After Putin addressed himself for the first time and the last time directly and officially to the Russian people of Donbass on May 2007, 2014 with a strong suggestion to scrap their referendum in exchange for his a priori support and approval of Poroshenko’s election, he never tried again to deliver any further address to the suffering people of Donbass, defending Russia in their heroic struggle.
Trying to push Donbass back into the Bandera control or clutches under Minsk (in which the pre-condition is not de-Nazification at all, but “unity and sovereignty of Ukraine uber alles) is not as simple or easy as it sounds for the people and their just expectations cannot just be trodden upon as if they did not matter at all. Furthermore, desperately keeping up some presentable posture and face, a key concern in all this, much higher than any other principles of which no trace is left (besides the principle of “partnership” with proven enemies of Russia and “integrity of Ukraine” with “one-off of Crimea”—it was not meant to be repeated ever again) is rather hard--as hard as to persuade a person to be executed that all that is in his best interest and for his own peace and health.
Instead, in his speeches on the subject of Ukraine, Putin tries instead hard to cater to the audience of his Western partners and to be as complimentary and pliant as it can be under the given circumstances and as much as his discernment allows, while pretending not having ever heard what the West and all these partners think or say of him without missing a beat.
Yet, ahead of his Rome visit, Putin met with Italian journalists who were evidently rather friendly oriented and sympathetic to Russia’s needs and cause. However, utterly faithful to his Minsk spirit (which seems to be an extension of the December 1991 spirit of the then autocratic leaders), Putin did not push his luck, and his responses were perfectly, almost too perfectly, to the so-hard-to-hide self-abnegation of the Minsk diktat, so voluntarily and ingeniously accepted and even demanded by its victim.
That’s perhaps also why if one did not know that it is Vladimir Vladimirovich, who is the speaker in the interview, one might start to suspect from some passages of the interview that it is some low-level consultant brought in by the US or the CIA from the outside in order to see how their work is perceived and if, especially anything related to PR, can be improved upon.
From Putin’s answers, one may further assume that this external consultant is not only somewhat clueless or naïve (quite pardonable and to be expected), but that, most likely, he might be from some of the newly acquired NATO holdings, colonies, protectorates, etc. somewhere in Eastern Europe. And here is why:
1. The external consultant looking from the outside at the work the CIA in Ukraine over all these years, however, knows or was told one basic thing at least: “control of the situation on the ground [during the Maidan was in fact in the hands of the US ambassador or a CIA resident.”
2. He seems to be coming from Eastern Europe, almost from a NATO-ally country:
“We have always proposed a serious relationship. But now I have the impression that Europe has actually been trying to establish material‑based relations with us, and solely for its own gain.” “We are not just partners; I would say we are allies … We are undoubtedly allies … there are plenty of issues that we continue to tackle jointly.”
3. The consultant admits that his understanding and position is limited:
“They try to explain it by Russia's desire to restore an empire. I don’t understand the reasons for such an approach.”
“But, of course, [I] wanted to participate in the final decisions … How is it possible to completely ignore this, to treat [us] with utter disrespect? I simply cannot understand that.”
“[M]any ties have been severed unilaterally by the Ukrainian side. … It is impossible for Ukraine to divert its production in any way … I don’t understand why this was done. I have asked many of my colleagues, including in Europe and America, about it. [Paolo Valentino: And what do they answer?] The situation got out of control.”
“And then suddenly this crisis unfolds in Ukraine. Russia is forced to respond. Perhaps, it was engineered on purpose, I don’t know.”
4. The value of a consultant who just “doesn’t know” would be, of course, self-negating. So there are things which he must know or must assert. A great way of how consultants can justify their pay is to discover or claim some fault or deficiency, which, hopefully, no one else has seen or dared to point out. For Putin, this would-be saving moment comes here; he accuses the US and the CIA of acting “unprofessionally,” respectively, of being during the Maidan his “unprofessional partners.” In addition, Putin is also telling the US and the CIA that their PR operations were “absolutely unacceptable” as well. For someone who said several times that there are quite important things, which he does not understand about these operations, these new revelations would seem to be stated almost too categorically. Putin:
“So, I believe that this crisis was … the result of our partner’s unprofessional actions. And the coverage of this process has been absolutely unacceptable.”
5. Nevertheless, the consultant owes it to his mission to offer constructive solutions and recommendations (to the US and the CIA), and this is exactly what Putin does rather extensively; there are a plenty of things which the US ought to have said had they only asked Putin earlier for advice; the US, Europe, the CIA should do all what needs to be done; “only they can influence the situation;” Ukraine and the Russian people in Donbass “have nothing to do with us”:
“If those colleagues were used for the sake of appearances … they should have said: “You know, we did not agree to a coups d'etat, so we will not support you; you should go and hold elections instead.” The same could be said about our American partners. … But if America and Europe had said to those who had taken these unconstitutional actions: ”If you come to power in such a way, we will not support you under any circumstances… Our European and US partners should exert influence on the current Kiev administration. … I can tell you what needs to be done … On the whole, this has been done. … Our European partners, those very partners who wrote the corresponding clause in the Minsk Agreements, explained what should be understood as decentralization … nothing special, nothing beyond the civilised understanding of ethnic minorities’ rights in any European country.
... And there is nothing we can do about it. Only our European and American partners can influence this situation. There is no need to threaten us with sanctions. We have nothing to do with this, this is not our position. We seek to ensure the implementation of the Minsk Agreements.… I believe that the European Union could surely provide greater financial assistance to Ukraine [to the junta …]. These are the main points.”
So, if Putin claims that Donbass and what is at stake there and in Ukraine as a whole “has nothing to do with us,” then Crimea and what happened there “does not reflect Russia’s position; it reflects the position of the people who live in Crimea.” You see there is hardly any principled position left by Putin on behalf of Russia in all this. All what Putin did in the first two weeks of March 2014 was done merely to give the people of Ukraine “an opportunity to express their opinion,” which, starting with his effective disapproval of the referendum in Donbass and ending with accepting the position of the West (US, CIA) and the junta at Minsk 1 and 2, made him decide against extending such a liberal opportunity for opinion:
“All our actions, including those with the use of force, were aimed not at tearing away this territory from Ukraine but at giving the people living there an opportunity to express their opinion on how they want to live their lives. … if our opponents call themselves democrats, I would like to ask what exactly democracy means.”
Putin tried hard to establish Crime as one exception to the rule (set by the Empire)—one-off in the “serious relation” and “partnership” with the Empire, in which he hopes to be more than one of the disposable mistresses after they exhaust their utility (see the mistress part of the interview). Putin:
“In Donetsk and Lugansk people voted for independence, and the situation there is different. But the main thing, something we must always bear in mind, is that we should always respect the feelings and the choice of the people [which Putin’s Minsk 1 and 2 most bluntly disrespect and deny].”
Anyone who followed the events, however, knows that, just 4 days before the Donbass referendum was due and just 6 days after the Odessa massacre by the Maidan regime Putin was impressed by the opinion of a Swiss politician representing the OSCE and went public, telling the people to cancel their referendum in Donbass. The demanded dismissal of their historical opportunity to state their opinion how they want to live (under under the Bandera, anti-Russian regime of Nazi terror) was, in Putin’s own words, necessary for “creating the most favorable conditions for [Poroshenko’s] election” as the new head of the junta, Bandera regime to be soon recognized as “legitimate” by Putin himself. Furthermore, when it was clear that the momentum of the referendum was already unstoppable, Moscow’s cohorts and advisers in Donbass tried to play sophists and introduced such referendum questions, which were nearly self-cancelling. In the last minute, the sabotage of the question was somewhat fixed, but still Moscow’s hand made it sure that only questions of autonomy or abstract independence could be asked. Now, one year later, Putin used the attempted “cunning” manipulation of the referendum question as an argument for his own abandonment of ethical and political principles and as a face-saving measure of his Minsk acceptance of the central condition of the West and the junta.
If Putin has any principles left, it is the Minsk diktat, which he adopted as if it were his own child, while treating Novorossiya (together with his emissary, “political technologist,” Boroday and others) as a still-born, unwanted child whose life is to be “suspended”(Tzarev, Kofman) or “false start” (Boroday).
In truth, Putin speaks of Minsk much like an “unconditional” act of capitulation:
“I would like to stress that Russia is interested in and will strive to ensure the full and unconditional implementation of the Minsk Agreements, and I don’t believe there is any other way to settle this conflict today.”
Right after this he tries to be very cunning again—after stating the imperative of “full and unconditional implementation” (= no changes can be done), he seemingly contradicts himself by “incidentally” appearing to allow for certain conditions after all:
“Incidentally [as if by the way], the leaders of the self-proclaimed republics have publicly stated that under certain conditions – meaning the implementation of the Minsk Agreements – they are ready to consider themselves part of the Ukrainian state. This is a fundamental issue. I think this position should be viewed as a sound precondition for the start of substantial negotiations.”
Thus, Putin says both that Minsk (Donbass under the junta’s control and sovereignty with some “nothing special” rights) is “unconditional” and that there are “certain conditions,” even a “sound precondition.” Which ones? The “implementation of the Minsk Agreements”—which ought to be “unconditionally implemented”! Thus Putin cleverly enough says that Minsk must be implemented unconditionally—under a condition and with a “sound pre-condition” that it will be implemented unconditionally.
Having achieved and carried out this sophistic acrobatics, Putin ends the interview by inadvertently or incidentally giving much the same answer which George W. Bush gave to the question if he ever made a mistake or if he regrets anything, and the question comes right after Putin praises honesty “as the most important thing.” Putin:
“The most important thing is to be honest …Luciano Fontana: “One last question. What is your biggest regret in life? What do you consider a mistake that you would never want to make again?”Vladimir Putin: I will be quite honest with you. I cannot remember anything of the kind. By the grace of God, I have nothing to regret in my life.Question: “You are a happy person.”Vladimir Putin: “I am, thank God.”
So, going back to Putin’s interview conceived as a consultant’s sale pitch to the US for his services to the US, Putin’s final trump card is that, if the CIA or the US had done everything more professionally and patiently, there would not be any need of much of what is going today—for the US would have achieved a 100% victory, and it was almost all guaranteed under Putin’s watch anyway:
“You know, I would like to tell you and your readers one thing. Last year, on February 21, President Yanukovych and the Ukrainian opposition signed an agreement on how to proceed, how to organise political life in the country, and on the need to hold early elections. They should have worked to implement this agreement … [for] they [the Maidanites and the West] had a 100‑percent chance of a victory, everybody knows that [and] the situation would have developed in a completely different way.”