By Taking Zelensky’s Calls, Putin Hopes to Spark a Civil War in Ukraine, Portnikov Says
Staunton, January 1 – By taking the New Year’s call from Vladimir Zelensky, Vladimir Putin hopes to deepen the split between those like the Ukrainian president who feel they must come hat in hand to the master in the Kremlin and those who have been fighting for five years against Putin’s efforts to occupy and destroy Ukraine, Vitaly Portnikov says.
And if that split becomes deep enough, the Ukrainian commentator says, the Kremlin leader hopes that it will spark a civil war in Ukraine, something that will not only justify Putin’s own actions but allow him to achieve his long-held and unchanging goal of destroying Ukrainian statehood (graniru.org/opinion/portnikov/m.278117.html).
Zelensky said he called Putin in order to follow up on the exchange of prisoners, but he could have called about that on another occasion when the conversation, the first new year’s exchange between the presidents of the two countries in years, would not have been so freighted with political meaning, Portnikov says.
In fact, the commentator continues, Zelensky wanted to call Putin on New Year’s “for one simple reason: this was a call to a ‘real’ president from someone who hardly considers himself a real president at all” and who still worse “hardly considers Ukraine a real state either.” Putin and Russia are entirely different.
Putin, whose “office is located in a sacred place for every Soviet and post-Soviet individual,” runs a state in which he acts without any doubts about his status and that of his country. He can punish those he wants to and he can pardon those who appeal to him in the right way if that is what he wants.
Zelensky clearly hopes that “perhaps” Putin will “stop shooting, release prisoners and allow the little president of the little country to rule in his small place without obstacles.” This of course is “the simple logic of a small man who became president of a large country fighting for its chance to exist and remain Ukraine.”
“But the problem and tragedy of Ukraine is that this logic is no accident. And Zelensky himself is no accident either” given that “a large segment of the residents of this big country view themselves as small people in a small non-state.” For such people, “the word ‘patriot’ has become just as much a curse word as the word ‘nationalist’ once was.”
At the same time, however, there are many Ukrainians who do not think like this and do not support what Zelensky is doing. “Each such step by him ever more strongly deepens the gulf between the president and the patriotic part of society, and this means between the patriots of Ukraine and those who whose interests” Zelensky in fact represents.
According to Portnikov, “the Kremlin understands this perfectly.” And it hopes to use it to its advantage. Having failed to split Ukraine in 2013-2014, it now hopes to “ignite a real internal conflict among Ukrainians. Putin needs a civil war to justify himself and establish control over Ukraine after a new conflict.”
And because that is the case, he will always be willing to take “each new call of Zelensky’s.”
(c) Window on Eurasia