Putin at the Russia Grand Prix: The holding of the Formula One
in Sochi marked eight months since
Ukraine's Euromaiden protests
began in Kiev, and President
Viktor Yanukovych was toppled.
Eight Months at War: Gains and Losses in 'Ukraine Campaign' (Gazeta,
Russia gained? Russia, apparently, has gained Crimea. Although formally it will
be a very long time before the legitimacy of the annexation is recognized by
the world, morally at least - the peninsula is registered as Russia's. … The
overall economic losses from Russia's rejection of the coup d'etat
in Ukraine are significant. Political victory is not yet apparent, although, as
we know, in politics, in contrast with the economy, one plays 'the long
The withdrawal of Russian forces from the Ukrainian border
shows, if not the end of campaign, then at least a pause in a hot conflict.
This period from Sochi to Sochi (from the Olympics to Formula One) will
certainly go down in history: in the first eight months, Russia has radically
altered its position in world politics, its relations with brotherly Ukraine
and its social contract in the country.
On Oct. 12, Vladimir Putin instructed the minister of
defense [Sergey Shoygu]
to recall the troops from Ukraine's border, and [Ukraine president] Petro Poroshenko announced a full ceasefire in Donbass three days later.
If this isn't the end of the war, then it is at least a
demonstration of peaceful intentions and a transition of both sides toward
decision to pull back Russian troops was announced while Vladimir Putin was in
Sochi to open the first Russian Gran-Prix, the "Formula One." Just
eight months ago in the same place and with a far larger grouping of foreign
delegations and fans, Vladimir Putin observed the Winter Olympics. Olympians
were welcomed from stands by the now fugitive former president of Ukraine -
A week later, under circumstances still being investigated,
the bloodiest clashes of "Euromaidan" took place and
82 people were shot. After another night, Yanukovych would sign an agreement to settle the
political crisis and disappeared, after appearing in public for a
series of short speeches from Rostov.
Since then, the speed of events have contributed to a sense
that rather than a few months, an entire epoch has passed: the annexation of
Crimea, the referendum in the southeast, President Poroshenko,
the Malaysian Boeing [MH17], the Minsk Protocol [the agreement
signed in Sept. 5 to halt the war in Dunbass,
Eight months after the last public appearance by Viktor
Yanukovych - who even in Russia is no longer called the only legitimate president
of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin was meeting sportsman in Sochi alone.
If, indeed, Russian leaders have concluded that - if not
time to check out, then at least to take a break in the confrontation of the
last eight months - it is now possible to sum up the interim results.
What has Russia gained? Russia, apparently, has gained
Crimea. Although formally it will be a very long time before the legitimacy of
the annexation is recognized by the world, morally at least - the peninsula is
registered as Russia's.
In addition to Crimea and part of Donbass
- without access to the port in Maripul as was apparently planned - partial
recognition of the influence of pro-Russia groups in Ukraine has taken place.
The borders of Donetsk and Lugansk [New Russia] now mark a line of
demarcation for separate entities within the country, with the right to
seriously impact the internal and external policy decisions of Ukrainian
authorities. Negotiations on just how serious this influence will be remain to
be held, but in any case, the very existence of the enclave complicates any
Euro-Atlantic integration of Ukraine.
A separate question is: who will feed this Abkhazia-like enclave? Economic
independence from Ukraine might fill the enclave with joy, but Russia isn't
eager to take on such a burden in its budget. The answer to this question
should be made during regular discussions between Putin and Poroshenko.
Russia has had to absorb serious Western sanctions that have
already negatively affected its economy. For political reasons, the Russian
leadership is unlikely to bend to see an easing of sanctions, but neither does
it have a desire to see tougher sanctions.
Russia has suffered human losses that hardly anyone would
attempt to quantify. Human rights advocates cite figures of up to 4,000 dead -
not volunteers [pro-Russia rebels] and not military.
Russia has received a million Ukrainian refugees who will be
unable to return for some time to come after military operations destroyed
their homes, but on the eve of winter they should all be settled and employed.
In its relations with Ukraine, on the one hand, Russia's
project to have Ukraine join the [Eurasian] Customs Union is at an end, and on
the other, it has a strong negotiating position on gas supplies. Elections to
Parliament will have to demonstrate the capacity of those responsible to make
real Russian "soft power" in relations with Ukraine.
In its relations with its own citizens, the government has
received massive support for the "Russian national idea" and the
concept of a "Russian World" from the population.
The social contract "sausage in exchange for
freedom" can be considered terminated: the trend now is not sausage, not
freedom - but national identity.
However, depending on the precision of further action, this
support may just as well result in discontent with "betrayal,"
"negotiations with the [Kiev] junta," the sinking of "New
Russia," and the long imperial delusion. However, until the battery of
discontent goes dead, the military-minded will successfully raise the issue of
a mysterious "fifth column."
In relations with the West and this new twist in the
"Cold War," the U-turn in East means setting a course toward
self-sufficiency and ensuring our own security in the face of the global
The overall economic losses from Russia's rejection of the
coup d'etat in Ukraine are significant. Political
victory is not yet apparent, although, as we know, in politics, in contrast
with the economy, one plays "the long game." Its
possible now after a small amount of bloodshed for a considerable achievement
in the form of recognizing Crimea (albeit only moral recognition), it is now
time for new policy agreements.
If, however, the dialogue turns out to be impossible, the
likelihood is that after Ukraine survives the first winter after the revolution
- there will be a new round of conflict.