Espreso. Global

Putin speculates on Istanbul

Ivanets Sofia
5 July, 2024 Friday

During his speech at the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in Astana, Vladimir Putin again referred to the so-called Istanbul format of negotiations between Russia and Ukraine and stressed that these talks and their results remain a platform for further negotiations between the Russian Federation and Ukraine


At first glance, one can see a certain softening of the Russian leadership's position compared to the demands that Vladimir Putin made of Ukraine in his previous speeches, when he emphasized that in order for peace talks between Moscow and Kyiv to begin, Ukrainian troops must leave the territories of Ukraine's Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia regions that remain under their control. However, this is only at first glance. In order to understand the meaning of Vladimir Putin's statements, we must first consider the audience he is addressing: the leaders of the Global South and Central Asia.

Against the backdrop of these leaders, Vladimir Putin wants to appear as a supporter of peace. This is particularly relevant given the existence of a so-called Sino-Brazilian consensus on ending the war in Ukraine. This consensus implies freezing the conflict along the current line of contact between the parties and does not suggest that the Ukrainian Armed Forces will retreat from their current positions. As you can imagine, it is this part of the Chinese proposals that does not suit Vladimir Putin. And, by and large, Putin's response to these proposals by President Xi Jinping was his visits to North Korea and Vietnam, as well as his upcoming talks with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Moscow. By the way, the Indian prime minister avoided the meeting in Astana.

But it is clear that Putin will not say to Xi Jinping's face that he does not like the Chinese proposals. Moreover, he was one of the first to support the Sino-Brazilian consensus and declared it possible at least as a platform for negotiations. And now, amidst the participants of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, next to the President of the People's Republic of China, who is always talking about peace, next to the President of Kazakhstan, who is always talking about peace, Putin is trying to pretend that he is also interested in peace in Ukraine, not war, and that he is ready to put forward his own proposals for achieving this peace, even if they are unacceptable to the Ukrainian side.

In addition, the topic of the Istanbul talks is much more favorable for Putin's demagoguery, because these are not just some proposals that Moscow is addressing to Kyiv, but topics for negotiation that have already been discussed by the Russian and Ukrainian delegations. And Putin always emphasizes with particular pleasure that the head of the Ukrainian delegation has even calculated the results of these victories.

By the way, it would be interesting to know what happened to the head of the Russian delegation, former Russian Minister of Culture Medinsky? How is he doing with the results of the talks? And why, after Medinsky returned from Istanbul, Russian propaganda began to label this advisor to the president of the Russian Federation as a traitor, while Putin himself has never spoken in favor of the results achieved during the talks in Istanbul.

These are, of course, rhetorical questions. We understand that, both during the Istanbul talks and now, the Russian leader is not committed to ending the Russian-Ukrainian war. His bet is primarily on time. Putin is sincerely convinced that a long-term war of attrition will allow him to achieve the goals he set when he decided to start a war against Ukraine.

The fiasco of Putin's blitzkrieg has convinced him that only a long-term war will allow him to destroy Ukrainian statehood and move on to take over not only Ukraine but also other former Soviet republics. This is exactly what Vladimir Putin's political plans are for the 20s and 30s of the 21st century.

I would like no one living today, either in Ukraine or in other former Soviet republics, to have any illusions about the true political plans of the Russian president, who, by the way, is sincerely supported in these plans by his own population, which has been suffering from a chauvinistic virus for the past centuries. And it is this disease that led to the formation of the man-hating and nation-hating Russian Empire, which Putin and the Russian people are now trying to recreate through military efforts.

But Putin absolutely does not want to look like an aggressor, at least in the eyes of his own partners. I would say that he wants to give his partners the opportunity not to consider him an aggressor, but to consider him a peacemaker. That is why Putin used the platform of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization to reiterate his "peaceful" intentions.

And the biggest mistake would be to really take these words of Putin and the intentions of the Russian political leadership seriously, to reassure ourselves with illusions that the Russian-Ukrainian war tends to end and even the possibility of ending in the foreseeable future, because, by and large, this illusion is in favor of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Let me remind you that Russia spent a lot of effort in 2014-2019 to convince its own public opinion, the world, and most importantly, Ukrainians, that the Ukrainian government of the time - the government of the Ukrainian Revolution, the government of the Maidan - was interested in continuing the war. This ended in the stunning results of the 2019 presidential and parliamentary elections. Ukrainians taught the whole world a lesson in unexplored illusions and expectations from agreements with Vladimir Putin that could never be realized.

And now, against the backdrop of a great and long war with Ukraine, Putin is once again trying to play thimbles and convince the world and Ukraine that he is interested in peace talks with a country that he does not consider to be a country that should continue to exist on the political map of the world.

And most importantly, we must not fall for a new illusion whose main goal is to destabilize Ukrainian statehood and create conditions under which Ukrainians themselves will be the gravediggers of Ukraine in its confrontation with the Russian Federation. To realize Putin's true intentions: war, war, war and 145 more times war, means to understand reality and to be armed against the new insidious intentions of the Russian president, his associates and his compatriots.


About the author. Vitaly Portnikov, journalist, winner of the Shevchenko National Prize of Ukraine

The editors do not always share the opinions expressed by the authors of the blogs.

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