By Paul Goble
Having given the world a lesson in the effectiveness of “hybrid war” in the case of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin is now pursuing policies which can best be described as “hybrid peace,” Dmitry Oreshkin says; and just as the adjective concealed what he was doing in the former, it is again having the same effect in the latter.
On the Apostrophe portal yesterday, the Russian commentator argues that it is obvious that “Putin does not want and cannot annex this territory. In fact, he never promised to do this: he doesn’t have the money or the desire” and sees keeping it “formally” within Ukraine working for him (apostrophe.com.ua/article/politics/foreign-policy/2016-05-07/putin-gotovit-donbassu-gibridnyiy-mir/4824).
“On the other hand,” Oreshkin points out, “the worse things are with the Russian economy, the more Moscow needs some kind of symbolic victory” because it “must mobilize disappointed people” and because three times, in Chechnya, Georgia and then in Crimea, “war already has rescued Putin.”
Some expected Putin to be able to use Syria in the same way, but the commentator suggests that the Kremlin leader has sufficient “’wisdom’” to recognize that this is impossible. And so for the time being in the Donbas, “’a hybrid war’” is going to be replaced by “’a hybrid peace.’”
But because that is so in Ukraine, it is all too likely that Putin is looking around for somewhere else where he can get a victory, especially to those places where his early wars did not achieve all that he or the Russian high command wanted in the past. The most likely of these is in the Caucasus, Oreshkin suggests.
The commentator says that he has no doubt that Russia was behind Yerevan’s recent moves in the direction of recognizing Nagorno-Karabakh as an independent state, especially since the Russian military is overwhelmingly pro-Armenian and anti-Azerebaijani, given Russia’s tensions with Turkey.
Moscow declares its neutrality and say both Yerevan and Baku are partners, but that is for public consumption. Armenia is far more reliant on Moscow than Baku is, and “without Russian support, Armenia could not fight with Azerbaijan,” which is far stronger militarily and economically.
Oreshkin says that he believes that Russian siloviki are now “developing many scenarios” for the Caucasus. First of all, they are asking what should be done with Armenia. When Russia invaded Georgia in 2008, it failed to solve its strategic task of establishing a land corridor through Georgia to Armenia, forcing Moscow to supply its troops there only by air.
For many Russian military commanders, that is unacceptable and unfinished business, something Putin certainly knows.
The same thing is true regarding Transdniestria, which is ever more being forced by “objective conditions” to turn away from Moscow and toward the EU, Oreshkin says, adding ominously that “in the Russian general staff, this is viewed as a challenge” that Moscow should be responding to.