By Paul Goble
Vladimir Putin has decided to listen to Russia’s hawks and intensify his confrontation with the West, a clear defeat for the so-called “peace party” in Moscow but quite possibly a good thing for Ukraine, according to Russian commentator Andrey Piontkovsky.
By receiving Syrian dictator Bashar Asad, Putin indicated that he has no intention of leaving Syria anytime soon but instead will support the current regime in its struggle with “terrorists,” who is this case are deemed to be “all the opponents of the Syrian president” (nv.ua/opinion/piontkovskiy/partija-mira-v-kremle-poterpela-porazhenie-75474.html).
“For Ukraine,” Piontkovsky says, “this is good news for two reasons.” On the one hand, it suggests that Putin will be tied down in Syria. And on the other, it represents a defeat of the Kremlin’s “peace party” which for Ukraine is “the most dangerous” group in the Russian political elite.
The reason for that conclusion, suggests, is that the war party in Moscow has already suffered a defeat as far as Ukraine is concerned: Putin is not now prepared to launch a new wave of aggression because of his focus on Asad. But the Kremlin peace party has lost as well – and Ukraine is the beneficiary.
The members of the Kremlin peace party are just as much imperialists as the members of the war party, but they believe that they can achieve at least some of their goals by appearing cooperative and securing a grand bargain with the West in which the West would welcome Russia’s involvement in the fight against ISIS and betray Ukraine to Moscow in exchange.
But Putin’s extremely hard line on Syria makes that impossible. The West is upset with what he is doing there, and it has already made it clear that further misbehavior on his part will lead to more sanctions and more isolation, not some grand bargain of the kind some in the Kremlin had hoped to organize.
If Putin’s tilt to the war party and against the peace party is “good news for Ukraine,” Piointkovsky argues, “it is at the same time very bad news for Russia and the Russian people because it points to a new place in which Moscow is bogged down with an inevitable raising of the stakes and the broadening of Russian involvement in the Syrian conflict.”