Monday, March 17, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Putin Plans to Annex Far More of Ukraine than Just Crimea, Illarionov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 17 – Russian President Vladimir Putin plans not only to annex other portions of Ukraine following the Crimean Anschluss but to set up a pro-Russian government in Kyiv, according to Andrei Illarionov, who once was an economic advisor to the Kremlin leader but now is an outspoken critic.

            In an interview on a Ukrainian Internet television channel,  Illarionov says that Putin decided to retake Ukraine some years ago, has worked out a detailed program to do so, and is currently drawing up a new constitution for Ukraine that he intends to impose on that independent country (

            That constitution, the Russian economist said, will call for a Moscow-defined federalization of Ukraine, one that will allow each of that country’s regions to have its own foreign relations, the disarmament of the country and a formal and permanent renunciation by Kyiv of any interest in NATO membership.

            Some elements of the current Ukrainian government are prepared to go along with some or all of this as the price of remaining a nominally independent country.  Asked how Putin could achieve all this given Western “guarantees” to Ukraine, Illarionov replied in obvious puzzlement: “What strange people you are” to believe such words will save Ukraine.

            When US President Barack Obama told Putin that the US was not prepared to use military force to block Moscow on Crimea, Putin viewed this as an indication that the West would not challenge him in any serious way and was in fact “in ordinary language,” saying “’take it’” and showing that the Budapest Accords were a dead letter.

            Indeed, Illarionov says, this exchange can be said to constitute the “Munich agreement of 2014.”

            Any country which wants to defend its independence must be prepared to resist an aggressor, Illarionov continues.  There are many ways to do so, but assuming that someone else will do the job has never worked.  Countries that resist like Finland and Georgia can survive; those that don’t like Czechoslovakia in 1938 will not.

            Although it has not taken the necessary steps over the last three weeks, Kyiv still has the choice: It can be a Finland or Georgia, or it will become a Czechoslovakia, Illarionov says. And those who think that passivity will allow a country to avoid human losses need to look at the historical record.

            The future of Russian-occupied Crimea is grim, Illarinov says. The Crimean Tatars are likely to be expelled because “changing the ethnic composition of the Crimean peninsula” is clearly one of Moscow’s goals.  As has happened before, the Crimean Tatars have been “abandoned,” they are “hostages” to Moscow, and they are thus expendable.

            According to Illarionov, Ukrainians and the West must not put their hopes in any regime change in Russia itself anytime soon.  That may happen eventually, but today under Putin, Russia has a “brutal authoritarian political regime,” one that may survive for some time.

            In his concluding remarks, the Russian commentator says that the imposition of sanctions no matter how tough will not force Moscow to withdraw from Crimea. Ukraine must resist, and Ukrainians must recognize that the Maidan succeeded when those who took part in it showed that they were prepared to die in place rather than to give up on their cause.

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