April 25, 2018

While democratic Europe tries to limit Russia’s ambitions using “gentle policy of containment”, Putin forces the world to understand that Ukraine remains in the sphere of his influence. President Putin stated in Minsk that Free trade area between Ukraine and EU might affect Russian economy. Such a statement means that Russia will take any steps, including encroaching on Ukrainian territory, to disrupt EU-Ukraine Association Agreement ratification process.     
Putin is grandstanding, he is demonstrating his readiness to negotiate Ukrainian issue with any counterparts, however the sense of Ukrainian issue for him  is not to ensure conflict de-escalation but to force Europe to reject plans aimed at Ukrainian integration into Europe. If Brussels agrees with Putin’s scenario, it is even eager to help EU to save its face.
The master of Kremlin shows the same scornful attitude towards his allies. Kazakh president Nazarbaev dared to say that EU-Ukraine Association Agreement would not affect Ukraine-Kazakh cooperation. Putin responded  to his words naming Nazarbaev a unique person who had created a state on the territories that belonged to the others. Russian Duma’s deputy Zhirinovsky interpreted Putin’s remark in a sense that  now Russia  is raising territorial claims  to Ukraine and Kazakhstan will be the next.
Zhirinovsky also declared that Europe had to change its policy towards Ukraine, otherwise it would be destroyed. One can ignore such stupid threats proclaimed by notorious politician, however the situation evolves in the direction he pointed to: Putin reminds  about Russia’s nuclear  arsenal every time he dislikes the events wherever they happen.
Putin prefers brutal force argument to European democratic principles and rule of law. He remains indifferent to European leaders’ statements expressing their “deep concern“, “anxiety”, ”disagreement”, “intolerance”, etc.  He continues to break international law, to lie and to manipulate… and there is no inevitable punishment for him.
Ukrainian people is punished for his deeds. Russian troops seize Ukrainian towns and villages, they kill civilians and ruin schools and hospitals, their aircraft and artillery destroy infrastructure. There are hundreds of thousands of refugees  in Ukraine. The East of the country is on the verge of humanitarian and technogeneous catastrophe.
Putin at the same time makes hypocritical statements  that  Russian army has never been to Ukraine. He believes that captured Russian officers got into Ukraine by mistake – they simply had got lost. It seems that Putin tries the indulgence of international community as a child tries the patience of the adults.
And where is response of the ”adults” (EU and OSCE)? Russia supplies terrorists to Donbas region with arms and military equipment, it sends her military advisers. No real response, only calming words. Russia announces military exercises, draws up forces near Russian-Ukrainian border and fires at Ukrainian territory. No real response, only calming words and light formal sanctions against some Russian officials.  They waited for something extraordinary to happen and it had happened. Malaysian airline was shot down. And it was not a mistake, it was a deliberate act. As a result, 298 men, women and children, who had no relation to Russian-Ukrainian conflict, died.
International sanctions against Russia certainly will have negative impact on the economy of the country, but the scale of possible loses is not big enough to stop Putin. EU member states  have no consolidated position towards introduction of practical and effective sanctions against Russia, particularly in case they can affect their own economies.
Old Europe is still good-humoured. It perceives military conflict between Russia and Ukraine as something it has very little relation to and tries to distance itself. It’s no surprise that Brussels took no effective steps  after Minsk talks had failed and situation in the South-East Ukraine had aggravated. It again presented Putin with a fresh ultimatum and promised to introduce a new package of sanctions. Moreover, pro-russian lobby in EU (Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Cyprus) threats to veto the new round of sanctions.
Germany and France on their part refused to grant military aid to Ukraine based on the reason that “it may form a false impression that the conflict can be resolved by military means”. At the same time France has not rejected its promise to sale Mistral ships to Russia and this contract is still in force. Being one of the main trade partners of Russia, Germany is an appeasement approach supporter.  Germany is a leader of the counties which desire to make a bargain with an aggressor and they hope they will sacrifice nothing and not suffer loses.
European leaders can adhere to this line in future too and Putin will be able to achieve his goal of restoring Great Russian Empire in its former borders.  Putin understands perfectly well that European countries are afraid to lose even a little bit of their prosperity and well-being. He will  have being implementing his ambitious plans until Europe understands that sometimes the best gain is to lose.  Europe needs to respond adequately to Russian invasion into Ukraine. Russia has thrown Europe a challenge. Europe needs to realize that it  faces the challenge and to react.

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