(Kyiv Post) So the “great and powerful” Vladimir Putin spoke on the situation in Ukraine on May 7th. He sounded conciliatory and responsible. His tone was soft, nothing of a “soak in a toilet” stuff. Is he turning into a dove all of a sudden? Can we say that Moscow is now interested in de-escalation? I am afraid not.
First of all, Putin is not exactly known as someone whose words should be taken for their face value. So, why this case should be any different? We all have learned this hard way. In fact, he is not shying away from admitting once in a while that, well, he lied on some occasions before. Most notable example is the one about “little green men” in Crimea. Now you see them, now you do not. They were not Russian military, but, wait, then all of a sudden they were.
Let us actually listen to what he said this time. He said that Russian troops are withdrawn away from Ukraine’s borders. Agencies monitoring them say it is not so. Thought so. We were to expect more comments and explaining to come from Moscow. Something of a sort: we are going to withdraw those forces if… Ukraine does this and that. West does such and such. So, no withdrawal, same posturing, keeping military pressure on the border.
The referenda parts of his pronouncements were quickly understood for what they really were. Plausible deniability. That is he says that those referenda should be postponed. Separatists on the ground tell us they plan to go on with them. Putin then says: well, people spoke, do not blame me. Most people saw this bluff right away. It was funny to see some of the separatists confused and panicking initially – what does it mean that Putin says we should delay? But then the next morning there came announcements that those so-called “referenda” are still on. The reassuring message came from Kremlin enablers, explaining what Putin really wants.
There is little evidence to show that Putin is, indeed, retreating, that sanctions are biting, let alone, that he is capitulating. First, as it is known, any sanctions take time to have palpable effect. Even the most solid and wide-scale sanctions, not the sort of those applied to Russia so far. So, Moscow does not have a need to worry. At least for now. Second, Putin has bet too much on dealing with Ukraine now. It is about a return to a great power status, about recreating a Russia-dominated post-Soviet space, about showing the West who is the “master of the house”. It is also, of course, about his ratings within Russia. So, Putin is clearly willing to sacrifice a lot financially to see his gamble in Ukraine to its successful end. Too much is at stake […]
See the full story "Putin Is No Dove" by Volodymyr Dubovyk © Kyiv Post