There can be no peace with Russia, even if many long for it

29 January 2022, 08:22 PM

Europe longs for peace with Russia, desperate to return to 2013, when no one had to worry about sanctions, Crimea, Donbas, and endless bickering over Nord Stream-2, when there was no need to fund expensive armies and chip in for NATO maintenance.

The following is a snippet from Pavlo Kazarin’s book, Wild West of Eastern Europe.

There are some in Ukraine who share that longing. Those who don’t want to develop new supply chains. Those who regularly visit Russia on concert tours. Those who excuse their naked self-interest with the lofty rhetoric of “fighting for peace.”

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Everyone who was ever paid by Moscow, openly or otherwise, are longing for peace. Those who were willing to balance their values against their bills. Those who dream of returning to their comfort zone, which was lost back in 2014.

There’s a snag though: Why does everyone assume Russia wants peace?

Every politician eventually becomes a prisoner of their own views and starts to perceive reality through the distorting lens of their personal perspective. Those of their opponents who are more in touch with the zeitgeist eventually get their turn at steering the ship of state, usually – through elections. Transitions of power ensure that power is exercised rationally.

Any country with rotating elites is destined for change, via changing opinions, hopes and demands. We see it happening in Ukraine, where some people are becoming more concerned with their welfare than national sovereignty. The problem lies in the static, unchanging Russia, which is doomed to ossify, thanks to its unchanging elites.

Vladimir Putin has been sitting in the Kremlin for over 25 years. He’s used to the sight of fleeting governments, regimes and structures rising and falling around his invariable self. Public opinion has no sway over his agenda whatsoever, since he has no need to pay it any attention and inhabits his own reality. This reality could have nothing in common with the ones shared by his citizens. During his first term as Russia’s leader, he would wax poetic about a united Europe – from Lisbon to Vladivostok. But then, shaken by the Rose Revolution in Georgia and Orange Revolution in Ukraine, he made his pivotal 2008 Munich speech, finishing his transformation by brutally suppressing the Bolotnaya protests in Moscow. Since then, he has remained a prisoner of his distorted worldview, where the West is engaged with Russia in a struggle, seeking to deny the Kremlin its “spheres of influence” and refuses to recognize Moscow’s imperial majesty. In Putin’s mind, the West started this war: dismantled the Soviet Union, snatched the Baltics, broke off Georgia and Ukraine. In his imagination, Putin is merely “restoring the balance” and “strikes back.”

Why would he seek to end this war, if any compromise would be a defeat? What’s the point in restoring a status quo that has no place for his dream?

Russia’s policy will remain constant until its president is replaced, because he thinks he’s playing an elaborate game of chess, laboring to restore his empire, defend against the West, and be immortalized in the history books.

Most countries have their economies determining their policy, with public opinion determining political rhetoric. But Russia is the exact opposite of that: its economy is but a checkbook that underwrites one man’s ambitions.

Ukrainian policy could change, with a new president and parliament. The same could happen in Europe, if the general public decides that Moscow isn’t a real threat. But we have absolutely no reason to expect Russia to change.

The same kind of people will keep leading the country – the kind that believes in “Dulles’ Plan” and other such hoaxes, daydreams about exchanging nuclear strikes and see conspiracy behind every protest movement. To them, strength is weakness, black is white, inevitability is possibility.

Why would they seek to return to 2013, if their seminal catastrophe occurred in 1991?

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