Staunton, July 22 – Today, the Russian government has appealed to the European Human Rights Court to find against Ukraine for a laundry list of offenses that in fact Moscow itself committed or forced Ukraine in response to continuing Russian aggression against it to take (epp.genproc.gov.ru/web/gprf/mass-media/news?item=63838459).
A few Russian commentators have suggested this is a good thing. It shows, they say, that the Kremlin still feels it is part of Europe, has no plans to leave the Council of Europe and is prepared to use legal arrangements rather than brute force in seeking to achieve its goals (rosbalt.ru/posts/2021/07/23/1912691.html and svoboda.org/a/vysshaya-stepenj-tsinizma-sotsseti-ob-iske-rossii-protiv-ukrainy/31372563.html).
But most independent observers say that this action represents “the highest degree of cynicism” and shamelessness and is something like when a thief is the first to shout “catch the thief” or as if Berlin had appealed against Moscow for the blockade of Leningrad (svoboda.org/a/vysshaya-stepenj-tsinizma-sotsseti-ob-iske-rossii-protiv-ukrainy/31372563.html, ej.ru/?a=note&id=36343 and ehorussia.com/new/node/23916).
These exchanges may be amusing to read, but Moscow commentator Aleksandr Skobov provides a more sober and more frightening analysis of what is going on, underscoring that what Moscow has done reflects a broader set of policies and sets the stage for the possible beginning of a major new war (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=60FADD6E68231).
If only the Kremlin’s appeal to the European Court was only the latest example of the Putin leadership’s outrageous behavior and nothing more, Skobov says; but in fact, it is of a piece of the Kremlin’s strategy, one that threatens more than just embarrassment but rather real dangers.
It doesn’t signal that Russia wants to remain in Europe or in the Council of Europe, he continues. Moscow has shown its contempt for both and will leave the latter whenever it suits its purposes given that the European countries have shown themselves incapable of holding Russia to account.
Instead, Skobov says, this action, following on the heels of Putin’s essay about Russia and Ukraine, should be read “as further laying of the ground for the ‘official’ separation of the Donbass from Ukraine, either in the form or direct annexation or (more likely) in a recognition of their independence” in the manner of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Worse, this move is intended by Moscow to be read precisely this way in Europe, sending a clear signal that if “you don’t want to solve our problem via international-legal institutions, then we will be forced to act” without regard to them, the Moscow commentator continues.
Thus, this latest case of outrageous behavior by the Kremlin is part of its considered policy and dramatically increases “the risk of uncontrolled escalation, he concludes. And in this case, “that means a real and large war” – and that is possible even if Putin hasn’t been planning for such a conflict.