No Big War in Donbass Coming, Both Russia and Ukraine Got What They Wanted, Russian Journalist Says
The recently escalating tensions between Russia and Ukraine and Russia and the West over the lingering war in the Donbass region in Eastern Ukraine have subsided, and so has the threat of big interstate war as both Moscow and Kyiv have gotten what they wanted from the escalation, a Russian journalist has commented.
Tensions have flared up in the pro-Russian insurgency war in Donbass, with Russia recently reportedly amassing forces on its border with Ukraine, including the Crimean Peninsula, which it annexed back in 2014. Ukraine has been raising alarm with the West and NATO over the Russian military buildup.
The crisis appears to have culminated with a telephone call between US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin, in which the former proposed to the latter a top-level bilateral summit meeting “in a third country”.
“The threat of a big war in Eastern Ukraine has decreased substantially. There is a feeling of subsiding tensions,” Vladimir Solovyev, an international affairs journalist for the Russian daily Kommersant, commented in an interview for the Bulgarian National Radio on Wednesday.
“The most likely scenario [in this former Soviet Space conflict] is its freezing although for the time being it doesn’t seem to have been frozen,” the Russian journalist said.
He emphasized that both Russia and Ukraine had actually benefited in their own ways. In his words, Moscow in particular has drawn its “red lines” and has made clear when it could decide to “use its right to activate its military machine.”
Solovyev indicates that the most coveted prize for the Kremlin has been the promise of a top-ranking summit meeting between Putin and Biden.
“Each one of the sites has managed to get the maximum benefits for itself out of this situation. [Ukraine’s President] Volodymyr Zelensky, who faces serious domestic problems in the country, has received support from the West. Both NATO and the European countries have pledged their support for Kyiv. This has boosted Zelensky’s ratings. Moscow can also be happy because the meeting, which until recently seemed impossible, is going to take place,” the Russian journalist commented.
According to the author of the Russian daily Kommersant, Ukraine’s President Zelensky “has turned from a dove into a hawk” with respect to the Donbass War, the Crimea issue, and the Ukrainian – Russian relations.
“At first, [Zelensky] used to say that he was ready to do anything in order to end the war [in Donbass] and sign a peace agreement. Subsequently, all compromises on Donbass that his team had been seeking to achieve have been met with stern resistance in Ukraine. They have affected his ratings,” Solovyev said with respect to the Ukrainian leader who was elected in 2019 on an anti-corruption platform and promises of ending the conflict with Russia.
“Moscow hasn’t yielded with respect to its strict position on applying the Minsk Agreements. [That is why Zelensky’s team] has reached the conclusion that since the peace topic is unpopular [with the Ukrainian public], the approach must be changed,” the Russian journalist emphasized.
“[Thus,] Crimea has [re]emerged on Kyiv’s agenda. Zelensky’s team has made Crimea one of its top foreign policy scenarios,” Solovyev declared in his analysis of the relative easing of Russia – Ukraine and Russia – West tensions and the recent escalation spike over the Donbass War.
Earlier this week, a Russian analyst forecast that the United States would not intervene militarily in a flare-up of the Donbass War in Ukraine but would likely stage “provocations” against Russia’s ownership of the Crimean Peninsula.
The so called Minsk Agreements, namely, the Minsk Protocol and the Minsk II Agreements, drawn in September 2014 and February 2015, respectively, under the so called Normandy Format (or Normandy Four), including Russia and Ukraine but also Germany and France are mostly focused on ceasefire measure to halt the active fighting, rather than on achieving a permanent settlement and a lasting peace.
In early April, Ukraine alarmed the West about what it said was a giant military buildup by Russia on Ukrainian border near Donbass and in the Crimean Peninsula. The buildup of Russian forces has been seen as deeply worrying in the West and has caused fears of a full-fledged Russian military incursion in Ukraine.
In the winter of 2013-2014, the Euromaidan Revolution in Kiev ousted Ukraine’s pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych, and promised to bring Ukraine closer to the West, including through EU and NATO membership.
In response, led by President Vladimir Putin, in February – March 2014, Russia occupied Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in the Black Sea, and then declared itself part of its territory after holding a referendum.
The Russian Federation, alongside the United States and Britain, was supposed to be a guarantor of Ukraine’s territorial integrity under the 1994 Budapest Memorandum in exchange for Ukraine’s giving up of the nuclear weapon stockpile it had inherited from the former Soviet Union.
However, Russian leader Putin has rejected accusations that Moscow had violated the Budapest Memorandum by seizing Crimea from Ukraine. Instead, he has argued that it had been the West, respectively the US and the UK, who had violated the memorandum first by carrying out a “regime change” coup in Kyiv. Moscow has made it clear it perceived the Euromaidan Revolution in Ukraine as a plot of Western intelligence services, rather than the result of a popular protest uprising.
Shortly after Russia’s seizure of Crimea, a pro-Russian insurgency likely supported by Moscow began in the Donbass region in Eastern Ukraine.
Since then, the war in Ukraine has claimed some 14,000 lives, according to conservative estimates, and has displaced millions of people.
The US, the EU, and other Western nations have imposed sanctions on Russia over both the annexation of the Crimea and the insurgency in Ukraine’s Donbass which the West deems to be instigated and supported by Moscow.