Friday, November 22, 2013


"Vladimir Putin’s schedule had made Thursday look rather uneventful. But while the Russian president was meeting a group of literary figures he was served a foreign-policy triumph: Ukraine shrank back from an association agreement with the EU, stopping the crumbling of an alliance that Moscow sees as a cornerstone of its fragile empire. “Our government has stressed our trade security risk, but honestly, this is an all-out political fight between Russia and the EU over Ukraine,” said Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of Russian in Global Affairs, a Moscow-based foreign policy journal. For now, Mr Putin has scored a victory. The decision by Kiev to break off talks with the EU makes Ukraine the second of four “eastern partnership” members that had been expected to reach an agreement with Brussels at next week’s Vilnius summit to be peeled off by Mr Putin. In September, Armenia stunned EU leaders by abruptly announcing it would scrap a similar EU “association agreement” it was to initial at the summit and instead join the fledgling Moscow-led Eurasian customs union. Only Georgia and Moldova are now expected to sign their deals in Vilnius. “The comfortable life of sitting in two chairs is coming to an end,” said Vladimir Chizhov, Russia’s ambassador to the EU. “We’re just offering the real picture of what they should expect. The EU has never promised Ukraine or any of the other ‘eastern partners’ full membership.” EU officials, who thought the deal could still be signed until the moment Kiev announced the freezing of bilateral talks on Thursday, pointed the finger squarely at the Kremlin for pressuring Mr Yanukovich into ditching the deal. “There has been extremely enormous pressure in the last 36 hours,” said one senior EU official briefed on the talks. “That is obvious.” Any attempt to rebuild a deal to link Ukraine to the EU now appears to require Russia at the table. Mr Putin on Thursday said he was ready for tripartite talks on the issue."
Kathrin Hille, Peter Spiegel and James Fontanella-Khan, "Ukraine serves Vladimir Putin a foreign policy triumph." The Financial Times. 21 November 2013, in
"Notwithstanding the fact that in some sense, Moskva had some cards to play with, in its endeavors since 2004 to keep Ukraine out of the EU-NATO-Western orbit, the domineering style of Russian diplomacy, with all sticks and very little by way of carrots, appears to have backfired tremendously. With the initial diplomatic success that Putin enjoyed with the current Ukrainian President (viz the agreement on basing Russia's Black Seas Fleet), Viktor Yanukovych being wasted by his inability to modulate his demands upon Kiev. In that respect Putin is a worthy heir of those individuals who historians have assigned the chief role in the Russian debacle in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905: the Bezobrazovschina."
Charles Coutinho, Ph. D. "THE PUTIN REGIME AND UKRAINE: THE FOREIGN POLICY OF STUPIDITY." Diplomat of the Future. 8 November 2013, in
It would appear that for those like myself who a few weeks back were counting out Grazhdanin Putin and his assertive style of foreign policy, were quite mistaken. While of course there were primat der Innenpolitik reasons for Ukrainian President Yanukovich to reject the proposed agreement with the European Union, one has to hand it to Putin that he was able to utilize those reasons in conjunction with his own mixture of diplomatic pressure points to obtain Kiev's apparent concurrence in his own proposed tri-partite customs agreement and forgo the proposed tie-up with Brussels 1. While not perhaps very 'pretty', Russian diplomacy managed to obtain the results it would appear that it was looking for in this particular matter. And, au fond, the tools that Putin did employ in this case, were a world away from say the tools that someone like Skryabin-Molotov would employ in Sovietskaya Vlast 2. In fact, while perhaps excessively one-sided and lacking in very attractive 'carrots', id. est., so-called 'soft power', the tools in Putin's diplomatic toolbox do appear to have been enough. With this undoubted diplomatic triumph under his belt, the second in the past six months, one has to reassess, those (like myself) who were prematurely dismissing the durability and the strength of Russian diplomacy and statecraft under Putinism. The episode with Kiev merely proving that even in our contemporary world, there is still something to be said for the diplomacy of brass tacks `a la Friedrich von Holstein. I will merely conclude, that it is mores the pity that Putin singularly so far has failed to employ such pressure tactics vis-`a-vis Matushka Russia's true enemies in Peking.
1. On the internal reasons that Yanukovich was reluctant to sign the agreement with the European Union, see: Yulia Tymoshenko, "Tymoshenko to Yanukovych: ‘Your fear is so evident." KyivPost. 22 November 2013, in See also the Russian-based analyst, Dmtiri Trenin 'twitter' comments: "Kiev's suspension of AA talks shows that Yanukovych is above all focused on his own future", in Dmitri Trenin @DmitriTrenin.
2. For a vivid example of real Sovietskaya Vlast tactics in action, see: Molotov remembers: inside Kremlin politics : conversations with Felix Chuev. (1993).


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