V. Fesenko and L. Gozman spoke about the situation on the border with Ukraine and the confrontation with NATO on the air of “Current Time” television.
– First of all, of course, we are interested in all of Putin’s statements about a possible war. After his press conference, can you say whether Putin will dare to bring a regular army into Ukrainian territory?
L. Gozmanas: My impressions have not changed in any way from what Vladimir Vladimirovich said. On the one hand, I understand the complete futility of this war, and I think that may not be the case. In addition, Putin may be stopped by the realization that Ukraine’s armed forces are, of course, much better prepared to fend off the attack than they were in 2014-2015. And that means war can be costly.
If “cargo 200” starts to travel to the houses of his electorate, his ratings will fall, which are already drooping, and so on.
However, I was very frightened by the statement by Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu that a chemical weapon had been brought to the line of confrontation in Donbas, some Americans there and so on. I am very afraid that this is a sign that our leaders are looking for a casus belli, looking for a pretext for war. Of course, no one in the West will trust these chemical weapons, and that has already been denied.
But if anything happens, they will be generating their own people that we were forced to deal with a preventive, warning blow because there was a chemical weapon and a chemical weapon attack against our country was being prepared. This is casus belli, it is worse than the murder of an archduke. It scared me a lot. Unfortunately, Putin’s press conference did not deny this danger in any way.
– Volodymyrs, has your anxiety diminished since the press conference and Putin’s statements?
V. Fesenko: No, the anxiety has not diminished, although, on the other hand, the information that negotiations are already under way in Geneva at the beginning of the year somewhat reduces those risks, although it does not completely eliminate them. I agree with Leonid. For me, by the way, Mr Shuigu’s speeches caused the same feelings. You see, when it starts to be said that Ukraine, along with the American mercenaries, is planning something with a chemical weapon, it becomes like the provocation is rather being prepared by the Shoigu agency.
And in general, what has been happening in the last month, especially in recent weeks – I mean the draft treaty, the ultimatums given to the United States in the form of this draft treaty, these statements by Mr Schousig – is very reminiscent of Hitler’s behavior from 1938 to 1939. Only then were the ultimatums given to Britain, and the objects of blackmail and ultimatum were initially the Czech Republic and later Poland. There were also provocations. Where did the war with Poland start? Since Gliwice, there have been provocations in the Sudetenland as well.
Therefore, in this case, I agree with Leonid. Unfortunately, such rhetoric with accusations against Ukraine and what I have heard is such geopolitical bodybuilding, muscle demonstration as “I am a tough cowboy, a tough macho, yes, I am not afraid of war, the West should be afraid of me.” And that complacent geopolitical adventurism and arrogance, when black is called white and white is black, on the one hand, of course, outrageous, on the other, is alarming.
– You have both mentioned Mr Shoigu’s statement that some kind of provocation is being prepared with the use of chemical weapons. Putin had also mentioned this in the past. And during a press conference, he made a similar thesis that Ukraine is starting or preparing to start some kind of military operation in Donbass. A spokesman for Ukraine’s foreign ministry, Oleg Nikolenka, has already denied information that Ukraine is preparing for a special military operation in Donbass. However, Volodymyrs, can it be that the Ukrainian authorities are perhaps actually secretly planning some kind of attack in Donbass?
V. Fesenko: First, she is not an adventurer. Of course, the people who came to power in 2019 did not have enough political experience, but they saw who Putin was, they had visited the front line more than once, they knew their history over the past seven years, and they were not going to repeat Poroshenko’s mistakes. Besides, they are not so militant. Although Poroshenko played a kind of game, and there were various manifestations of his politics, he was also not so militant – perhaps more in words than in deeds.
And V. Zelensky really is. He longs for peace, for a ceasefire – he has realized that there will be no political agreement with Putin on peace in Donbass, but stopping the hostilities is a minimal task for which he is prepared.
As for the alleged pre-war situation, Russia’s foreign ministry announced a couple of weeks ago that half of Ukraine’s troops had been transferred to the Donbass. See, it’s easy to check now. At present, Russian consumers are not posting images on Russian social networks with Russian military columns moving near the Ukrainian border. Do we see anything like this on the Ukrainian Internet? Let me just remind you: in 2014, I remember when the war broke out – the spread of military equipment to the east, we saw it with our own eyes, and there were reports on social networks.
There is nothing like it now. The current government is even criticized for responding to the mobilization of Russian forces and announcing at least a partial mobilization. But there isn’t even that.
I think it is better not to provoke anything in the current situation. There are enough troops yet, but they should definitely be declared fully operational. I therefore consider that there is no evidence to support those assertions. One last thesis: the most important thing is, in fact, that Putin once again, both in his article and now, does not understand what is happening in Ukraine. He does not understand Ukraine and understands it inadequately.
– Leonid, do you agree with Volodymyr’s statement that Putin does not understand Ukraine and understands it inadequately? Why, if so, and why not?
L. Gozmanas: no, of course, he does not understand, and perceives it inadequately. All those obnoxious and even obscene speeches about the creation of Ukraine by Lenin, and I heard from him earlier that Ukraine was created by the Austrians – Hungarians, and before that – it seems to me – along with them – the Poles, that there is no Ukraine, no Ukrainian language that our nation is one. All in all, all of these words are kind of a nightmare, just a horror.
Due to a possible Ukrainian military operation in the Donbass territory. You know, I dare not give any advice to the Ukrainian leadership, there is someone to do it and without me. I just want to draw your attention to the fact that Donbass is the territory of Ukraine. Ukraine, not Russia. Therefore, in general, what Ukraine is doing there – right, wrong, adequate, reasonable or unreasonable – let Volodymyr decide, as a Ukrainian citizen, that is not my business. But in any case, whatever the Ukrainians would do there, they will do it on their own land.
And Putin, of course, is changing the reality with some tales of American missiles approaching our sacred borders. Friends, NATO is approaching our borders, NATO has moved east – well. How is it approaching east? Tank columns? How did the columns of Soviet tanks once occupy western Ukraine or the Baltic states under an agreement with Hitler? How did Russian troops occupy Crimea and Donbass in 2014? No, it wasn’t, it was different.
The independent countries themselves have asked to join NATO, and they themselves have said: ‘Friends, accept us!’ These conditions are a complete list and it is not so easy to meet them.
And they said, “Yes, we will do everything, we will do everything, check, we will do everything, accept us into NATO.” Tell us what prevented the Russian Federation from offering Latvia, the Czech Republic or Ukraine: “Friends, or perhaps you would rather join the CSTO?”
– “It will be better with us” and show why it will be better?
L. Gozman: Of course. “See what great countries: Russia, Belarus, Tajikistan – why not join this company?” But for some reason neither Prague nor Riga wanted it, and now Ukraine does not want it. Friends, to whom to make claims and to blame the mirror if your own face is crooked? They don’t want to be with us, they want to be as far away from us as possible, they want to open up. It is our policy’s fault, it is our policy that people want to separate themselves from us.
– Leonid has already mentioned Putin’s statement that Ukraine was created by Lenin.
Putin: Did we have to look at what was happening in the southeast, Donbass, completely without will? From the very beginning, even after the creation of the Soviet Union in 1922–1924, he considered himself to be part of Russia. But Lenin and his comrades pushed him there by force. He initially decided to join Russia, and then said, “You need to rethink.” And rethinking. Created a country that did not exist before.
– Volodymyrs, how is this version for you – a patchy interpretation of history?
Fesenko: Well, this is not the first time this has sounded: Putin mentioned it in his article, and he has talked about it before. Listen, but even Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev, who worked in Ukraine, even he – who, by the way, worked in the same Donbass before the revolution, started a professional career there, and then became part of the communist apparatus to the Ukrainian government – even he understood perfectly well that the Donbass is the territory of Ukraine. In this respect, unfortunately, there is absolute darkness. It seems that Vladimir Vladimirovich does not know and does not understand the history not only of Ukraine but also of Russia. Thus, the same inadequacy occurs in this case. You know, listening to this is both funny and sad, because it’s such inadequate historical assessments that can lead to catastrophic geopolitical decisions – that’s where the trouble is. The main danger is that distortions in historical thinking could lead to catastrophic political decisions.
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