Friday, February 21, 2020

Putin May Make Concessions on Donbass to Get West to Accept His New Status as State Council Head, Radzikhovsky Says

Paul Goble
            Staunton, February 15 – Changes in the Russian Constitution could have an impact on the Kremlin’s policy toward Ukraine, Leoonid Radzikhovsky says, if Vladimir Putin decides he must make some concessions on the Donbass to get Western leaders to accept him as an equal as he assumes his new role as head of the Russian State Council.

            The pro-Ukrainian analyst says that for Putin, “the transition period toward the establishment of the State Council is important,” as are relations with the West, given that Putin very much wants to continue to be accepted by world leaders as their equal after he takes on that as-yet undefined role (

            The Kremlin leader can’t be sure how Western leaders will view him if someone else becomes Russian president, and so making concessions, even small and cosmetic ones on the Donbass and the Ukraine more generally, is a useful way for him to cement his status with them, Radzikhovsky suggests.

            Putin’s giving up the Donbass, something that by itself he doesn’t need, would infuriate many Russians even as it would be welcomed by many Western leaders. If he isn’t president and doesn’t face the voters, the views of the former become less significant to him while the attitudes of the latter become vastly more important.

            What the Kremlin leader needs and want is quiet in the Donbass like the quiet in Abkhazia and Transdniestria, places that still constitute problems for Georgia and Moldova but attract ever less attention from the West. If Putin can orchestrate something similar in the Donbass by making concessions, he would have a personal victory, Radzikhovsky continues.

            These reflections don’t mean, of course, that Putin will decide to obey international law, return Crimea or stop meddling in Ukraine; but it does mean that the coming weeks and months could see a fresh face on Russian actions regarding Ukraine, especially in the wake of the firing of Vladislav Surkov. 

            Indeed, Surkov’s ouster may be the first step in the game that Radzikhovsky suggests may be about to begin. 

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