July 31, 2015
By Rostislav Ishchenko
Translated from Russian by J.Hawk
Ishchenko’s interview with PolitNavigator:
Q: When you justify the absence of a swift and decisive move against Ukraine, you say that “Putin needs all of Ukraine.” But why not “both Ukraines”, or “all three Ukraines?” Because Crimean used to be Ukraine. But now it’s Russia. Donbass will never again be Ukraine either. Which means that Putin won’t get a “single country.” Only pieces. Wouldn’t it have been simpler to get it all in one fell swoop a year ago? Or does Russia’s economic pressure offer better prospects?
A: First of all, your question is somewhat illogical. If you get something in pieces, even if it means establishing control over each piece in a different way, you still ultimately get everything. A Nazi Ukrainian state cannot exist on Russia’s borders. It’s only a question of how to achieve that.
Secondly, if you are familiar with my writings, you should note that I am not writing simply about “all of Ukraine”–that’s a tactical question–but about Russia’s global confrontation with the United States which is playing out on many fields of which Ukraine is not even the most important one (though better noticeable by the Russian public). In a game like that we can’t simply hope things will work out.
Russia was being pulled into the Ukrainian mess so overtly that one can’t think it was an accident. I could write several pages of costs associated with the “one fell swoop” scenario. There would be only one plus–a few field commanders from among the “volunteers” might receive a medal.
Thirdly, it’s not about economic pressure but about forcing the US to do that which they have been provoking Russia to do. Accept the burden of sustaining a cleptocratic Nazi regime. Here’s an example: US went into Vietnam and lost, USSR went into Afghanistan and lost. One usually tries to make the geopolitical opponent take the first step in a dangerous game and accept all the costs and risks.
In other words, forget about Ukraine, look around and see what Russia’s diplomacy is doing in Asia, Africa, Latin America. Keep in mind we live on a very crowded planet and perhaps then what Russia’s leadership is doing will make more sense.
Q: Is extending the term of Minsk Agreements realistic? Whom would it benefit more?
A: It’s realistic because Ukraine won’t implement them. EU will say Kiev hasn’t managed. Very well, then let’s extend Minsk and wait until Kiev starts a war.
Q: Does it make sense to talk about increasing the number of regions with special status, or is it impossible without a war?
A: I already said the main task is the elimination of Nazi Ukraine, and how it will look afterward, how many regions with what status and as part of what state will depend on the outcome of the confrontation with the US, but that will take far longer than the elimination of the Kiev regime.
Q: Let’s suppose Kiev implements Minsk, doesn’t collapse, doesn’t die of hunger, and we have to turn over the border…Then what?
A: Let’s suppose tomorrow Obama calls Putin and apologizes for all the inconvenience and recalls Poroshenko and his company of nazis back to the US, then what? We shouldn’t try to imagine that which can’t happen. Kiev will not implement Minsk and it will collapse, but not on its own. It’s been receiving assistance in that area for a year and a half.
Q: The conflict is becoming a lengthy one, a military solution is unacceptable at the moment. How do we save Transnistria which is under a blockade? We’re not even talking about rotating and supplying our military there. Ukraine has been the traditional market for them, as was Moldova and the EU. And now there’s a blockade. Moldova signed an association agreement with the EU which automatically deprives Tiraspol of European markets. Likewise Ukraine is not a solvent market, should the blockade end.
A: Moldova already said that it doesn’t participate in a blockade of Transnistria and is ready to participate in normal economic relations and facilitate the troop rotation. It happened because Russia made it clearly understood that if there’s danger to Transnistria there will be a war, and nobody knows where our forces would stop (they might reach the Atlantic). We haven’t heard of Transnistria blockade since. So there’s nobody to rescue yet.
Q: Can Transnistria be saved before Odessa?
A: No. But we can still prevent a situation which would require us to rescue Transnistria.
Q: The sad experience of Estonia. Will it happen to Odessa? The end of transit through the region. The shut-down of factories, the last that still remain. The closing of the ammonia pipeline. The death of the Seventh Kilometer. Or will everything happen so fast that Odessites will never experience what it’s like to be “part of civilized humanity.”?
A: That threat exists. Though I’m sure that everything will happen comparatively swiftly, the level of decay in Ukraine is too great and the Nazis won’t simply leave before killing and destroying some more. Therefore even if transit doesn’t stop entirely, it will slow to a trickle for at least a year or two.
Q: External factors. The US. Are we likely to see a US military base in Odessa which would mean returning the region into the Eurasian economic space couldn’t happen without a war?
A: There won’t be a US base in Odessa. The US may send troops and weapons, but won’t establish long-term bases. They already understand they’ll have to leave Ukraine, and leave quickly. It’s only a question of how and when. Therefore it makes no sense to build a stationary base in a city and country which has no use for them but which costs scarce resources. Plus it’s dangerous. Washington doesn’t want to start a nuclear war over something silly no more than Moscow does. But Ukrainian talents could serve up something silly at any moment. With the best of intentions, of course.
Q: When will it all end? Will we be around to see it? Or will at least our children be able to return home? And call it their own? Because the only question that bothers everyone is–when?
A: We’ll witness it. And soon. But, as I wrote earlier, we can expect a military victory, in the sense of overthrowing the junta and suppressing the Nazis pretty soon. Restoring normal life, on the other hand, will take a long time. The country’s economy will have to be rebuilt. There are tens of thousands of unaccounted for weapons in the country. The society is fragmented and there are lots of people with “trench mentality” who want to solve all problems using gunfire. So it won’t be easy.
Q: What should we expect after “it won’t be easy”? Odessa is looking at Crimea. It is looking and comparing. Former Ukrainian officials change colors against the backdrop of general improvement. Party of Regions joins United Russia. Former unitedukrainians become Russian patriots. But they behave as before. If we can’t do general lustration, can we implement political filtration? Or will the new political and economic reality reform these…functionaries?
A: I was asked about the situation in Crimea already last year in Crimea itself. I explained that nobody’s about to send officials from Kamchatka to Crimea. It’s unfamiliar territory, plus Kamchatka needs them too. And nobody will carry out mass layoffs of “old regime” officials because that would be destabilizing. But if they try to work as before, they’ll quickly realize that Ukraine is not Russia. Any attempt to transplant Ukrainian corruption practices to Russia will be quickly thwarted.
And so we’ve been seeing arrests of Crimean officials in July. Those who get the message and work honestly will stay. Those who won’t will find a spot behind a sewing machine that was vacated by Khodorkovskiy.
Incidentally, the former Regionals are wrong be so eager to rule the liberated Ukraine. It will be worse there than in Crimea. Crimea became Russia right away. There are laws, procedures, while liberated Ukraine will remain under the law of the gun for some time. Those Regionals who survived the Right Sector may be finished off by the militia for their corruption. In any event, order on Ukraine’s mainland will be imposed through harsher measures–the situation there is more complicated