21 October 2017
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OpinionNothing to negotiate here

When it comes to the need to agree on anything with Russia, one should understand that Russia is ready to negotiate only one thing – Ukraine’s surrender. It’s absolutely useless to talk with Russia about anything else (withdrawal of armed forces from the territory of Ukraine, halting support for Donbas militants, or, moreover, de-occupation of Crimea) because these issues are not in Moscow’s interest. Besides, the objective circumstances don’t encourage the Kremlin to any of this.

Russia has no will to make any concessions on their part. Moreover, Moscow sincerely believes that it’s the opposite side who must go for concessions.

Objective circumstances (economic situation, the well-being of citizens, and sanctions, etc.) are not that serious of an argument, which could force Russia to negotiate and implement the agreements. These circumstances start working only when they lead to popular dissatisfaction with the authorities, and, accordingly, their reduced legitimacy. On the contrary, we are now witnessing the opposite tendency, when economic problems in Russia (which, incidentally, are not that significant because today, the products the Russians see no real problem with what they see in grocery stores and in their wallets) only strengthen the position of Russian authorities due to information and political context, however paradoxically for any external observer.

Russia is trying to inflict maximum damage to Ukraine through the Minsk process, while Ukraine should try to use the Minsk process in order to inflict maximum damage to Russia

Russians are gradually returning to the Soviet ideology that today is they deem appropriate. They are returning to the “super power” era, which has confrontation with the West as one of its main attributes. One of its element is certain secrecy and the need to endure a number of problems.

So today the margin safety of the Russian authorities is quite high while the external pressure on Russia is not very serious. It is rather of a routine nature than the offensive. So far, it’s led to the opposite result – it’s been enhancing the legitimacy of the Russian government and its public support.

We must understand that the Minsk agreements and the Minsk negotiation process is no longer a tool to achieve peace, and this is obvious. They are a way of waging a "hybrid war", in which each side tries to use the Minsk process and agreements in order to inflict maximum damage  to the adversary, just as through any other military means. Russia is trying to inflict maximum damage to Ukraine through the Minsk process, while Ukraine should try to use the Minsk process in order to inflict maximum damage to Russia.

We should not abandon this tool because our main hopes and resources are tied to it, which is the pressure of our Western allies, tied to the Minsk agreements. Therefore, we must continue to play this game, just as the Russians play it. But we must understand that the result that we may achieve in the future, somewhere on the horizon, is the maximum weakening of Russia’s positions once the balance of power shifts in our favor. At the moment, it is hard to tell, when this may happen. But when it comes to Russia and the evolution of specific authoritarian structures, which develop in a state of psychosis, such favorable conditions for Ukraine may emerge at any moment - in a year, or two... But we should be ready for greater distances.

Maksym Rozumniy is a Doctor of Political Sciences, head of department of political system development at the National Institute for Strategic Studies

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