Ukraine continues to provoke Russia into a military intervention. Thus far, cooler heads are prevailing.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko at a session of the Ukrainian parliament. Photo: RIA Novosti
For a very different take read the view from Ukraine: "Ukrainian-Russian relations, once again in turmoil"
Russian President Vladimir Putin recently appointed former Education Minister Dmitry Livanov as his special representative on trade, economic, scientific and technical relations with Ukraine. Is it possible that Putin is sending a message by appointing Livanov?
Livanov was a talented physicist, as well as an effective rector of one of Russia’s leading technological universities. However, his record as the country’s Education Minister was controversial despite his attempts to root out plagiarism in Russian universities and reform Russia’s educational system (and, in particular, the Russian Academy of Sciences).
Nevertheless, he is neither a diplomat nor an economist. He is not affiliated with Russian business or large state-run corporations. He has no prior experience in trade negotiations or business. It means that he will simply lack some skills at his new post as presidential envoy to Ukraine.
In this case, Livanov looks like a civilian version of another would-be Russian envoy to Ukraine – Mikhail Babich, the former presidential envoy to the Volga Federal District, who allegedly had strong ties with law enforcement agencies.
The latter became a politician long ago, but is still considered by the Ukrainian side to be a member of the “siloviki,” which is not true in reality [The “siloviki” are members of Russia’s law enforcement and security services – Editor’s note]. Recently, Kiev’s decision to reject Babich’s candidacy for Russian Ambassador to Ukraine was a slap on the cheek for Moscow, but so far it hasn’t had grave implications.
Another slap on the cheek was the recent sabotage attempt in Crimea, which Russia classifies as a terrorist attack. The incident allegedly plotted by the Ukrainian armed forces resulted in the deaths of Russian soldiers.
Even if the attackers had no connection with the official Ukrainian authorities and belonged to some radical nationalist groups, it doesn’t alleviate the tensions. After all, the explosions at the high-voltage electricity grids or the truck blockades, which significantly deteriorated the life of Crimea and were organized by the nationalists and Crimean Tatars in exile, were also part of the Ukrainian hybrid warfare.
Nonetheless, Russia keeps calm and carries on. Putin doesn’t show any signs of being ready to respond to these provocations. Ukraine rejects the candidate for ambassador and expects the disruption of diplomatic relations, but so far this has not happened.
Also read: "Why Ukraine doesn't need a new Russian ambassador"
Ukraine denies connections with the assault groups in Crimea and provokes Russia to a military response, but Moscow just expresses warnings and speaks up at the UN Security Council. Ukraine runs around the world accusing Russia of non-commitment to the Minsk Agreements, but Russia continues its quiet negotiation work and makes suggestions about the implementation of the Agreements instead of simply talking in the Normandy Four format, which includes Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine.
As before, Ukraine wants war, since it is the only survival mechanism for those in power in Kiev. Economic difficulties require the permanent need for a sufficient external threat. Meanwhile, Russia neglects the Ukrainian agenda and coverage of the conflict in Ukraine no longer dominates the state-run TV channels.
Today, Ukraine is disappearing from the headlines in the West and doesn’t make news like it did in 2014-2015 in the wake of the military confrontation in Donbas. Today Europe is more concerned with Islamic extremists, the refugee crisis and Brexit, the UK's withdrawal from the EU. Meanwhile, Americans worry about Syria and the political struggle that is taking place within the U.S. presidential race. Ukraine is forgotten, which means no support from outside forces.
Kiev wants to remind its patrons of its existence and only provocations, in the form of alleged “direct Russian aggression”, can help. No wonder that Ukrainian politicians were warning against a military intervention by Russia and did everything they could to make such an intervention occur.
However, Putin is reluctant to respond decisively to the Crimean incident. Some analysts assume that he is trying to save the political future of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who is seen within the Kremlin as more moderate than his colleagues. At least, it is possible to negotiate with him, the thinking goes.
Putin’s reticence might also mean that Russia has finally chosen the policy of neglecting Kiev. Every move of Ukraine is met with a cool-headed and rational response. Moscow does not need Ukraine even as a televised war any longer for propaganda purposes, since the voters got used to such soap operas and are consolidated around the President anyway.
It would be good if Russia manages to maintain such a policy long enough to finally resolve the Ukraine crisis. At the same time, provocations are dangerous. August is the time to remember the start of World War I.
A small incident – the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand - became a casus belli for a global conflict. The international community should somehow contain Ukraine in its belligerent mood; otherwise Europe may face the risk of a new war, something the continent hardly needs now.
The opinion of the author may not necessarily reflect the position of Russia Direct or its staff.