"Putin's main goals are rather political and geopolitical. By threatening to use force against Ukraine, the Kremlin is raising stakes and seeking to strengthen its negotiating position in dialogue with Washington through blackmail. Most likely, Putin is trying to achieve many goals at the same time", says Maksym Khylko, Russian and Belarusian Studies Program Director at the Foreign Policy Council "Ukrainian Prism".
"What has been said so far in Washington and European capitals did not sound convincing enough for Putin. Only when Moscow clearly understands that the consequences of its military campaign will outweigh the possible profits, will it become ready for genuine negotiations", emphasizes Ukrainian analyst Maksym Khylko Ph.D., director of the Russia and Belarus Studies Program at the "Ukrainian Prism" Council on Foreign Policy.
More about Putin’s goals – in the interview.
PolskieRadio24.pl: There is a lot of fear now if there will be Russian aggression against Ukraine. Is Putin ready to attack, or is he trying to blackmail the West to achieve his goals? And what goals are these?
Maksym Khylko, Russian and Belarusian Studies Program Director at the Foreign Policy Council “Ukrainian Prism
It is unlikely that Russia is indeed planning a large-scale war, but surely the risks remain − with numerous troops nor far from the border, even some unplanned incident can escalate into a full-scale military action. Ad it is also possible that the Kremlin is planning certain limited local military operations on the contact line in the Donbas or on the administrative border of Crimea.
But Putin's main goals are rather political and geopolitical. By threatening to use force against Ukraine, the Kremlin is raising stakes and seeking to strengthen its negotiating position in dialogue with Washington through blackmail. Most likely, Putin is trying to achieve many goals at the same time:
1. To block Ukraine’s rapprochement with NATO and military cooperation with the Alliance’s member states, especially with the U.S. In particular, in order to prevent supplying to Ukraine of the critically needed air defence and missile defence systems. Thus, to limit Ukraine’s ability to increase its defence capabilities in the face of Russian aggression, to make Kyiv more vulnerable and prone to concessions, and to force it to agree on Russia's interpretation of the Minsk agreements.
2. To return to the practice of the existence of spheres of influence in Europe and to recognize Eastern and Central Europe as a zone of Russia's privileged interests, effectively limiting the sovereignty of the states that were formerly part of the USSR and the Warsaw Pact. Thus, to implement something like the Yalta-2 deal.
3. To force Washington to sign, on terms favourable to Russia, agreements on short- and medium-range missiles, as well as on modern weapons such as hypersonic and laser. The Kremlin’s propaganda claims that Russia has made significant progress in new weapons, but in reality, Russia's lag in technology is growing, and Moscow would like to cement the existing status quo in this sphere on favourable terms for Russia.
4. With the accumulation of troops on Russia's western borders, the Kremlin is also sending a signal to the EU and the U.S. not to try to hinder Russia's absorption of Belarus, and not to try to interfere in the oncoming transit of power.
5. It is also possible that by his assertive actions, Putin is trying to raise his value as a partner in the eyes of China's leadership.
It is unlikely that the Kremlin really hoped to achieve all its goals, but to achieve at least some of them would already be a success for Putin.
Why is Vladimir Putin so arrogant about Ukraine - he would like to block Ukraine's accession to NATO and create a buffer zone in Central Europe?
Putin sees Ukraine not as a buffer zone, but at least as part of Russia's sphere of influence. And in the maximum program, he would like Ukraine to become a part of Russia.
In the form of a buffer zone, Putin would like to see those Central European countries that were once members of the Warsaw Pact and are now members of NATO and the EU. Of course, he will not seek their withdrawal from NATO, but he wants to actually limit the sovereignty of those countries, including the ban on the U.S.'s ability to deploy troops and equipment there. And thus, to maintain Russia's military advantage in the region as a leverage to put political pressure on the Central European capitals. This is the archaic vision of Russia's security and greatness that still prevails in the Kremlin.
How should the West react to Russia's threats against Ukraine?
First of all, the West needs to make it clear to the Kremlin that the cost of a possible new military or cyber or any other attack on Ukraine will indeed be too high for Russia and its leadership. The relevant package of measures should be considered in advance, put on the table and prepared for the immediate implantation in case of further aggression.
What have been said so far in Washington and European capitals hardly sounded enough convincing for Putin. Only when Moscow clearly understands that the consequences of its military campaign will outweigh the possible achievements, it will become ready for genuine, mutually acceptable negotiations.
Ed. Agnieszka Marcela Kamińska, PolskieRadio24.pl