Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard
To the question about the recognition of Crimea as Russian Trump answered: “We will see”, and added that it is necessary to understand what Russia can offer.
It is unlikely that Russia will offer something. For Moscow, of course, the fact of the international recognition of the Russian status of Crimea is important. And the recognition from the US, as one of the most important world players, would push the others towards making similar actions. Nevertheless, this recognition would be by just one country, even if it is a very influential State. The process of the definitive international legal legitimisation can be dragged out for decades. It is the final settlement of the Crimean problem with Ukraine that is much more important for Russia, because if there is no country challenging the sovereignty over this territory, then there is also no international legal problem. If such a State indeed exists, even if the whole world recognises Crimea as Russian, the problem will anyway remain.
For understanding: the US didn’t recognise the entry of the Baltic republics into the structure of the USSR, but this didn’t disturb anybody at all, because there were no other claimants concerning sovereignty over these territories that were recognised as a subject of international law. That’s why, not recognising the fact of accession, the US recognised the borders of the USSR, which included the republics of the Baltics, and this topic was never the subject of negotiations between Moscow and Washington. It was clear to everyone that trade has no relevance here. On the other hand, the US recognises the Kurils as Russian. But the fact of Japan’s non-recognition of Russian sovereignty over the Southern Kuril ridge spoils our blood and is a subject of continuous international consultations over the last 73 years. And the US actively uses the fact of the challenging of territories in their interests. Just like how they also use the territorial disputes between Vietnam and China; the Philippines, Vietnam, and China; Japan and China; Japan and South Korea, etc in their interests.
Thus, the possibility of the unilateral American recognition of Crimea as Russian won’t definitively resolve the problem, and it doesn’t deprive the US of the option to come back to this question in the future, and that’s why from Russia’s point of view it’s not worth any serious concessions. Let them recognise it gratuitously. But it is unlikely that they will want to do it gratuitously. Trump seeks to receive good dividends from unneeded goods.
I am sure that despite the crying non-professionalism of Ukrainian politicians and diplomatic corps, Kiev perfectly understand the situation. Nevertheless, they writhe in hysterics and talk about the new betrayal of the West. And, strangely enough, they are right. The West indeed betrayed Ukraine and doesn’t hide it.
For Kiev Trump’s “we will see” concerning Crimea is worse than “Nord Stream-2” in Merkel’s format of implementation. Of course, real losses (not only financial, but also political) from the joint venture will be huge and it is only in the future that they will be incurred, but everything already happened concerning Crimea. But Germany’s commitment to construct this gas pipeline was present always and it is explainable. A direct gas pipeline is beneficial for the German economy and business, and sharply raises the stocks of Germany as an all-European leader, because it allows it to become the main European gas hub, i.e., to put European energy under its control, along with the European economy. That’s why the actions of Germany, although they irritate Kiev, in general are explainable – looking out for number one.
But the question of the recognition/non-recognition of the Russian status of Crimea is purely political. The internal conflict in Ukraine, which caused external consequences that led to Crimea being lost, was provoked by the US and their West European allies. At the same time, Kiev wasn’t just promised military-political, diplomatic, financial, and economic support, but the US and the EU guaranteed that any issue concerning Ukraine won’t be solved without Ukraine’s participation. In fact, the West undertook an obligation to defend during negotiations the position that will be formulated by Ukraine.
Well, we know very know the position of Ukraine: to return Crimea, to force Donbass to come back, to apologise for everything, to pay compensation, to reduce gas prices up to almost free of charge, to raise the prices for transit up to the sky, to guarantee the pumping of such a volume of transit gas through the Ukrainian gas transit system that Ukraine will be able to receive, and to promise to instantly satisfy in the future all the desires of Kiev – even the desires that it still can’t imagine it could have but will eventually spring to mind. Despite the absurdity of these claims, the US and the EU indeed supported them for a long time and even imposed sanctions demanding to meet the requirements of Ukraine. In 2014-2015 it was made clear to Russia that, of course, contributions, reparations, and free gas for Ukraine is a starting position, which will be zeroed during negotiations, but concerning Crimea and Donbass – there can’t be two opinions, and that Moscow is simply obliged to return them on a silver platter and to longly and publicly repent for its aggressiveness.
Alarming calls have been arriving to Kiev for a long time. In the beginning Europe somehow lost interest in discussing the problems of Ukraine in the Normandy format (with the participation of Kiev), and the Paris and Berlin leadership got used to flying for separate negotiations either in St. Petersburg, Moscow, or Sochi. Then the Ukrainian leaders ceased in general to be received in the US (except for paid photo sessions), but Trump started talking about the need for direct negotiations with Putin concerning the resolution of all problems dividing Russia and the US, and it means also the Ukrainian crisis and the question of the status of Crimea.
Direct negotiations between Washington (Paris and Berlin) and Moscow concerning the Ukrainian issue mean only one thing – the settlement of this crisis will take place at the expense of Ukraine. Yes, the West is still going to bargain concerning what piece of cake will break off and for whom, and in what other region of the world it would like to receive counter concessions from Russia. Russia won’t concede in strategic affairs (Ukraine, Syria, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the informal union with China and Iran) and the West has no arguments to force it to reconsider its position. Perhaps the West will manage to haggle some compensation (compromise demands reciprocal concessions) on trifles (like access to markets, prices and tariffs). But it is clear that today Russia isn’t ready for that volume of concessions that seemed to it to be justified in 2013 (when Moscow proposed trilateral negotiations in the Russia/Ukraine/European Union format) or in 2014-2015, when it concerned the federalisation (confederalisation) of Ukraine (without Crimea, but with Donbass) as a transitional status giving the chance for the subsequent self-determination of autonomous territories. Today the Ukrainian and Syrian crises are unambiguously won by Russia and there are grounds to revise the results of five years of fighting.
So, the West is going to bargain with Russia over the conditions of the normalisation of relations, taking a frankly weak position. Ukraine isn’t being invited to the negotiating table, although its fate will also be decided there. In Kiev the situation was absolutely correctly evaluated: the West is going to pay for its mistakes and crimes with the fate of the Kiev regime. The question doesn’t consist in whether or not Ukraine will be surrendered. It was already surrendered. Now it is only about whether or not the West will manage to get at least some compensation for it, and if yes, then how much.
Meanwhile the position of Moscow is that the West must still pay for the results of their interference, at least partially. Moreover, this position is common for Ukraine and Syria. I.e., Brussels and Washington are being proposed to haggle not over compensation from Moscow, but over a possible reduction in the amount of compensation that they have to pay.
However, Kiev is neither cold nor hot because of this. It was served on the dining table and proposed to be eaten. In such a situation it is absolutely all the same for all Ukrainian political company (irrespective of whether a specific politician supports or opposes Poroshenko) who will pay for the banquet at which it is intended to serve up Ukraine.
It is too late to twitch. It wasn’t even in 2014, nor even in 2012, but in 2005 when I said during public discussions with nationalist-“patriots” from the Yushchenko era that a weak, secondary State trying to enter into the fight of great States, especially trying to initiate a crisis in relations between superpowers, will become the first victim of this crisis. Because the adult and strong will reach an agreement – it is more expensive to be at enmity. And when they start looking for those responsible for the problems that have befallen them, they will remember the powerless provoker who hoped to win the conflict at someone else’s expense and who isn’t good for anything besides marauding. And they will try to write off all the costs of the conflict on them, first of all.
Nevertheless, the Ukrainian politicians considered that they are the cleverest, and that working as the henchmen of the new occupant can not only enrich them, but also introduce them into the structure of the high society of global politics. Now they have the opportunity to remember how these same Euro-Americans handed over their ancestor-henchmen in their tens of thousands to the victorious Soviet Union, because nobody needs to spoil relations with a superpower because of human rabble. Such material always exists in an unlimited quantity in the political sphere.
The most interesting thing is that having already realised that they were sold out and betrayed by external patrons who they can’t exist without, they still carry out an internal fight for the Kiev throne. Moreover, a fight to the death. They are still yet to learn that the last Ataman of a gang is responsible for everything, even if he was better than his predecessors. Such is the indestructible law of politics. Someone must be responsible for death and destruction. It is the losing State that is answerable. And personally, it is those politicians who head it at the time of signing the total and unconditional surrender, even if this capitulation is signed on their behalf by third parties.
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