By Alexey Stukalo
The policy of the West, the European community and the USA towards Russia regarding the Ukrainian crisis is certainly evolving. Whereas the initial policy consisted in not driving Putin into a corner and giving Putin a chance to save face, now the West began to put an emphasis on more rigid pressure in the form of imposing sanctions. And the sanctions went beyond individual persons, politicians and people responsible for the policy towards Ukraine. They already affect three levels of influence in the financial sphere, energy sphere and military industrial complex. These sanctions have already caused serious damage to the Russian macrofinancial stability. Recently, we can see that the West is trying to follow the so-called dual-track approach – an mode of two echelons – in their policy towards Russia regarding Ukraine.
The first echelon of this policy is retention of sanctions of both personal and sectoral nature in relation to Russia. Europe will regularly meet to discuss these issues, practically every 2 months. The following meeting will be held in December and it will be dedicated to the assessment of Russia’s observation of the Minsk accords and its non-intervention in the Ukrainian affairs. Merkel manages to keep Europe at one concerning the retention of sectoral sanctions so far, and it is not excluded that the USA will even expand these sanctions.
America and Europe will not necessarily coordinate this mechanism all the time. Certain differences are possible: one party – the European Union or the USA – can go ahead or lag behind the other partner in implementation of these sanctions. Besides, as the latest events demonstrated, in particular the APEC meeting in Beijing and the G20 summit in Brisbane, Australia, there is a rather consolidated position of liberal democracies concerning moral rejection of the policy of Putin and the Kremlin. It was also demonstrated in the personal attitude towards Putin.
The second echelon is nevertheless an echelon consisting in a dialogue with Russia. Why? Because liberal democracies are afraid of making Russia an outcast, they are afraid of isolating Russia as it is a nuclear superpower, they are afraid of Russia strengthening its aggression both against Ukraine and on a global scale. There are signs of this aggression in the policy of the Russian Federation resuming the testing of the Western military and strategic potential through bombers, contact with the ships, Shoygu's promises to send Russian bombers to the Gulf of Mexico, etc. Therefore, the West is looking for possible forms of a dialogue. First of all, in the fight against terrorism, in the fight against Al-Qaeda, against the Taliban, against ISIS ("The Islamic State").
The possibility of a constructive dialogue is probed, ideas are expressed that will hardly ever be realized, nevertheless, they are express: arrangements with Russia on Iran in exchange for preservation of Ukraine with its territory and within the sphere of Russian influence. I do not think that this idea is viable, but there are political forces both in the States and in Europe who are discussing it. The last trick, so to speak, is Germany and Austria’s offer, made this week, to consider possible dialogue with Russia on coincidence/discrepancy of interests of the Euroasian Union and the European Union.
Of course, the West will consider the situation in Ukraine – to what extent the Ukrainian elite in its new structure is ready to carry out reforms. The West is somewhat concerned with the fact that the affairs stand still in Ukraine. They express doubt that war is not a justification to doing nothing if it has to do with the Ukrainian reforms. Therefore, the West has taken a waiting attitude now; it waits to see what the new government can undertake concerning reforms after the presidential and parliamentary elections. First of all, anti-corruption process, independent court, curtailing of public expenditures, refusal of gas subsidies, etc. – these are the criteria that will shape the policy of the West towards both Russia and Ukraine in the next months.
I think that there was really demonstrative humiliation of Putin by the western leaders in Brisbane. Naturally, the person, who actually controls Russia, possesses all instruments of power and is an autocrat, will take it into account in his further policy towards both the West and Ukraine. Emotions play a huge part in such regimes, it is beyond any doubt. But I would not exaggerate reducing Putin's and Russian policy to the mental state of the president or to his emotions, offenses, and complexes. The matter is that the Russian leader is acting within the inevitable logic of system development that pushes him in one direction – to hold back the West. Even if he wanted to jump out of this sleigh as in bobsleigh, he is hardly able to do it now. In his system of power, any retreat will mean acknowledgement of defeat and a threat to his own power. Therefore, these are not Putin’s emotions that play a crucial role, but the logic of autocracy that does not allow him to stop and retreat.