Russians yearn for a new world order. Their top news now is that they are talking less and less about Ukraine, and more and more about Europe and "European security." That is, they see at least half of Europe as their sphere of influence.
Such a great redistribution of the world occurs after the great wars. The Russians are alluding to Yalta, and some even to the Congress of Vienna. Yalta arose as a result of the victory over Hitler, the Congress of Vienna — following the defeat of Napoleon. However, it is unclear who the Russians are going to defeat now, which is why they have resorted to intimidation.
In this new "agreement," the Russians see themselves as one of the pillars of security in Europe, next to the United States. That is, they want to divide Europe in half again. Of course, this raises the question of Ukraine's status, but in Russian fantasies, their plans extend much further. This is what we have been telling Europeans since 2014, and ultimately before, and what they never heard. Now, this is the reality. Although some still refuse to hear it.
Russians are trying to sell the idea of this new "security architecture in Europe" to European leaders like French President Emmanuel Macron. They say that NATO must give something up. Macron, it seems, wants to change the order of discussion - like, first Ukraine, and then Europe. That is why the first thing he mentioned upon his arrival in Kyiv were the Minsk agreements. European security was secondary. However, the Russians do not take Macron and other leaders of European countries seriously. They believe that their main sparring partner is the Americans. For Europe, this is a drama and a tragedy — but also a chance to wake up.
The Americans are exerting such informational and psychological pressure against the Kremlin that it had stunned the Russians, since they are used to the fact that these were their prerogative. The foreign media is partly an instrument in this war, and they terribly dislike this idea. But all’s fair in love and war.
There are two motives for this war:
a) to show that the Russians have insiders leaking information, to sow distrust within the Russian leadership.
b) to publish plans to deter the idea of going ahead with them. After all, the Russians want to act as if "they’re not there" and without anyone knowing. But the Russians clearly do not like the role of being a big aggressor in the eyes of the world. They want to be "peacemakers."
The idea of the ultimatum for NATO stipulates that:
a) NATO will reject the ultimatum.
b) but will agree to agree on something.
c) The outcome may be the consolidation of the status quo — primarily the recognition of the legitimacy of Russia's presence in the occupied territories: Crimea, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Transnistria, possibly Donbas. Like, "NATO is expanding, and so is Russia" (only we know that NATO has the consent of the countries concerned, while Russia has none). That is, we can expect such pressure on us — and pressure on other countries to recognize the "Russianness" of Crimea and, possibly, Donbas.
Pro-Kremlin and "liberal" experts in Russia say their country would not benefit from war at this stage. Rationally speaking, that is true. Because if they wage war on Ukraine, they will be even more isolated, as opposed to being at a "negotiating table." It is counterproductive, even given the perverse logic of the Kremlin, unless they are counting on a blitzkrieg to trigger a reaction from someone like Macron who would then be force-fed a new agreement on the “security architecture” in Europe.
If there is no war, there will be new security talks in Europe, and it is important for us that they take place with us and with our interests in mind. This will be difficult. Ukraine is now neither a bloc nor a non-bloc country.
We are neither neutral nor protected by guarantees. And that needs to change.
If NATO is unrealistic, is another framework possible — for example, bilateral security agreements? Multilateral security agreements? These are all serious questions.
The Russians are also afraid. They are afraid of Western weapons in Ukraine. They are afraid to fight NATO. We think these fears are fictional, but that may not be so. As a result, their actions may also be dictated by fear.
All these "evacuations" from Kyiv are, of course, not having a positive emotional effect — they are an "overreaction" in the bad sense of the word. But everyone is afraid for themselves — and foreign officials choose to be safe rather than sorry. Moreover, it is a logical consequence of informational and psychological pressure.
There is certain rationality in every madness and every bloodthirstiness, even the Kremlin's. From the point of view of this rationality, a great war makes no sense for the Kremlin right now. Therefore, we should expect the worst, but hope for the best.