Staunton, June 16 – Vladimir Putin has always operated on the assumption that regardless of what he does, the West will eventually overlook it and resume more normal relations with Moscow because of Russia’s nuclear weapons and geo-political importance and because of the possibilities the Russian market presents for European and American firms.
Thus, it is no surprise that the Bloomberg news agency, citing Kremlin sources, says the Russian president will tell the St. Petersburg International Economics Forum tomorrow that the time has come for Russia and the West to “forget about Ukraine and return to business as usual” (bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-06-15/putin-said-to-plan-back-to-business-bid-to-eu-at-investor-forum).
And Putin will do so, these sources say, without making any concessions on Ukraine but rather focus entirely on the economic prospects of Russia and on reassuring potential foreign investors that Russia is now very much “open for business” and that Moscow has stabilized the situation there (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=57625354A2437).
Because he is not subject to the kind of domestic pressure that leaders of democratic countries are, the Kremlin leader can simply wait until those leaders decide that they have to show “progress” in the “key” relationship with Moscow and send their top diplomats and politicians to Moscow.
And while he waits, Putin can ramp up the pressure on those leaders by encouraging Western publics that Russia can play such an important role in so many areas that it is a mistake to focus on any one area of disagreement and that it offers such economic possibilities that Western corporations would be foolish not to seek a rapprochement.
Those are powerful arguments in many Western countries especially on issues which, with the passing of only a short period of time and with the constant introduction of new issues, some of which Moscow itself plays a key role in creating, all too many in the West find persuasive.
But because Putin has violated so many international norms in Ukraine, his efforts in this direction have not yet achieved all that he hopes for. Indeed, many in both Russia and the West have concluded that the Kremlin leader’s moves in Ukraine have been counter-productive, uniting the West as almost nothing else has since the days of the cold war.
And these analysts have pointed to the remarkable success that Ukraine has had in attracting attention and support from countries that had not provided it with that kind of backing in the past. The issue is how long this can last, how long in short Putin can afford to wait and how long the West is willing to make him.
Judy Dempsey of Carnegie Europe asks nine experts whether the West has “forgotten” Ukraine. Their answers are moderately encouraging to those who want to see Russian aggression pushed back, but they also indicate that Ukrainians have much to fear with regard to what Putin hopes for and expects (carnegieeurope.eu/strategiceurope/?fa=63816; in Russian at nv.ua/opinion/dempsi/zabyl-li-zapad-ukrainu-149023.html).
Key passages from their answers are given below: