I was a bit surprised to read this morning that meetings in Belarus between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukraine President Petro Oleksiyovych Poroshenko had only seen mediocre progress so far. The working visit to Belarus to meet with the presidents of Belarus and Kazakhstan for a trilateral meeting, was obviously overshadowed by discussions between the east and west of ideologies.
While both Putin and Poroshenko exuded a sense of “meh” on the tone and merit of discussion, Putin’s demeanor seems to reflect something more positive for Russia. The two agreed (up front) to resuming a peace initiative ASAP, but if body language (pay attention) has anything to do with human intentions, the situation in Ukraine may be winding down soon. Ergo, my surprise at more positive publicity on this meeting.
If one endeavors to read between the lines here, Mr. Putin’s answers to the press following these meetings bear scrutiny. On that, Putin’s pointed comments on stopping the bloodshed, and renewing energy talks sums up the Ukraine situation very nicely. While the western press and the leadership behind them venture off into democracy and freedom dogma over Ukraine, the gist of friction there is revealed in “no-nonsense” form by Putin.
To sum up here, if one scrutinizes these leaders and key figures closely, determining meanings and agenda is not that difficult. I just penned a post about “agenda’s” yesterday, and have another one in draft today over at Huff Po (we’ll see if that is approved). Those looked into the Charlie Rose interview with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton the day Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was taken down. Clinton, who’s perceived as a smart lady by most people, actually tips her hand in every interview I hear her make. Case in point on MH17, checking the Russian stock market minutes after a “friendly” is shot down? Well, that is symbolic of somebody with something to win or lose.
As for Russia and Ukraine’s “win or lose” situation. It seems pretty clear now the EU and Ukraine are the big losers in the sanction/economic war. I’ll not get into the EU Humpty Dumpty situation here, but Merkel’s meeting with Poroshenko the other day shows on Vladimir Putin’s face, as well as on the Ukraine president’s. I’d be very surprised if the EU does not end up partnering even more closely with Russia at the end of this. Why do I think this?
In the dialog in between Mr. Putin and the reporters on hand yesterday the question arose; “What about the outcome of the five-party meeting with EU representatives, with your Customs Union colleagues and with Mr Poroshenko?
Putin’s answer to this reflects the underlying issues those of us dependent on the press never see or hear. Namely, the economics dynamics of this whole situation. One such “dynamic”, that of universal standards, is something I understand from engineering and manufacturing. To wit, Mr. Putin exhibits an uncommon understanding (for a leader of his stature) of “customs tariffs, technical regulations, and phytosanitary standards”, as he speaks of them. Whether Putin wishes to use differentiation in EU, Ukraine, and Russian standards regulations as an excuse to sanction the pants off Europe, or to cement a closer relationship, the implication is there.
Not many people reading this will have looked at the whole “Russia” situation from my perspective. A few years back, I was critical of a good number of Russian initiatives, and even the ability of Russian business people to “do business” at all, with people from outside. Suffice it to say I was largely wrong. Wrong about the environmental and economic impact of the Sochi Games, wrong about “free visas”, and wrong about Russians in business being impossible. And when we are wrong, and accept it, we learn to be better at what we see and do.
That said, Russia under Putin and Dmitry Medvedev, has been on a continual quest to partner with the EU. One case in point is the aforementioned “visa” situation. This article in 2011 on my travel news site focused on eastern Europe tells some of the story. Also, this story about the Allegro high speed trains, visas, and meetings with Finland’s Tarja Halonen in 2011 show a then Russian Prime Minister Putin doing everything humanly possible to collaborate with the EU. Back then, Brussels focused on Russian mobsters, prostitutes, gypsies, and anything cliche “Russian” that was a negative, in order to nix a free visa regime.
Over the last decade Russia has imported more and more products and businesses into the motherland. As we see now Spain, Greece, Italy, France, and even Germany are heavily dependent on Russia buying goods and services. The US sanction war has not cost America yet, but Europeans will starve to death this Winter because of Ukraine. That or freeze to death if Putin is pushed to cut off the gas. The situation is dire, and the EU’s most powerful leader, Angela Merkel knows it.
Summing up for now, it’s hard for me to imagine a Ukraine regime in power with the EU at the back door, Russia at the front door, and Putin and Merkel both mad as hell at leadership. Poroshenko surely got his marching orders on Saturday last. For clues there, the rhetoric reveals Merkel and the Ukraine president agreeing on a “decentralized” Ukraine. Take note here, for this is unparalleled. External discussion over sovereign Ukraine and its constitution, reflects a Poroshenko as a figurehead only. Germany and Russia, with the United States somehow now silent, are set to compromise somewhere in between a Russian annexation of the east, a Ukrainian federation, and some form of confederacy of Ukraine!
How monumental is this? That’s food for thought for today, but the good news is, we’ll probably see normalized relations pretty soon. I’m crossing my fingers.
Oh, and BTW. Even if Putin did send in Russian paratroopers to help “nudge” Merkel (Obama) and Poroshenko, he probably save a lot of Russian speaking lives doing so. Up with Ukraine! A truly free one.