Thursday

18th Jul 2019

Opinion

The Azov crisis will backfire

  • Vladimir Putin's game plan has been to say the Crimea is a 'done deal' over which there would be no negotiations - while pretending Russia was not militarily engaged in eastern Ukraine (Photo: kremlin.ru)

There are three inter-related reasons for the escalation of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict that became hot on Sunday (25 November)when a Russian naval ship rammed a Ukrainian tug boat, wounding Ukrainian sailors who were taken as prisoners, while Russia captured three Ukrainian vessels.

The first is the unresolved status of the Crimea, with the Azov Sea lying to its east, which Russia occupied in spring 2014.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The Crimea is not included in the two Minsk agreements negotiated in September 2014 and February 2015 when Germany and France, negotiating on behalf of the EU, agreed under Russian pressure to not include this question.

Although the US and UK were signatories to the 1994 Budapest Memorandum giving Ukraine security assurances in return for de-nuclearising, president Barack Obama and prime minister David Cameron were both passive when faced with Russia's annexation of the Crimea.

Vladimir Putin's game plan has been to say the Crimea is a done deal over which there would be no negotiations while pretending Russia was not militarily engaged in eastern Ukraine.

Russia's claim to the Azov as a 'Russian sea' repeats its creeping annexation conducted in Georgia and elsewhere after the initial annexation of regions.

Ukraine's vessels on Sunday were in internationally-recognised waters when they were attacked by Russia in an act of military piracy.

Secondly, Russian leaders are frustrated by the turning of events in Ukraine where their influence is in terminal decline.

President Petro Poroshenko is detested in Moscow because he has committed himself to ensuring Russian influence is removed from Ukraine. He has spearheaded the drive to incorporate the goals of Nato and EU membership in the constitution.

The seriousness with which Russian leaders see their influence in terminal decline could be seen in the sharp response to the Constantinople Patriarch granting Ukraine's Orthodox Church independence (autocephaly) from the Russian Orthodox Church.

Putin convened an emergency meeting of the Russian Security Council as the Russian Orthodox Church split from Constantinople - a religious schism of such magnitude last seen in the reformation.

Thirdly, Putin is having no success in pressuring Ukraine to succumb to Russian demands for a peace agreement in the Donbas.

March 2019 election

Many candidates in the upcoming Ukrainian elections are playing with anti-war populism to attract voters fed up with five years of war.

Of the candidates in the upcoming elections Poroshenko stands out as refusing to agree to Putin's pressure for a peace deal.

The editor of Russia's liberal-leaning Ekho Moscow radio believes that Putin is therefore supporting Yulia Tymoshenko and the less popular pro-Russian Yuriy Boyko.

When Ukrainian citizens were asked who they believed Moscow would like to see elected in Ukraine they pointed to Boyko and Tymoshenko.

Although Russian nationalists like Putin are convinced they 'understand' Ukraine, it is precisely because of their stereotypes about the country being 'Russian' that they fail to comprehend the strength of Ukrainian national identity or the dynamics of domestic developments.

This was clearly seen in Putin's badly misjudged strategy in 2014 which has turned Ukraine away from Russia and undermined its soft power influence.

In undertaking this military piracy, Putin hopes to undermine Poroshenko's election chances but in fact will have three undesirable knock-on effects for Moscow.

It will increase Ukrainian patriotism yet again.

The drive to Orthodox independence will proceed quicker as bishops flee the sinking Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine.

Finally, Putin's nightmare of Poroshenko's re-election will be even certain as Ukrainians rally around the flag.

Ukrainians will understand that next year's March election is not just to elect a new president but also a commander-in-chief who will have to deal with five more years of Putin until he ends his current term in 2024.

Putin's Azov sea escapade will prove to be another strategic blunder on the same lines as that in 2014 when he first attacked Ukraine.

Taras Kuzio is a professor at the National University Kiev Mohyla Academy and the co-author of The Sources of Russia's Great Power Politics: Ukraine and the Challenge to the European Order

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

News in Brief

  1. Nata chief warns world against more Russian missiles
  2. Germany closes Amazon probe as EU opens another
  3. Report: US chipmaker Qualcomm set for new EU fine
  4. Ireland fears Brexit time zone split
  5. Selmayr to leave EU commission post
  6. EU 'appeasement' of Iran like that of Nazis, Israel says
  7. Report: EU anti-trust chief to go after Amazon
  8. Report: France to back Kovesi for EU prosecutor

Six takeaways on digital disinformation at EU elections

For example, Germany's primetime TV news reported that 47 percent of political social media discussions were related to the extreme-right AfD party, when in fact this was the case only for Twitter - used by only four percent of Germans.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  5. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  7. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  8. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  9. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  10. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North

Latest News

  1. Rudderless Europe: Will real Germany please stand up?
  2. PiS & Fidesz claim credit for von der Leyen victory
  3. Von der Leyen faces gender battle for commission posts
  4. EU proposes yearly rule of law 'reports'
  5. Poland 'optimistic' despite new EU law checks
  6. What did we learn from the von der Leyen vote?
  7. Is Golden Dawn's MEP head of a criminal organisation?
  8. Finland rejects call to end sponsorship of EU presidency

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  4. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  7. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  12. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us