Staunton, December 4 – In his speech to the Russian parliament, Vladimir Putin outlined a vision for Russia’s future as a major combatant in the Middle East and “a besieged fortress” at home for a long time to come, but he also sent five key messages to Ukraine, according to Konstantin Zelfanov.
The five messages (nr2.com.ua/News/world_and_russia/Pyat-glavnyh-vyvodov-dlya-Ukrainy-iz-poslaniya-Vladimira-Putina-112792.html), the Ukrainian commentator says, are the following:
1. Ukraine is no longer at the center of Moscow’s attention; Syria is. For Ukrainians, Zelfanov says, “this is a good thing.”
2. But “this does not mean that Russia has left us in peace. Instead, it means that Ukraine has a brief “breathing space.”
3. “Putin is preparing Russians for the state of being a besieged fortress,” one in which he pledges to defend the Russian people against the arbitrary actions of officials.
4. “Putin in practical terms acknowledged that the struggle with corruption has collapsed because he openly acknowledged that grey schemes have taken out of the budget hundreds of billions of rubles.”
5. Putin “acknowledged that low prices for oil are a long-term trend” and that Russians will have to tighten their belts.
Overall, Zelfanov says, Putin’s speech was a defensive one, an implicit recognition that the conflicts he has gotten Russia involved in require more resources than Russia has. That makes the next two years truly fateful ones for Russia in the first instance but also, he concludes, for Ukraine.