Staunton, April 24 – Vladimir Putin has set a mousetrap for the new Ukrainian president, the same one that he has set for Vladimir Zelensky’s predecessors: “the more Ukrainian presidents struggle with [him] the more their ratings depend on the Kremlin,” according to St. Petersburg historian Daniil Kotsyubinsky.
Unfortunately, judging from Zelensky’s own declarations and those of his aides, the incoming Ukrainian president does not appear to understand that this is the case, something that gives Putin even greater advantages than he had with Petro Poroshenko over the past five years (gorod-812.ru/rossiyskaya-myishelovka-dlya-ukrainyi/).
Zelensky has said that his first tasks in office will be to free the Ukrainian sailors Moscow holds and to identify and hold responsible those who failed in the Donbass. That suggests, the Russian historian says, that Zelensky and his team are “promising something like ‘the June attack operation’ which war minister A.F. Kerensky presented to Russia in 1917.”
There is just “one unfortunate aspect” of this approach both then and now. Then, Russia faced an order of magnitude more powerful coalition of Germany and Austro-Hungary and the attack soon collapsed as did the rating of Kerensky. After than came the Kornilov putsch and then the Bolshevik one.
Now, “Ukraine is opposed by an order of magnitude more powerful nuclear power, with which no one will be able to negotiate, neither the eccentric con man Trump nor the much more moderate and acceptable European Union,” Kotsyubinsky says. And the most likely outcome is disastrous.
That is because “the only way for Zelensky to fulfill even part of his ‘offensive’ promises, freeing the sailors and getting Sentsov released, is for him to please Putin. That is, de facto, become his partial vassal” since “if Putin wants to, he can free the sailors and boost Zelensky’s rating with the voters. But if he doesn’t, he won’t – and will show the Ukrainian leader to be an empty buffoon.”
The incoming president is thus walking right into a trap. The only way he could avoid it would be to [give up] Crimea and the Donbass and “calmly begin to integrate with the EU and even NATO,” he argues. “But judging from the militant pose of the new Ukrainian leader and his command, neither they nor most Ukrainian voters are yet prepared for such a creative approach.”