Staunton, January 28 – Although Russian President Vladimir Putin has had a successful year in foreign affairs, he is now losing in Ukraine because in this case he is dealing “not with Obama or Cameron but with millions of people who know no less well than he what they want and what they definitely do not want,” according to Andrey Piontkovsky.
In a post on Ekho Moskvy yesterday, the Russian analyst says that virtually everyone in Ukraine wants a better and freer life and thus looks to Europe while virtually everyone in Ukraine does not want the kind of life they would have if they were remained under a Kremlin-dominated dictatorship (echo.msk.ru/blog/piontkovsky_a/1246220-echo/).
And those twin convictions, together with their knowledge of just what kind of existence they would have if Putin and his allies in Kyiv win explains the passions millions of people in Ukraine bring to the contest, including millions of ethnic Russians there on whom Moscow has always assumed it can count.
In the case of Syria, Piontkovsky continues, Putin in contrast to this Western partners has known exactly what he wants to achieve – the retention of power by Asad – and has been willing to pay any price to do so, including the deaths of “hundreds of thousands of Syrians” and the transformation of their country into “an enormous reservoir of Islamist terrorism.”
Because the Kremlin leader takes the threat to Asad as one that ultimately threatens his own personal power, Putin and his “loyal Ribbentrop” have outplayed leaders and “useful idiots” in the West who “blinded by Putin’s triumph of the will” are prepared to accept “the continuing genocide in Syria as a peaceful resolution of the conflict.”
The Kremlin leader has an equally clearly defined goal in Ukraine, Piontkovsky says. “The anti-criminal revolution directed at the overthrow of Yanukovich’s gang must not in any case be crowned by success” because its victory could “infect” Russian society and lead to “the death of Putinism.”
Putin clearly understands, the analyst continues, that “a Ukrainian yes” for Europe is “a no for the post-Soviet model of criminal capitalism” that he has put in place and that keeps him in power.
But events are moving quickly, and the Kremlin along with everyone else understands that “Yanukovich cannot retain power over all of Ukraine” and “Putin cannot swallow Ukraine whole.” Consequently, he is moving to “Plan B,” which would lead to the dismemberment of Ukraine and the subordination to Moscow of Eastern Ukraine.
Both because he is “a homo chekisticus” and is rationally calculating only how best to save himself, Putin is doomed to try to do that. But he will fail because “Putin’s Russian cannot be attractive for anyone, not for millions of Ukrainians in the West and the East who want to get rid of their own bandits in power and not for Donets criminals who don’t need” Moscow’s rule.
And when Plan B fails, Putin is likely to try Plan C, which would involve the seizure of Crimea. Although it would cause anger around the world, the Kremlin leader could “in principle” achieve it, although at the price of infuriating the Crimean Tatar community and the peoples of the nearby North Caucasus.
Putin is playing for high stakes in Ukraine, Piontkovsky suggests, but despite his bombast, he is losing because in this situation he is confronted not by weak and inconsistent Western leaders but by “millions of people” who “no worse than he know what they want and” – and even more important – “know what they don’t.”