Ukrainian army and the National Guard have no military superiority over the separatists, the latter will make no concessions and there will be no question of peace agreements or truces.”
European experts also told me that negotiations can only be held from the position of strength…
“Absolutely so. It is an objective law of war.”
Can we expect the Ukrainian armed forces to begin to fight in earnest to defeat the separatists after June 27, when the ceasefire declared by Poroshenko expires?
“It may be too late. No one knows what Putin will decide before June 27. Will he dare launch a wide-scale intervention in the Donbas before that date, all the more so that reconnaissance in force has already been carried out? We saw several columns of tanks and multiple rocket launchers cross the border later last week. This can be called a test of the Ukrainian armed forces’ ability to offer resistance to this kind of intervention. Judging by the fact that these columns covered 200 km without any resistance, this assures Putin that not only columns of a few tanks, but also full-strength armored divisions can move in equally easily without encountering any resistance. This showed that we have no covering forces over there and Putin can easily bring in several divisions absolutely without any losses. This inspires him and can, unfortunately, provoke this very scenario. As we can see, Putin has in fact opted for war because Ukraine is determined to sign the Association Agreement.”
“IF WE SIGN THE ASSOCIATION AGREEMENT, THE LIKELIHOOD OF A WIDE-SCALE AGGRESSION WILL BE DIMINISHING”
So should we consider all this as his intention to disrupt the signing of this agreement?
“I think this may be one of the intentions because Russia looks very decisive. We remember the relentless pressure it exerted on us in 2013. What is more, Russia went to war not over Ukraine’s intention to join NATO but over its intention to integrate into Europe. It is clear now that Ukraine’s integration into the EU represents a far greater danger than NATO membership for Putin personally and his regime.”
“Because Ukraine’s integration into Europe and implementation of the Association Agreement will mean abandoning the so-called ‘Russian world’ and entering European civilization. Russia’s current war against us on the territory of Ukraine is, above all, a war of civilizations. It is a war between European values and a Eurasian regime, a Eurasian mentality. So, in this sense, Putin will lose the inter-civilization war if Ukraine begins to implement the Association Agreement. He is very well aware of this, and the impossibility of bringing about this ‘Russian world’ in the shape of a new great Russia will in fact kill the idea of restoring Russia as a world power.”
The West will have to intervene if the Russian army really invades the territory of Ukraine…
“The West will not intervene even in this situation. We are not a NATO member. The West has no juridical commitments to us.”
But what about defending the civilizational values and the spheres of security and wellbeing on their borders, which Europe continuously emphasizes?
“The West is not prepared to come into conflict with Russia over this. But they will thus lose in their inter-civilization war – without even going to this war. I do not mean that this is bound to happen, but this is quite a likely scenario because formidable preconditions are being formed for Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine. If we sign the Association Agreement, the likelihood of such a wide-scale aggression will be diminishing.”