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War guide Why the Minsk agreements will not become peaceful in any way

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The countries of the "Normandy format" returned to the discussion of the Minsk agreements. There is nothing new and sensational in this fact itself, but the context has changed: for the first time, the West is almost openly putting pressure on Kiev in the matter of following the agreements. However, this does not guarantee the success of the negotiations. “Kommersant” figured out why the seemingly simple plan to end the war in the Donbass is almost impossible.

US President Joe Biden and his administration officials have recently appeared more interested in Ukraine's implementation of the Minsk agreements than Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky

US President Joe Biden and his administration officials have recently appeared more interested in Ukraine's implementation of the Minsk agreements than Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky

If you want Minsk, prepare for war

The meeting of political advisers to the leaders of the Normandy Format countries in Paris on January 26 is news from the category of scarce ones. The negotiations broke down in August, and since then the situation around the Donbass and Ukraine in general has only heated up .

Reports of a concentration of Russian troops near the borders of a neighboring country, satellite images of field camps set up outweighed Moscow's assurances that it was not going to attack Ukraine. Russia counterattacked with statements that Kiev could go for a forceful solution to the problem of uncontrolled territories.

The restart of the Normandy Format had an antipyretic effect . Andriy Yermak, head of the office of the President of Ukraine, called it a "powerful signal", announced that Kiev was ready to discuss every point of the Minsk agreements, and expressed hope for a constructive dialogue. Moscow, however, refrained from making any predictions about the meeting.

Coincidentally or not, this time the Paris talks will be held on the same day as the first meeting of the Trilateral Contact Group this year to resolve the situation in eastern Ukraine. This means that if compromises are reached, political advisers will be able to promptly bring them to the representatives of the parties in the contact group.

According to Kommersant's information, Kiev intended to submit for discussion by its Quartet colleagues its finalized draft of the so-called key clusters for the implementation of the Minsk agreements.

The term "clusters" appeared in negotiations at the end of 2020 at the suggestion of Germany and France. To move forward the stalled negotiation process, Berlin and Paris proposed dividing the “Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements” into clusters, agreeing them within the “Normandy Four” and then lowering them to the level of the Trilateral Contact Group (TCG) to resolve the situation in eastern Ukraine to prepare on their basis of the final peace settlement plan. But the process of discussing clusters by the spring of 2021 also reached an impasse .

As a result, according to an informed interlocutor of Kommersant, during a telephone conversation between Messrs. Yermak and Kozak (Dmitry Kozak, deputy head of the presidential administration of the Russian Federation) in the first half of January, the latter insisted that it was necessary not to multiply documents, but to discuss what had been lying for a long time. on the table, that is, the Minsk agreements.

Just to the point of impossibility

Moscow, Kommersant's interlocutors participating in the negotiation process in Russian government agencies, are assured that it has a position that it has not changed since the Minsk agreements appeared: they should be implemented to the point and in the form in which they were signed. And it is up to Kiev and Donbass to do this.

The Minsk agreements are a package of documents. But Russia always has only one in mind: "A set of measures to implement the Minsk agreements."

This is important because the first of them, the protocol agreed on September 5, 2014, never specifies who the contracting parties in the conflict are. For example, its first paragraph reads: "Ensure an immediate bilateral cessation of the use of weapons," but to whom this refers is not deciphered.

A clear indication of this appeared only in the “Package of Measures…”, agreed in February 2015. It already clearly states that the Ukrainian side and the armed formations of certain areas of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions (ORDLO) should withdraw their forces. The negotiation subjectivity of CADLO is also fixed in other points.

The special status of Donbass within Ukraine should be coordinated with Donetsk and Luhansk, the issue of adopting a law on local self-government in ORDLO and holding local elections there should be resolved according to the same scheme. The restoration by Kiev of control over the segment of the border with Russia, which was lost in 2014, should again take place “in consultations and in agreement” with representatives of ORDLO within the framework of the TCG.

Moscow considers the “Package of Measures…” its important diplomatic victory for two reasons. Although Russia's participation in the Donbass conflict is obvious, and it does not hide its support for the unrecognized DPR and LPR, there are no documents fixing any obligations of the Russian side regarding the settlement. Secondly, the “Complex of Measures…” gained the weight of an international document — it was approved by the UN Security Council Resolution No. 2202 of February 17, 2015.

If the “Complex of Measures…” was signed with the approval of the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko, which the current Ukrainian government constantly blames him for, then in 2019 Volodymyr Zelensky officially agreed with this document.

At the Paris summit in the Normandy format in December 2019, he, together with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French and Russian Presidents Emmanuel Macron and Vladimir Putin, approved the final document of the meeting, which states that the Minsk agreements are the basis of the work of the Normandy format.

Despite this, in the past two years, Kiev has repeatedly raised the issue of the need to revise the document or at least change the sequence of implementation of its points. In particular, to swap the holding of local elections in ODRLO and the restoration of control over the border (according to the Minsk agreements, first elections, and then control).

The Kremlin and the Russian Foreign Ministry did not even agree to discuss this. The meaning of the sequence of points is to first create a power recognized by Kiev in the ODRLO, and with its own power component in the form of a people's militia, and only then transfer the border to the disposal of the central government.

“The sequence of points was scrupulously worked out. A smooth transition is prescribed so that one step does not anticipate another, but provides preparation and prerequisites for moving forward, ”one of the Russian negotiators explained to Kommersant.

For Kiev, the implementation of the "Complex of Measures ..." is a big problem.

Any movement forward can be perceived as a capitulation by the passionate and nationalist part of Ukrainian society, which is easy to rise to the Maidan, which in recent years has been repeatedly demonstrated by noisy actions under the walls of the office of the head of state. The team of Mr. Zelensky and he himself reckon with these sentiments. This, among other things, explains the change that happened to the Ukrainian leader less than a year after he was elected president. He came to power in the guise of a peacemaker and promised to bring a speedy and lasting peace. But pretty soon he became a "hawk".

Abroad will not help

It is more difficult and painful to move from hawkish positions in the opposite direction than vice versa: any step in this direction is read as a surrender of positions. This happened with the recent withdrawal from the Verkhovna Rada of the bill "On the state policy of the transitional period", which, among other things, assumed the legislative consolidation of the status of an "aggressor state" for Russia. The bill, severely criticized by Moscow, was withdrawn by the Ukrainian government on Monday, on the eve of the Paris meeting of the Normans, thus fulfilling the Russian demand.

Kiev has previously refused such concessions. But now the context has changed. Moscow has raised the stakes dramatically, and not just through a show of force. In February, the State Duma is preparing to consider the appeal of the Communist Party faction to President Vladimir Putin to recognize the independence of the DNR and LNR. The signal can be deciphered as follows: if Russia continues to be called a party to the conflict and demand from it the implementation of the Minsk agreements, which, among other things, stipulate the granting of a special status to Donbass, then it can fulfill them, granting such a status at its discretion.

But the point here is not only Moscow's intransigence. The West has actively joined the process.

On the one hand, the US and the EU threaten Russia with consequences if it encroaches on the territorial integrity of Ukraine or uses force against its neighbor, but on the other hand, they are playing a diplomatic game and are already clearly trying to influence Kiev on the implementation of the Minsk agreements.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken spoke openly about this. He called the document the only way to resolve the conflict and spoke out against its revision.

Kommersant's diplomatic interlocutors confirm that Washington is working with the Ukrainian authorities to move the negotiations forward. Insiders even make cautious assumptions that things may come to a substantive discussion of the autonomy of Donbass.

It is difficult to perceive the negotiations on Donbass separately from the discussion between Russia and the West on security guarantees launched against the backdrop of the expectation of a real big war. Although it concerns security in the broadest sense, the Ukrainian issue is not in last place. For Moscow, the maximum program is to permanently close Ukraine's road to NATO. Moreover, the alliance itself must guarantee this.

But such a concession would be too humiliating for the West and does not look very realistic. Another thing is the reintegration of Donbass into Ukraine on special conditions prescribed in the Minsk agreements. Formally, neither the US, nor the EU, nor NATO concedes anything here: the Ukrainian authorities are responsible for themselves. But it is clear that in this scenario, ORDLO will become a serious obstacle on the way of Kiev to the Euro-Atlantic structures, which may suit Russia. It remains to explain to the Ukrainian authorities why they need to agree to everything.

https://www.kommersant.ru/doc/5182121

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(edited)

This article says it all. Fake show of military power and fake western histeria to resolve conflict.

Its all created to force Ukrainians to finally accept reality.

I don't know how to say this in english- a bad guy threatens you with fake military force. A good guy informed you that he is on your side but you need to accept sad reality that he is powerless against this bad guy in Eastern Europe  so it's high time for you to talk with him seriously. Think about some real concessions because he had an upper hand in this region.

I know I'm cynical but world politics is about western interests not values and no one will go on war with Putin even economic one to defend country like Ukraine.

Ukraine is still in deep vital interests of Russia but much less Western powers that's all.

My geopolitical  guru is John Meisheimer and he said this back in 2014/2015.

Edited by Tomasz

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I wonder who wants war in Europe. Lets read this one conversation between Zelensky and Biden from CNN. What to think about this?

 

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From Kommersant 2/2/2022

Deck of "Ukrainian Cards" by Sergei Strokan on Kiev's search for new allies in the face of the disappointment of the US and the EU


The intensification of dialogue between Russia and the West on security issues has launched a process of radical reconfiguration of Ukraine's relations with the entire Euro-Atlantic community.
The main tectonic shift is that betting on American and European foreign policy projects is losing its former significance for Kiev. Washington is increasingly putting pressure on Kiev to abide by the Minsk accords, but Kiev is resisting, and mutual disappointment is mounting as a result. It was the United States and the European Union that the Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, Oleksiy Danilov, was told that the implementation of the Minsk agreements "will mean the destruction of the country." "They were signed in place of a Russian pistol, and Germany and France watched it, and even then it was clear to all sane people that these documents could not be implemented," Danilov said.
However, this recognition came after the Normandy Four met in Paris and agreed to hold another meeting in Berlin in February, as well as statements by both US President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken that there was no alternative to the Minsk Accords.
Signs of obsolescence of US and pan-European projects are bad news for Kiev. But there is also good - conditionally good - news for Kiev. It is based on the fact that many countries in the West, East and the post-Soviet space have their own views on Ukraine and are ready to actively play the "Ukrainian card" to solve their own internal political and geostrategic tasks. You can see that they are realizing their ambitions, that each of them plays their "Ukrainian card", but this circumstance allows Kiev to demonstrate the appearances that Ukraine is gaining new opportunities and new room for maneuver in situational alliances and partnerships.
An illustration of this was the diplomatic pilgrimage to Kiev that we are witnessing this week. The prime ministers of Great Britain, Poland and the Netherlands, Canada's defense minister, have gathered in Kiev, and the Turkish president is also expected to be in the Ukrainian capital on the following day. And this is not a complete list of Kiev's guests.
It is in London's interest to demonstrate the feasibility of a "global Britain" strategy that should make the country not only the leader of the Anglo-Saxon world but also the new world center of power.
By playing the "Ukrainian card", Poland and the Netherlands are increasing their geopolitical capitalization. It turns out that they are playing in the same league with Great Britain, and at the same time they take on a special mission to protect Ukraine, which should increase their importance in the EU. Canada's interest lies above ground - the country has an influential Ukrainian diaspora. And finally, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has offered his mediation between Moscow and Kiev, is not giving up on trying to win the laurels of Greater Eurasia.
Against the background of solitaire, "Ukrainian cards" in Kiev began to talk about a promising strategy of small alliances, which also included the Lublin Triangle (Ukraine-Poland-Lithuania), the Associated Trio (Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova) and the Quadriga. "(Ukraine-Turkey).
However, at the same time, the thick Ukrainian deck can clearly be left with no aces.

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The Ukrainian community of experts realized the inevitability of the impending tectonic change in the national energy system. The launch of Nord Stream 2 will be a decisive factor which, according to Ukrainian observers, will deprive the current authorities in Kiev of any hope of extending the transit of Russian natural gas to Europe via Ukraine after 2024.
Ukraine is on the verge of a political choice that is extremely unpleasant for its current government, said political scientist Dmitry Korneichuk on the NewsOne TV channel (which was broadcast on Ukrainian TV a year ago) on Youtube. After the new Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline is launched, the country will be forced to buy natural gas directly from Russia, negotiating directly with Gazprom. At the same time, the Ukrainian political scientist noted that the authorities in Kiev are currently resorting to the notorious withdrawal of volumes from the transit pipeline, which will be turned off with the launch of Nord Stream 2, the capacity of which will allow Russia to limit its gas transit to the EU to zero.
And a deputy of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine from the Opposition Platform party - For life, Oleg Voloshin, on the air of the mentioned "subversive" channel from the point of view of the Kiev authorities, noted that the "only real way" to implement the Nord Stream 2 project will appear only in the event of a "colossal gulf" between the US and Germany, while imposing sanctions on German companies.
However, such actions by the American administration, as Wołoszyn himself suggested, would have long-term consequences for international relations. "It is pure piracy to interfere in matters that do not directly concern the United States," stressed the MP.
The Ukrainian economist, co-chairman of the Energy Strategies Fund, Dmitry Marunich, spoke even more categorically. On television, Nash said that Kiev must conclude an agreement directly with Gazprom, under which the Russian supplier will export gas directly to Ukraine. After all, now, guided by its purely political considerations, the country acquires an energy source sent to Europe via the territory of Ukraine from various intermediaries, overpaying for them. And high gas prices hurt the economy of Ukraine a lot.
Marunich recalled that the price for 1 cubic meter of natural gas, including VAT, is 60 hryvnia (around 160 rubles), and if this situation does not change, "the entire industry will stop soon", he said.
ALTERNATIVE
As an example, the expert referred to Hungary, which switched to direct cooperation with Gazprom and, since October 1, 2021, has been receiving the necessary quantities via the Balkan Stream gas pipeline connected to Turkish Stream.
By the way, last year Ukraine received 90% of imported gas from Hungary, the Ukrainian company GTS Operator reported. However, there is no doubt as to the original origin of these volumes, which, according to the economic logic of the Kiev authorities, could be delivered directly to Ukrainian consumers much cheaper.
However, the presence of yet another direct route for the supply of significant amounts of Russian natural gas to Germany will not in itself cancel the existing agreement under which Gazprom uses Ukraine's existing gas transmission system (GTS). But after its expiry, and thus the end of transit pumping of "blue fuel" through the territory of Ukraine, the transit country, even without taking into account the notorious "selection", will find itself in an extremely difficult situation. He will not be able to use the so-called The "virtual reverse", ie the system of offsets, under which Kiev formally buys gas in Europe, but de facto - surpasses some of the volumes received from Russia and originally intended for the EU even before leaving Ukraine. For Kiev, this means one thing:

WHERE IS THE DEMAND?
Thus, the Ukrainian side, for many reasons, is extremely sensitive to the prospect of losing transit flows of natural gas from Russia, which has been legally recognized by the Verkhovna Rada as "the country of the aggressor".
One of the clearest examples of the authorities' fear in Kiev about the loss of transit flows is the emotional statement made in December, in the spirit of contemporary Ukrainian politics, by the head of the "Ukrainian GTS Operator" Serhiy Makogon on the Facebook platform (which has almost become the main information platform for the present Ukrainian authorities) that Gazprom is blackmailing Europe without increasing transit through Ukraine.
In response to such statements and requests by the representatives of Kiev (and Washington, Brussels and Berlin who support it, also on this matter) to conclude a new transit agreement for a long period after 2024, the Russian side has repeatedly stated that such an agreement should suggest the existence of real demand in Europe as a region-consumer of delivered quantities. Thus, the director of the second department of the CIS countries of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Alexey Polishchuk at the end of December, responding to the statement by the President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky that Kiev is in favor of extending the "transit" contract after 2024, replied: "For obvious reasons, negotiations on the extension of the transit may be carried out only when there is a clear understanding of which of the partners will be ready to buy Russian gas, in what quantities and on what terms. The transport topic in this case is secondary. "
The position of the Russian side has a solid justification, dictated solely by the logic of market relations. And if the topic of the deterioration of the infrastructure of the Ukrainian GTS (whose credibility in the absence of additional investments may be questionable) is met with fierce contradictions by the authorities in Kiev, there is no clear answer to the question of what will there be a specific demand for the transit of Russian natural gas through Ukraine.

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(edited)

If you listen carefully, the US track back from Ukrainian war. It seems that the Military prevailed over the Foreign Ministry. War monger Antony Blinken was in Libya, Syria, Ukraine in the forefront.

The main reason for the US Military is the Ukraine lacks money. Germany provided 5000 Helmets. Meaning Ukraine lacks funds even for Basic equipment like Helmets and protective Vests. For both they asked Germany.

The Ukraine Military budget is about the same like Switzerland which is about 10 times smaller and don‘t need a Navy for 5 Billion CHF.

Ukraine has many large River to protect. Wiki shows at least 50 Rivers between 150 km and 1000 km length. For that you need a lot of smaller Boats like the ones from Finlands Kewatec Company.

But Ukraine lacks money even for 10 average Boats. In Total Ukraines River length is above 10000 km meaning even the Top 3 US Rivers are smaller combined.

Edited by Starschy

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       Op-Ed: Not all Russians buy Putin’s warmongering

https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2022-02-03/ukraine-russia-putin-biden-war

BY ANDREI KOLESNIKOV

 

Andrei Kolesnikov is a senior fellow at the Carnegie Moscow Center and former managing director of Novaya Gazeta.

MOSCOW — 

In May 1993, Estonia’s first post-Soviet leader Lennart Meri — a wise man with bitter experience of life in the Soviet Union — told the visiting U.S. deputy secretary of state that Estonia urgently needed to join NATO. It was, he said, the only guarantee that Russia wouldn’t invade the Baltic state once a less Western-friendly and authoritarian Russian leader replaced then-President Boris Yeltsin.

Meanwhile, Yeltsin openly warned the U.S. that NATO’s expansion to the east would inevitably lead to an explosion in nationalist and imperialist sentiment in Russia. Some of Meri’s and Yeltsin’s predictions have come true. It took Vladimir Putin, prone to imperial obsession, to awaken Russians’ ultraconservative feelings, complete with phantom pain for the lost Soviet Union. The more the Russian president advances his Make Russia Great Again strategy, the more Russians are convinced that their country was humiliated following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Yet Putin’s recent buildup of military forces along Ukraine’s border has equally brought out Russians’ fears as tensions heighten. The Pentagon announced Wednesday that about 2,000 U.S.-based troops will be deployed to Poland and Germany, and another 1,000 soldiers from Germany are shifting to Romania, in a show of American commitment to NATO allies. The U.S. says it will not enter Ukraine. The view from Russia isn’t clear-cut.

Russians think highly of their government. In a recent poll, half of the respondents blamed the U.S. and other NATO countries for the escalation in eastern Ukraine. Sixteen percent said Ukraine initiated the escalation, and only 4% faulted Russia.

Such patriotic vision has led to an increase in recent years in the number of Russians who believe that the nation has enemies. Most cite the U.S. as the primary foe.

Things can change, however. As soon as international rifts diminish even a little, the attitudes of Russians to everything Western, above all toward the U.S. and the European Union, instantly become less hostile, and vice versa. As for NATO, perceptions of the alliance as an instrument of American power took root back in Soviet times.

Putin’s belligerent rhetoric and behavior have inspired ordinary Russians, but it has also frightened them. They worry about significant military threats from abroad, especially from the United States. In recent years, Russians have begun to fear another world war. It’s their second-biggest fear (after that of their loved ones becoming ill), according to a recent survey.

When Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, there was an unprecedented torrent of patriotic sentiment, embodied by Putin, whose ratings soared to record numbers. The vast majority of Russians believed that reincorporating Crimea — for many years part of the Russian republic formerly under the Soviet Union — simply righted a historical injustice. Although that consensus on Crimea still exists, it no longer inspires Russians to unconditionally support Putin. He can’t invoke that campaign to mobilize ordinary Russians to rally around the flag or boost his ratings again.

A war with Ukraine is no less complex. Indeed, Russians view their neighbor as a satellite of the West, but their opinion isn’t entirely negative. Last year, nearly a quarter of Russians believed their country and Ukraine should be friendly neighbors but still have their own borders. More than half of Russians between ages 18 and 24 have a positive or very positive attitude toward Ukrainians. It’s hard to imagine how those young people could be forced to take up arms against their neighbors with that attitude. The Kremlin has only increased worries about a military confrontation with the U.S. and NATO.

In recent years, the Russian public has gotten used to an atmosphere of constant tension. War has become routine and the West is still considered the enemy. But that could evolve rapidly if cooler heads prevail and tensions are dialed back.

In my recent research with focus groups, I found that the future of Russia, young people, are very pragmatic about their country’s situation. They’re concentrating on their private lives — going to school, getting a good job. Some are trying to adapt to political constraints and outwardly showing obedience, while secretly supporting jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny, even if they don’t show it. They’re not interested in pursuing any war and are not particularly indoctrinated with Putinism.

The patriotic tantrums on television talk shows are mostly geared toward older demographics. Propaganda works, but many young people are immune to it; they’re mostly on social media. Liberal activists, bloggers and journalists are few in number but relatively influential. Take journalist Dmitry Muratov, for example, who won the Nobel Peace Prize last year. A lot of people also watch popular video bloggers such as Yury Dud, who has millions of YouTube subscribers, or follow other outlets like the independent TV channel Dozhd, which the Kremlin has designated as a “foreign agent,” or the liberal Ekho Moskvy radio station.

Most Russians, though, are apathetic. These days, there are fewer ardent supporters of Putin than indifferent ones. It’s far from a given that Russians will equate the autocrat with Russia and Russia’s security with that of the Kremlin’s inner circle. Today’s urbanized Russians don’t want to go and fight for Putin and the Kremlin. Invading Ukraine would not be seen as defending their country, and NATO, despite many claims from the Kremlin, is not Hitler.

 

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2 hours ago, surrept33 said:

       Op-Ed: Not all Russians buy Putin’s warmongering

https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2022-02-03/ukraine-russia-putin-biden-war

BY ANDREI KOLESNIKOV

 

Andrei Kolesnikov is a senior fellow at the Carnegie Moscow Center and former managing director of Novaya Gazeta.

MOSCOW — 

In May 1993, Estonia’s first post-Soviet leader Lennart Meri — a wise man with bitter experience of life in the Soviet Union — told the visiting U.S. deputy secretary of state that Estonia urgently needed to join NATO. It was, he said, the only guarantee that Russia wouldn’t invade the Baltic state once a less Western-friendly and authoritarian Russian leader replaced then-President Boris Yeltsin.

Meanwhile, Yeltsin openly warned the U.S. that NATO’s expansion to the east would inevitably lead to an explosion in nationalist and imperialist sentiment in Russia. Some of Meri’s and Yeltsin’s predictions have come true. It took Vladimir Putin, prone to imperial obsession, to awaken Russians’ ultraconservative feelings, complete with phantom pain for the lost Soviet Union. The more the Russian president advances his Make Russia Great Again strategy, the more Russians are convinced that their country was humiliated following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Yet Putin’s recent buildup of military forces along Ukraine’s border has equally brought out Russians’ fears as tensions heighten. The Pentagon announced Wednesday that about 2,000 U.S.-based troops will be deployed to Poland and Germany, and another 1,000 soldiers from Germany are shifting to Romania, in a show of American commitment to NATO allies. The U.S. says it will not enter Ukraine. The view from Russia isn’t clear-cut.

Russians think highly of their government. In a recent poll, half of the respondents blamed the U.S. and other NATO countries for the escalation in eastern Ukraine. Sixteen percent said Ukraine initiated the escalation, and only 4% faulted Russia.

Such patriotic vision has led to an increase in recent years in the number of Russians who believe that the nation has enemies. Most cite the U.S. as the primary foe.

Things can change, however. As soon as international rifts diminish even a little, the attitudes of Russians to everything Western, above all toward the U.S. and the European Union, instantly become less hostile, and vice versa. As for NATO, perceptions of the alliance as an instrument of American power took root back in Soviet times.

Putin’s belligerent rhetoric and behavior have inspired ordinary Russians, but it has also frightened them. They worry about significant military threats from abroad, especially from the United States. In recent years, Russians have begun to fear another world war. It’s their second-biggest fear (after that of their loved ones becoming ill), according to a recent survey.

When Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, there was an unprecedented torrent of patriotic sentiment, embodied by Putin, whose ratings soared to record numbers. The vast majority of Russians believed that reincorporating Crimea — for many years part of the Russian republic formerly under the Soviet Union — simply righted a historical injustice. Although that consensus on Crimea still exists, it no longer inspires Russians to unconditionally support Putin. He can’t invoke that campaign to mobilize ordinary Russians to rally around the flag or boost his ratings again.

A war with Ukraine is no less complex. Indeed, Russians view their neighbor as a satellite of the West, but their opinion isn’t entirely negative. Last year, nearly a quarter of Russians believed their country and Ukraine should be friendly neighbors but still have their own borders. More than half of Russians between ages 18 and 24 have a positive or very positive attitude toward Ukrainians. It’s hard to imagine how those young people could be forced to take up arms against their neighbors with that attitude. The Kremlin has only increased worries about a military confrontation with the U.S. and NATO.

In recent years, the Russian public has gotten used to an atmosphere of constant tension. War has become routine and the West is still considered the enemy. But that could evolve rapidly if cooler heads prevail and tensions are dialed back.

In my recent research with focus groups, I found that the future of Russia, young people, are very pragmatic about their country’s situation. They’re concentrating on their private lives — going to school, getting a good job. Some are trying to adapt to political constraints and outwardly showing obedience, while secretly supporting jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny, even if they don’t show it. They’re not interested in pursuing any war and are not particularly indoctrinated with Putinism.

The patriotic tantrums on television talk shows are mostly geared toward older demographics. Propaganda works, but many young people are immune to it; they’re mostly on social media. Liberal activists, bloggers and journalists are few in number but relatively influential. Take journalist Dmitry Muratov, for example, who won the Nobel Peace Prize last year. A lot of people also watch popular video bloggers such as Yury Dud, who has millions of YouTube subscribers, or follow other outlets like the independent TV channel Dozhd, which the Kremlin has designated as a “foreign agent,” or the liberal Ekho Moskvy radio station.

Most Russians, though, are apathetic. These days, there are fewer ardent supporters of Putin than indifferent ones. It’s far from a given that Russians will equate the autocrat with Russia and Russia’s security with that of the Kremlin’s inner circle. Today’s urbanized Russians don’t want to go and fight for Putin and the Kremlin. Invading Ukraine would not be seen as defending their country, and NATO, despite many claims from the Kremlin, is not Hitler.

 

There is no "Putin's warmongering" Not even to the extent there was in 2014.

The alleged "forces build-up" is an obvious response to an even larger buildup of Ukrainian forces in Donbass.

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