Thursday, March 16, 2017

Having Failed Twice, Putin Launches ‘Third Stage’ of Campaign against Ukraine, Piontkovsky Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 16 – Vladimir Putin’s effort to create Novorossiya and his subsequent ones to force Ukraine to accept Moscow-controlled bandit territories as part of its state have both failed, Andrey Piontkovsky says. And so the Kremlin leader has opened “a third stage” in his campaign by “openly supporting” these territories and raising the level of military provocations.

            The Russian commentator says that Moscow’s latest moves, including the recognition of the passports of the DNR and LNR, the introduction of the Russian ruble, and the integration of the economies of these territories into Russia make it clear to all who is responsible for tearing up the Minsk Accords (

                Despite the fact that it has been “clear from the very beginning” that Russia had no plans to fulfill the Minsk Accords, won’t withdraw its forces or hand over control of the borders to Ukraine, Moscow has played a diplomatic game intended to muddy the waters by insisting on the question “’who is the main violator?’”

            Ukraine has been restrained in its response because its chief European supporters, France and Germany, “have devoted very great significance to the Minsk Accords,” despite the fact that Russian actions made them a dead letter even before they were signed. But now Moscow’s actions have made that clear to all, Piontkovsky says, and Ukraine can respond.

            Kyiv’s blockade is “a very correct step, a demonstration that the game about the Minsk agreements is ended, that Russia doesn’t plan to fulfill them, and now violates them.” And it means that Ukraine now has “all bases for considering these territories as temporarily occupied just like Crimea.”

            “This is a positive leap forward,” Piontkovsky says.  Moreover, as far as the Kremlin is concerned, Moscow will “cease all false talk about the restoration of the territorial integrity of Ukraine and will begin to raise still further the subject-ness of these territories and in this ay ever more openly show the aggressive nature of its policy.”

            Piontkovsky says that he thinks that among Moscow’s next steps will be a change in the leadership of the DNR and LNR, involving the political “reanimation” of Yanukovich and Azarov in order to put forward the absurd claim that they and the territories Moscow controls are the legitimate Ukraine and that the rest of the country is in the hands of usurpers.

            To promote that idea, Moscow will have to come up with more assistance economic and military, the Russian commentator says, putting more strain on its own economy.  In this situation, no broad military attack against Kyiv is likely, but Moscow will support more provocations as well as efforts to expand the DNR and LNR to the oblast lines.

            But more important even than the burden all this will place on the Russian government, this action of “naked aggression” will spark a political reaction from the West.  “This is the price which Putin will pay for his adventure,” one he can’t turn away from at least until after the Russian presidential campaign.

            Indeed, given that Putin has nothing to offer Russians except imperial fantasies, he will likely make additional moves in that direction, including toward the incorporation of South Ossetia into the Russian Federation or against his sometime ally Alyaksandr Lukashenka in Belarus.

            The Kremlin leader may even launch new adventures in Africa, Piontkovsky says. But “all these steps of Putin” offered by him as evidence that Russia has risen from its knees and is again a world power will in the end “lead only to the collapse of the Russian state.”   

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