After the US and NATO expectedly refused to satisfy the Kremlin's wishlist for the so-called security guarantees for the Russian Federation, Putin's likely response remains the main intrigue.
As we know, the first few rounds of negotiations between the US/NATO and the Russian Federation were remembered only by loud and far from diplomatic statements by representatives of the Russian Federation both before and after the start. The refusal of the United States and NATO to fulfill them, given the tone, and most importantly, the unrealistic nature of the demands put forward by the Kremlin, was read from the outset. From the point of view of simple political logic, not a single politician of the highest rank can afford to allow himself to be bent like that. Especially in democratic countries, where your every step and statement is followed by the opposition that tries to make the most of your mistakes and even reservations. Especially if you and your party have an extremely important election in less than eight months, if we are talking about the United States.
In principle, the Kremlin certainly knew that their demands to reduce the NATO infrastructure to the 1997 borders and guarantee that Ukraine and Georgia would not join NATO would also be rejected. Therefore, Lavrov, Peskov and other official speakers of the Putin regime openly stated that they did not expect any breakthroughs on the eve of the negotiations.
Nevertheless, having made such resonant statements and received a negative answer, the Kremlin could not but respond. After all, the internal legitimacy of both Putin himself and his regime as a whole also depends on this. Akella can't miss. The people who have been fed daily for eight years with propaganda about Russia “getting up off its knees” and the “decay of the West” simply will not understand this.
In this game of raising rates, the Kremlin has made several moves over the past month. On the eve of the meeting between Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov and US Secretary of State Blinken, deputies from the Communist Party of the Russian Federation introduced a bill on recognition by Russia of the pseudo-republics of the DPR and LPR.
Negotiations, as expected, again ended in nothing. But the US has promised to comply with the Kremlin's demand for a written response to proposals for "security guarantees." I deliberately put it in quotation marks, since this phrase, given the difference in military potentials between the Russian Federation and NATO troops in Europe, is a pure oxymoron.
And although Washington's written response to the Kremlin, at its own request, was not made public, Lavrov's reaction made it clear that the Kremlin's demands were not met again.
And over the weekend, the answer came from the Kremlin. Russian President Vladimir Putin instructed to provide residents of the occupied Donbas with social benefits. It's only about those who has Russian passports.
In particular, it is reported that Putin instructed the Russian government to consider providing citizens of the Russian Federation who live in the occupied Donbas with the possibility of applying for social benefits and benefits without registering in Russia. It is also reported that such applications will be submitted through a single portal of state and municipal services of the Russian Federation. According to the Kremlin website, the Russian government must consider Putin's order before May 1. Responsible for the decision is the head of the government of the Russian Federation Mikhail Mishustin.
In principle, against the backdrop of almost daily news in the Western media that Putin is about to attack, as well as the increase in the Russian grouping of troops near our borders, conducting constant exercises and planning new ones, this is a very mild response. If in November the American media affiliated with the Democratic Party and its supporters wrote that Russia could launch a full-scale offensive as early as the end of January, then this month the probable offensive was postponed to the end of February. Now Putin seems to be waiting for the ground to freeze for a tank offensive. Or the head of the PRC convinced him not to attack yet, so as not to divert attention from the Beijing Olympics. Versions change almost every day. One thing unites them - the anonymity of the sources.
In fact, this soft response from Putin demonstrates a realistic possible scenario if Zelensky cannot be coerced into implementing the Minsk agreements with the West. This confirms that, at least in the foreseeable future, he does not intend to attack Ukraine with the use of aviation, missile strikes and the occupation of at least the entire left-bank part of Ukraine.
The maximum that the Kremlin can go to now is the continuation of the creeping integration of the population of the occupied territories of Donbas into Russia, which began immediately after Zelensky’s victory in the presidential elections in 2019 with the distribution of Russian passports in ORDLO. The next step was the participation of their residents in the elections to the State Duma of the Russian Federation. And now, when it was necessary to somehow respond to the West to its refusal to bend and fulfill the Kremlin’s ultimatums on Ukraine’s non-entry into NATO, an order was issued to develop a mechanism for providing social benefits to residents of ORDLO.
In addition, such an order is also a signal to Zelensky after his rather harsh press conference with the Western media, at which he allowed himself very harsh statements against Putin and Lavrov. And he demonstrated that he is not afraid of the Kremlin's saber-rattling near our borders and the constant reports in the Western media about the threats of a full-scale war.
Last week, as is known, the first face-to-face meeting within the Normandy format at the level of political advisers also took place. At which Dmitry Kozak put forward strict demands of Bankova to start direct negotiations with representatives of the occupation administrations as the first step in the implementation of the political part of the Minsk agreements.
In less than two weeks, the next meeting of advisers to the heads of powers of the Normandy Four should take place in Berlin. Accordingly, the Kremlin, thus, announced its next step if Yermak does not bring to Berlin the algorithms for implementing the political part of the Minsk agreements and agreeing to direct negotiations between Kyiv and ORDLO.
No matter how cynical it sounds, but this is perhaps the best option for Ukraine in the current situation. Because the full implementation of the Minsk agreements is a direct threat to the existence of Ukraine as a unitary state, and even more so a cross on Euro-Atlantic prospects. Which, in principle, is the main goal of the most "security guarantees of the Russian Federation."
In fact, this is the plan of the so-called Bosniazation of Ukraine. In order to understand the prospects for Ukraine after their implementation, read the news about what has been happening there in recent months.
On the other hand, if Putin still decides to even recognize ORDLO, this will mean Russia's withdrawal from the Minsk agreements. Therefore, I regard this option in the coming months as extremely unlikely.
Not to mention the annexation of the occupied territories. Because this will mean the introduction of new sanctions by the West, and not the abolition of existing ones. Even Germany, which is already being flown by planes with military aid for Ukraine, will be forced to go for them and forget about the speedy launch of Nord Stream-2. Without which the start of a full-scale invasion is also impossible followed by the disruption of contracts for gas supplies to the EU.
In addition, without the allocation of significant multibillion-dollar assistance from the West or compensation from the Russian Federation (which is hard to believe), to restore the infrastructure destroyed by the war, pay off the accumulated debts on the social program, and moreover quickly reintegrate people mentally belonging to ORDLO after 8 years of brainwashing by Russian propaganda is basically impossible for Ukraine alone.
Summing up the results of the January negotiations in the West-Ukraine-RF triangle, I would like to note the following:
- in fact, by his order on social payments to residents of ORDLO, Putin announced the deadline for Kyiv and the West to start implementing the political part of the Minsk agreements - May 1. Then other steps will be possible, including the recognition of ORDLO, as well as a more intensive integration of the occupied territories into the Russian economy, which has already intensified over the past six months;
- until then, the threat of a full-scale Russian offensive against Ukraine is minimal, given the risks of new sanctions from the West, not to mention the economic and political costs. No matter how hard Russian propaganda has been trying for the past eight years, creating fakes about crucified boys and raped epileptic pensioners at Ukrainian checkpoints, the idea of an open and full-scale war with Ukraine is still unpopular among the population. Especially in Moscow, St. Petersburg and other large cities where mass protests are possible;
- statements by the Prime Minister of Great Britain about the possibility of imposing sanctions and freezing the assets of Russian oligarchs and the families of Russian officials are also an important deterrent signal for Putin's inner circle;
- the first rounds of negotiations between the West and the Russian Federation did not yield any results, as expected; initially, unrealistic conditions were put forward for both parties, given the difference in their combined economic potentials. On the other hand, the daily escalation in the American media about the threat of a Russian attack on Ukraine and the aggravation of relations between Zelensky and Biden (which are then denied by the White House) suggests that the United States is de facto putting pressure on Bankova to start implementing the Minsk agreements. This is the very possible compromise with the West on the security guarantees of the Russian Federation;
- the next few months for Ukraine will be the most difficult in the context of the risks of a full-scale energy crisis in case of fixing low temperature indicators for a long time in the face of a shortage of coal reserves and high prices for natural gas in Europe.
Therefore, the Kremlin has no reason to go for full-scale aggression, thereby exposing itself to new sanctions, numerous military and human losses. The emphasis is on internal destabilization in Ukraine, against which a more loyal regime can be established. In this regard, the statements of the British Foreign Office about the development of such a scenario by the Kremlin is the most likely, if you do not take into account the names of the perpetrators.
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