Staunton, July 16 – There is no question that most commentators are correct that Vladimir Putin aspires to have Russia and Ukraine again part of a single country, Vladislav Inozemtsev says; but their suggestions that he intends to use military force in the near term to realize that intention are very doubtful.
There are two reasons for thinking that, the Russian economist and commentator says. “On the one hand,” Putin has often said Ukraine “in its current form is a product of the Soviet era and not of ‘historic Russia.’” He isn’t going to give up Crimea, and he will use the Donbass to threaten Kyiv against turning more to the West (echo.msk.ru/blog/v_inozemcev/2871940-echo/).
But “on the other hand,” he continues, “the second important and probably more important) task of the Putin article is a kind of sublimation of his own imperial desires, something which in my view speaks above all to the impossibility of their being realized.”
There is no doubt that “the Kremlin wants to be an empire again and that Putin wants to be its leader, but this is impossible.” Each action of aggression has cost the Kremlin ever more dearly not only in its relations with the West but in its standing with the Russian people, and so new open aggression becomes less likely rather than more.
At present, Inozemtsev says, “the president of Russia writes ‘scholarly’ text which are more a substitute for real aggression than an element of preparation for it.” If he was going to act, he would act; by talking about it, he makes any action less likely “and therefore such texts are more laughable than concerning.”
According to the economists, “Moscow today cannot permit itself to engage in any sharp movements.” There is no “fraternal Ukrainian people” any more, and Russia can’t succeed in conquering it, however much it wishes it could. Hence talk without action in the hopes that talk alone will have consequences.
“With each episode of its foreign aggression,” Inozemtsev says, “Russia appears ever more careful.” Its invasion of Georgia was brutal and obvious. Its moves in Crimea were “camouflaged” by the involvement of local activists and little green men. And now it in reality has been far less willing to get more deeply involved in the Donbass.
The reasons for this evolution, he suggests, is that “the main task of the Putinist clique is the effective theft of the country in order to fill their own pockets. If these people thought about the state, they would occupy themselves with its development, but there is no evidence of either of these things.”
“Abkhazia and Crimea are not steps toward the restoration of the empire but instruments for raising the political rating of the Kremlin within the country. But with each time, the cost of expansion grows, and now it looks completely beyond” the ability of the Russian regime to pay it given its own interests.
Inozemtsev says that Ukraine should remain on guard, but no invasion from the East is likely anytime soon. And Ukrainians concerned about the security of their country should recognize this and distinguish between announcements of real plans and the sublimation of imperial desires in “scholarly” articles about relations between Russia and Ukraine.