The video of my talk to the Canadian International Council is now online here.
For those of you who don’t want to sit through the entire talk, below is a brief summary:
- Whereas the West views the war in eastern Ukraine as a product of a deliberate destabilization effort by Russia, many Russians view things the other way around: it is the West which is doing the destabilizing. Western policy in Ukraine fits into a pattern of Western behaviour in which the United States and its allies create chaos in other countries: Iraq, Syria, Libya, and so on.
- Having seen the consequences of their own revolution, and having lived through the chaos which followed the collapse of communism, Russians value stability. This is true of Vladimir Putin, who as a conservative naturally prefers order to disorder. I therefore agree with Nicolai Petro who wrote in the National Interest that ‘I do not believe that Russia’s strategy aims at destabilizing Ukraine. … What it wants, I believe, is a stable Ukraine that will be able to repay the 30 billion U.S. dollars it currently owes Russia in private, corporate and government debt. But it disagrees strongly with the West about how stability can be achieved.’
- The Russian government would prefer that the Donbass region remain in Ukraine, but it also believes that this can only be achieved, and stability restored, if Kiev makes significant concessions, including local political autonomy and guarantees of some official status for the Russian language.
- The purpose of Russian support for the rebels in Donbass has therefore been to force Kiev to the negotiating table, and to induce it to make these concessions, so as to bring the war to an end.
- This strategy has not succeeded, as Kiev remains opposed to compromise. Russia is therefore having to adjust its policy, but what direction it will take in the future remains to be seen.