PUTIN’S FANTASY WORLD: THERE IS NO UKRAINE

Radio Free Europe on January 27, 2015, reported on the delusions of Vladimir Putin. Excerpts below:

Consider Vladimir Putin’s comments on January 26. Speaking to students at St. Petersburg, the Kremlin leader said the Ukrainian Army is not really the Ukrainian Army at all. Those soldiers fighting pro-Moscow separatists in Donbas? They’re actually NATO’s foreign legion.

“We often say: Ukrainian army this, the Ukrainian army that. In actual fact though, who is fighting there? These are indeed official subunits of the armed forces. But to a large extent these are so-called volunteer nationalist battalions,” Putin said.

“In effect, it is no longer an army but a foreign legion — in this case NATO’s foreign legion — which does not of course pursue Ukraine’s national interests. They have a completely different agenda that is connected with achieving the geopolitical objective of containing Russia.”

Putin is doing a number of things here. On one level he is playing that old Kremlin game of drawing equivalencies.

The West has long accused Moscow of manufacturing the separatist conflict in the Donbas, arming and supplying the militants, and sending in Russian troops to direct and reinforce them.

But there is more here than the Kremlin’s standard run-of-the-mill — and entirely false — whataboutism. It is more insidious than that.

Putin famously said that Ukraine “isn’t even really a country.” And here he is again peddling his longstanding meme that the Ukrainians themselves have no agency of their own. They are nothing but the playthings of great powers. Their army isn’t even their army. And right now, they’re just NATO pawns.

But Putin’s widely shared delusions about Ukraine are not even the most disturbing thing about his comments.

Putin wants to view the Ukraine conflict as a twilight showdown between Russia and the West. But his endgame in this fantasy isn’t Ukraine — it’s the West itself.

In a recent interview with the Kyiv Post, military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer recalled a conversation he had with a European ambassador present at high level meetings with Russian officials.

“Russians all the time want to put a map on the table and carve up Europe, Yalta-style, or Molotov-Ribbentrop style,” Felgenhauer said.

“Russia is waiting for the West to begin talking on substance — where Vilnius goes, where Lviv goes. In the Russian view, there should be a map and a line on the map. They can’t say so publicly. They would want a secret appendix.”

Now that’s never going to happen of course. But it nicely illustrates the level of delusion among Russian officials these days. And if that is indeed Russia’s endgame it’s still pretty damn chilling.

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