Putin unlikely to be satisfied until Kyiv has pliable pro-Russian government, - Professor Person for The Washington Post

A truly frozen conflict would increase the Ukrainian authorities' survival chances, in spite of a higher price - the loss of territories.

As reported by Censor.NET, this is stated by Robert Person, an assistant professor of international relations and comparative politics at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, in his column for The Washington Post. "Is Russian President Vladimir Putin trying to engineer a frozen conflict in Eastern Ukraine? That's what some observers argue: that the main goal of sending troops there is to create permafrost, much like what Russia has going in Transdnistria, Abkhazia or South Ossetia," the professor writes. According to him, that is not what Russia wants in Ukraine as a frozen conflict would harm, not help, its strategic interests there. It's far more likely that the conflict will keep burning, despite formal cease-fire agreements.

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"Putin wants to topple the Ukrainian government. Here's why," the author says. "Since Viktor Yanukovych fled his palatial estate in Kyiv in February 2014, Putin's goal has been to destabilize and topple the pro-Western government that took over Ukraine. Russia has taken advantage of unexpected opportunities since then, including reclaiming Crimea. But Russia will not allow equilibrium in Ukraine until Petro Poroshenko's government leaves power and is replaced by one that keeps Ukraine firmly in Moscow's orbit," Person concludes.

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"Initially, annexing Crimea and intervening militarily in Eastern Ukraine looked promising as a way to destabilize and topple the Kyiv government. Russia's actions threatened Kyiv with the humiliation of an unchallenged land grab in Crimea; the loss of territory to separatists in the East; the demoralizing military defeats by rebels and unmarked Russian troops; and the Kyiv government's inability to solve its massive domestic challenges. Combined, these could potentially spark a backlash and thereby bring down the Ukrainian government without a massive Russian invasion. But it didn't work as Russia wants change, not a stalemate," the professor states.

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Eighteen months after Russian soldiers first appeared in Crimea, Poroshenko's government in Kyiv still stands. Predictions of its collapse call to mind Mark Twain's famous quip that "reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated." Russia has failed to achieve its key strategic objective in Ukraine. It has not replaced the post-Maidan government with one willing to grant Russia significant influence in Ukrainian policymaking. And a "frozen conflict" won't help.

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"A frozen conflict, like those in Moldova and Georgia, implies that Poroshenko's government has lost control over the territories in question. But that may actually help Kyiv. In excising themselves from Ukraine proper, the breakaway regions in the East and their Russian backers are walled off from national politics," Person says. A truly frozen conflict would actually increase the Ukrainian government's chances of survival, despite the tremendous territorial cost. "Russia's strategic interests in Ukraine require not a frozen conflict but an active one. Which means that fighting between Ukrainian forces and the Russian-backed rebels will almost certainly return," the author argues.

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However, he doubts that there will be a large-scale fighting in Eastern Ukraine - Western sanctions, combined with low oil prices and Russia's economic troubles, may be restraining Russia, and that is why expected by many Russian-backed offensive by the separatists, that would reignite the war, didn't happen. "Apparently, Russia's leaders realized that completely abandoning the cease-fire negotiated in Minsk and resuming a hot war would result in deeper sanctions, which Russia can not afford now," Person says. If neither war nor peace are likely, the author presumes it will probably look much like the summer of 2015: ongoing low-level conflict with casualties on both sides, but no major offensive that could tip the balance. The Kremlin probably will carefully calibrate its actions in Eastern Ukraine, scaling the intensity of fighting as needed to destabilize Ukraine and distract Kyiv from domestic concerns. "Putin is unlikely to be satisfied until Kyiv has a pliable pro-Russian government. This new status quo will be anything but frozen," the author resumes.Источник: https://en.censor.net.ua/n355300