Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Motive Behind Vladimir Putin's Approach to the Crisis in Ukraine

The tragedy of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 has now brought a comment from Russia's President Vladimir Putin.  From the Kremlin website, here is a translation of his comments of July 21, 2014 keeping in mind that Google Translate does not always do the best job of translation:

"In connection with the terrible tragic events that occurred in the skies over the Donets, I would like to say once again how we in Russia relates to events that are taking place in Ukraine.

We have repeatedly called on all warring parties to immediately stop the bloodshed and to sit down at the negotiating table. We can confidently say that if June 28 fighting in eastern Ukraine were not renewed, then this tragedy would not have happened for sure. However, no one should not have the right to use this tragedy to achieve selfish political objectives. Such events should not divide but unite people. It is necessary that all the people who are responsible for the situation in the region improved their responsibility to their own people and to the peoples of those countries whose representatives have been victims of this disaster.
Everything must be done to ensure the safety of international experts on the scene. Today there are already working representatives of Donbass, Donetsk, representatives of Ministry of Ukraine, experts Malaysia. But this is not enough. Need to work at the crash site full team of experts under the auspices of ICAO, the corresponding international commission. We must do everything to ensure its full and absolute security, ensure necessary for its operation humanitarian corridors.
For its part, Russia will do all that we can to the conflict in eastern Ukraine moved from today's military phase to discuss the negotiating table exclusively peaceful and diplomatic means.
After spending some time in Russia recently, it was interesting to see how their domestic media was responding to the conflict in Ukraine.  While many of us in the West tend to believe that Russians are uninformed about foreign affairs and that they only see things through the distorted reality of their heavily censored media, that perception could not be further from the truth as you will see later in this posting.  A substantial portion of Russians see Ukraine as an integral and historical part of Russia, in fact, going back to the 1860s, we find that the Russian royal family used Livadia Palace in Livadiya, Crimea as their summer residence.  The Yalta Conference of 1945, which was attended by Winston Churchill, Josef Stalin and Franklin D. Roosevelt, was held at Livadia which was firmly on Russian soil at that time.  Ironically, it was at this conference that the Allies discussed how they were going to govern post-World War II Europe.
An interesting June 2, 2014 editorial in the rather liberal Moscow Times looked at the reasons why Vladimir Putin has reacted the way that he has to the civil war in Ukraine.  Please keep in mind that this daily newspaper is freely available on the streets of Moscow.  Here's a quote:
"By placing himself firmly in the driver's seat of Russia's future, Putin has simplified the task of those who seek to understand the country.
In fact, his actions are guided by a single goal, and it is not the imperial ambition that is usually thought to determine Putin's actions.   Instead, every policy is subordinate to Putin's goal of ruling Russia for as long as he lives.
Putin's ambition is not the result of a pathological lust for power.  Instead, it is based on entirely realistic concerns for his personal safety.  He understands the laws of the autocratic system that he has helped to rebuild in Russia - a system in which leaders may, like Libya's Colonel Muammar Qaddafi or Iraq's Saddam Hussein, ultimately find themselves punished if their power fails them.
Viewed from this perspective, Putin's strategy in Ukraine has been consistent and logical at every stage.
In the protests in Kieve's Maidan Square, he saw the prospect of Ukraine transcending the corrupt post-communist authoritarianism that his own regime embodies.  Ukraine's move toward a European model of economic and political competition, Putin feared, would spur similar demands in Russia."
Thus far, Putin's actions in Ukraine have served a single purpose; to make him look good in the eyes of the Russian people both in Ukraine and in his own country.  He now looks like the saviour of Russia and Russians and is doing his best to ensure that domestically, at least, his reign as Russia's messiah will continue uninterrupted, unlike his peers in Iraq, Libya and Egypt.  Even the prospect of international sanctions are unlikely to throw his plans off track, rather, they will be viewed by Russians as an attack against them, one that they will have to defend themselves against.

With this background in mind, we now have a better understanding of the motives behind Mr. Putin's July 21, 2014 statement regarding the crash of MH17 and why he is pleading for unity and peace in Ukraine. The diplomatic wording of his statement suggests that he wants to be seen as the peacemaker in Ukraine's civil war and a hero of his nation.

Beside all that, I would have to imagine that the images of Hosni Mubarak being wheeled into a courtroom, Muammar Gaddafi being cornered and shot by rebel fighters and Saddam Hussein's feet dangling at the end of a noose would be motivation enough to try to retain control over one's fiefdom.


  1. Thanks very much for the great article. I'll be bookmarking this one for future reference.

  2. Excellent article. And most importantly it is very true

  3. Not a good comparison. Mubarak retained the loyalty of his military, no way in hell was he was going to be hanged. His bad health was more so due to his betrayal by the west. Gaddaffi's military forces were defeated and he was forced to go on the run in his own country. Same thing with Saddam.

    Putins life is in no danger whatsoever. He enjoys great respect and support by all branches of the military in Russia. So if he one day does cede power, there is no way in hell he will answer for his crimes. (whatever they are)

  4. Your World News. USA
    Guest - Vladislav Gulevich
    the essence of what is happening at the Donbass from a geopolitical point of view