Stanislav Belkovsky: Putin is a Bully with nuclear weapon
Famous Russian political technologist Stanislav Belkovsky analyses situation connected to recent political activity of the Russian President Vladimir Putin once again. This time Belkovsky was talking to correspondent of the American Interest. We have re-structured his interview into the one analytical material about last events in world politics.
Force the West onto Love!
I’d like to note that before answering the question if the Putin is a winner or a loser we need to understand what his goals are. It is obvious for me that his only goal is to make the West sincerely accept him as equal and start negotiations about the world’s fate. I’d like to call it a Campaign “Force the West onto Love”. It is obvious that Putin hasn’t achieved his goal that is why it would be fair to say that he is not winning. Besides that he didn’t manage yet to excel Obama.
What about Nadezhda Savchenko release (which happened on 26 May and was described by our web-magazine) of course it wasn’t the swap of prisoners between two countries – not even close. Vladimir Putin is more likely to understand during negotiations by the phone of the “Normandy Four” – negotiations with the President of France Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel that not to face further tightening of sanctions he should release Savchenko as a minimum.
Neither Savchenko’s fate nor fates of two agents of the Main Intelligence Directorate have never interested Putin. He just had to make further step in according to his long-term Campaign “Force the West onto Love” and this step had to be made before the G7 Summit in Japan and not after.
Savchenko’s release is an effort not to worsen the sanction situation as a minimum. At best it has to make situation with sanctions better, for example to return access to foreign funds for largest Russian corporations. Now it has a great importance for Russian banks and state corporations. For Russian elite European sanctions are the most painful issue. But program of June summit is being developed on the G7 Summit that is why Savchenko has to be released before the beginning of meeting on the Ise-Shima island. It should be pointed that on 26 May Moscow was praised for the first time for fulfilling of conditions of Minsk agreement that can be translated from the diplomatic language like: “It is for Savchenko’s release”
Situation on Donbas
Situation in self-proclaimed people’s republics of Donetsk and Luhansk finally became Transdniestrian. In other words is became a real frozen conflict but with one important difference: in military and political meaning the Transdniester in fact is an independent state, whilst Donetsk and Luhansk republics fully obey Moscow’s will in several key aspects.
Minsk agreements from the same beginning were just bluff and hypocrisy: they have always been impossible. That is theoretically possible but with the condition of the Kremlin to abandon the DPR and LPR, that is impossible in practice under Putin’s governance. More than that in a state of frozen conflict it is impossible to fulfill two key conditions of Minsk-2: conducting of local election in according to Ukrainian legislation granting a certain amount of local autonomy for Donetsk and Luhansk regions, and restoration of full control under the state border from the Ukrainian government side throughout the whole conflict area (point 9 and 11). Putin has succeeded tactically: he has complicated the process of Ukraine’s accession to NATO. But his strategic goal to assure the West and the USA to negotiate the world’s fate with him by diving it into influence spheres – is still beyond the reach for Russian President. Official position of Kremlin always supposed that conflict territories of Donbas were a part of Ukraine. They just need a “special status” in some matters, including the language matter, policing and so on. But in fact this “special status” means real dependence of Moscow. His words can also mean: “Go there and take Donbas if you can” But the most important is underlying idea: you will not manage to do it because in critical moment we will send there as many “soldiers on vacation” or “invisible soldiers” as would be needed to disturb your plans to return Donbas. What about the Kiev’s will to return Donbas if it was possible to inject a truth serum into almost any Ukrainian politician (except the most radical) they all would reply that Ukraine doesn’t need Donbas and that it is more a burden for them than anymore else. But officially Kiev is not able to recognize its independence – at least not in foreseeable future. Doing it would result Ukrainian people to appreciate it as a treason and begin to ask difficult question about the reason of ATO and all the victims.
But as far as I’m not an Ukrainian politician I can answer there difficult questions. As only Donbas will finally leave the Ukraine, European trajectory of the country will become guaranteed and Russian influence for the Ukraine will fall almost to zero. ATO was necessary to stop the spread the Donbas-like conflicts for the other parts of country from Kharkov to Odessa. It should be reminded that in spring of 2014 there were widespread fatalistic moods among Ukrainian elite. Many were looking forward Russian army to break the corridor to Kherson and through there towards Crimea and Transdniester. ATO became the most important factor to pretend this scenario.
What is Putin’s final goal
Vladimir Putin is a Westerner who suffers from being rejected by the West. But he refuses to understand and to accept that alliance of Russia and the West – if it would exist sometime – must be built on mutual values and not on some balance of military forces in according to old-fashioned Stalin’s paradigm.
We live in the world where the famous Stalin’s question “ How many divisions does the Pope have?” has no sense. Russia under Putin’s governance will not use a soft power because it can’t offer to the world any successful model – neither political nor technological, nor social, nor humanitarian. That is why now Russia can’t be called even regional power: there is no a post-Soviet state which would voluntary agree to orient towards Moscow.
And Vladimir Putin is sincerely surprised that his technologies of mega-corruption finally didn’t work out as he has expected. They worked good in Gerhard Shroder and Silvio Berlusconi times but since then his mechanism of Western political elite’s bribery became ineffective.
Putin is not only surprised but he feels spurned. He hates Europe and USA whose fellow feeling he is constantly trying to achieve. Putin is dangerous but only as a local bully with nuclear weapon but not as a leader having global influence.
About rivalry in Putin’s circle
In Putin’s circle there are two main Ukraine policy centers – Vladislav Surkov and Viktor Medvedchuk. And they both are competing against each other. Nevertheless all final decisions are taken by Putin himself. Medvedchuk is pushing Putin to more active interference in Ukraine affairs including at the national Ukrainian level. Obviously it is explained by Medvedchuk’s will to return in Ukrainian politics with some trump cards in his hand. It is not a coincidence that on 25 May Putin has invited Medvedchuk to Kremlin for the meeting with relatives of two Russian journalists for whose murder Savchenko was convicted. Putin is a godfather to one of Medvedchuk’s daughters and they can be called close enough friends. It appears that relations between them are strong enough.
Surkov keeps more moderate position. He offers to use the conflict on the Ukraine’s East to get finally Kiev’s loyalty in Moscow – at least in NATO matters.
As always in such cases Putin tries to follow two ways at once. The same time he is sure that Ukraine will crumble anyway – at least in economical matter. And then we can talk in a completely different way. The world would bag Moscow to save Ukraine and in this situation Russia would try to negotiate about sanctions lifting and recognition of its claims for Crimea.
I would add that mass corruption and inefficiency of Ukrainian authorities, who came to power after Maidan revolution, leave Putin a handle to keep cherishing this dream.
Putin – ideologist
If we talk about ideology in its classical meaning Putin doesn’t keep any ideology. He doesn’t relate neither to Rights nor to Lefts. He supports not only rightwing parties in the West but any politicians whom he sees to be partly against the system – for example Alexis Tsipras in Greece. Putin’s goal is to destabilize political system of Anglo-Saxon world. In practice it means he would assist leaders who don’t want to bound themselves by political correctness and who can afford to deal with “bad guys”.
Putin’s vision on international affairs can be characterized as follows: “I’m a strong leader, I have a large country with nuclear weapon and enormous mineral resources, that is why world must treat me suitably. Let me rule the way I want and don’t touch my riches in the West. Then I’ll be a good partner. I’ll help you to fight against ISIS and to solve many other problems”.
Putin is prone to appreciate the events taking place in Europe through his own vision. Referendum in Netherlands on Ukraine? Its results showed that everybody was tired from the Ukraine or Putin thinks so. He imagines his personal triumph is near.
Putin has never been an alarmist. He has enough funds in different places. Under these places I mean bank accounts of largest Russian oil and gas companies. Putin doesn’t see any disaster in the current situation. He is prone to inductive thinking that is as he reasoning if he managed to overcome difficulties in the past he will manage to do it in future. Putin is sure that he still has access to large resources including the main resource: unlimited patience of Russian people.