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    August 12, 2016

    Two moves ahead: Russia refuses to slip into Ukrainian trap

    August 11, 2016 - 
    By Eduard Popov for Fort Russ
    Translated by J. Arnoldski



    A few hours ago, a meeting of the UN Security Council, urgently convened in connection to Ukraine’s saboteur attacks on the territory of Russian Crimea, came to a close. The session was convened on Ukraine’s initiative, which is something of a strange incident. Usually, the injured side is the one to initiate such a meeting. In this case, the offended party is Russia, two of whose officers were killed at the hands of Ukrainian terrorists. Either Ukrainian diplomats turned out to be more agile than the Russians, or the convening of the UN Security Council session was merely a debriefing session. In my opinion, the second version appears to be more relevant. It is of even greater importance that the session was a closed one, which gives rise to even more anxiety. 

    As Russia’s permanent UN representative, Vitaly Churkin, stated, the meeting was useful for Russia insofar as it offered the opportunity to convey to other countries comprehensive information on the incident in Crimea. At the same time, the diplomat did not limit himself to merely informing his foreign colleagues about the Crimean incident, but also brought forth the Russian point of view on events in Donbass. Churkin advised the Ukrainian government to cease the conflict in Donbass and “stop shelling civilians.” 

    Currently known information on the UN Security Council meeting is quite limited. Nevertheless, some conclusions can be drawn and some previously made predications can be reinforced.

    1. Today in an interview for a Russian publication, I expressed the opinion that there will be no war with Ukraine at this stage. I posited that the words of Churkin quite clearly confirm this view. Despite all the negative perceptions of the Ukrainian leadership as now even being “terrorist,” Russia is still ready (or compelled) to negotiate with it. Many hot heads in Russia will be disappointed with such restraint on the part of Russian diplomacy.  But I believe that this is the only reasonable behavior to have in such an uncertain situation. The plans of the terrorist attacks’ organizers included a lavish display of the Ukrainian side’s intentions with shooting from Ukrainian territory and the shelling of Russian soldiers. There would have been no need for deliberate demonstrativeness, as the terrorist attack itself would have been arranged quietly and then, the organizers of the attack (obviously not Ukrainians, but useful tools in foreign hands) hoped for an emotional reaction from Russia. 

    Society has indeed expressed its frustration and replied with calls to punish Ukraine up to the point of sending in Russian troops. However, Russia’s political and military leadership has turned out to be more restrained and does not wish to act in a way predictable for the opponent, or play according to their rules. There is the danger of a direct military clash between Russia and Ukraine, but it is minimal. Otherwise, there would have already been such a war. That a war of this sort hasn’t been started yet is exclusively the merit of Russia, despite Ukraine’s efforts. 

    2. Vitaly Churkin’s words linked the incident in Crimea to the situation in Donbass while simultaneously appealing to Russia’s European partners’ opinions. Russia, as a victim of Ukrainian terrorism, is hoping for understanding on the part of its Western partners from the Normandy Quartet, who are supposed to put pressure on the Kiev regime. However, the recent statement by the French Foreign Ministry urging the conflicting parties to come to a peaceful agreement leaves little chance that the West will cooperate. The US State Department has supported all of Ukraine’s actions without “noticing” their terrorist character. 

    We can only guess what specific actions the Russian side will subsequently take against Ukraine if Kiev violates the ceasefire in Donbass. Judging by Vladimir Putin’s statements, Russia could abandon the Normandy Format. Without a doubt, the negotiation process over Donbass would continue in some kind of new form, either without Ukraine’s participation, or with strict control over its actions in Crimea. Admittedly, it is difficult to speak of an specifics on this question.


    3. Despite the patience of President Putin and Russian diplomacy, a war with Ukraine seems to be only a matter of time away. Ukraine itself is deliberately provoking Russia to take this step. On August 11th, the holding of military exercises in Southern Ukraine and marine corps’ exercises were announced and Poroshenko gave the order to put troops in a state of high alert and move them up to the border of Russian Crimea. This is a game of muscle-flexing and a provocation against Russia. According to Chekhov’s famous play, if a gun hangs on the wall in the first act, then it will necessarily be shot in the last. 




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