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What Might Putin’s Peace Look Like?

Posted on Sunday, February 27, 2022
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AMAC Exclusive – By – Daniel Roman

Russia Russian Kazakhstan putin in moscow re electionWhat is Putin after? The topic was highly contentious before Russia invaded Ukraine, not least because it was closely intertwined with the question of whether Putin actually would invade. The more realistic Putin’s goals, the more likely invading either would resolve them or fail to do so. Throughout the opening weeks of the crisis, the best analysis based on public information appeared to be that Putin probably was not dead set on an invasion, but that he had reached the end of the line when it came to the status quo. It was no longer sustainable, and if there was no prospect for it to be improved to Russia’s benefit in the near future peacefully, then war was preferable.

But there appears to be another factor as well that was widely underestimated. Specifically, the domestic boost in Russian pride that Putin might expect to result if they successfully prosecute a quick war. Just as American success in the 1991 Persian Gulf War — that “short, victorious war” — erased the trauma of Vietnam from the American psyche, it should not be underestimated how much a victory over what is the largest conventional military force in Europe after Russia and Turkey would do for Russians weighed down by two Chechen wars and the loss of the Kursk. Especially if that victory was achieved quickly.

In any event, Putin has launched the war. The question now becomes, how does he end it? It has become increasingly clear that is a question Putin will have to answer alone. The Western response is limp. European opposition has rejected cutting Russia off from SWIFT, the international banking system, and it is unclear if that would have been enough to influence Russian behavior anyway. Without that step, sanctions will appear pro forma. Ukrainian resistance has had a greater impact, increasing the costs of any solution requiring tight control of the Ukraine, but also the risks of leaving Ukraine outside of the Kremlin’s influence, nursing a grudge and with a renewed sense of national pride. Absent a Ukrainian military victory, which while desirable, would still require a miracle, Ukraine’s heroic resistance has only increased the stakes for Russia’s leader.

Putin’s interests in Ukraine run the gamut, from anger over the treatment of personal friends in Ukrainian domestic politics, to the risks posed by Ukrainian integration in NATO, to the unresolved legacy of the Crimean conflict, to historical Russian claims to Ukraine. As Putin outlined in a long essay he wrote last year and had posted in English on the Kremlin website, he perceives an increasing identification of Ukrainian nationalism with the West and “not being Russian” as a “genocidal” assault on Russia’s historic kinship. This was an argument he reiterated in his speech on Monday: Ukrainians are part of a Russian family who are being influenced and encouraged to deny their heritage and hate Russia.

Russian nationalists have been quick to read maximalist intentions, including annexation in these remarks. Western observers tended to either dismiss them as a PR gloss on purely geopolitical interests, or read them as literally as the most extreme Russian nationalist in the form of a plan to physically reconstruct the Russian Empire. The truth is likely somewhere in the middle. Ukraine is part of “Russia,” but Russia in this meaning is not the Russian Federation as a legal entity. That entity is the heart of it, but the larger Russia encompasses states sharing a common heritage, including Belarus, who, in Putin’s vision, ideally should be working to common ends. Ukraine’s crime was not being independent, but being anti-Russian – in effect, leaving the family.

Ukraine in particular is a special case because it has always “tried to leave the family.” Even Leonid Kuchma and Viktor Yanukovych, the two most Kremlin-friendly Ukrainian Presidents, pursued a balancing act of economic ties with the West while paying lip service to the Kremlin. Putin is therefore unlikely to trust any Ukrainian, not matter how ostensibly friendly they may be, not to be lured astray.

This is key to evaluating how Putin will approach any long-term answer to the security dilemma Ukraine poses for Russia. Merely removing a pro-Western Ukrainian government will never be enough to secure long-term friendship or eliminate the possibility of Ukraine joining NATO. What of partition and concern for Russians, as Putin says? The problem with those who focus on “Russian speakers” within Ukraine is they ignore Putin’s remarks that the very concept of a Ukrainian state is “anti-Russian.” By this he means that any entity based in Kiev will construct its legitimacy on denying the legitimacy of a Russian entity based in Moscow. Taking territory will only leave a less pro-Russian and more resentful rump, which will double down even further on nationalism, which invariably will be anti-Russian. This would not mean that Putin would need all of Ukraine, but it would mean that Putin cannot leave a “Ukraine” outside his influence. Putin reportedly proposed partitioning Western Ukraine with Poland, and in his speech referred to it as territory taken from Poland. Territory does not matter. Because the challenge is ideological, Western Ukraine in the hands of a Poland, which is a NATO member, is less of a threat than it in the hands of a hostile “Ukrainian” state.

It is unlikely that Poland will accept a partition. If Poland will not play ball, then Putin’s options for annexation are much more limited. Swallowing all of Ukraine, including the Western portions, brings secessionists into the Russian state. Putin has insisted they are not Russians just as vigorously as he has said that their compatriots in the rest of Ukraine are Russian. Most likely, that leaves the potential for some form of puppet state.

But what kind? In order to be useful, Putin will want a state which can eventually gain recognition from the West. Someone like Medvedchuk has invested effort in reaching out to the Western media, posing as a democratic politician persecuted by Zelensky. If given leeway, he could potentially wean recognition away from an exiled Zelensky government. But such leeway would have to at least be as much as was given to Viktor Yanukovych, the former pro-Russia Ukrainian president who was removed during the 2014 revolution. Another Donetsk or Luhansk would stand no chance of controlling Ukraine, much less achieving recognition. A puppet government would likely formally recognize Russian control of the Crimea, but that recognition would only matter if the West also recognized it, thereby removing the motive for sanctions. Hence the only value of a “Ukrainian” government recognizing Putin’s control of the Crimea comes if that “Ukrainian” government is eventually recognized by the West. Which is why if Putin can find a manner to achieve that recognition in compatibility with his security interest, it is the preferred outcome.

I believe Putin’s solution lies to the north. Belarus has in the past 18 months all but been annexed to Russia. Once keen to play Moscow against the E.U., Alexander Lukashenko has abandoned his earlier opposition to recognizing the Crimea as Russian in the face of E.U. sanctions and mass protests following his stolen reelection. Belarus has long been part of a “Union State” with Russia, a loose formation established by Yeltsin in the 1990s to pander to Russian nationalist sentiment while allowing Lukashenka to continue his delusional ambitions of running for President of Russia. After the 2020 Belarussian protests, a joint military command was established. During the “exercises” which took place over the last three months, more than 45,000 Russian troops were deployed on Belarussian territory, but more importantly, Belarussian and Russian troops were placed under a single Russian command structure. Russian generals gave orders to Belarussian units, deployed them, and appear to have used them in operations against Ukraine.

The insurance Putin will likely seek in Ukraine is not annexation but Ukrainian membership in a reformed Union State with a single military. Nominally the Russian, Belarussian, and Ukrainian militaries, along with the forces of Moscow’s proxies in the Donbass and caucuses, will be placed under a joint command. A Belarussian or Ukrainian may even be made nominal commander-in-chief. But the practical effect will be to abolish the Ukrainian army and replace it with a single Russian army.  A “Ukrainian” army which is integrated with the Russian command structure, in which Ukrainian units serve on Russia’s border with China while Russian units are stationed in Ukraine would make it impossible for any Ukrainian government to risk defying Moscow. It would give Moscow leverage to intervene against any repeat of the events of 2004 or 2014. NATO integration would be unthinkable.

The annexation of the Ukrainian army would allow Putin to exercise a lighter touch politically with whoever he installs in Kiev, allowing them to make theatrical gestures of reconciliation with Pro-Western Ukrainians, safe in the knowledge that they can amount to nothing hazardous to Russia’s strategic interests.

The West will of course not recognize such a government initially. But if it remains in place for years, and the situation stabilizes enough for Putin to allow it to hold elections, perhaps with some former “Maiden” elements coaxed to take part, the boycott will become increasingly unsustainable.  The ideal outcome for

Putin is to secure a position in Ukraine which is immune to any attempted defection, yet with a government that can manage the country and gain recognition. That is likely what his desired end state will look like.

Daniel Roman is the pen name of a frequent commentator and lecturer on foreign policy and political affairs, both nationally and internationally. He holds a Ph.D. in International Relations from the London School of Economics.

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PaulE
PaulE
2 years ago

Another armchair analysis by an inside the Washington, D.C. beltway author that essentially says nothing. Entertaining yes. Truly informative no, but hey it’s a Sunday so no one honestly expects much from the inside the beltway crowd on weekends.

The reality is Putin will dictate the terms of any ceasefire / peace agreement, because he will be negotiating from a position of overwhelming strength. Just being a realist here. Ukrainian forces can delay the inevitable, but they can’t stop their inevitable defeat. They simply don’t have the firepower to effectively repel the Russian forces fighting them.

Putin will likely replace the political leadership of Ukraine with a puppet government that he can control. Putin doesn’t want to wholesale bulldoze Ukraine into the ground, because:

1) He wants a functioning country to rule over, as Ukraine has a lot of very valuable natural resources that would benefit Russia’s overall economy and add to Putin’s personal wealth.
2) It will be extremely expensive to have to rebuild all the major population centers and industries, which would violate goal number 1.
3) While Putin isn’t as vulnerable to public opinion as most in the west seem to think he is (Russian elections have been rigged for decades and Putin tends to “eliminate” any potential political enemies, he none the less wants to show the Russian people that he is a powerful, successful leader). Putin, like most political leaders, has a very large ego. So he wants to boast to his people a bit and that requires a functioning Ukrainian economy at the end of this process. Not a completely bombed-out wasteland.
4) By forcing Ukraine to accept his ceasefire / peace terms, Putin sends a powerful message to western leaders that Putin is a serious player on the world stage and that Russia will be having a larger say going forward.
5) Six months from now, when this conflict is a distant memory in the minds of the average person, both EU and Biden officials will be tripping all over themselves to do additional trade deals with Russia.
6)The EU is already completely under the control of Russia from an energy perspective. Thanks in large part to Europe’s foolish embrace of the Climate Change scheme. So it’s either pay Russia or their countries will sit in the dark and freeze to death. That dependency will only increase as time goes on. A fact no one in the media will acknowledge or discuss.

The United States is now on the exact same path, but at a somewhat slower pace thanks to the American people agreeing to accept the results of a fraudulent vote. The United States now currently imports approximately a billion dollars a day in oil from overseas. This will of course increase over time as more and more of our domestic oil and natural gas drilling is shut-off by the Biden administration. Just last week FERC issued new guidelines designed to result in the closure of more natural gas pipelines within the United States. Thus driving up the cost of energy on the world markets and to the American consumer. Bad policies by weak and corrupt leaders tend to have serious consequences that ripple through the economy for years and years.

PaulE
PaulE
2 years ago

Yet another comment flagged by the AMAC moderator for no good reason.

Max
Max
2 years ago

Putin is just putting the empire back together. He will use all the necessary means as he sees fit as he has already been doing. There are no surprises here at all. Once he feels comfortable making his country’s buffer zones against his enemies then he will step back and reassess his position.

D
D
2 years ago

Is Putin taking out the Deep State in Ukraine?

Jbk
Jbk
2 years ago

Come on Sara A, stick to the subject ! No one cares how much you make at home running your ponzi pyramid scheme! Maybe the IRS cares.

Jake
Jake
2 years ago

Another scheme for Russia. Putin has had this action up his sleeve for years. He wouldn’t do anything about it while Donald Trump was President. He sees the United States as being week as is dictator Joe Biden. That’s why he has emerged on this nightmarish attack on Ukraine. Then he threatens every nation with Nuclear War if they interfere. Many lives have been lost already. Therefore making Putin a murderer. There is one solution to this dilemma. Putin has to be caught and executed, like Sadam Hussain and Osama Bin Laden was.

Stephen Russell
Stephen Russell
2 years ago

Ukraine setting up Foreign Legion force to fight Russians

WillyD
WillyD
2 years ago

WWII was against Hitler, Patton said keep going and take care of Russia, hindsight is just great, Ike and Truman squashed, that.! Then Truman fired MacArthur for saying finish Korea by going into China, what has been proven to be our two biggest PAINS for the world and we continue to KISS THEIR BUTTS!!!!!! We’re those two generals ahead of their time???????????

Laynee8
Laynee8
2 years ago

Wow! What a clear, concise explanation. Thank you!

Vietvet6769
Vietvet6769
2 years ago

Whole thing is conspiracy from UN..

Ralph
Ralph
2 years ago

Information out dated.

Alan
Alan
2 years ago

Does not seem that peace is achievable. Ukraine does not wish to give up their country. Why should they? Would you give up yours? If suddenly a evil empire attacked all your people and blew up all your power and turn off your water? More then likely there is no turning back for Putin. Next comes Poland and others as the years go by. No way Russia is going to agree and stop attacking nor give billions to build the Ukraine like it was before. All this is going to end bad not only for Ukrainians but will touch most in the rest of the world. Gas prices, food and others because of this inane madman Putin. He has at his leisure 6000 nuke warheads. How many of these do you think we can stop when you have 20 min to 40 minutes to decide what to do? Like maybe 1 in 5 or 1 in 20. Cities destroyed one by one and an hour goes by and its the end for millions. Putin has to be removed and fast but the problem is his cronies have been picked by him. He controls the Nuke Button.

R Davis
R Davis
2 years ago

No matter what Putin and Russia do in the end, will Ukrainians ever forgive Russia for what they done to a peaceful and apparently thriving nation? I read that some Russian soldiers have deserted their posts and equipment. Also, some Russians are cremating their dead soldiers in the field so they can’t be counted as being killed by the Ukrainians.

PaulE
PaulE
2 years ago

Another armchair analysis by an inside the Washington, D.C. beltway author that essentially says nothing. Entertaining yes. Truly informative no, but hey it’s a Sunday so no one honestly expects much from the inside the beltway crowd on weekends.

The reality is Putin will dictate the terms of any ceasefire / peace agreement, because he will be negotiating from a position of overwhelming strength. Just being a realist here. Ukrainian forces can delay the inevitable, but they can’t stop their inevitable defeat. They simply don’t have the firepower to effectively repel the Russian forces fighting them.

Putin will likely replace the political leadership of Ukraine with a puppet government that he can control. Putin doesn’t want to wholesale bulldoze Ukraine into the ground, because:

1) He wants a functioning country to rule over, as Ukraine has a lot of very valuable natural resources that would benefit Russia’s overall economy and add to Putin’s personal wealth.
2) It will be extremely expensive to have to rebuild all the major population centers and industries, which would violate goal number 1.
3) While Putin isn’t as vulnerable to public opinion as most in the west seem to think he is (Russian elections have been rigged for decades and Putin tends to “eliminate” any potential political enemies, he none the less wants to show the Russian people that he is a powerful, successful leader). Putin, like most political leaders, has a very large ego. So he wants to boast to his people a bit and that requires a functioning Ukrainian economy at the end of this process. Not a completely bombed-out wasteland.
4) By forcing Ukraine to accept his ceasefire / peace terms, Putin sends a powerful message to western leaders that Putin is a serious player on the world stage and that Russia will be having a larger say going forward.
5) Six months from now, when this conflict is a distant memory in the minds of the average person, both EU and Biden officials will be tripping all over themselves to do additional trade deals with Russia.
6)The EU is already completely under the control of Russia from an energy perspective. Thanks in large part to Europe’s foolish embrace of the Climate Change scheme. So it’s either pay Russia or their countries will sit in the dark and freeze to death. That dependency will only increase as time goes on. A fact no one in the media will acknowledge or discuss.

The United States is now on the exact same path, but at a somewhat slower pace thanks to the American people agreeing to accept the results of a fraudulent vote. The United States now currently imports approximately a billion dollars a day in oil from overseas. This will of course increase over time as more and more of our domestic oil and natural gas drilling is shut-off by the Biden administration. Just last week FERC issued new guidelines designed to result in the closure of more natural gas pipelines within the United States. Thus driving up the cost of energy on the world markets and to the American consumer. Bad policies by weak and corrupt leaders tend to have serious consequences that ripple through the economy for years and years.

PaulE
PaulE
2 years ago

Yet another comment flagged by the AMAC moderator for no good reason.

Max
Max
2 years ago

Putin is just putting the empire back together. He will use all the necessary means as he sees fit as he has already been doing. There are no surprises here at all. Once he feels comfortable making his country’s buffer zones against his enemies then he will step back and reassess his position.

D
D
2 years ago

Is Putin taking out the Deep State in Ukraine?

Jbk
Jbk
2 years ago

Come on Sara A, stick to the subject ! No one cares how much you make at home running your ponzi pyramid scheme! Maybe the IRS cares.

Jake
Jake
2 years ago

Another scheme for Russia. Putin has had this action up his sleeve for years. He wouldn’t do anything about it while Donald Trump was President. He sees the United States as being week as is dictator Joe Biden. That’s why he has emerged on this nightmarish attack on Ukraine. Then he threatens every nation with Nuclear War if they interfere. Many lives have been lost already. Therefore making Putin a murderer. There is one solution to this dilemma. Putin has to be caught and executed, like Sadam Hussain and Osama Bin Laden was.

Stephen Russell
Stephen Russell
2 years ago

Ukraine setting up Foreign Legion force to fight Russians

WillyD
WillyD
2 years ago

WWII was against Hitler, Patton said keep going and take care of Russia, hindsight is just great, Ike and Truman squashed, that.! Then Truman fired MacArthur for saying finish Korea by going into China, what has been proven to be our two biggest PAINS for the world and we continue to KISS THEIR BUTTS!!!!!! We’re those two generals ahead of their time???????????

Laynee8
Laynee8
2 years ago

Wow! What a clear, concise explanation. Thank you!

Vietvet6769
Vietvet6769
2 years ago

Whole thing is conspiracy from UN..

Ralph
Ralph
2 years ago

Information out dated.

Alan
Alan
2 years ago

Does not seem that peace is achievable. Ukraine does not wish to give up their country. Why should they? Would you give up yours? If suddenly a evil empire attacked all your people and blew up all your power and turn off your water? More then likely there is no turning back for Putin. Next comes Poland and others as the years go by. No way Russia is going to agree and stop attacking nor give billions to build the Ukraine like it was before. All this is going to end bad not only for Ukrainians but will touch most in the rest of the world. Gas prices, food and others because of this inane madman Putin. He has at his leisure 6000 nuke warheads. How many of these do you think we can stop when you have 20 min to 40 minutes to decide what to do? Like maybe 1 in 5 or 1 in 20. Cities destroyed one by one and an hour goes by and its the end for millions. Putin has to be removed and fast but the problem is his cronies have been picked by him. He controls the Nuke Button.

R Davis
R Davis
2 years ago

No matter what Putin and Russia do in the end, will Ukrainians ever forgive Russia for what they done to a peaceful and apparently thriving nation? I read that some Russian soldiers have deserted their posts and equipment. Also, some Russians are cremating their dead soldiers in the field so they can’t be counted as being killed by the Ukrainians.

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