'The West would punch us in the teeth with terrible force in the event of an invasion of Ukraine'
What to expect from the newly simmering situation around the Donbass and why a war is not beneficial to either Russia or Ukraine
The topic of tension around the Donbass again unfolded last week. The head of the DPR, Denis Pushilin, said that Ukraine is ready for the resumption of hostilities, and Ukrainian President Zelensky held a telephone conversation with Joe Biden, receiving assurances of support for the country's sovereignty. Rumours abound about the advance of Russian military equipment to the border with Ukraine — tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, multiple launch rocket systems and Iskander missile systems — . Political commentator Leonid Radzikhovsky in the interview with Realnoe Vremya discusses whether the risk of a military conflict between Russia and Ukraine is high, and what all this means.
“There is little joy for Ukraine to capture the LPR and DPR now”
Mr Radzikhovsky, what is happening now in the Donbas?
First of all, we do not see anything serious in the zone of this conflict, because the military balance in the Donbas was established back in 2015 — just as the balance was established in general in Russian-Ukrainian relations. And the armistice line between the DPR and the LPR and Ukraine is the border of this balance. Yes, there have been PR dances around this balance in recent weeks, but this is normal, because this is politics. But neither side is physically able or willing to seriously break this balance line.
What indicates that Kiev has no desire to fight again in these territories?
I do not know who and what they want in Kiev — I can't get inside the heads of Zelensky or Poroshenko. But the fact that Ukraine has not been fighting in the Donbas since the winter of 2015 indicates that Kiev will not go to war there. Since Kiev has not taken any action in that area for more than six years, so they can not fight there. Perhaps, theoretically, Kiev would like to fight, but it can't — and, apparently, they understand this.
If we think rationally, from the point of view of the state interests of Ukraine, then their politicians should have understood that the current situation is optimal for them. Let's imagine that a deep and terrible crisis occurs in Russia, that Putin has no time for the Donbas. Or that Putin resigns, and a new president of Russia says: “Guys, what are you talking about? . Doesn't Russia have enough problems of its own? We don't need it.” Yes, in this case, Ukraine would be inevitably tempted to seize the Donbas first militarily, and then put its own civilian administration there.
Of course, in this case, the Donbas will not be able to resist the military pressure of Ukraine, just as Ukraine will not be able to resist the military pressure of Russia now. But what would they gain by seizing the Donbas? What is the benefit? They would get a destroyed territory, where they would have to invest terrific money — this would concern both the economy and infrastructure. Besides, Kiev would get a population that hates the Ukrainian state, and which would treat them in the future in the same way as the inhabitants of Western Ukraine treated the USSR.
But the difference here is that in the 1950-1980s the USSR was a harsh state and one could only snap at it. But Ukraine is a weak, loose state, and no one will allow it to carry out any operations such as mopping ups. It wants to be a European country, it wants to join NATO, the European Union. This means that mopping ups in the Donbas would be impossible for it. And what would Kiev have in the end? A destroyed region, in which it is necessary to invest money, and, besides, it will be necessary to respect the rights of this region — to play to angry separatists, to pay the same tribute. But why does Ukraine need this?
We do not see anything serious in the zone of this conflict, because the military balance in the Donbas was established back in 2015 — just as the balance was established in general in Russian-Ukrainian relations
“Zelensky shouts to the same Americans that the Mongols are, that is, the Russians are coming”
But in 2014, Ukraine regained more than half of the territories of the proclaimed LPR and two-thirds of the DPR — and it's not like that it received an angry and terribly hating population in Kramatorsk or Slavyansk. Why can't it now get the same population in Donetsk and Luhansk? Has the time changed?
Slavyansk and Kramatorsk are still small cities, so when the Ukrainians entered there, their residents quickly fell silent. But their attitude to the Ukrainian state remained disgusting — they always vote for pro-Russian parties and so on. But the territories of the LPR and DPR are still territories with a decent number of inhabitants and there has already developed its own infrastructure for six years. Yes, probably, the people do not like it at all because there were not, the same fair elections. But they will like the Ukrainian infrastructure even less. Therefore, there is little joy for Ukraine to capture the LPR and DPR now.
If Russia, again, retreats from these territories, Ukraine will be forced to seize them. Public opinion will simply force the leadership to do so. But now it is unprofitable — too much money is needed to capture and hold the Donbas. Therefore, it is more profitable for Ukraine to cry out that their country is a victim of aggression, that it has been robbed, offended, and so on — this is convenient for both Ukraine and Europe.
You've said that before us there are PR dances around the topic of Donbas — on Thursday, Zelensky visited the positions of the Ukrainian military in the Donbas. What are the motives of these “dances” in Ukraine?
Politics is a living thing. Ukraine and its President Zelensky need to solve several domestic and international problems. For example, they need to once again remind the Americans about themselves. After all, Ukraine is not an independent state, and America's support is physically and psychologically important for it. Besides, Ukraine has a terrible situation with COVID-19, and people need something to distract them from this horror. After all, they can't beat them on the head all day with news about lockdowns, the number of infected and dead, about vaccines — these topics need to be interrupted with something. And here, please — a spectacular and winning theme.
Besides, there are political opponents of Zelensky — for them, it is important, first of all, to nail the president: they say that he came to power under the slogans of stopping the bloodshed and clashes in the Donbas, but he did not stop all that at all. And Zelensky answers them that no, I stopped them. And as proof, he can cite his order that the Ukrainian army can now open fire in the Donbas only by the orders of the high command. Of course, such an order sharply limited the number of shootings, and this proves that Zelensky is able to establish peace and stop a large escalation that he does not need.
On the other hand, Zelensky shouts to the same Americans that the Mongols, that is, the Russians, are coming. And this is also a normal and reasonable policy — a politician should play on several tables at once. This is normal.
Zelensky shouts to the same Americans that the Mongols, that is, the Russians, are coming. And this is also a normal and reasonable policy — a politician should play on several tables at once
“Neither Donbass nor Ukraine is worth breaking off relations with the West”
Why are you sure that Russia will keep the balance and will not go further? On Thursday, Kozak said at the Minsk Contact Group talks that Ukraine's offensive on the Donbas would be the beginning of its end and promised that Russia would protect the DPR and LPR.
As for Russia, the current Donbas balance that is beneficial to it is also understandable. Russia is not doing anything and will not do anything in the Ukrainian direction due to that it may be hit by Western sanctions.
As it is known, the French Huguenot King Henry IV once converted to Catholicism — he said: “Paris is well worth a mass.” And he became the king of France. And it is clear that Putin can say: “Neither Donbass nor Ukraine is worth breaking off relations with the West.” And if Russia launched massive actions in Ukraine today, it would not even get a 2014. The West's attitude towards Russia has become worse in seven years, and we would have received such counter-sanctions that our spine would have cracked.
The first Russian salvo on Ukraine would mean the first salvo on our ship Akademik Chersky, with which the Nord Stream — 2 gas pipeline is being laid. Thus, it would put an end to this gas project. Given how much ambition and money has been invested in Nord Stream 2, sanctions against it would be a painful step. Then everything would go as the occasion requires — Russia's major military successes in Ukraine would have caused no less major setbacks in relation to the West.
But as you said, they don't like us anyway, so what are we going to lose?
So far, the West has not imposed serious sanctions against Russia. Well, Patrushev was forbidden to rest in France, so what? Patrushev can not go there to rest at all because of his position — no matter there is a ban or not. In the event of an invasion of Ukraine, the West would punch us in the teeth with terrible force — a shutdown of SWIFT, a ban on Russian public debt, and in the future — a ban on the supply of Russian oil and gas. A war in Europe is not a joke after all. Therefore, today, a war in Ukraine would be a disaster for Russia, and, because of this understanding, Putin, as a sane person in this matter, will never do such a stupid thing.
A war in Ukraine would be a disaster for Russia, and, because of this understanding, Putin, as a sane person in this matter, will never do such a stupid thing
“Personally I do not see any suicides or mentally ill people in the Kremlin”
I've mentioned to you the statement of Dmitry Kozak, but a day earlier, on Wednesday, April 7, his closest ally to Putin, Security Council Secretary Nikolay Patrushev, said that Russia has no plans to intervene in the conflict in the Donbas. Is the statement serious and draws the line despite the build-up of troops to the border?
Of course, Patrushev's statement can be taken seriously. Even without Patrushev's statement, everything was clear! Personally I do not see any suicides or mentally ill people in the Kremlin. In the same way, I do not see suicides and mentally ill people on Bankova Street (the street where the Office of the President of Ukraine is located — ed.) in Kiev, despite the howl of Russian federal television. Only a madman can launch a large-scale military operation in the Donbas.
So what happens now? New Minsk agreements?
The Minsk agreements, in my opinion, are an empty piece of paper. They are impracticable, they fix only what I've said earlier — agreements on balance, on a fixed status quo. The Donbas is already a cut-off slice for Ukraine — it will never return to Ukraine, and the Ukrainian leadership understands this very well. But the Ukrainian leadership, like the leadership of Russia, and like the leadership of any other country on the globe, understands one thing but should imitate another.
Take Crimea as an example — is there at least one politician in the Ukrainian leadership who seriously believes that Crimea will return to Ukraine? There is not a single such politician there — even among the most nationalistic and most Russophobic politicians, there is no such. They understand that even if Russia suddenly disappeares or collapses, Crimea will still not return to Ukraine. It can become an independent state, it can join Turkey, but it will not return to Ukraine — because Ukraine does not need it for the same reasons as the Donbas. But no Ukrainian politician will say about the Crimea that this ship has sailed — there are rules of decency.
As for the Minsk agreements, any piece of paper can be rewritten — politics by 99 per cent, and especially modern foreign policy, is shifting pieces of paper, this endless to and fro. And both sides of the negotiations can know: this is to, and this is fro.
Even without Patrushev's statement, everything was clear! Personally I do not see any suicides or mentally ill people in the Kremlin despite libtard propaganda
That is, work on new agreements will probably begin, but will the balance with tension remain?
Quite possible. These agreements are just an element of the political ritual, an element of a meaningless political game, when everything is clear to everyone. It is clear to Ukraine that Russia will not attack it, Russia knows that Ukraine will not move tanks to Donetsk and will not return the Donbas.
Of course, some believe that now the Russian authorities need a “small victorious war” to raise their rating inside the country. But this war will not happen — in 2014, in the war in the Donbas, there were still Russian losses. Although we were not informed about them, but they could be comparable to the Ukrainian ones.
But it's not even the point — in 2014, Ukraine actually did not have an army, it was a ruin, not an army. But now Ukraine has it — yes, it is not American, not Turkish, but it is, so there will be no easy walk. But a hard war does not raise the rating at all. At the first moment, of course, there will be a surge of adrenaline, “football fanaticism”, terrible enthusiasm. But then there will be another situation — a victorious war will not happen if you are already facing the army of a not small country. So is all this necessary? Yes, now shots are being fired periodically in the Donbas: a child has been killed — and this is a grief for his family. But if a hundred children were already killed in the war, would that make it any easier?