Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Did Putin Just Blink?

Reports are coming in that Vladimir Putin has ordered Russian troops to withdraw from the Ukrainian border and the Russian government is urging the so-called "separatists" in the East and South to postpone the referendum on Ukrainian federalism they had scheduled for May 11.

These are extraordinary developments if true.

The main story on the matter that I've read so far is this one in the New York Times (I know, I know...)

Putin Announces Pullback from Ukraine Border

[An excerpt:]

Mr. Putin said he wanted the authorities in Kiev to immediately halt all military actions in southeastern Ukraine, referring to them again as “punitive operations.” He also welcomed the release of militants the Ukrainians had been holding, particularly Pavel Gubarev, a “people’s governor” in Donetsk who had been detained by the Ukrainian security services.
“We think the most important thing now is to launch direct dialogue, genuine, full-fledged dialogue between the Kiev authorities and representatives of southeast Ukraine,” he said, standing next to Didier Burkhalter, the president of Switzerland and the chairman of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which is coordinating the mediation effort.
“This dialogue could give people from southeast Ukraine the chance to see that their lawful rights in Ukraine really will be guaranteed,” he said. Mr. Putin also left the door open to Russia accepting, under certain conditions, the May 25 presidential elections, which Moscow had previously rejected.
“Let me stress that the presidential election the Kiev authorities plan to hold is a step in the right direction, but it will not solve anything unless all of Ukraine’s people first understand how their rights will be guaranteed once the election has taken place,” Mr. Putin said.
Mr. Putin was basically demanding that the mediation achieve what Russia has been seeking since the rebellion in Kiev overthrew Ukraine’s leader and Moscow’s ally, President Viktor F. Yanukovych, on Feb. 28: that Kiev grant some level of autonomy to the regions, including electing their own governors and directing their own foreign policy with their immediate neighbors.
Such a change would allow Russia some measure of control over the future direction of Ukraine and a possible veto over Ukraine’s attempts to join the European Union, or worse from Russia’s viewpoint, NATO.
“We all want the crisis to end as soon as possible, and in such a way that takes into account the interests of all people in Ukraine no matter where they live,” said Mr. Putin, according to the official Kremlin transcript of his remarks.

Putin has consistently behaved like the firm but ultimately conciliatory adult in the room during the Ukrainian upheavals that commenced when ousted president Viktor Yanukovych refused to sign a partnership agreement with the EU in November of last year.

While the coup-regime in Kiev has become more and more brutal and authoritarian toward resistance among Russians and Russian speakers, particularly in the East and South of the fragmenting nation, indeed launching military operations against refusniks and rebels in the East and precipitating a horrific massacre of civilians in Odessa, the Russian Federation president has been remarkably calm and deliberate in his arguments and actions, despite the increasingly shrill and bellicose rhetoric out of Kiev, Brussels, Berlin, London, and especially Washington, DC.

If indeed Putin has "blinked", I would regard it as a potentially devastating misstep for him and for Russia, let alone for Ukraine.

Yanukovych, too, was conciliatory, accommodating and willing to negotiate with the rebels and the protesters who were in the process of destroying his regime. He ultimately agreed to practically all their demands. The problem -- he realized too late -- was that the rebels demanded more and ever more and would not agree with Yanukovych. In the end, it meant that his government could not be sustained and collapsed. Yanukovych had to flee for his life, and Ukraine has been riven with strife ever since.

Surely Putin understands this and how his own government in the Kremlin could be vulnerable to a similar dynamic. It strikes me as odd that he might follow the same course as Yanukovych. And yet, with these apparently conciliatory gestures, after so much death and destruction by the Kiev coup-regime already, he may be setting his government up for a similar fall, and he may indeed be laying the foundation for the ultimate goal of the EU/NATO/US axis: the dismantlement of the Russian Federation.

Why would he do that?

It's too soon to know what's really going on, but at the moment, this particular step doesn't feel very positive...

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