Konstantin Kurylev: "Zelensky is on a minefield"
The situation in eastern Ukraine remains tense. Everyone seems to be ready for war. On the one hand, Kiev's motives are quite understandable. It wants to take back its territories. On the other hand, theories are being put forward that Russia itself needs the war. Vestnik Kavkaza's political observer Kamran Hasanov discussed how this "muscle flexing" could end with an expert of the Valdai Club, professor of the Department of Theory of the History of International Relations of the Peoples' Friendship University of Russia and director of the Center for Studies of Post-Soviet Countries Konstantin Kurylev.
- In 2019, when Vladimir Zelensky was elected, many had high hopes for him. It was expected that he would be able to resolve the conflict. Indeed, everything started off well: Ukraine pulled back the troops from the front line, exchanged prisoners, participated in a summit in the Normandy format. But after less than a year, there was a rollback. Now the number of ceasefire violations is in the thousands. Why do you think Zelensky failed to reach the settlement of the conflict?
- I'm not sure he really had this task. Although in the pre-election campaign it brought him votes, and he won. Politics is the art of the possibilities. Even if he had plans like that, he could never realize them. The question is - is Zelensky really an independent figure. Of course, at first there was a movement, but then it stopped.
- So due to Zelensky's lack of independence - due to him being hindered by the hawks in the leadership, in the General Staff - he can't implement diplomatic solution?
- That's another reason. We know how he came to power, who supported him, who financed his campaign. I don't think that this is his constant environment, although hawks are everywhere, just like pigeons. There's also the street factor. They are all afraid of the street. Pravoseki (members of the terrorist organization Right Sector, banned in Russia - ed.), Although they don't have massive numbers, in terms of their activity and passion, they hold the street. Zelensky is on a minefield. To reach diplomatic solution, you have to communicate with the republics, not blame everything on Moscow.
- Deutsche Welle columnist Konstantin Egert and British political scientist James Sherr believe that the war is no longer necessary for Ukraine to return the territories, but that its necessary for Russia for internal political reasons. Allegedly, Putin needs to boost his rating before the elections to the State Duma, so that the West will forget about Navalny and so on. What scenario do you think potential war might follow, will the DPR and LPR be recognized, and what are the consequences of the war for Russia?
- I'm not a prophet. When it comes to Ukraine, any assumptions, as history has shown, are not worth a damn. Seven years ago, no one knew that there would be reunification of Crimea with Russia. Eight years ago, no one expected that there would be a civil war. As for the war, Europe does not need a conflict like this near its borderlands. The current president of Ukraine also doesn't need it. What will Zelensky gain from it?
- If the outcome is positive for Ukraine, yes. But there will be no positive outcome. As for Russia, the internal resources are at such a level that it makes no sense to use this factor. Seven years ago, they said that Syria is a distraction of attention from Ukraine. But we can see now that was not the case. Moscow doesn't need a war at this stage. Russia needed to be more active seven years ago. Our entire policy in the post-Soviet space created the problem we faced. Solving it now by military means, given that Putin drew the line between a handful of nationalists and the brotherly Ukrainian people, is not an option. It's possible to provide support (for Donbass - ed.). It's quite possible that nationalists have a goal to provoke Russia to such actions. So the question is, who benefits from it?
- So neither Russia, nor Europe or Ukraine need a war. So the only possible side interested in it would be the US...
- Yes, there's the US. This is classic geopolitics. Control over Europe, Eurasia, the notorious Heartland, and Ukraine as the center of Eastern Europe. Does the US need an escalation or a military campaign? If its task is to further contain Russia, then it's more convinient to maintain the situation (in the Donbass) as it is today. Permanent aggravation to a boiling point. Otherwise, there may be a different outcome, up to the expansion of the territories of the unrecognized republics with the recognition of their independence. The persistence of the conflict is an instrument of influence on Russia, Europe, and even China. Why pour more gasoline to the fire, if you can just add coal to maintain the conflict in this state for a long time.
- Zelensky said that Ukraine's accession to NATO is one way to resolve the Donbass conflict. “We cannot sit forever waiting for the EU and NATO,” the Ukrainian president said. How realistic is Ukraine's accession to the Euro-Atlantic structures without resolving the Donbass conflict? Wouldn't it basically mean the rejection of the DPR and LPR?
- Ukraine's accession to NATO means, first of all, renouncing its sovereignty, although it already did that long time ago. Why should Ukraine join NATO if it's effectively cooperating with it without being a member state? Ukraine can get certain guarantees anyway, they have already switched to NATO military standards. It doesn't make much sense for NATO itself. It's much more convenient to keep Ukraine on a short leash than to add such a problematic state to your organization. That's especially true for the European countries of the block.
- Is there any compromise solution to the conflict in eastern Ukraine? Is Kremlin ready to return the DPR and LPR to Ukraine, given that the mood of people in the Donbass is extremely negative towards Kiev?
- All these events are tragic. But history heals any wounds. How many times the French and the Germans cut each other and fought, and today they are developing quite harmoniously together. Everything takes time, in our case, perhaps much more time compared to the EU. We are much closer to each other, but it is more difficult to overcome the split (between Ukraine and Russia - ed.). We need de-escalation of the conflict. I don't see the possibility of a compromise. Nobody fulfills the Minsk agreements and is unlikely to fulfill them. Ideally, the conflict should be frozen so that the situation calms down and people don't die. Another thing is that certain forces inside Ukraine are hardly interested in this, and outside too. Obviously, the escalation will continue.
Preserving the DPR and LPR as part of a federal state of Ukraine could meet Russia's interests, especially in the context of the powers of Ukraine's parts in foreign policy in terms of blocking NATO membership. But on the other hand, there is the question of how far Moscow is ready to go to support (Donbass - ed.) Economically and socially. There is also a financial aspect here, it is not just that, the situation with Crimea has shown this. There is a war going on and the destruction is enormous. Therefore, you need to take into account the human, political and financial aspects. It is necessary to extinguish the degree of tension.